Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Time: 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Location: Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott St., St. Paul, MN 55114
Description: Social event designed to welcome new(er) CLI members and share the ins and outs of Collaborative Practice with professionals interested in CLI and adding Collaborative work to their practices.
Fee: No fee to attend, but please RSVP so we know you will be attending!
Who should attend:
New members
Professionals working in Family Law that are interested in learning more about Collaborative Practice.
Students currently enrolled in a law school or a graduate/professional training program.
Those who enjoy meeting people and talking about Collaborative Practice.
All Members of CLI!

Questions? Contact:
Public Education Committee Chair: Angela Heart | angela@heartlaw.net
Membership Committee Chair: Brian Burns | burnstherapy@gmail.com
For questions on registration contact: Sandy Beeson | cli@collaborativelaw.org

Since its inception in Minnesota 30 years ago, the Collaborative Divorce process has helped families in all 50 states and more than 25 countries find a healthier way to end their marriage without going to court.   However, this respectful alternative to contested divorce has largely remained unavailable to families in greater Minnesota.  The recent advent of virtual practice and Zoom meetings has changed this landscape and opened up new possibilities for the statewide availability of Collaborative Divorce.

The Collaborative Divorce process was created in 1990.  Minnesota attorney Stu Webb, discouraged by the emotional and financial side effects of adversarial divorce, piloted a new approach in which attorneys would be involved for settlement purposes only.  Because Collaborative divorce attorneys were disqualified from going to court, these attorneys needed to become effective and creative negotiators and problem solvers.  The result was a process in which divorcing couples could design customized outcomes for their families and not go to court.

As the Collaborative Divorce concept grew throughout North America and the world, it evolved into a team process.  By using specially trained neutral experts in child development, family systems and divorce-related finance in addition to their Collaborative attorneys, clients are able to bring this added expertise to their parenting and financial resolutions, and likely reduce the financial cost of their divorce.  The process is tailored to the needs of the family using professionals based on the skills and expertise they need.

It has been an unfortunate reality for accessibility that specially trained Collaborative professionals are typically concentrated in metro areas, including in Minnesota.  But with the social distancing required by the pandemic, almost all divorce professionals are working with and representing clients online, typically through Zoom meetings.   This means that a couple’s distance from Collaboratively trained professionals is no longer an obstacle.  Individuals in greater Minnesota, can now have access to a full Collaborative team without leaving their homes.

To learn if a Collaborative Divorce is right for you and your family, please visit the website of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota at www.collaborativelaw.org.  There you will find detailed information about the Collaborative process, as well as names and bios of Collaborative professionals who practice this family-friendly, problem-solving, and future-focused process.  Collaboratively trained professionals will be happy to offer you free informational meetings via teleconferencing to help you make the decision about whether this process, and a particular attorney or neutral professional, feels right for your needs.

Collaborative Practice Highlights:

  • The entire process is legally and ethically done outside of court
  • The result of the process is customized to the particular needs of a divorcing couple and/or family
  • Clients can build a team of Collaboratively trained attorneys, neutral financial experts, mediators and mental health professionals (coaches and child/family specialists) who focus on problem solving and dispute resolution
  • Collaborative professionals can offer specialized ala carte services in specific areas of particular need for clients, e.g., financial plans, parenting plans, conflict resolution, preparation and review of legal documents, and more.
  • Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota (CLI) website: collaborativelaw.org
  • Find a Professional: https://www.collaborativelaw.org/find-a-professional/
  • CLI Blog: collaborativedivorceoptions.com
  • CLI Mailing address: 4707 Highway 61 N, #217 | White Bear Lake, MN 55110

The Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota and the North Dakota Collaborative Law Group are nonprofit organizations focused on transforming the way families divorce by helping them create customized solutions and stay out of court. For more information or to find a Collaborative professional near you visit www.collaborativelaw.org (CLI) or www.nddivorce.com (NDCLG)

About the Author:
Shared by the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota
Public Education Committee

 

 

