Thursday, March 1, 2012

Speaking Up for Yourself

Communication is important in most aspects of life. That's true in both pleasant and unpleasant circumstances. We are all taught to speak up for ourselves in certain situations, but some people do so more easily than others. In Collaborative cases, it's very important to communicate your thoughts, ideas, needs, values, concerns, analysis or preferences.

Fortunately, Collaborative Law provides the safest possible environment for you to be able to express yourself. When you start a Collaborative case, here are some circumstances that you should expect to arise where you will need to communicate.

1. You will need to talk with your attorney frequently. Usually, at the least, there will be brief discussions by you and your attorney before and after joint meetings. Between meetings, you can and should call your attorney with any questions. During joint meetings, there are sometimes breaks so the parties can visit privately with their attorney.

2. You should report any new problems or complications to your attorney and potentially to the neutral mental health professional (MHP) or financial professional (FP) if it affects the MHP or FP. Keeping the professionals informed and up-to-date will allow us to help you through difficulties that inevitably come up in any case. The main thing is: Let us know right away, good or bad.

3. You will be talking directly with the MHP and FP about significant portions of your case. Decisions are made in the joint meetings, but a lot of preliminary work goes on between the two parties and the MHP and FP. That is normally a very easy and comfortable situation.

4. At joint meetings, you will need to speak up or, if you are not comfortable, ask for a break and then talk with your attorney. If you are nervous, you can consult with the MHP to help be able to speak up or maybe we can come up with an alternative strategy. Although it is preferable for each party to speak up for himself or herself, in some cases we have allowed the attorney to speak for the client. It's really better for the parties to speak for themselves because the communication is more direct and the party's true message can be better conveyed by the party, so we try to adjust things to make that possible. Most people speak freely at the joint meetings because they are surrounded by well-trained and concerned professionals.

5. Another aspect of Collaborative communication is emails. In Collaborative cases, we do rely on emails quite a bit to share information, set up meetings and ask questions. You can expect the need to check your emails regularly.

Caution: The one major aspect of communication that we discourage in Collaborative cases is negotiating directly (outside of joint meetings) with your spouse on issues that we are discussing in the process. That almost always ends badly as one or both parties let their guards down when the professionals are not around. It's just not a good idea.

The good news about communication in Collaborative cases is that it is safe, less stressful than litigation and has many safeguards build in. Feel free to express any concerns you have to your attorney or to your MHP. They want to help you succeed!