Do you need a divorce team and if so who should be on that team? If you are going through divorce or plan to do so you should think about who you want to have on your divorce team. Who you have on your team depends on the process you have chosen.
If you are headed down the traditional litigated divorce path your attorney will be your lead team member and possibly could be the only team member. Oh sure you may bring in experts of your own and when you do experts of your soon to be ex will suddenly appear.
This is unlike a collaborative divorce
where neutral professionals are commonly utilized. In mediations you may or may not have neutrals or you can also have experts, if you will, that are only on your side. The difference is in a collaborative divorce the neutrals are working together with you and your spouse to help you reach agreements. These agreements satisfy both of your needs and interests versus you both having your own experts refuting each of your positions with opposing viewpoints. When this opposing positions scenario appears it requires some outside third party to make decisions for you since you and your spouse cannot make those decisions yourselves. This ends up being a crapshoot and most likely results in decisions neither one of you are very satisfied with.
In a collaborative divorce the entire team works together for the benefit of your family. Who are the potential team members and their roles in a collaborative divorce?
- Provides legal guidance, counsel, and advice to you
- Supports you in resolving the areas of dispute that arise
- Cooperates with other Collaborative team members to guide clients through the process
- Works in joint meetings with both clients and the other attorney to create legal documents to necessary to complete the process
- Are professionally licensed as attorneys
- Helps clients effectively communicate during the process which can minimize conflict and lower cost
- Helps to maintain a safe environment to discuss difficult issues with mutual respect
- Helps you with advocating for yourself
- Helps you minimize emotions to better manage reactivity to stress
- Is licensed as a mental health professional or a Rule 114 qualified mediator
- Identifies and evaluates tax consequences
- Assists clients with developing spending plans (budgets)
- Develops current and future cash flow analyses
- Helps clients/attorneys generate and evaluate financial options
- Guides the team discussion on financial matters
- Is professionally licensed as a financial expert
- Provides neutral guidance and education to parents
- Helps parents create “we statements” to talk with their children about the divorce or break up
- Meets with parents and children to obtain developmental information, identify family strengths and identify goals to meet children’s needs
- Meets with children to assess their hopes and needs for the future
- Gives feedback to parents and professional Team members about the needs of children
- Assists parents in the creation of a developmentally responsive Parenting Plan
- Works with the Neutral Coach to strengthen parents’ co-parenting relationship
- Is licensed as a mental health professional
Does every divorce require each of these team members
? Not necessarily. A divorce with no minor children or a divorce from a very short-term marriage say less than three years for example, with few assets and liabilities may not require anyone other than an attorney. However, in divorces from longer-term marriages if minor children are involved, there are a number of assets, and liabilities it would make sense to utilize a child specialist and a financial specialist. If your goals and those of your spouse are genuinely concerned about future relational issues with your soon to be former spouse or extended family members, I encourage you to explore the use of a coach trained in collaborative divorce. A coach may be very helpful if you have concerns about challenging communication issues with your soon to be former spouse.
The use of neutrals can be very cost effective. Neutrals are usually employed at lower hourly rates and in some cases significantly lower rates than attorneys. The value added benefit beyond the lower cost structure for using neutrals is they are experts in their respective fields. Attorneys are experts in the legal aspects of divorce not so much so in the financial, child development, and relational aspects of divorce.
Only you can answer the question of do you need a team and if so who should be on that team. It does depend on the divorce process you choose and your unique circumstances. Choose your process and your team wisely!