What is collaborative divorce?
Collaborative law is a transparent process, distinct from other models of dispute resolution, that allows clients, attorneys and other professional participants to meet together to resolve their disputes in a civil and respectful manner. The process occurs in a safe environment with each client represented by a collaboratively trained attorney. The attorneys are advocates for their clients but they do not act in an adversarial manner. The clients agree to work together honestly, in good faith, and to disclose all relevant information. The goal is to reach a settlement that meets their needs and interests.
Why use a mental health facilitator?
Mental health professionals are painfully aware of the long-term consequences of a hostile, contested, litigated divorce and the impact on the family and significant others.
The inclusion of the MHP in the Collaborative Divorce process, at first a new concept, is now recognized as an important and integral part of the process. It is the perfect utilization of mental health professionals who have been trained to work with families, couples and individuals in distress. It compliments the natural union for legal, mental health and financial professionals to work together in the divorce process. The ultimate goal of the entire team is to facilitate a respectful, healthy divorce process so that both parties and the children can achieve the best outcome with the least damage to the post-divorce relationships of family and friends.
What does the mental health facilitator do in the collaborative divorce process?
The MHP, who works as a member of the Collaborative Team, strives to maximize effective communication and negotiation by facilitating the process, modeling behavior, teaching communication skills and encouraging the participants to resolve problems and settle differences in a respectful, appropriate and effective manner using interest- based negotiation.
. MHPs can screen for many issues that can potentially derail a negotiation: addictions, domestic violence, psychological and domestic abuse, shadow people and power imbalances. Their understanding of underlying dynamics can help prepare both the clients and attorneys for real interest based negotiations to settle issues and move the clients forward. They often function as case manager when referrals for child issues, addictions or mental illness are needed.
MHPs can intervene in a multitude of situations from simple misunderstandings in and among the Team members to real crisis situations. They can help with problem solving, creative thinking, and be a support system for both the professionals and the clients. Along with the other Team members, they can facilitate the meetings and be the voice of safety and neutrality.
No other member of the team can caucus with each attorney, financial professional and the clients in a variety of situations and dyads. They can help structure the flow of the process because their lack of alignment and neutrality creates a safe place.
When appointed to a case, the MHP schedules a preliminary teleconference with the attorneys to learn the facts of the case and the expectations of the attorneys. After the initial teleconference, the MHP meets individually with each party before the first Team meeting. During this first contact, the MHP describes the responsibilities and what role they will play in the Collaborative Divorce process. There are several important and distinct differences that separate therapy – the traditional role of a mental health professional – and the role of the MHP in the divorce process. A separate Participation Agreement is presented and signed describing in detail the exact role and responsibilities of the MHP and details the differences between therapy and the role the MHP.
- Dedicated to helping families resolve disputes without resorting to the judicial system.
- This process enables separating spouses to accomplish their divorce in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
- It is a process which is both confidential and transparent within the team.
- Emphasizes personal privacy – often the first casualty of a traditional divorce.
- Divorce is never easy! Especially when children are involved! Court fights over time sharing, parenting plans and assets only increase the emotional pain of an already traumatic situation.
- Emphasis on cooperation! Reaching mutual agreement, rather than dwelling on differences, is a top priority. Many parties also learn new communication skills that are helpful in coping with family interaction after a divorce.
- The parties, not a judge, creatively determine the best way to provide financial support, allocate assets and care for children.
- Commitment to a faster process. In most cases, agreements reached collaboratively take less time than litigation.
- Potential cost savings! No court proceedings, no depositions, no subpoenas and the use of neutral experts may result in a less expensive divorce proceeding
- Specially trained professionals, including attorneys, accountants, financial planners and mental health professionals, work jointly to help divorcing spouses in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.