In Part 1, vortex was defined as: 1) a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it towards its center; 2) a place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that it surrounds, and hence, being inescapable or destructible.tropical-cyclone-catarina-1167137_1920 The second definition provides a visual for what many think a divorce “looks like.”  While the end of a marriage is emotionally tumultuous and devastating, the actual legal process of uncoupling does not have to be.  But, it is critical that you choose a process that promotes healing.  The Collaborative Process does just that. Collaboration is a holistic approach to divorce.  It can be utilized by couples who are ending either a marriage or significant relationship, or who have a child or children together.  Although some people question whether it is an appropriate process when domestic abuse or mental health/chemical dependency issues are present, many others think it can (and should) at least be attempted.  If you don’t want to be another “divorce horror story,” the Collaborative Process will likely be a great fit. Collaboration focuses on the future (i.e., the relationship of co-parenting in two homes) rather than the past (i.e. the vilification of one spouse); is a win-win for both partners (rather than a court-imposed win-lose); and emphasizes the well-being of the entire family.  You don’t air your dirty laundry in court, and you aren’t (literally) judged.  In fact, you never set foot in a courtroom.  The negotiation model is interest-based/win-win, rather than positional/win-lose.  You pay attorneys to help you solve problems, not argue and keep you stuck in the past.  Every family is unique, so every family deserves a unique solution.  And if you have young children, please keep in mind they need you present and available.  You can’t be present when you are fighting the other parent in court.  In Part 3, we will discuss the various professionals in the Collaborative Process and how their expertise can help you avoid the divortex.
aA collaborative law colleague recently wrote a lovely piece in the Boston Globe describing his reasons for leaving his litigation practice behind and representing clients only in alternative dispute resolution processes. His article resonated greatly with me. I too left behind a litigation practice to enter the world of peacemaking. While not an easy choice at the time, I look back six years later and realize that these years have been the most fulfilling of my career.  I have not stepped foot in a courtroom in almost six years. I am thankful for many things in my current “out of court” career, but here are just a few:
  • I spend my days working with clients on resolutions that meet their big picture goals.
  • My conversations and negotiations are fruitful, honest and genuine.  The teams I work with and clients who choose me are seeking this type of interest-based negotiation without gamesmanship or posturing.
  • My colleagues are professionals with passion and dedication to help people through transitions in their marriage – many are my friends, including attorneys who are on the “other side” representing my client’s spouse.
  • I can be creative in tailoring outcomes to meet my clients goals.
  • We can tailor my work to each client and what they need and want out of the process.
  • I am a peacemaker who is at peace.
Peacemaking professionals provide the best experience for clients.  I share my own story as a practitioner in the hopes that potential clients will read this and get a sense of who I am.  Knowing that, clients too may choose a path of peacefulness.
question markWhen getting divorced, it is important to have a support network.  Having a sounding board and friends to talk through things with can help you evaluate options.  They can remind you that you are not alone.  Acquaintances who have gone through divorce themselves or who have certain expertise (like financial or real estate), may be able to help you with some of the decisions. Everyone needs someone to talk to. However, sometimes well-intentioned people can cause more harm during the divorce process than good.  Everyone seems to have a neighbor that somehow obtained a “better deal” than you did.  They either received more in settlement or support than you are considering or they paid less than you.  This “Greek Chorus” phenomenon can slow down progress and make a collaborative process more difficult than it needs to be. When reaching out to others for support during divorce, keep the following things in mind:
  • Remember that you live with your resolutions.  If something feels right to you, it might be best to not let your friends talk you out of it.
  • You can always ask your support network to just listen.
  • Figure out how you feel after talking through things with certain friends – if it doesn’t make you feel better or more positive about resolutions, they may not be the best support.
  • If you ask for advice, be very specific about what you are asking for and let your support know that you may not take their advice, you are just gathering information.
  • Be careful if you seek advice on one piece of the settlement without considering all elements.
  • You can always use your collaborative attorney as your sounding board instead of peers.   Your friends and family can support you in other ways.
