Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How It Works -- Joint Collaborative Meetings

When they are trying to decide whether to try Collaborative Law, many people want to find out how the process works.
One of the most noticeable differences between litigation and Collaborative Law is that court is replaced by meetings at a private office. The meetings are usually at one of the attorneys' office, but sometimes are held at the office of the financial or communication specialist. Here are some typical elements of the process:

  • Each meeting is usually one and a half to two hours long. People get tired and are less effective and more stressed, if meetings go beyond two hours.
  • Most often, we schedule meetings about every two weeks, but we sometimes can meet more or less frequently if there is a need. In between the meetings, the parties may do "homework" and have meetings with the MHP or financial specialist.
  • The meetings are planned ahead of time by the professionals who prepare and follow a set agenda. It is important that surprises are minimized and that the meetings not veer off into discussions of topics that were unexpected. The agenda is often discussed at the end of the preceding meeting.
  • Where a mental health professional (MHP) is used, the MHP usually runs the meeting. That helps the atmosphere feel unbiased and the MHP is able to help the parties function at their most effective level, even when difficult topics are discussed.
  • We generally follow a standard "roadmap" which includes these steps: determine the goals for each party, gather information, determine what the issues are and generate options, evaluate the options and then negotiate to an agreement. We may cover only one step, or part of one step, at each meeting.
  • We have found it helpful for the attorneys to visit with the other professionals just before and just after a joint meeting to discuss how to handle issues and to evaluate how the meeting went.
  • The attorneys also usually meet or talk with the parties both just before and just after the joint meetings for preparation and feedback. Between joint meetings, the attorneys also talk with their clients as needed to prepare for meetings.
  • It may take several meetings to resolve some issues, and the parties have the freedom to take as much time as they want to fully explore possible solutions.
If you have questions that haven't been answered about the joint meetings, you should consult with a trained Collaborative professional who can answer any other questions about the process.

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