by Shawn Weber, Certified Family Law Specialist
Weber Dispute Resolution, Solana Beach, California
The Full-Team Collaborative Divorce Process
Collaborative Practice is an excellent way to resolve difficult disputes including issues surrounding divorce or separation. In a Collaborative Divorce, parties hire specially trained attorneys who enter inter into a written agreement with the parties th
at the attorneys will never go to court. In addition, the parties recruit mental health professionals
to act as coaches for each of the parties to help with the difficult emotions in the case. They hire a neutral financial specialist to help with the money issues and a child specialist to serve as a voice for the children. If the case veers towards litigation, the team withdraws.
By removing the specter of court, parties can focus on positive solutions instead of adversarial bickering. Collaborative Practice is a great way to get a divorce without wasting the family nest egg and without screwing up the kids.
It’s a great process and provides maximum support to the parties from a broad range of professional perspectives. However, the most frequent concern I hear from clients and professionals when contemplating a collaborative process involves the cost. While collaborative divorce is certainly less expensive than litigation, it can be more expensive than some other out-of-court options. Furthermore, the more experts and professionals are involved, the more complicated and challenging it can be to manage all the moving parts.
Collaborative Practice Saves Families Money with Specialization
The complaint about the complexity and cost of a full team misses the most important point about why Collaborative Practice is so great. In a full-team Collaborative Divorce, the parties achieve terrific economies of scale through specialization. This means that you save money and get better value from your process because you are paying the best people for the best work for the best price.
For example, most lawyers went to law school because they were not math majors. You probably don’t want to have a lawyer as your financial specialist. However, attorneys tend to have then highest billing rates. So why would you pay the most expensive person to not do the best work when it comes to financial analysis? That’s where the financial specialist comes in. She has specific expertise in divorce finances and bills the appropriate market billing rate for her services. Instead of wasting money with the attorney to get bad financial advice, use the financial specialist to get better information for less money. That’s a win-win.
Similarly, when I did litigation, clients who were rightfully stressed out about how to interact with their estranged spouse would try to use me as a mental health professional. But, newsflash, I am not a mental health professional and am not qualified to provide that type of work. Although I am good at working with people, nothing replaces that expertise and knowledge of a trained mental health professional when dealing with the emotions of divorce.
Rather than paying the attorney to do subpar mental health work, you hire the mental health professional for his expertise in providing the best coaching or child specialist service for the best price. Again, that’s value to you and to your family. What’s more, you get a level of diverse professional support that is simply not available in any other process. Your kids and your finances will thank you.
This is refreshing for the lawyer, because now she can do what she does best: the legal work. Use the lawyer to understand the law and get the advice you need to enter a valid, enforceable and informed agreement. Because the lawyer is in the room and on your side, you know you have a settlement minded attorney who’s got your back at the negotiation table.
Diversity Provides Strength in Collaborative Practice
Remember, the great strength of Collaborative Practice is the diversity of professionals. The very fact that you have a full team of professionals looking at your case from diverse backgrounds and professional specialties gives your family the best chance of transitioning with the best possible information and support for the very best value. It protects your kids, your pocketbook and your dignity.