question markMy husband and I were taking our kids to swimming lessons when we saw a man and woman standing outside the facility arguing.  The anger and negative energy were palpable.  While still in the parking lot, we met up with another family we know, and we exchanged uncomfortable glances as the conversation between this couple became more heated.  “Awkward,” my friend whispered. As we approached, I could hear what they were arguing about, and the expletives were flying (this is a family place, mind you, and my kids were five and two at the time – yikes!)  The woman was saying, “I don’t give a $*&^ what you think.  You can’t have that #$&* sleep over when it’s your weekend with our son.  You are such an ^*&+@!  We aren’t even divorced yet.”  My five year old glanced up at me with an odd look on his face.  Oh boy.  I wondered if they had attorneys and what process they were using. Even though I see this sort of conflict on a regular basis, it was very uncomfortable to witness.  I’m not sure if my discomfort was because I couldn’t do anything about their conflict (I was there as a mom, not a lawyer) or because my children were in earshot.  For a fleeting moment I did, however, consider going up to them.  I felt compelled to inform them there is a better way to deal with this “stuff” and that a child specialist and divorce coach could get them to a better place regarding “adult sleepovers.”  That was the lawyer in me. Since we were running a bit behind, however, the mom in me picked up my two-year-old and hurried my son through the door.  Either way, I felt bad for this couple, and even worse for their child.  I wondered how old their son was and if they had made a scene near the pool when they decided to “take it outside.”  I will never know how their divorce turned out.  I can only hope that things cooled down at some point so they could focus on co-parenting their child.  It’s understandable that emotions are highly charged during a divorce, which is the reason a divorce coach and child specialist are incredibly helpful during the process, as well as a therapist or counselor.  Stop.  Breathe.  Think.  And talk to a mental health professional.
BLD077218In the Twin Cities, many family law attorneys offer a free consultation to learn about your options.  This is a time to meet your potential new attorney and ask your questions.  The consultation can serve three main purposes. First, you can learn about your divorce options.  There are four general processes for divorce:
  1. pro se/unrepresented where you go through the process without legal guidance;
  2. mediation where a neutral third party helps you come up with the agreements;
  3. collaborative divorce where both parties commit to a respectful out of court process with lawyers and other professionals guiding the process; and
  4. litigation, the court-based traditional process.  A good consultation should educate you on all of these options.
Second, the consultation allows you to learn some basic information about the issues in a divorce.  The attorney can discuss the main legal issues that need to be decided during a case – such as child custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance, or property division.  Clients often have specific questions about these categories and what may or may not be relevant to their situation. Third, the consultation allows you to get to know someone and see if it is a good fit for legal work.  One of the most important aspects of a consultation is the opportunity for you to meet a potential attorney and see if you will be comfortable working with them. Your attorney is your guide. You may cry or express anger in front of this person – you need to feel comfortable doing so. In addition to legal adeptness and zealous advocacy, you also must be comfortable and trust your attorney. This is perhaps the most important element of the relationship. You should know that when you are just meeting an attorney for a consultation, the attorney cannot give you legal advice or answer legal questions with certainty. Because the consulting attorney does not have a client relationship, you and your spouse could meet with the attorney together. This is often a good way for you both to hear information together. When you receive the same message, you often feel less adversarial and more like you are both seeking a guide for the process. Please contact a collaborative attorney for a free consultation to learn more about your options.
82087964-start-on-january-1-gettyimagesAs 2016 begins, many of us come up with resolutions for the coming year. Some people hope to exercise more, spend more time as a family or plan a vacation. For families who have divorced, the new year often symbolizes a new beginning.  It is a time to establish a new norm. As a collaborative attorney, I often help guide families through divorce in respectful and supportive ways. I often hear from clients that they have goals and resolutions for a new year. Here are three common resolutions for families of divorce and ways all families can incorporate these values in their lives:
  1. Establish financial independence and security. Entering a new year is a time when finances are now truly separate – with no tax connections.  Be mindful of what you spend.  Track your expenses and see how they match up against your projected budgets and income.  Get a financial planner or, on your own, map out your financial goals for the year, including personal savings, retirement, and investment management.
  2. Embrace co-parenting. Children thrive with routine and care.  They love to be listened to and enjoy one-on-one time with both parents.  They also sense stress and tension.  As you establish routines and the children spend time with both parents, remember to treat the other parent with compassion as well. Avoid fighting in front of the children and support the time that they spend in both homes. Also learn to enjoy your off-duty time.  When you don’t have parenting duties can be a great time to focus on yourself and prepare for your next parenting day.
  3. Take care of yourself.  As parents, workers, and functioning members in society, we often spend our tie focused on others.  We take care of the children and our work obligations, but we often forget our own self-care.  Use the new year to establish work-out routines or start exploring a new hobby.  It is never too late to start improving yourself and the new year is a perfect time to make that effort.
