FAQ about Collaborative Practice

Collaborative[N1]  Practice                               

What is Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative Practice offers families the opportunity to work together as a team to form a positive, humane and solutions-based approach to resolving their conflicts, whether the conflict is incident to a divorce or the management or distribution of an estate.  You won’t see this on T.V. or in the movies because we work as a team to resolve conflicts rather than enlarge them.

How is it different from conventional or traditional dispute resolution?

Collaborative Practice is different three important respects:

* The parties and attorneys pledge in writing to focus on solutions, not going to court.

* Face-to-face discussions between the parties and team members lead to an agreement.

* The parties (YOU) get to make the decisions – not a judge.

What is this team?

Depending on the situation, we may have a financial planner, family communication specialists, child specialists, or an elder specialist to work with you and your attorney(s) to find the best solutions.  The whole family is part of the same team, not opposing teams.

  •  In sports, different players may vie for more playing time, but they want the same team to win.
  • In orchestras, different players of the same instrument may compete for position, but they want their music together to be beautiful.
  • Republicans and Democrats do not see themselves as part of the same team.  We don’t want the families we work with to wind up like that.

Doesn’t a team of professionals make Collaborative Practice more expensive?

You would think that adding more professionals will make your case more expensive.  In fact, it may.  But the combined experience of those of us who have been doing this for many years is that the total expense is less because:

* You will learn new conflict resolution skills that will help you avoid further conflict within the family.

* In Court, when a Judge makes a decision, someone usually feels that there is a winner and a loser.  When you make your own decisions on resolution, it is something you agree you can live with.

* There are fewer requests to modify or change the resolution.  Having been doing this work for 20 years, I have only had a few cases come back for “adjustments,” and those have been accomplished with very little time and effort.  During 30 years of litigation practice, I found the adjustments were, many times, more expensive than the initial case.

* Peace.  We have learned that a deeper peace is possible when parties work together to resolve their conflicts and not depend on an outsider to their family to impose a solution.

* Legacy.  What is the model for dispute resolution we want for our children and family members?  How do we teach our children to resolve their conflicts?  We start out by saying, “work it out!” and, “no hitting, biting, or kicking!”  And we frequently say, “The Principal can’t always solve your problems, you have to solve your problems.”  Collaborative Practice helps parties solve the problems themselves.

Is it for you?

Family disputes are highly personal, and no one approach is right for everyone. Many families, however, have found that Collaborative Practice is a welcome alternative to the potentially destructive aspects of a conventional divorce or estate dispute. To determine if Collaborative Practice is right for you, ask yourself if these values are important:

* Maintaining an atmosphere of respect, even in the presence of disagreements.

* Prioritizing the needs of all family members.

* Listening objectively to the other parties’ needs, fully expecting that your own needs will be given equal consideration.

* Working creatively and cooperatively to resolve concerns.

* Seeing beyond the frustration and pain of the present moment to plan for the future.

* Behaving in an ethical manner within your family.

* Keeping control of the process with you and your family member(s), and not relegating it to the court system.

If you can affirm these basic principles, it is likely that Collaborative Practice would be a viable option for you. Talk to a Collaborative Professional for a more in-depth determination based on your individual situation.

It is NOT for you if:

* You really have no interest sitting down with your children/siblings/other family members.

* It is important to you to see the other party(ies) punished in some way by an authority figure.  Many people have been wronged in relationships and simply cannot move on without having a Judge say something about what happened, mainly to place blame.  While there are cases where this happens, too frequently it does not and an estate is dissipated by the litigation process.

* You are unwilling to share fully and openly the information necessary for good decision making.

More about the team.

* LAWYERS.  Collaborative Practice is rarely taught in law school.  In fact, the entire paradigm of Collaboration is contrary to what lawyers were taught.  Collaboratively trained lawyers have learned to work together on behalf of the parties.  They know that when everybody is comfortable with a solution, it means that the parties have seen the solution from all sides of the conflict.

*  Family Communication Specialists : Often, families have stopped communicating with each other beyond a superficial level.  Anything more leads to fights.  Our FCS’s  work with parties to talk about their situations in a way that doesn’t “inflame” the conflict (push buttons).  They also prepare parties to “hear” and understand what is driving the other party(ies) in the conflict and help families actually resolve what seemed “unsolvable.”

* FINANCIAL SPECIALISTS.  While you may even have your own financial planner, our specialists have been trained to be neutral and gather the information that will allow creativity in forming solutions to divorce and estate conflicts.  Neutrality is an important point to remember; the financial specialist is often the only neutral person in the room.  So, projections made by the financial specialist are generally more easily accepted and understood by everybody.

* CHILD SPECIALISTS.  In a divorce, parties often disagree as to what to do with the children.  When that happens, a child specialist may help everybody understand what the children’s needs are in order to fashion a solution.  We don’t want to bring the children into the room, so the specialist can be their voice.

* ELDERCARE SPECIALISTS.  In an estate dispute, there is often somebody who has special needs due to age or infirmity.  They may not even be able to recognize their own short-term requirements, let alone long-term needs.  The elder specialist may help with concerns about competency and special needs for both minors and adult children.  The Eldercare Specialist may also be invaluable to the family in providing information regarding resources and strategies for communicating with a parent who is not able or willing to act in his/her own best interest.


What is Collaborative Estate Planning?

We are all familiar with the movie scene in which the attorney reads the will of the deceased to the gathered family. Inevitably, there are surprises, drama, and disappointments. Family tensions rise, relationships are damaged, and too often, battles ensue.

Unfortunately, much the same thing often happens in real life. Children and heirs are ill prepared to deal with their inheritance. And too often they have no idea what the actual intentions of the dearly departed actually were. In the midst of their grief, family members are left to sort through big questions about life, love and relationships on their own, and it’s a fertile breeding ground for mistrust, disappointment and worse.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Families can work together to train and mentor the next generation, encourage and equip them to pursue their passions, and share values that will serve them throughout their lives. With openness and transparency, families build trust, strength and bonds that will assist the next generation not just to survive, but to thrive.

Even in cases where planning is not done prior to a death, a team approach to solving family conflicts can often lead to happy and healthy outcomes for surviving family members.Although a few brave people have dreamed of an estate planning process that brings families together, in practice it is rarely achieved. The discipline of the Collaborative Practice model, which has been successfully used for years in divorce cases, provides the tools necessary to bring about true family harmony, strength, and a setting in which family values can be successfully transmitted to the next generation.