This is video 3 in my series on how to settle your family court case outside the courtroom. In video one we talked about sending letters or emails to try to settle. In video 2 I talked about having an informal settlement conference with your ex or soon to be ex and in this video I'm going to talk with you about alternative dispute resolution.
Alternative dispute resolution is an alternative way to resolve your dispute. Makes sense right? There are lots of different types of alternative dispute resolution and I'm going to cover a few of them in subsequent videos but I just want to highlight what those are for you before I delve into the first one.
One method of alternative dispute resolution is called mediation and that's when you and the other parties sit with the neutral who tries to help you work out the details of your case. Another method of alternative dispute resolution is arbitration where you and the other party mutually select an arbitrator and oftentimes it's a family court practitioner or retired judge. That person actually sits in the place of your judge that is assigned through your court system and that person decides your case just like a judge would. So we'll talk more about arbitration and in the next video and a third type of alternative dispute resolution is collaborative divorce and that's the one that I'm going to touch on today.
There’s a lot to collaborative divorce but what collaborative divorce is it's a system of resolving the case that involves more than just attorneys, it involves an array of professionals. It involves two attorneys who are usually called law coaches (they're not called attorneys) and it usually involves one or two or possibly three mental health professionals or mental health coaches. Each party ideally would have a mental health coach and that mental health coach would help each of the party get through the process and help each of those parties when they had emotional roadblocks that come up often in divorces and get in the way of the case making progress.
The mental health coaches are really valuable as far as keeping the parties on track and keeping communication respectful and just keeping everybody focused on the issues at hand. There may be a mental health coach or a professional that is assigned or that the party selects to represent the children's interests. They speak for the children and this is also valuable because a lot of times parties say oh well you know the kids want to live with me more or you know they don't like spending time with that parent. It’s really not great for the kids. When this situation happens the coach for the children or the children's mental health person takes the children out of the equation and tries to understand where the kids are mentally and emotionally.
They also look at how the children might be impacted by certain custody or parenting time arrangements and that coach then reports to the collaborative divorce team. Then everybody can move forward and make decisions based around the best interests of the children as reported by that mental health coach. If it were possible in every single case of mine I would have a mental coach assigned for the children to speak for the children.
On top of the attorney coaches and the mental health coaches for each of the parties and potentially the mental professional that's speaking for the children, there is a financial neutral who is assigned in a collaborative divorce case. This person is a neutral and they take stock of the parties’ financial situation. They make projections about how long the money will last if it's allocated in a certain way. They can do breakdowns, they can equalize values, they perform a lot of rules that help simplify the process for everybody.
I will tell you in a normal case when I don't have a financial professional involved, I'm the one who's trying to figure this out and I didn't go to accounting school. I'm not a financial adviser. This is not my strength and when I can, I do hire some sort of financial professional to help me out with these calculations. In a collaborative law case financial neutral does what he or she is good at and projects financials and reports on financials.
There’s a certain number of scheduled meetings that the parties have and they talk about the issues in a strategic way and try to reach agreements in a collaborative way. Just because collaborative divorce is collaborative doesn't mean it doesn't get tense! It doesn't mean it doesn't get hard. It doesn't mean it doesn't get emotional. It doesn't mean that they're not disputed issues, but it means that you have a team of professionals in place to help you deal with the different issues that come up and hopefully move with the process more efficiently.
For anyone who is interested in collaborative divorce, I definitely recommend that you investigate it. The benefit of a collaborative divorce is that you move through the system more efficiently and more quickly than you normally do through traditional litigation. Although there's a significant upfront cost but having to pay all these professionals in the long run because you get your case done more quickly. It’s a good benefit to paying these professionals upfront as opposed to stretching the cost over a year or two years and having lots of emotional drama and trauma that goes along with traditional litigation.