Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Happens at the 1st Joint Meeting?

Most of the first Joint Meetings in Collaborative cases follow the same pattern.  The purpose of the meeting is to make sure everyone starts out with the same understandings of the process, including the steps we follow and the obligations of each of the participants. 

At the 1st Joint Meeting, we don't do much case-specific work or make decisions on how to divide things up.  We wait until the proper time to do that.

Instead, we are building a foundation for the process to work in the case. It's essential, even though it can be a little boring! We all have to make the best of it.  The process gets more interesting later on.

Here's what generally happens:

  • Introductions.  We usually introduce each of the professionals and each party.  We agree to use first names with each other so the process can be less formal.
  •  Discuss the process. We usually go through the Roadmap to Resolution which outlines each step we follow in the process.  Normally, the neutral mental health professional goes over the Expectations of Conduct with the parties.  We want to be sure everyone really understands what we will be doing and how it works.
  • Sign the Participation Agreement.  This is a relatively long document that is the underlying contract between the parties.  It sets out in great detail the rights and responsibilities of the each participant, including the attorneys and neutral professionals.  It tells how the process works. The Agreement also has a section that commits the parties to maintain the status quo on the finances and property involved in the case, similar to the Injunction typically issued in a litigated divorce. 
        We want everyone to understand the process, and commit to following the rules.
  • Develop the goals for each party.   The parties work with their attorneys before the meeting and then explain the goals and needs they want to meet by the end of the process.  We set up targets so we can meet the specific needs of each party, instead of just asking for some arbitrary percentage of property or standard terms relating to the children.
  • Deal with immediate concerns.  If there are issues that need to be resolved temporarily or immediately, we work together to help the parties.  Typically, these may be interim arrangements relating to the children, finances or housing.
  • Schedule future meetings and homework.  We try to schedule at least a couple of Joint Meetings and some meetings with the parties to work with each of the neutral professionals before the next Joint Meeting.  Homework typically involves gathering financial records and information about the children.
If you need anything to be done at the first meeting that is not included above, please discuss that with your Collaborative attorney.

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