Collaborative team playerswhat we do
Team Roles Defined
Role of the Attorneys
Collaborative Attorneys have made a commitment to the unique practice of the Collaborative model and are there to assist you in the divorce process.
Attorneys in the Collaborative Process are specially trained to advocate collaboratively, which includes representing the individual client, while maintaining the goals of the Collaborative Process. The Collaborative Attorney educates and counsels the client about legal issues and guides the client in gathering and understanding information. Additionally, the Collaborative Attorney helps the client articulate his or her interests, goals, and concerns.
Role of the Coach
A Collaborative Divorce Coach is a licensed mental health professional who has experience in issues related to separation, divorce, and blended families. The Coach has training and expertise in family dynamics, communication skills, mediation, and the Collaborative law process. This background enables the coach to help the divorcing couple deal with the emotional challenges of their divorce.
WHY USE A DIVORCE COACH?
Divorce is more than a legal process: Divorce is usually thought of as only a legal process in which couples hire attorneys, may go to court, and come out with a document (some paperwork) that officially ends the marriage in the eyes of the law. However, Collaborative team professionals understand that divorce is much more than just a legal process. It is an emotional, social, spiritual, and financial journey that includes a legal event as one step along the way. Just as marriage is much more than a “piece of paper,” the process of divorce is far more than simply “signing the final agreement.” The emotional journey of divorce involves letting go of old ways of relating (as spouses) and learning new ways of acting including how to be co-parents if the couple has children.
Strong feelings can get in the way: Research has shown that divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can face. It is a major life transition and can be a very disorienting experience. For most people, getting divorced involves loss on many levels. These can include loss of control, loss of a dream, loss of trust, loss of stability, loss of a best friend, loss of financial security, loss of connection to shared friends and community, and loss of identity as a married person, among others.
Given this level of life disruption, powerful feelings of anger and grief about the end of the marriage are common. So are anxious thoughts about the future such as “Will I be okay?” These thoughts and feelings are normal as divorcing couples go through this transition. Nonetheless, they can and often do hinder the divorce process. For example, one spouse’s anger at the other spouse may prompt acting out in an effort to retaliate. Fear of the unknown may cause them to stall the process. Grief about what has been lost may hamper their ability to visualize and move toward a different future. Many people feel ruled by their emotions at this time that can keep them from making sound decisions. A divorce coach can help guide clients through this process and get them ready to make good decisions in highly emotional times.
Role of the Financial Professional
Divorce involves important financial decisions and changes. SLO CPG utilizes a financial professional who has been licensed as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and /or a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). The financial professional is neutral to all involved, intentionally not taking anyone’s side. They help couples evaluate their financial situation, explain tax consequences of different divisions of assets and debts, and develop creative solutions to complex financial problems. As a neutral, the financial professional has greater credibility in providing information and fostering a dialogue. This makes it easier to reach mutually satisfying agreements.
Key Areas to Consider:
- Supporting two households on income that previously supported one
- Current and future cash flow planning
- Workable asset and debt divisions
- Tax issues
- Financial goals, such as children’s education and retirement
- Alimony, child and spousal support
- Business and pension valuations
- Real estate values and issues
- Recognizing that financial topics often involve very strong emotions
The Neutral Financial Professional Helps Parties to:
- Gather and organize information about the family finances
- Identify, clarify, and prioritize financial needs, goals, and concerns
- Educate everyone about the couple’s financial situation
- Analyze income and expenses and assets and liabilities
- Prepare legal declarations of disclosure
- Prepare workable budgets
- Address the financial arrangements necessary to support healthy children
- Consult with additional neutral specialists when necessary
- Evaluate possible settlement options with respect to short and long term consequences
- Assess tax consequences for different scenarios
- Generate creative solutions to financial problems
- Brings the voice of financial reality to the discussions
- Reviews marital settlement agreement for accuracy as it relates to team financial discussions
Role of the Child Specialist
The Child Specialist (CS) is a neutral party in the collaborative process and provides insight into the experience of the children in coping with the divorce. With the coaches, the CS can help the parents develop options for schedules and logistics which are in the child’s best interest. The CS provides information about child development and divorce. For young children, the CS may act as a spokesperson, while for older children; the CS may help them articulate their feelings and wishes directly. The CS is professional trained and licensed as either a psychologist (Dr.), or marriage and family therapist (LMFT), or clinical social worker (LCSW). They have experience and specialty in working with children.
The child specialist gathers information in a variety of ways tailored to each family’s circumstances and needs. This may include the following:
- Meet with the parents together and/or separately
- Meet with the children, sometimes alone and sometimes with either or both parents present
- Interview other important adults in the children’s lives, such as teachers, therapists and other family members, if needed
- Conduct home visits, when appropriate, particularly when younger children are involved
- Meet with the parents and the coaches to provide data to be considered in the creation of the Parenting Plan
The Child Specialist is informed by research and clinical data on the long term outcomes for children. The CS has experience in helping parents create stability and continuity for their children. Their input assists parents in developing an appropriate parenting plan that will reduce the children’s exposure to conflict and improve parents’ communication.
The Child Specialist provides feedback to help focus the parents on the children’s developmental and psychological needs, putting into perspective concerns parents have about their children currently and long term. Bringing the specific information about the children’s lives (their age, temperament, special attributes) helps the parents shift from “my time/right” with the child to the “child’s time” with the parent. This useful distinction prioritizes the child’s needs.
In planning the time share schedule, it is essential to separate time with the children from issues related to finances. The coaches and child specialist help parents focus on their goals for their children and develop ways to accomplish them in crafting the parenting plan. Moving towards a shared view of what is in the children’s best interest shifts the focus away from what may not seem “fair” to a parent. The CS remains in contact with the professionals as needed through the divorce process. Typically, the CS does not provide ongoing therapy, but is available for consultation related to the children and the divorce.
“Discourage litigation, persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the winner is often the real loser in fees, costs and time.”