Collaborative Communications Coaches are an integral part of a team of professionals who provide a unique alternative dispute resolution process for divorce.
What is a “Collaborative” Divorce?
Some family law attorneys are throwing around this term these days, so it’s a good idea to check to see what they really mean. Collaborative Practice as I am talking about it here is a form of alternative dispute resolution practiced by professionals who are specifically trained members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.collaborativepractice.com). In the state of California, these professionals are also members of Collaborative Practice California (www.cpcal.com) and, usually, of regional practice groups such as Collaborative Practice Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara County (www.nocourt.org).
Collaborative Practice has much in common with mediation. It’s a voluntary process, chosen by both of the parties in a divorce as an alternative to litigation. It was designed, however, to address and rectify some of the challenges that mediation can have for some families.
A neutral mediator is forced by his or her role to never advocate for either party. This can be problematic if there is a power imbalance because one spouse is more powerful/controlling or just better than the other at negotiating or advocating for themselves.
In Collaborative Practice, each spouse has his or her own Collaborative Attorney who can keeps them informed of the law and their rights. Unlike in a litigated model, however, the attorneys work together to come up with win/win solutions for the whole family.
When there is mistrust regarding financial issues, both mediation and litigation can get bogged down with competing financial experts. In collaborative practice, the couple hires one neutral collaboratively-trained Financial Professional who collects and helps to explain to the whole team the couple’s financial picture.
Lawyer mediators are sometimes ill-equipped to help parents who have disagreements regarding the best interests of their children. Collaborative practice can provide a neutral, collaboratively trained Child Specialist, who interviews the children, giving them a voice in the proceedings in the gentlest possible way, and who can give parents invaluable information.
Some divorcing couples find it very difficult to even be in the same room together. This makes mediation a real challenge. In Collaborative Practice, each spouse has a communications coach on their team. This coach, a mental health professional with special training in mediation, helps the spouse to stay calm and to communicate clearly and effectively.
Collaborative Practice is highly structured, with a process for resolving all of the many issues of divorce in a streamlined, efficient way. That being said, Collaborative Practice is a conflict resolution process, not a conflict avoidance process. Divorce is hard. All of the support and guidance of the team will not make it painless. They will, however, make it effective, with durable agreements and the best interests of the children firmly in the forefront.