|Alternative Dispute Resolutions|
There are other ways of settling disputes besides going to Court. Two ADRs I use in my practice are Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. Choosing litigation puts you in the “boxing ring” against your partner and puts your children in the middle; the judge decides your futures. Choosing a more dignified, peaceful route to formulating a co-parenting agreement and a property partition gives you more autonomy and more control over the outcome of the dissolution of your marriage.
|“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this.” |
–Abraham Lincoln, 1 July 1850
As a Louisiana qualified mediator and your divorce mediator, I will meet with both spouses to help you draft your co-parenting plan. When you are satisfied with it, you then bring it to your attorney(s) to write a consent judgment. You can also begin the process of partitioning your property in mediation, after which attorneys can draft documents to be filed in Court.
|Collaborative Divorce |
In the Collaborative Divorce model, clients have their own attorney and mental health coach; and they share a financial specialist and a child specialist who are both neutral. As your collaborative divorce coach, I have extensive experience to help you be your best adult self throughout your divorce process, and to keep you positively matriculating toward your goal. My main goal is to help you stay “collaborative”.
In the Collaborative Divorce model, clients have their own collaborative attorneys and mental health coaches; and they share a neutral financial specialist, and a child specialist, who as the voice of the children, advocates for their needs instead of using a custody evaluator. Since 2004, I have had 90 collaborative cases. As your collaborative divorce coach, I have extensive experience to help you be your best adult self throughout your divorce process. I will help you evolve your relationship with your family to include the other parent; help you to remain mindful of how the other parent triggers you, and to practice helpful responses in difficult negotiations instead of reacting out of habit in ways which may inhibit rather than facilitate the collaborative process. My main objectives are to help you express your needs, practice reflective listening, establish an adaptive co-parenting relationship to facilitate your evolving family, and to negotiate collaboratively with personal integrity, dignity, and mutual respect.
Mental Health Coaching
The mental health component of the Collaborative Divorce process is designed to enhance the client’s ability to communicate effectively in the process of terminating a marital relationship (or revisiting a custody agreement) in a healthy constructive way while building a functional co-parenting relationship. This is not psychotherapy. The goal is to enhance listening and communication skills to keep the process conciliatory.
Individual coaching is utilized at the start of the case to prepare the client to effectively collaborate. The client’s personal and interpersonal history will be examined in terms of how to increase rather than frustrate communication; diffuse conflict; strategize optimally; and continue to matriculate toward, rather than move away from, stated goals. Individual and conjoint coaching (with the other coach and co-parent) are typically done in the coach’s professional office, usually alternating between the two coaches’ professional offices for conjoint visits.
At the onset of the process, the individual coaches use a teaching tool to deconstruct communication focusing on effective listening. Practice using this tool prepares each individual client to ready themselves for a conjoint session with the two coaches using the tool to focus on goals. At the outset of the process, the couple drafts a mission statement together in the office, one that will articulate goals and values for the work which lies ahead.
Conjoint Coaching with Child Specialist
A special conjoint visit usually occurs once between the two coaches and the child specialist when the child specialist presents the report on the minor children to the two parents. This is a lengthier appointment that usually strings together the parenting recommendations with initiating/reconsidering some aspects of custody, exchanges, and visitation. One of the goals of collaborative divorce is for the two parents to draft their own parenting agreement. This process is begun in coaching by talking about the children’s needs and how to best take care of them during a difficult family transition. One of the best parts of this process is the opportunity for the evolving family to practice a new schedule and adjust it accordingly as the process matriculates to the best scenario for the family. After the coaching draft is complete, the collaborative attorneys draft the document into a consent judgment that is later filed with the court.
Much of what happens materially with property settlement in collaborative divorce happens with the neutral financial specialist compiling accounting data of various kinds, which takes some time, the specifics of which can be discussed with the Financial Specialist. During these intervals, clients are recommended to visit their individual coaches to process what they are experiencing and to identify any obstacles they are struggling with. It is not atypical for parents to be able behave well when the topic is their children, but for communication breakdowns to begin to happen when they are discussing shared and distributed wealth, or the separation of movables, especially those of great sentimental value.
Your collaborative attorney and your collaborative divorce coach represent the two professionals who comprise “your” team. Aspects of your case are still private between the three of us, as long as the privacy does not conflict with or jeopardize case transparency. Prior to a full team meeting with the clients, the attorney and coach usually meet with the client to prepare and strategize.
Full Team Conferences
Many times, cases will unfold in an unclear direction, and the team needs to talk to determine how to get the case back on track, or how to address or neutralize some aspect of the case. We prefer to do this with conference phone calls; the clients are not present for this. These are typically 15-30 minutes in length. Easier issues with simpler solutions are usually addressed with electronic mail with case names suppressed for privacy.
Full Team Meetings
The actual collaborative mediation takes place in the full team meeting around a conference table, where the two clients are present, along with the collaborative professionals necessary to achieve the desired results. To that end, sometimes the Child Specialist is not needed to separate property; or other times, the Coaches are not needed to tweak a legal issue that attorneys and clients can handle. Full Team Meetings are usually calendared at the outset of the case at the Collaborative Contract Signing meeting to keep the case on point, moving toward completion. Clients are asked to bring their calendars to all meetings to facilitate the ease of scheduling.