I just attended a 3 day seminar on Collaborative divorce. The training was supposed to teach me a more “streamlined” way to handle collaborative cases. For those of you who do not know, Collaborative divorces, at least here in the Tampa bay area usually involve 2 attorneys, a neutral psychological professional “coach” and a neutral financial professional. The beautiful part of the collaborative process is that the psychological professional helps divorcing parties manage the emotional hurdles of the divorce while the financial professional provides an objective assessment of the financial realities of divorce. The lawyers, who are required to be respectful and non adversarial, still represent their clients’ interests, but with the goal of reaching a resolution. The drawback of this system is that it can become expensive– almost never as expensive as “going to court” — but it is not appropriate for people looking simply for a monetarily inexpensive divorce.
My goal in attending the “streamlined” training, was to learn new ways to make the collaborative process accessible to more clients within the middle income range. I must admit that the training, as presented, did not seem to provide what I considered to be a viable method of meeting this goal. This new “streamlined” approach did not reduce the number of professionals and professional fees, but actually added them! In addition to the usual players in a Collaborative Divorce, the streamlined approach proposes the additional of a “child specialist” to the collaborative team and two “coach” psychological professionals—one for each client! Although I haven’t tried this approach yet, my initial reaction was that it was ridiculous. Afterall, how in the world does adding more players to the collaborative team operate to “streamline” the process and make it more available?
It all seemed absurd to me until I had lunch with, sat next to and interacted with many of the local psychological professionals in attendance at the meeting. I was reminded of how adept and aware they are of the psychological impact of divorce on the parties and their children. I was reminded that the goal of a successful divorce is to leave the children and the parties as emotionally whole as possible and with the skills to create a different life. The same applies to my interaction with local financial professionals at the meeting. They are unique in that they are fixated on preserving assets and helping clients achieve a viable financial future in the wake of a divorce. The fact is that, as a legal professional, I don’t have the skills to help my clients reach this goal without the input of other trained professionals.
After a long weekend and much reflection, I now understand that my initial rejection of this new approach was in error. Even though the streamlined approach involves more professionals and, therefore, more professional fees, the skill of these professionals is more likely to reduce the number of meetings and more quickly move the process toward a final and healthier solution for clients.
In keeping with the counter intuitive nature of the collaborative process, what I initially dismissed as a method unlikely to produce results, may well turn out to be a valuable way to help families. I intend to employ this “streamlined” protocol in my collaborative practice.