Not long ago we received an inquiry from a person seeking information about divorce and collaborative practice in Wisconsin. She had already contacted an attorney and while asking the attorney about her options, the response, among other things, included the statement “sure, we do collaborative.”

 Caveat Emptor

There are many situations to apply caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

Hiring anyone to do anything for you or on your behalf is one of those situations. That includes engaging an attorney for your divorce.

While the internet is a great source of information, it also includes less than honest declarations. There are professionals that claim they “do collaborative” when there is slim evidence of their training or on-going continuing education. There are even some that use the logo of this organization on their websites and are not members of the Council.

The Collaborative Family Law Council of Wisconsin does not regulate professionals and can only warn you to “be aware” the professional with whom you are working.

Here are a couple of simple tips:

  1. Ask the professional where and when they received their training in the Collaborative Process;
  2. If they indicate they were trained “a while ago,” ask about their “continuing education” in the process; that is, what advanced training or additional programs have they attended;
  3. Check the Find a Professional section of this website. If the Directory does not contain your attorney, there is no guarantee they have completed items 1 and 2 above. They may have, but it means that they no longer participate in the ongoing educational efforts of the Council; and
  4. Be wary of the “we do collaborative” declaration. It is certainly true that many professionals offer collaborative divorce, but it is more than a “service” line. Consider this opening paragraph from an article titled Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing from the Spring 2017 issue of the Collaborative Review*:

The Collaborative Process requires a significant change in how its participants conduct themselves during a divorce negotiation…..[it] involves a fundamental change in how the spouses and the professionals think, feel, act, and speak during the process. It is a difficult transition to master and must ultimately become internalized as part of each individual’s professional persona.

It is understandably challenging for the professionals, who have successfully used specific skills in their various practices before becoming collaborative, to change their habits and to now engage in a very different way of interacting. Becoming a Collaborative professional requires a willingness to master new skills and an openness to use alternative methods of resolving conflict.

The author makes a strong case that Collaborative is much more than a product or service, but rather a mindset – on the part of professional and client alike – to seek solutions in a client-centered approach.

She offers this bottom line, of which you should also be aware:

The Collaborative model is….an important, client-centered model of divorce that focuses on not causing harm. By utilizing the power of a well-trained, carefully selected team, instances of challenging behavior can be minimized and eventually overcome.

When selecting your professional, take extra precaution to make sure of the skills, on-going training, and collegial relationships of your representative. There is too much at stake not to do so.

-News Editor


* Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Lana M. Stern, Ph.D, The Collaborative Review, Spring 2017. The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Vol.16, Issue 1.