FAQ

ATTORNEY/PROCESS FOCUSED QUESTIONS

How is a divorce resolved in the Collaborative Process?

  • In general terms it is an Interdisciplinary Team Approach that empowers the parties to make the important decisions that arise in divorce through the use of interest based negotiations and established protocols for working through the issues. The process is client focused rather than attorney/court focused. Each client has their own collaboratively trained attorney to advocate their interests and neutral professionals to assist each of them with financial issues and parenting/family issues.
  • The parties sign a Participation Agreement that among many things states that neither party will use the threat of “going to court” in negotiations and the parties will not litigate the divorce through the traditional litigation system. The parties agree to follow the protocols to gather sufficient information to insure decisions are made with full knowledge and a full understanding of their individual interests. These protocols include four way meetings with attorneys and clients as well as meeting that include one or more professional neutrals when needed. The parties may also meet individually or jointly with the neutrals but without the attorneys. Every case has a set of unique issues that will determine how, when and with whom the parties meet throughout the process.

Why choose the Collaborative process to resolve family conflict?

The Collaborative path to divorce is chosen by people who value privacy; many celebrities, politicians, well known community members and business owners select this alternative to avoid publicity and the publically filed documents that reveal more than they wish everyone in their community to know about their private life. This process is also selected by people who also value preserving or repairing their relationship as parents so that their family members and children are not negatively impacted by the divorce. For couples without children it is a way to resolve the divorce with dignity and without the added stress of litigation.

  • Avoid long, difficult and often expensive court battles.
  • Focus on problem solving and finding respectful resolution.
  • Create personal, cost effective solutions that are right for your unique family.
  • Protect the well-being and needs of your children.
  • Maintain decision making with you and your spouse or partner.
  • Receive support and information you need from your specially trained team of  Collaborative professionals.
  • Preserve your dignity and your privacy.

Do parties have to get along or have everything pretty much agreed upon to participate in the Collaborative Practice?

  1. Not At All! It is perfectly normal for people going through a breakup to have hard feelings, anger, bitterness and resentment. Many times couples are barely speaking to each other and poor communication is common. This is why the Collaborative Process works so well and can result in a more productive and amicable post divorce relationship.
  2. The protocols put a structure in place that everyone can rely upon which takes away some of the fear and apprehension that is normal when people are in conflict. Meetings are scheduled in advance and an Agenda for the meeting is prepare and shared ahead of the meeting with everyone so the parties know what to expect and how to prepare. Follow up notes are sent to everyone after the meeting and everyone knows the Agenda for the next meeting and what is expected of each participant, attorney or neutral to complete or research before the following meeting.
  3. The neutral Family Professionals and Financial professionals also help to create a safe environment to discuss the realities facing the family both emotionally and financially.

What’s the difference between Mediation and Collaboration?

Mediation is typically conducted after the parties have engaged in extensive discovery, depositions and litigation leading up to mediation. At this point the parties have already spent a lot of money fighting, have spent the entire divorce process viewing each other and the other spouse’s attorney as the enemy and have no idea how to communicate effectively to negotiate a mutually beneficial resolution that is best for their family. Mediation is an effective tool for resolving divorces but it does not always result in the best overall solution.

Collaboration starts in the very beginning of the divorce process and approaches the resolution of the divorce in a very different way from the outset. Parties do not experience the emotionally and financially draining effects of litigation by the time a final agreement is drafted so they approach the settlement negotiations from a completely different perspective.

How much does it cost?

Each case is different but on average a collaborative divorce will be more cost effective that traditional litigation due to the way the process is structured. You have meetings where the parties are paying for their attorney’s time and at least ½ of the financial professional and/or family professional’s time. That may seem like a lot of people around the table being paid, but the meetings and protocols in place are designed to be efficient and the goal of everyone at the table is to reach an agreement. When the professionals involved are working to achieve the common goal of assisting couples in resolving their differences and moving forward peacefully no money is spent trying to prove one person is right and the other person is wrong; no money is spent on the battle of the experts, etc…. In a nutshell the cost of war is much greater than the cost of diplomacy.

What role does the Judiciary play in a Collaborative Divorce?

In the State of Tennessee you must file a complaint for divorce or complaint for legal separation with the circuit or chancery court in the county where you reside. This generally happens after the parties have entered into a Collaborative Agreement and have agreed which of the parties will file the complaint. Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement and have executed a Marital Dissolution Agreement and, if you have children, a Permanent Parenting Plan, the judge or chancellor may then grant your divorce by entering a Final Decree of Divorce. The judiciary provides the necessary role of finalizing the divorce and declaring you and your spouse legally divorced.

