• What happens to my pension? Cottage? Business?
  • How am I going to get through this?
  • When will I stop feeling sad? Ashamed?
  • How will we split everything?
  • How will we tell the children?
  • What will everyone think?
  • What about the kids?
  • Does it have to be a big court battle?
  • Do we have to sell the house?
  • How am I going to pay the bills?

The Reality of Family Court
The Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
Cost Comparison, Money Matters

Professional Roles in the collaborative process:

Financial Specialist

Our Financial Specialist helps both of you.
• collects the financial documents so there is full disclosure
• focuses on the property and support issues
• educates you about your financial options
• helps negotiate a financial agreement through individual, joint and five way meetings
• generates a report summarizing the information, agreements and areas to be resolved

Family Coach

One Family Coach helps both of you.
• helps you manage your emotions
• teaches communication and negotiation strategies
• brings in the voice and developmental needs of the children
• helps develop a customized parenting plan at individual, joint and five way meetings
• case manages the file so progress is always being made
• creates a Parenting Plan which is incorporated into the final Separation Agreement

Lawyers

Each person has their own lawyer.
• explain the law and range of legal outcome
• help negoatiate an agreement at five way meetings
• help evaluate various settlement options at a five way and individual meetings
• ensure a legal binding Separation Agreement is created

The Collaborative Advantage


What's in it for you?

The Collaborative Process:
  • Is more cost-effective thus preserving your family's wealth
  • Minimizes the impact on your children
  • Results in long lasting relations
  • Is a faster way to get through your divorce
  • Gives the children a voice in the process without putting them in the middle
  • Empowers you (instead of a stranger) to make the best solutions for your family
  • Supports you through the process
  • Gives you the information to make better decisions
  • Helps ensure you are emotionally able to negotiate a deal
  • Preserves your family's privacy and dignity
  • Requires full disclosure and transparency between spouses
Divorce may happen, but the way you divorce doesn't have to be painful. Going through a divorce doesn't automatically mean having to endure the turmoil that is often associated with it. You now have another choice. Collaborative Team Practice offers couples a humane and solutions-based approach to ending their relationship.


Collaborative Team Practice differs from conventional divorce in three important respects:
  1. The clients and professionals pledge in writing not to go to court
  2. Face-to-face discussions between clients with the professionals; leads to an agreement
  3. A respectful, problem-solving approach, with the assistance of trained Financial Specialist, Lawyers, a Parenting Coach and a Divorce Coach; replaces the adversarial and confrontational process of the convential divorce process.

How it Works

In Collaborative Team Practice you work with a team of professionals to negotiate an agreement regarding all of the issues related to your divorce including parenting issues and financial issues. Wherever you begin the process, you will have a chance to meet privately and together with your professionals. Collaborative Team Practice is unique in that it calls for both of you, and your team, to come together for face-to-face discussions and negotiations—outside the courtroom. In an atmosphere of openness and honesty, all assets are disclosed, needs are communicated, and solutions are explored. When there are children, their interests are given foremost priority. The end result of the Collaborative Team Practice process is a divorce agreement that has been achieved through mutual problem solving. You, along with your lawyers and other chosen collaborative professionals, take control of shaping the final agreement, rather than having a settlement imposed on you by the court. It is not always a smooth road to settlement. Divorce is difficult. The Collaborative Team Practice process is by far the most civilized, cost-effective and respectful way to achieve settlement of your divorce issues.

What is the difference between CTP and Mediation?

In mediation, there is one "neutral" third party who helps the disputing parties try to settle their case. As in Collaborative Team Practice, mediation also relies on the voluntary and free exchange of information, the pledge not to litigate, and the commitment to resolutions that respect the parties' shared goals. However, the mediator cannot give either party legal advice, and cannot be an advocate for either side. If there are lawyers for the parties, they are usually not present at the negotiation.

Collaborative Team Practice was designed to allow clients to have their lawyers with them during the negotiation process, while maintaining the same absolute commitment to settlement as the sole agenda. Each client has quality legal advice and advocacy built in at all times during the process. It is the job of the lawyers to work with their own clients and one another to assure that the process stays balanced, positive and productive.

What is different about a "Collaborative Team?"

The premise of the "collaborative team" is that parties and their chosen professionals act as a problem-solving team rather than as adversaries. A collaborative team can be any combination of professionals that the parties choose to work with to resolve their dispute. It can be just the parties and their collaborative lawyers. It can be the parties, their collaborative lawyers and a Financial Specialist. It can be the parties and a Divorce Coach, working as a team to ensure each party is ready to negotiate emotionally. Regardless of the configuration of the team, its focus is always to find a mutually agreeable resolution by empowering the clients to use problem-solving skills.

