Why Use a Team Approach in a Collaborative Divorce Instead of Just Using Collaborative Lawyers

Collaborative Divorce is a process that keeps people out of court, reduces financial and emotional costs, and keeps the couple in charge of what their future looks like. Sometimes people who are considering a Collaborative Divorce want to know why they should use a Collaborative team, consisting of two Collaboratively-trained lawyers, one or two divorce coaches, a child specialist, and a financial specialist, instead of just using Collaboratively-trained lawyers to help them reach an agreement. Of course, if here are no minor children to consider in the case, a child specialist would not be involved, but most Collaborative professionals recommend that a team approach be used.

First of all, I want to draw your attention to the fact that this article is written by a lawyer. That is important because it is in my personal and financial interest for you to use me for as many aspects of this process as I can persuade you to let me handle, so you would expect me say that you don't need a team. Simply put, if you use a team, I lose money.

So why do I say a team is better? Good question.

1. I have a duty to you, my client, to do what is in your interest when there is a conflict between what will benefit you and what will benefit me. That duty is called a fiduciary duty. I take that responsibility seriously, so I want you to know the truth about what lawyers do well and what we don't. If there is someone who can do the job better for you than I can, you need to know that.

2. I am convinced that your resources are better allotted to the professional who is trained and experienced in the field in which you need assistance.

While I am educated, reasonably intelligent, and experienced in the legal aspects of divorce, I am not a financial professional trained to advise you about the impact of the financial decisions you are making. I am not a psychologist or social worker trained to help you communicate or work on a parenting plan.

If you look to me for parenting plan advice, I can tell you what I think the court would do, but I would not be providing you with the insight a trained, experienced child development specialist would provide.

If you look to me for strategies to constructively communicate with your spouse in settlement conferences without just giving in or without having to get into an ugly court battle, I don't necessarily have the best answers for you. But a divorce coach would.

I have seen financial professionals take clients who looked like they were headed for bankruptcy and turn things around so they could see a way through the divorce and post-divorce stages of their lives without bankruptcy. As an attorney, I do not have those skills.

What I do have is the ability to help you understand the long-term ramifications of your agreements. I can help you know what court will accept or not accept as an agreement. I can help you make sure all of the issues that must be addressed in separation and divorce are included in your agreement—because once a divorce decree is entered, most of the issues cannot be revisited. If an issue wasn't addressed or if it was not effectively addressed, you missed the boat. I can help make sure that does not happen to you. The other professionals cannot offer you that.

3. When you use the right professional to address the right issue, your cost is actually lower that it would be if you rely on lawyer for all of the advice. Your resources are working smarter, not harder.

The reality is that when you look to an attorney to provide all of the above, we will try to do that, but we will do it at our hourly rate and we will take more time to address the issues that are on the margins of our expertise than just working with someone whose expertise is on target. This will make your divorce take longer, cost more, and increase the possibility of failure in the collaborative process. Lastly, you will be more satisfied with the outcome of a team process because you will have been better advised all the way around.

The bottom line is that you don't want to use a hammer when you really need a flyswatter—or vice versa.

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