Many people come into the Collaborative Divorce Process not really knowing much about how the process works or the roles of each professional. The Collaborative Process is a series of team meetings where specific tasks and objectives are addressed in order to resolve all aspects and issues related to a family in transition. In preparation for each team meeting, clients and professionals work to gather, review, and prepare information to be discussed at each team meeting.
There are typically three professional disciplines included from the outset in the process to help educate and guide the spouses throughout the process. Family law attorneys provide legal guidance and information, as needed, to the respective spouses. A Financial Neutral
Professional, (often a forensic accountant), is used to help both spouses identify all the marital assets and liabilities and help to address alimony or any other financial issue that is part of the case. A Neutral Facilitator or Facilitator, (a mental health professional), is used to: facilitate effective communication and problem-solving, manage emotions and conflict as they arise, help the parents create a parenting plan, and coordinate the process as a whole.
The approach to resolving conflict in the Collaborative Process is to utilize interest-based negotiation. Interest-based negotiation reflects an approach of focusing on the underlying interests and needs of the spouses, and not on their positions. The more a facilitator can uncover and understand the underlying reasons for their interests, goals and concerns of the clients and the family, the more they can assist the team in effectively brainstorming mutually satisfying resolutions.
A Neutral Facilitator is in all cases a licensed mental health professional and while they are not acting as a mental health counselor in the process, they bring a specific skill set to the team process best suited for uncovering the family’s interests, facilitating communication, conflict resolution, and addressing child-focused issues. Additionally, the Facilitator is the professional in the Collaborative process who is best suited to facilitate discussions, and help the parents develop a parenting plan.
As a Neutral Professional, it is the role of the Facilitator to address the needs of all team members involved, (professionals and clients), ensure they are functioning well as a team and keeping the team focused on obtaining mutually satisfying resolution of all the issues pertaining to the family in transition. Ultimately the Facilitator’s objective is to help a family transition through the divorce process as smoothly, efficiently, and peacefully as possible. Our goal is to minimize emotional damage, conflict, and to maximize effective problem solving and communication. Therefore, Facilitators identify conflict and obstacles as they arise, and employ creative problem solving, negotiation, and communication strategies when needed.
As a mental health professional, the Facilitator is best equipped to identify emotional issues that may arise with the children and/or parents transitioning through divorce and therefore may recommend or provide helpful interventions as needed.
A Facilitator’s role also includes organizing the process and the meetings in order to facilitate efficiency, focus, and productivity. The tasks of a Collaborative Facilitator are to identify the issues, needs, and concerns that need to be addressed in every meeting, (using the input of the professionals and the spouses). The Facilitator will draft the agenda, the minutes, and the parenting plan. The Facilitator will ensure the meeting runs on track with the agenda, and on time and manage emotions and conflict if and when it appears.
The benefits of having a Facilitator in a Collaborative case is the maintenance of efficiency as a result of the organizational and conflict management functions the Facilitator plays. Many Family Attorneys who are Collaboratively trained will not participate in a case without the assistance of a Facilitator for these reasons. Furthermore, a Facilitator is best suited to support the parents in discussions of parenting in comparison to a Family Attorney or Financial Neutral. In addition, families often report a more satisfying and cooperative relationship following their divorce when the process is an alternative option for divorce, like the Collaborative process and research supports this fact, with more than 80% of Collaborative cases in Florida showing no post-judgement disputes.
If you have any questions about the Collaborative Process or the role of the Facilitator, please don’t hesitate to schedule a complimentary consultation. Be well and stay safe.
Tammy Berman, LMHC
National Board Certified Counselor
Accredited Collaborative Professional
Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator
Qualified Parenting Coordinator