Part 6: Selecting the right team for your family may be essential to the success of your Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce is often a team process, in which you work with mental health professionals and financial neutrals, as well as with attorneys, to help you achieve the best outcome for your family. One of the keys to your success is selecting a team that can best meet the unique needs of your family. Some divorcing couples and professionals prefer the standardized process in which the full team is assembled at the beginning of the case. In Minnesota, a full team generally consists of two attorneys, (one for each party); a child specialist (if there are minor children); a financial neutral and a divorce coach. The advantage of assembling a full team (often described as the “Cadillac” of the Collaborative Divorce Process) at the very beginning is that you know that you have all of the necessary professionals on board, so that all of your family needs can be immediately addressed. While you may be concerned about keeping your professional costs down, the full team process, if used efficiently, will not necessarily be more expensive. Working with the right professionals at the right time may actually reduce the conflict and, therefore, your overall costs. Perhaps more importantly, even if it does cost you a little more, getting a better outcome for your family may have incalculable benefits and may save you financial and emotional costs down the road. Other families and professionals prefer what I will call the “customized team” model. In this model you and your spouse work together to decide exactly which team members you need to help address the unique needs of your family. This option allows you to put your dollars where they are most needed. For example, if you believe that you and your spouse need the most help in creating a parenting plan, you may wish to spend more of your money working with a child specialist. Similarly, if your difficulties lie primarily with finances or communication, you may wish to spend more time with a financial neutral or a divorce coach. To learn more about the role of each professional and to get assistance in selecting the right team of professionals for your family, go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.ousky.com .
As a divorce attorney, I often ask myself “What is this dispute really about?” This is also a good question for each person going through a divorce. In an early case I had before I started practicing collaborative divorce, an ex-wife sued my client after the divorce was final. Her motion said that he had wrongfully taken the Tupperware and her maternity clothing and she wanted those items. We actually had a court hearing on this and her ex-husband had to get on the witness stand and testify. He testified that he did not have the Tupperware and he did not have and had no use for her maternity clothes. That brought out a chuckle from those in the courtroom and the judge stifled a grin. The motion was denied and I felt like we “won.” Looking back, I now realize that the divorce did not resolve some underlying issues which caused the dispute to keep on going. In a traditional divorce, the legal issues control the outcome in court and the emotional issues determine how long and how costly the dispute is. In a collaborative divorce, both the emotional and legal issues are acknowledged and addressed. The process we use focuses on the interests the parties have – and in my experience most of those interests are shared by both. If there are differences, those are discussed. The basic facts needed are incomes, values of assets, debt balances –which can easily be verified by documents. Those assets that are harder to value such as homes, businesses – can be valued by a neutral expert agreed to by both The emotions of anger and perceived wrongs of the past can impede progress in reaching a final agreement. In a collaborative divorce, a neutral coach who is a mental health professional working with the couple, helps them work through those impediments to a settlement. If you are going through a divorce, you want to avoid arguing about the Tupperware and get some help to focus on what your real interests are and how you can reach an agreement.