Many of the previous posts on this blog have been about how the Collaborative Divorce process and the reasons why collaborative professionals do what they do in cases to support divorcing clients. This post comes at the topic more from the “60,000 foot view” of how to balance the concepts of structure and flexibility in the collaborative process.
Currently, Tennessee does not have any particular certification for people who wish to hold themselves out to the public as Collaborative Divorce practitioners. If a Nashville attorney, financial, or mental health professional wishes to grow his or her practice, he or she is free to list Collaborative Divorce as a service on his or her website regardless of whether the professional has even the most basic training in the process and how it works.
NPR recently broadcast this story about choosing divorce mediation from the perspective of people who have been through the process. Check it out for lots of valuable thoughts on why mediation worked for them:
As has been discussed many times on this blog, my bias is that in Nashville, and probably in Tennessee in general, we have flipped the exception and the rule in terms of divorce process options. Currently, the default process is litigation and the exception is Collaborative Divorce. Since I believe most people going through a divorce are in crisis and need support and guidance, but do not necessarily hate each other, Collaborative Divorce could be the default and litigation could be reserved for clients who do not have the capacity to make decisions on their own, have mental health issues, or other factors that would make Collaborative Divorce not a good choice. For more discussion about when Collaborative Divorce is probably not appropriate see this prior post.
In any event, the important thing is that clients are informed of their options and make a decision for themselves about which process they think will work best for them and their family. Here is a short summary of the differences between Collaborative Divorce and divorce litigation as they are typically practiced in Middle Tennessee:
Co-Mediation is a variation on the typical Mediation process. In a garden variety divorce mediation in Tennessee, one neutral mediator, typically a lawyer, works with a divorcing couple (and their attorneys if they have them) to try and craft a settlement, which includes a Marital Dissolution Agreement and Permanent Parenting Plan if the parties have children together. Co-Mediation, like Collaborative Divorce, is a process that assumes that divorce is a life event that includes legal, financial, and emotional elements, all of which need to be addressed one way or the other. As such, co-mediation includes a lawyer/ mediator to work with the clients on the legal issues and draft the settlement documents, but it also includes one or more additional mediators to work with the parties on the emotional issues in the divorce, and/or to guide the clients around more complicated financial issues in the divorce.
Previous posts have looked at the ways Mental Health Coaches struggle in Collaborative Divorce cases as well as the ways in which Financial Neutrals can unintentionally get in the way of solid divorce settlement agreements. This post will look more closely at the ways in which Collaborative Divorce lawyers can end up being part of the problem.
A previous entry here discussed a number of reasons for professionals to “rule out” Collaborative Divorce as a process option under certain circumstances. This post will focus on another dynamic for divorce professionals to consider and to discuss with potential clients who are considering Collaborative Divorce – the clients’ ability to make solid decisions for themselves.
Legal and other professional fees can be crippling for Middle Tennessee divorce clients – sometimes running from $50,000-$100,000 or more in legal and related fees to get all the way through a contested divorce trial, especially if kids are involved. Collaborative Divorce works to streamline and tailor the divorce process so that the clients’ specific needs and goals are addressed for significantly less than the cost of divorce litigation. Here are a number of ways the process works to keep costs as low as possible while still providing a more satisfying outcome:
By the time most couples reach the painful decision to divorce, one or both of them have typically spent a great deal of time telling themselves (and often each other) over and over all of the ways in which the parties are out of sync and how the marriage is not working. In short, they have created a “stuck story” they have told themselves enough times that they have come to believe that being “stuck” is their ultimate and final truth – that there is no other way to think about their life. Collaborative Divorce can provide the tools for parties to begin to imagine a different story for themselves as they come out of their marriage.
This post is the second of three posts that consider the ways in which each of the three types of professionals involved in collaborative divorces – attorneys, financial neutrals, and mental health coaches – miss the mark in performing their professional role on the team. This post will specifically look at the role of the Financial Neutral.