What role does a Family Law Mediator play in a Collaborative Divorce?

The Memphis Collaborative Alliance has determined that Collaborative Agreements entered into with our members shall contain some provision as a method of last resort to attempt mediation if the parties reach a stalemate in the Collaborative Process. This gives you a chance to negotiate issues that may have stalled the process with a neutral third party who is a practicing family law attorney/mediator. Most Collaborative Divorces are resolved without having to use a mediator. However, since the Collaborative Process requires the parties to hire new attorneys if they cannot resolve the issues, this gives you another opportunity to resolve your conflict rather than giving up and proceeding with a litigated divorce.

FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS

Why would a couple need a financial neutral?

If one party has more knowledge and/or experience with the family finances a financial neutral can help level the playing field so both parties may have a full understanding of the finances and the financial implications of the divorce. If the parties have many and/or varied assets that carry different tax implications, returns on investment or provide future earnings not yet realized. Frequently both parties need help in creating realistic budgets for their post-divorce life, including cash flow analysis and contingency plans.

What is the Financial Neutral’s role in this process?

The financial neutral assist the clients in collecting and understanding their financial information, prepare budgets, net worth statements and assists in developing creative ways to divide financial resources and assets between the parties. They can also provide future projections to assess each client’s immediate and future needs and goals. They are very helpful in providing an unbiased presentation of financial information and projections so the clients will have the tools needed to make an informed decision. Once an agreement has been reached the financial neutral can assist the parties in tying up loose ends like transferring title in property, following up on division of certain investments, etc…

Does the financial neutral sell financial products to the parties?

No, while they may offer options available to the clients for short or long term investments, they cannot sell any product to the clients. They are strictly involved as a neutral specialist they cannot operate on the basis of having and end goal agenda to sell one or both parties financial products.

Do they charge for their services?

Yes, they charge an hourly rate that is divided between the parties equally or by some other percentage as agreed upon by the parties. The average hourly rate in this market is $125-$175/hour. That is a much better deal that paying the attorneys to work on the financial details.

FAMILY PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS

Why would a couple need a neutral family professional?

A neutral family professional and is needed in the following types of cases:

  • Children involved;
  • Feelings of distrust;
  • High conflict;
  • Cases of domestic abuse.

Who are Family professionals?

Family professionals are psychologists, therapists, licensed clinical social workers and family counselors who have been trained in Collaborative practice. They have had many years of experience dealing with families in conflict, with separated parenting issues, and in divorce and post-divorce disputes.

What is the Family Professionals’ role in this process?

The family professionals’ role in the process is to help neutralize conflict and keep families focused on their most important needs and interests rather than their ongoing conflict.

Do they conduct therapy?

No. The family professionals do not conduct or provide therapy. Their role is to help maximize the best outcome for each parent and child involved in the process.  If it would be helpful, the family professionals can talk with the parties’ individual therapists or children’s counselors.

Do they charge for their services?

Yes. Family professionals charge for their services. They charge an hourly rate that is divided between the parties equally or by some other percentage agreed upon by the parties. The average hourly rate in this market is $100-$180 per hour.

JUDICIARY AND MEADIATOR QUESTIONS

What role does the Judiciary play in a Collaborative Divorce?

In the State of Tennessee you must file a complaint for divorce or complaint for legal separation with the circuit or chancery court in the county where you reside. This generally happens after the parties have entered into a Collaborative Agreement and have agreed which of the parties will file the complaint. Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement and have executed a Marital Dissolution Agreement and, if you have children, a Permanent Parenting Plan, the judge or chancellor may then grant your divorce by entering a Final Decree of Divorce. The judiciary provides the necessary role of finalizing the divorce and declaring you and your spouse legally divorced.

What role does a Family Law Mediator play in a Collaborative Divorce?

The Memphis Collaborative Alliance has determined that Collaborative Agreements entered into with our members shall contain some provision as a method of last resort to attempt mediation if the parties reach a stalemate in the Collaborative Process. This gives you a chance to negotiate issues that may have stalled the process with a neutral third party who is a practicing family law attorney/mediator. Most Collaborative Divorces are resolved without having to use a mediator. However, since the Collaborative Process requires the parties to hire new attorneys if they cannot resolve the issues, this gives you another opportunity to resolve your conflict rather than giving up and proceeding with a litigated divorce.

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