Many collaborative law attorneys offer a free consult – 30-60 minutes to meet your potential new attorney and get some questions answered. The consult serves two main purposes: learn about your options and get to know your potential attorney. Until you have hired an attorney, you do not have confidentiality or a legal relationship with the attorney. The consulting attorney cannot give you legal advice or answer legal questions with certainty during this first meeting. The consulting attorney can talk to you about the processes available to you – litigation, collaborative law, or mediation. The consulting attorney can tell you the main legal issues that need to be decided during a case – such as child custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance, or property division. Because the consulting attorney does not have a client relationship, you and your spouse could meet with the attorney together. This is often a good way for you both to hear information together about the process. When you receive the same message, you often feel less adversarial and more like you are both seeking a guide for the process. Indeed, one of the most important aspects of a consult, is the opportunity for you to meet a potential attorney and see if you will be comfortable working with them. Your attorney is your guide. You may cry or express anger in front of this person – you need to feel comfortable doing so. In addition to legal adeptness and zealous advocacy, you also must be comfortable and trust your attorney. This is perhaps the most important element of the relationship.
185241979-african-american-businesswoman-on-white-gettyimages After choosing your process wisely, discussed in my two previous blogs part 1 and part II, the next step is to choose your attorney wisely. I believe this is something to approach with significant thought about your goals, careful consideration about the process you want to follow and your own beliefs and values. How do your goals and process choices affect the choice of an attorney? When I mention goals, I am not just talking about your goals. The goals of your spouse are just as important. It is important to remember you are not in this divorce alone, your spouse is also present. You both have anxiety, fears, and unanswered questions about how is this all going to turn out. Please do not forget that attorneys selected by each of you will have their own goals. Their goals may not necessarily be in alignment with your own. Ideally, you and your spouse are able to discuss your goals together. You both may have some shared goals although in the throes of divorce this may be the furthest thing from both of your minds. Each of you will have some different individual goals. I would suggest to the extent possible working together with your spouse to identify these goals as they relate to children if any, relationship and communication with each other and extended family during and post divorce, financial security goals, and divorce process goals. Your ability to articulate and document these goals will in the end minimize conflict, and give you a roadmap if you will toward selecting attorneys. You will want to choose attorneys who are able to help you and your spouse achieve your goals. A collaborative divorce attorney once wrote about asking some straight to the heart kinds of questions when interviewing any divorce attorney. A question like, How concerned are you about what my spouse wants out of this divorce? This is a great question to ask any potential attorney you may be considering. How the attorney answers this question will give you loads of information about how this attorney will go about representing you.   If they say I think you should go after all you can get and then promise or insist they can get it for you, they are playing on your emotions and telling you what you want to hear. This attorney is probably more interested in putting on a show that will take money from your family resources instead of allowing you and your spouse to keep more of your money in your family where it belongs. This same collaborative attorney offered yet another question to ask a potential attorney. Ask if they believe a couple in conflict, going through divorce, can negotiate settlement outcomes without the use of threats or coercion to get what they want. If the attorney insists on using threats and coercion, they are likely not that skilled in interest based negotiations. Instead, they draw lines in the sand using threats and coercion. This leads to even more conflict and increasing costs meaning less money for you and your spouse to keep in your family. A settlement-oriented attorney will answer this question by explaining the differences between position-based negotiation and interest-based negotiation. One last question to ask a potential attorney is if they handle all parts of the divorce or do they often use outside experts such as a child specialist when children are involved or a financial specialist. The attorney who says they handle everything themselves may end up costing you and your spouse the most. This attorney is saying they are experts with children, finances, and legal matters. Rarely, if ever, is this the case. A child specialist financial specialist can bring great value to your divorce process. A parenting plan, which goes far beyond who stays overnight when and a financial plan to give both you and your spouse comfort in knowing you will be making the best use of your financial resources should give you and your spouse a degree of comfort and peace of mind. Besides that the cost of one child specialist and one experienced divorce financial specialist will be considerably less than attorney costs for dealing with these same issues. As you listen to the answers potential attorneys give when asked these three questions outlined in this post ask yourself: Is this attorney able to help me, and my spouse, work through our differences using the process we chose? Will this attorney seek to find outcomes that work not just for me but also for my spouse? Will this attorney choose to do all the work himself or herself or will they utilize experts in specific fields such as children, finances, and or relationship coaches when needed or helpful? Hearing the answers to these simple questions can help you decide whom to choose as an attorney. Choose wisely by being intentional, thoughtful, and in alignment with your goals, values, and beliefs. Doing so will allow you to keep more of your money in your family.