Your Collaborative Attorney has obtained specialized training beyond that which is required of all attorneys. In addition to continuing education requirements established by the State of Wisconsin, the CFLCW member also agrees to ongoing continuing education in the Collaborative Process.
In collaborative divorce, process, the lawyer is not neutral. Your attorney serves as your advocate throughout process. The collaborative divorce lawyer acts as a resource, an educator, an advocate for his or her client and protector of the collaborative divorce process. Often lawyers in Collaborative are described as "settlement experts." Even though they serve their clients, they also serve the process and your family by seeking a resolution that is respectful, fair, and makes sense for your unique situation.
Your collaborative divorce lawyer will do the usual determination, identification and investigation of the issues surrounding your family situation, in consultation with you and the team. Your lawyer will also work to anticipate conflict, help the the team manage the process and ensure that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations.
Mental Health professionals serve as Coaches or Child Specialists. Some may serve as a Coach in one team/case and as a Child Specialist in another. These professionals can be licensed psychologists holding Masters or Doctorate degrees, or licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or Masters in social work.
The Divorce Coach has experience working with adults and families facing the challenges of major life transitions. The Coach brings skills in the areas of communication, conflict resolution, co-parenting, and stress or emotional management.
The Divorce Coach helps each client individually, and in meetings with the spouse and his/her coach, by addressing the ‘human side’ of divorce. The Divorce Coach assures that each spouse has the opportunity to tell his/her story, identify possible conflicts, and help the client to express goals, needs, and desires in a safe environment.
In Collaborative Practice, mental health professionals do not serve as therapists, but rather as counselors, assisting clients with the emotional aspects of divorce and helping facilitate the resolution of conflicts in the process.
A Child Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with specific training in the Collaborative Divorce Process. The Child Specialist has expertise in the areas of family therapy, child development, child and adolescent therapy, families in life transitions, co-parent counseling and child custody and placement issues.
The Collaborative Child Specialist does not function in the role of a therapist for your family. The Child Specialist remains neutral throughout the Collaborative Process to assure that each family member is free to speak. Children are often silent participants in divorce, and Collaborative recognizes that children are profoundly impacted by their parents’ divorce.
Remaining neutral, the Child Specialist is able to provide the parents, and the team, with valuable information, options, ideas and suggestions that reflect the best interests of the children. However, parents always have final decision making responsibilities regarding their children.
The Collaborative Divorce Process recognizes divorce is more than a legal matter. A key component of the team is the Financial Specialist, commonly referred to as the Financial Neutral. This specialist provides the team, and the collaborative process, with an unbiased assessment of the financial situation faced by the family and offers analysis about specific issues that may arise during the problem solving process.
The financial specialist can be a certified financial planner (CFP), certified public accountant (CPA), certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), or other financial professional with the right training and experience to handle the unique financial challenges presented in divorce and family law cases.
Your Role in the Collaborative Process
Your are a team member in a Collaborative Divorce. You have both rights and responsibilites.
Collaborative practice at its best is a flexible process, relying on professionals from other disciplines as you need them. This team of people works together toward one goal: maximizing the benefit to your family.
In every Collaborative case, the client – you – are an integral part of the team, and this is because you and your spouse are the driving force behind the process. Your control over the process and the outcome is considerable.
As a client in the Collaborative Process you agree via a signed agreement to abide by the principles of the approach, to cooperate with the team and work towards an agreement.
Other Team Resources
Your team may choose to retain other experts or consultants. Unlike traditional litigated cases, where the parties hire competing experts to “fight it out,” both parties in the collaborative process jointly retain the experts they need and consider the options the experts present. Here are some other Team options:
In some Collaborative cases, the team may choose to follow the "facilitative" approach to how the team functions. In these situations a mental health professional, usually a coach with some additional experience or training in team management, will serve as a type of "case manager." In these circumstances the Facilitator will be actively involved in all meetings and discussions during the case. They manage meeting agendas, follow-up or "homework" assignments, meeting notes and generally work to keep the process efficient and on track.
Affiliate Members of CFLCW are not part of the client team, but often are asked to participate before, during and after the case to help you. A good example is a real estate agent, with some training in the Collaborative Process to understand the principles at work, who assist you with selling a home, or buying another. The understand the challenges of the real estate market and the implications for a divorcing couple. They also bring a sense of reality as to the market demand, and price, for your home.
Another Affiliate Member may serve as a mortgage broker as you seek a new residence, or an investment counselor who can help with the financial aspects of the divorce.
At times even the most focused and dedicated effort to resolve issues in a divorce may face extremely difficult and emotional challenges. A mediator may work with your Collaborative Team to resolve an impasse on an issue. Many Collaborative practitioner members of CFLCW are trained mediators and are available to your team as a neutral third party.