When people are getting started in a Collaborative Law case, they sometimes have a little trouble translating their initial enthusiasm for the process into the nitty-gritty of problem-solving. They either bring in preconceived ideas about how they want or think the process will work, or they become overwhelmed by looking at the mountain of issues they must face and resolve. They often wonder how they can possibly get everything worked out.
To help those starting on the Collaborative journey, here’s a primer on what they can expect. For participation in a Collaborative Law case, the parties should prepare to follow these five steps in this creative problem-solving model.
The first step is identifying the goals, needs and interests of the parties. They need to determine the answers to the following questions:
* What are the objectives you are trying to accomplish?
* What is most important to you?
* What are your concerns and worries?
* What else do we need to know?
The second step is to determine what the facts are. In that process, the parties exchange information and usually work closely with the child specialist and the financial neutral to locate, organize and interpret the information relevant to the case.
The third step is brainstorming options. The key here is not to self-censor. As they are being presented, possible solutions shouldn’t be praised, or criticized, or even thought of as belonging to the person who suggested them. It’s important to get as many ideas as possible out on the table, in order to ascertain what’s feasible, even if the ideas appear at first to be impossible or crazy. This can actually be a really fun step in the process.
The fourth step is to evaluate the outcomes of each option. The parties need to carefully determine how each option would impact everyone involved. In a divorce, of course, this definitely involves the children. This step involves asking such questions as:
* What are the outcomes for each option? Do some projections into the future.
* What do the approaches cost? Are they financially feasible?
* How would each of you benefit? Are there any downsides for each of you?
The final step, of course, is to select acceptable options. To do that, you can consider the following:
* Compare expected outcomes of each option to parties’ stated goals
* Eliminate options that have outcomes that do not sufficiently meet important goals of either party
* Narrow the options to those that meet the most important goals of both parties
* Jointly determine the option or options that most closely meet the most important goals of both parties
While creative problem-solving isn’t always an easy process, it’s the essence of the Collaborative Law process. Without addressing what each party needs and wants, it’s not possible to arrive at a solution that allows both people to value the process they’re investing time, hope, and energy into. But when both parties’ needs are taken into account, and creative problem-solving generates a workable solution for them, they’ll find the solution was well worth the effort invested into the process.