What is the difference between CTP and conventional divorce?

In conventional divorce, one spouse sues the other for divorce and sets in motion a series of legal steps. For an explanation of the process in detail, see the article on this website about the Court Process. These steps eventually result in a settlement achieved with the involvement of the court. Unfortunately, spouses going through a conventional divorce can come to view each other as adversaries, and their divorce as a battleground. The ensuing conflicts can take an immense toll on the emotions of all the participants, especially the children, take years to resolve and cost both parties several thousands of dollars.

Collaborative Team Practice, by definition, is a non-adversarial approach to divorce. The spouses—and their lawyers—pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and achieve a mutually-agreed upon settlement outside of court. The cooperative nature of Collaborative Team Practice greatly eases the emotional strain caused by the breakup of a relationship, and protects the well-being of children.

What does CTP do to minimize the hostility often present in divorce?

Collaborative Team Practice is guided by a very important principle: respect. By setting a respectful tone, Collaborative Team Practice encourages the divorcing spouses to demonstrate compassion, understanding and cooperation. In addition, Collaborative professionals are trained in non-confrontational negotiation to help keep discussions productive. The goal of Collaborative Team Practice is to build a settlement in areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement. The Divorce Coach helps diffuse the emotional tensions of the clients and helps prepare them for meetings so that their emotions do not side track the process. In fact, all of the professionals have training in how to help the clients work through emotional issues to resolutions in a respectful manner.

Is CTP a faster way to get a divorce?

Individual circumstances determine how quickly any divorce process proceeds. However, Collaborative Team Practice can be a more direct and efficient form of divorce. From the start, it focuses on problem solving, not blaming or endlessly airing grievances. Full disclosure and open communications ensures that all issues are discussed in a timely manner. Finally, because settlement is reached out of court, there is no waiting for the multiple court appointments and multiple court documents that may be necessary with the conventional divorce process. In almost every case, the Collaborative process is a substantially faster way to get a divorce than a Court battle.

How does CTP focus on the future?

Divorce is both an ending and a beginning. Collaborative Team Practice helps each spouse anticipate their needs in moving forward, and includes these in the discussions. When children are involved, Collaborative Team Practice makes their future the number one priority. As a more respectful, dignified process, Collaborative Team Practice helps families make a smoother transition to the next stage of their lives.

Collaborative Team Practice is a cost-effective, respectful and speedy way to resolve your divorce issues.


With thanks to Pauline Tesler and Collaborative Team Practice San Francisco for excerpts from their FAQs and other works.


The Collaborative Team Process


How Does it Work?

Collaborative Team Practice (CTP) is a revolutionary new way of resolving issues related to your separation and divorce without going to court. In CTP, a team of professionals works with you and your spouse to find the best possible outcome for your entire family. You stay in control of the process and the outcome. You find win-win, long-lasting solutions. It's private, cost-effective, efficient and dignified. It works.

You can enter the process with any of the Collaborative Professionals, the collaborative lawyers, the parenting specialist, the divorce coach, or the collaborative financial specialist. They can assist you in reviewing this option to determine that it is right for your family and put you in contact with the other Collaborative Professionals.

You customize your team to meet your family's needs. The team is there to support your family through every step of the process. By working with experts in their field, who are more cost efficient and effective, you are better able to control the costs and outcome of your divorce.

Professionals Involved

In a CTP negotiation, the first point of contact can be any of the professionals involved: the Lawyers, the Divorce Coach, the Parenting Coach or the Financial Specialist.

Both parties need to voluntarily agree to participate for a CTP case to begin. Anyone can approach your spouse about the process but we find spouses are often more comfortable with a neutral member of the team approaching them such as the Divorce Coach, Parenting Coach or Financial Specialist. If you feel you or your lawyer will more effectively educate your spouse about the benefits of the process, you certainly can do it.

It is not a CTP case until both parties have retained lawyers who are trained in the Collaborative Team Practice process. All of the professionals listed on this website have training in the process.

The lawyers act as facilitators for constructive communications and negotiations. They provide legal advice so you will both know the range of outcome at Family Court. Your lawyer will also ensure a legally binding agreement is produced. Although each lawyer represents their own client's interests, they are also seeking a long lasting agreement that is acceptable to both parties. The lawyers have training in "interest based negotiation" (a technique often used in mediation). The lawyers help the clients discover their core concerns, brainstorm potential solutions that meet each client's core concerns and eventually evaluate the viable solutions until a resolution is achieved.

