Saturday, December 1, 2012

Case Studies: How Does Collaborative Law Work?

This is the first in a series of stories about how Collaborative Law actually works in a divorce case.  These cases are not real cases.  The facts and stories are expanded and modified from real issues faced by families going through a Collaborative divorce.
                               The Uneventful Case

Facts:  Husband and wife have been married for 15 years.  They have two children, a boy and a girl, ages 10 and 8.  Husband has a sales job and wife has been a stay at home mom; she left her teaching career when the children were born.  The couple has a house, two retirement plans, some investments and very little debt.

Issues:  How to share time with the kids and providing some extra support for mom as she starts to rejoin the workforce.

Steps Followed:  Each party has their own Collaborative attorney.  The attorneys bring in a neutral mental health  professional (MHP) and a neutral financial professional (FP). 

1st Meeting:  At the first joint meeting, the parties tell what their goals, needs and interests are so that everyone will know what each party wants to end up with.
Kid Issues:  The MHP works with everyone in the joint meetings and works with the parties, without attorneys present, to come up with a parenting plan to bring to a joint meeting.  The parenting plan covers the sharing of responsibilities for the children as well as sharing time with them.  The MHP has also helped the parents work out a plan for how they would tell the children.  The therapist also runs the joint meetings and makes sure that both parties are comfortable and feel safe in the discussions.  The MHP has also answered questions and educated the parents about what to expect post-divorce with the children.

Financial Issues:  The FP gathers financial records from the parties and creates a spreadsheet to use in dividing the assets.  Equally important, the Financial Professional helps each party put together a budget and plan their financial futures.  The FP leads the joint meetings dealing with finances and together the parties and professionals come up with a plan to divide the assets and a way for both parties to meet their financial needs into the future.  The FP also helps the parties plan for the tax consequences of the financial agreements.

Result:  A comprehensive agreement is drawn up that provides for the children and allows both parents to have meaningful time with the kids.  The property is divided and extra support is given to wife to enable her to do what's necessary to get back into the labor force while still being the primary caregiver of the children.

Comment:  Very few cases are this simple, but the story tells about the roles of everyone working on a Collaborative case.  The case would probably have taken about 4-5 joint meetings.

To find out whether Collaborative Law would possibly work for you, talk with an attorney who has been specially trained in Collaborative Law.  If any attorney tries to talk you out of using Collaborative, you should always get a second opinion from a trained Collaborative attorney.

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