Many embrace the collaborative model when going through divorce — but they may still balk at the thought of paying not just one, but a whole team of professionals. Yet, when the process functions well, it often ends up saving money for the clients.
Joyce Tessier, a divorce coach, explains that when they research processes for divorce, they probably find that litigation costs quite a bit and it takes a long time. Even though there are a number of professionals on a team for a collaborative divorce, it is weighted heavily in the beginning with costs, and then the collaborative professionals drop off as the process proceeds. And they get to a decision sooner, and in the end it costs less.
Having trained psychological counselors present can help break up the logjams that occur when the parties are so hostile that communication breaks down. As Tessier notes: when you’ve got conflict in the beginning, you’re not going anywhere with this team until you address the conflicts. Now, what they do is they bring in the coaches first, and start nailing down new ways to communicate with each other and new ways of stepping over the stuff they bring in which is so incendiary for them. And now you’ve got coaches in the background who are working together to look at what is it that they need to hear consistently from both of us, so they get the message reinforced. When that happens in the beginning, it makes a difference. There’s not so much time spent with the full team.
The collaborative structure also includes built-in protection against financial abuse by the team members. The coach, along with the other team members, has a specific role, and “that finishes when the divorce does,” Tessier notes. This means that the coach, for example, cannot function as a therapist for the client after the divorce is complete. “Otherwise,” she points out, “look at the marketing potential there.” And if the process fails, the team members are prohibited from participating in any further efforts with the divorcing spouses, whether the case goes to court or another attempt is made at a collaborative resolution. That prohibition guards against potential conflicts of interest.
As Tessier says, “Any one of those professionals could really feather their own nest. So the disqualification is, if this falls out of collaborative for any reason, you have to start over. None of us can participate. And, when it’s over, we’re not available.” One exception is when the agreement contains a clause calling for a review of the terms at a later time. The original team members are allowed to re-enter the process for that purpose.