6 Hallmarks of the Collaborative Process

What does it mean to get a Collaborative divorce? What tenets does the Collaborative process hold as its core defining traits? If you’ve heard of Collaborative, but never fully known what differentiates it as its own negotiation style, this list might help clarify your thinking.

  1. Children should be protected.

Children will not be in the room with you and your attorneys. Keep them out of substantial conversations about the divorce as much as possible. This might be obvious if they are young, and it also applies to older and even adult children.

  1. Collaboratively trained experts from relevant fields help solve problems.

Collaborative Divorce is an interdisciplinary process where you work with Collaboratively trained Mental Health professionals and Financial professionals as part of a team to solve core issues that arise. Both parties agree to share the expenses of hiring these experts.

  1. The process is deliberatively non-adversarial.

Collaborative does not mean that everyone is happy-go-lucky and smiling all the time. It is hard work to achieve the goal to serve everyone’s needs, not to punish, get revenge, create drama or play games. This is one of the reasons why Collaborative is not for everyone. If you cannot trust your spouse to participate in an above-board, respectful manner — or if there are abuse or mental health issues at play — another divorce process may be more appropriate.

  1. The goal is an outcome that tends to be much more in tune with the fundamental needs and concerns of both parties.

Experts often describe negotiations in terms of game-theory, using jargon such as “Lose-lose” (both parties do not get what they want); “Win-lose” (one party gets satisfied, the other one does not); and “Win-win” (both parties walk away satisfied). This framing, however, oversimplifies what actually goes on during divorce, since human emotions – and the transformations that occur during major life transitions – are obviously complex and hard to pigeonhole. In traditional divorce frameworks, it’s true that win-lose resolutions happen more frequently, as do lose-lose outcomes. As a matter of fact, when a family ends up in the courtroom that is always a lose-lose for everyone involved. For instance, a bitter War of the Roses-style litigation battle can drain the couple’s assets and lead to bitterness and hard feelings that linger for years, and it goes almost without saying how difficult that is for the children.

Collaborative fundamentally rejects this framing and seeks ways for both parties to meet their needs and come away feeling, if not “great” about the divorce, then at least satisfied that the process was fair and compassionate. Achieving such an outcome often takes creativity and ingenuity. The process permits the professionals to help the people go under the surface and figure out what’s driving these demands. The “invent more options” approach helps distinguish Collaborative from the “slice up the pie” approach of traditional methods.

  1. Parties agree to full document disclosure.

The goal is to keep the process transparent, fair and streamlined. So both parties need to disclose information to each other. You both want and need to get everything out on the table for the process to work. Frankly, this step alone is a huge cost saver.

  1. A main goal is to come to an agreement that works for everyone and avoid litigation.

Collaborative is all about coming to an agreement based on what is important to the people involved and staying out of court. We take that commitment seriously. So seriously, that if the Collaborative attorneys working with the couple can’t iron things out in this framework, both attorneys must withdraw; and they cannot represent either of you in a litigation.

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