This post is from Kris Algert, who is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a partner in the firm Ausley, Algert, Robertson & Flores in Austin, Texas. She has practiced Collaborative Family Law for the last 10 years and is the current president of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
Many Collaborative cases include the participation of professionals other than the lawyers. These professionals comprise the “team.” These other professionals are all neutral – meaning they are not advocates for either client. The professionals provide their expertise to the parties and to the lawyers and assist everyone in arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement. Below is a list of some of the other professionals who often participate in a Collaborative case.
The Process Facilitator is a mental health professional by education, training and experience. The Process Facilitator helps everyone to stay focused on the future and effective problem-solving. They are not providing therapy or fixing past marital disputes. The Process Facilitator provides help in the following areas:
1. To assess challenges in the case.
2. To prepare clients for the process.
3. To maximize the clients’ success by facilitating productive communication among the parties and the group.
4. To option generate and problem solve.
5. To help with any emotions that come up during the process.
6. To help with any parenting topics including helping the parties finalize a parenting plan which will be needed for the final court order.
The Financial Professional might be a certified public accountant, a certified divorce financial planner, or a valuation expert. The Financial Professional may provide the following services:
1. Help with the creation of household budgets – historical and future.
2. Help with identifying the expenses incurred for the benefit of any children.
3. Creation of an inventory spreadsheet identifying all assets and debts.
4. Help with generating options and problem-solving of financial issues.
5. Providing help in other miscellaneous areas including education of spouses about financial matters, tax advice, valuation services, and projections.
Other Experts Than Can Be Brought Into a Case to Provide Specialized Information
The children may need someone to talk to during the divorce. Sometimes the parents request this, and sometimes the Process Facilitator recognizes the need. The Child Specialist is a voice for the children and does not advocate for mother or father. A child specialist may be asked to help parents learn and implement co-parenting skills, to perform or oversee evaluations, and to make recommendations about what arrangements would be in a child’s best interests.
In many cases, value information is needed. Appraisers may be needed in one or more of the following areas:
* real estate
* business interests
* oil and gas interests
Specialized Areas of Law
If a family business or partnership, trusts or foundations, oil and gas interests, or other unique categories of assets exists, a proposed agreement must keep in mind possible tax consequences or other unforeseen complications. If spouses agree to own assets jointly post-divorce, then joint operating agreements may be needed. Lawyers who specialize in these areas may be brought into the case to advise the couple and to draft specific language or agreements related to these assets.