A General Roadmap for the Collaborative Divorce Process

by: Deb McNeill | Website

A General Roadmap for the Collaborative Divorce Process

This article is adapted from “The Roadmap Of The Collaborative Divorce Process” by The Middle Tennessee Collaborative Alliance (MTCA) with Permission by the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce Trainers (ICDT). A special thanks to my trainers: Julia A. McAninch, Psy.D., Benjamin Papa, JD and John Wade, CFP.

The stages of a collaborative divorce will vary depending on the complexity of finances, the legal issues, the intensity of emotions and the relationships involved. Below, I offer a general roadmap outlining the stages of the collaborative divorce process using a “full model” approach. The “full model” approach explained here refers to a process that includes two Attorneys, a Divorce Coach (Neutral Mental Health Professional) and a Neutral Financial Professional. This example does not include a Child Specialist, but please note there are other models and combinations of professionals that can be used. The stages will vary based on the needs of the clients involved.

STAGE ONE: Assembling Your Team

Often the first professionals to be hired are the collaborative attorneys. Your attorney can provide referrals for the divorce coach, financial neutral and if applicable, a child specialist. It is important for both parties to retain an attorney trained and committed to the collaborative divorce process.

In addition to the initial consultation with your attorney, the first meetings with the collaborative professionals are the intake meetings where clients are encouraged to begin thinking about goals for the divorce.

The divorce coach will work with the team to schedule the initial team meeting. In this meeting the Participation Agreement is reviewed and signed and the structure of future meetings is discussed. Any logistical details or urgent concerns are addressed. Future meetings as well as any additional one on one meetings with the professionals will likely be scheduled.

STAGE TWO: Information Gathering

The quality and efficiency of the process rely partially on the information and documents gathered.

The financial neutral will meet with clients and give homework which will be used to generate reports to be used in meetings for brainstorming and decision making. It is possible that the attorneys and divorce coach will also require homework to prepare for the meetings.

The divorce coach will meet with each client individually for additional meetings to address psychological and emotional issues relevant to the process.

The professionals may also meet without clients to discuss how to efficiently support both parties.

STAGE THREE: Team Meetings

It is important for all substantive negotiations to occur in the team meetings. This gives clients the opportunity to draw from the expertise of all three professions (legal, financial and psychological/emotional) and enhances the opportunity for clients to make decisions that are best for them and their family from a financial, legal and emotional perspective.

Clients meet with their attorneys and professionals on an individual basis, as needed, during the process and

The clients and professionals meet as a team to share information, discuss ideas, brainstorm and generate options for dealing with issues in the divorce.

If additional research or homework is advisable for clients to be able to make good decisions, the team will set a timeline to allow for completion and will schedule future meetings accordingly.

The clients will make agreements with the advice and help of the team.

STAGE FOUR: Finalizing and Implementing the Plan

After final agreements have been reached, the attorneys will draft appropriate legal documents necessary to finalize and implement a settlement.

Deb McNeill is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, providing therapy, coaching and counseling for individuals, couples and families dealing with difficult life transitions, relationship struggles, depression and anxiety.