The work primarily happens in settlement meetings. The meetings are run by the Collaborative professionals, and the spouses are both the subject and full participants. There is a standard Agenda for the first meeting to get us organized, oriented and started into the talks. Future meetings are managed to adapt to the issues as we define them, and scheduled to allow us to get and process information.
Each spouse has their own specially-trained lawyer with them at every moment. Each lawyer helps their own client effectively express themselves and advocate for their needs and wants, and participate fully, while working with their Collaborative colleague to keep things moving and respectful. Other allied Collaborative professionals ideally are in the mix too (Family Professionals – often with a mental health and/or social work background, and Financial Professionals – with financial planning expertise).
The goal is a cooperative, safe, positive bargaining environment where the spouses take control of their own futures – and explore together what their independent lives mean financially, interpersonally, and as parents. The safe space maximizes client capacity so they can do their best and get their best deal with less rancour, less anxiety, less expense, and with more control than the court process. We prioritize the needs of any children involved and to work to preserve (and even renovate) the spouses’ ability to work together cooperatively into the future.
Together the best possible version of that future takes shape. The agreement arises when mutually acceptable solutions are built that comprehensively touch upon and solve all the issues. What is optimal is defined by the spouses – guided by the experience of the lawyers and fully informed about what the law requires – but not confined by that. And their terms are what they agree upon, not what some judge or court imposes on them.