Collaborative Divorce is an inter-disciplinary approach to separation and divorce that involves out-of-court settlements based on interest-based negotiation and mediation. The collaborative process addresses finances, assets, legalities, co-parenting, and the needs of the children. This approach moves away from adversarial processes and provides support for couples to work collaboratively towards the resolution of matters that pertain to the restructuring of their relationship and family. The heart of the process is the preservation of the well-being of all concerned especially children during this life-changing experience.
The collaborative team may consist of collaboratively trained Lawyers, Divorce Coaches, Child Specialists, and/or Financial Specialists depending on the needs of the family and the circumstances.
The collaborative process includes both individual and joint meetings between couples and their coaches and lawyers. If children meet with a child specialist, the children’s voice is included in the process and decision-making.
In terms of my involvement with Collaborative Divorce, I am fortunate to have been one of the founding members and former Co-Chair of the Collaborative Divorce Association of Vancouver founded in 1999. I am currently on the Board of Directors of the Collaborative Divorce Association.
I have provided interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce training with Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and The B. C. Roster Society. I have presented locally and at the International Academy of Collaborative Practitioner conferences since 2003. I was a Board member of the IACP in the early stages of this international organization.
These roles have provided me with a meaningful opportunity to work with numerous Collaborative Practitioners in Vancouver and around the world to expand Collaborative Practices in all areas of life on a community and global basis.
When I work as a Collaborative Divorce Coach, I either work with the couple as a mediator or ‘neutral’ or with one parent while a second coach works with the other parent. If I am acting as a mediator in a neutral role with both parents, I meet individually with each person and then we meet together to address agenda items such as areas of conflict and communication. We can also develop a parenting plan. When two coaches are involved, I meet with one partner or spouse while the other coach meets with the other partner or spouse and then the four of us meet together in “four-way” meetings to address parenting issues and formulate the parenting plan. Either way, I can continue to provide support for the family post-separation.
The divorce coaching sessions may take place concurrently with collaborative lawyer meetings. Co-parenting counselling sessions may also take place after the separation agreement is signed. The number of mediation or collaboration sessions vary as per the needs of the couple and family.
As a Child Specialist, I work with elementary age children as well as teens to provide them with a voice in the separation process. I meet with the children individually in the minimum number of sessions necessary to provide support and assessment as outlined below. Typically, this involves up to three sessions and does not involve counselling per se. The purpose of the sessions is to provide intermediary support for the children as well as information for the parents and the collaborative team. Information is relayed orally to parents during four-way meetings with Divorce Coaches as deemed helpful in formulating a Parenting Plan, Parenting time, and in making other child-centered decisions.
I also work with children in a counselling capacity. I provide a safe and neutral place for children to express their feelings and thoughts about the separation and re-structuring of their family. I provide them with basic information about separation in order to normalize aspects of the experience as well as coping skills. Counselling may take place over an extended period of time according to the needs of the children and family. Besides ‘talk therapy’, I often use art and play therapy during our sessions.
A Parenting Plan addresses short and long-term needs of children and their families. The Plan includes sections on parenting time as well as parental responsibilities. Divorce Coaches can supply the parents with a Parenting Plan template and assist them in the development of the plan.