Saturday, March 5, 2011

How We Reach Agreements

Part of the Collaborative Law process involves following what we call the "Roadmap to Resolution". It is a simple, logical 5-step process that leads to good solutions to difficult problems. Here is a brief summary of the steps.

1. Determine the goals of each party. This is a fundamental step which will set the direction of the process. The parties need to identify their goals, needs and interests so that everyone knows what the targets are. These need to be set out in broader terms, rather than in very narrow, lower-level terms. For example, one might decide that a goal is to have a home in a safe neighborhood for the children. That is a higher and broader goal than saying that you want to keep the house. There very likely are a number of good houses that are affordable and in a safe neighborhood which could be the same neighborhood as now, or a different one. Having broad, macro-level goals allows more possible solutions.

2. Gather information. The parties both provide whatever information is relevant and needed. Sometimes, the parties must get outside sources to provide information, such as real estate or business appraisers. Financial information is obtained and organized by the neutral financial professional. Parenting information is shared with the neutral parenting specialist or the neutral mental health professional who helps the parties.

3. Generate options. Once the information is organized, the parties work with the whole team of professionals to create settlement options. This is a brainstorming exercise with the objective of coming up with as many ideas as possible, without judging them at this stage. Even ridiculous ideas can be included. This allows the parties to consider many possibilities that would not, often could not, be considered in a litigated case.

4. Evaluate the options. At this stage, the parties go back through the list of ideas and criticize and evaluate them. The strengths, weaknesses and relevance of each idea are discussed. Some wouldn't work at all, but others might work with a little tweaking. The evaluation stage sometimes leads to combinations or mutations of ideas so that ridiculous ideas may suddenly work or lead to workable ideas.

5. Reach agreement through discussion. Sometimes it's necessary to compromise and do some trading, but the parties can usually come up with a plan to meet each other's needs without abandoning their own values. Working with experienced Collaborative professionals, the parties can create a solution accept to both sides. Respectful communications and the acknowledgment of each other's issues leads to satisfactory resolutions in most cases.

This is a brief explanation for how agreements are reached through Collaborative Law. It is important to follow this structure. It have an outstanding track record of success. Going step by step through the process will almost always lead to success!