Participation Agreement

Before negotiations begin, both parties and their lawyers must sign a "Participation Agreement". This agreement commits everyone to reach a settlement without going to Court. The agreement also requires both parties to make a full and honest disclosure of all financial and relevant information and to treat each other respectfully throughout the whole process. The Participation Agreement defines how the process will work so is a very important document indeed.

The Participation Agreement has to be signed by the other professionals as well. The Divorce Coach ensures that this occurs. Everyone is contractually committed to negotiating an agreement outside of the Court process.

A key element of the Participation Agreement is that if one of the parties chooses to end the process and go to Court, both parties have to retain new professionals including lawyers. This element of the agreement is crucial to the process because it crystallizes everyone's deep commitment to reaching a settlement.

What the Divorce Coach does

Emotions are intense during a divorce. As a result, the Divorce Coach will work with both parties to move through the stages of divorce, to learn new ways to communicate with their spouse and to be emotionally prepared for the negotiations. If emotions are ignored, they often sidetrack the negotiations causing delay and driving up the costs of the process.

The Divorce Coach may meet with the parties individually or together, in advance of or after any joint meetings to help the clients manage their emotions. The Divorce Coach has numerous practical tools they will use to help their clients work through their emotions and to learn how to better communicate with their spouse. The Divorce Coach also manages the case to ensure homework is done and progress is being made.

At the first meeting, the parties, their two lawyers and the Divorce Coach will ensure the Participation Agreement is signed, determine if other professionals are needed (such as the Parenting Coach and Financial Specialist), list the issues to be resolved and negotiate a resolution to any urgent issues.

What the Financial Specialist and Parenting Coach Do

A Financial Specialist is jointly retained to assist the parties to collect the relevant financial information and to explore settlement options. The Financial Specialist will meet with the parties individually and together to work through many of the financial issues such as the division of property and support issues. The Financial Specialist effectively deals with financial issues because they are neutral. Often when clients do financial statements with their own lawyers, it leads to conflicts and problems. By working with the Financial Specialist together, the clients effectively avoid many conflicts thus saving themselves thousands of dollars, months or years of fighting and a lot of grief.

The Parenting Coach helps the parents develop a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children. Recent research about children of divorce is shared with the parents so they can make the best decisions for their children. Also, the Parenting Coach brings the children's voice to the process and will sometimes even meet with the children to get their perspective on the issues. Instead of looking backwards and trying to put blame on your children's other parent, the Parenting Coach will help you work together with your spouse, to ensure your children's best future.

If the Parenting Coach or Financial Specialist has an issue that they are unable to resolve with the clients, they will call a meeting with the lawyers and/or Divorce Coach so as to negotiate a resolution.

If a voluntary agreement is still not achieved, the clients can retain an arbitrator who will resolve it for them, just like a judge does, but in a more cost-effective manner.

The Financial Specialist will eventually generate a report and the Parenting Coach will eventually generate a parenting plan. The Financial Specialist's report will normally outline how the family's assets and debt will be divided and whether either party will pay the other support.

The Parenting Coach's parenting plan outlines the time the children will spend with each of you, how important decisions will be made and how future conflict will be minimized.

These reports are reviewed by the clients with their lawyers to ensure the agreements reached are within the normal range of result according to the law and they are practical solutions to the issues.

The lawyers will then develop a Separation Agreement that incorporates the Financial Specialist's report and the Parenting Plan into it. The Separation Agreement is usually reviewed together and signed together. The Separation Agreement is a legally binding agreement that governs your relationship with your spouse even after your divorce.

Why CTP Makes Sense

This team process may, at first, sound more expensive, but in reality it is much cheaper than the Court process and is usually less expensive than negotiations between two lawyers. Why? When working through the financial issues you will be sharing the cost of one Financial Specialist rather than each paying for your own lawyers to do the same work. Likewise, you will share the cost of the Parenting Coach instead of each of you retaining an expert and paying your lawyers to battle it out. The Divorce Coach will help you keep the emotional issues from sabotaging or prolonging the negotiations, saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in legal fees. The role of the lawyers is minimized to offering legal advice and preparing the resulting separation agreement thus keeping your legal fees to a minimum as well.

CTP just makes sense. You get the help you need rather than spending your time, money and energy fighting. In other words, you are getting a team of experts working to find the best solution for your whole family rather than each of you assembling a band of warriors focused on waging war against your spouse.

In addition to saving you money, CTP will result in a better settlement: a win – win solution. As a result, you and your spouse will likely be able to preserve your relationship with one another. Perhaps it is hard to believe now, but it's true. The result is a much healthier situation for your children.


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