Is the Collaborative Process Right for You?
What is the Collaborative Process?
Ground Rules for the Collaborative Family Law Process
Divorce Coaches In the Collaborative Process

IS THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS RIGHT FOR YOU?

You found my website DontFightAboutIt.com because you are interested in how to divorce in a respectful and dignified manner. Despite what you hear from others, it is possible. You and your spouse once made serious commitments to one another. You did it because you respected one another. If you believe you can honor that respect, then you are ready for the collaborative process. I, Barbara Bartlett, would be pleased to represent you in that collaborative divorce if you are in the Tulsa area. For more information see About Us

If you find it hard to honor that respect you once shared, this still does not rule out the collaborative process. Are you a fair person? Are you willing to make a full disclosure of your assets and income? Will you follow the Ground Rules for the Collaborative Process? If you believe you can, then I still believe we can make it work.

Anger and hurt are normal feelings. You may think that “taking it to court” will punish your spouse. But that is not a good solution. It is hard for me to describe how humiliating and degrading a litigation divorce is for both of you if you have never been though a divorce trial. Nobody is perfect and your faults will be magnified and exploited in a trial. No matter what “lesson” you want to teach your spouse for having “done you wrong,” I can guarantee you will not succeed. No one learns a lesson when they are under attack. They just get angry.

The family court is not in the business of punishing people. The divorce judge just wants to divide your assets and kids and send you down the road. Tulsa judges have an expression they use: they have not done their job unless both of you are unhappy. A judge would be the first to tell you to settle your divorce outside of court.

Even if you “win” custody of your children or the deed to the house at a divorce trial, what financial and emotional price will you have paid by “taking” it rather than agreeing to it? There is little I can guarantee about your future if you choose to “go to court.” I can guarantee that you will be financially worse off….and stressed out.

In collaborative, I can guarantee you will have control over the outcome. Nothing happens unless you agree to it. The attorneys are skilled at helping you and your spouse see the common interest you both have. If the two of you need more information, we will seek out a neutral financial or child development specialist. All this is done in a safe, respectful, and private environment.

To get started collaboratively, you both will need collaborative attorneys. The ones in the Tulsa area who are trained in this process are at www.yourdivorcechoice.com. For a review of the process see What is the Collaborative Process.

WHAT IS THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS?

The collaborative process is a new way for a divorcing couple to divide their assets, create parenting plans, and provide support. This method of divorcing is done in a private and respectful environment. The attorneys have undergone intensive specialized training to learn to investigate the needs of the family, determine what the common interests are, and build an agreement based upon those interests. No threats or demands are allowed.

The main ingredients of a collaborative process are:

  • Hiring Tulsa Collaborative Attorneys: Being represented by a specially trained family law attorney is the key to this process. For a complete list of these attorneys in the Tulsa area go to www.yourdivorcechoice.com. Both you and your spouse will need to hire an attorney from this list.

  • A commitment to the process: This occurs when both of you and each of your attorneys sign a participating agreement. See Collaborative Participation Agreement. The parties and their attorneys commit to the process by signing an agreement stating that they will not go to court. Of course, you cannot take away a spouse’s right to go to trial if he/she is determined to do so. The attorneys, however, in the collaborative process must withdraw from the case and require both the husband and wife to find new counsel. We find this is a great incentive for everyone to stay at the table and work things out.
  • Disclosure: You will make a full and complete disclosure of all your assets and income. There are no hidden agendas. The process lives and survives on the fact that the two of you give respect to each other.
  • Working from your needs rather than your wants: The collaborative process depends on each person being able to articulate his/her needs. You may already have an idea of what you want. Collaborative takes you to a broader realm where we brainstorm on how your needs and your spouse’s needs may both be met given the circumstances of the divorce. The result will be something you both can agree to.
  • The focus is in the future: You may have a whole trunk full of things that your spouse did in the past which you think should make a difference today. Unless your spouse has truly harmed the children, and we are talking about significant harm which will occur in the future, then even though it might be difficult to do, that trunk stays closed. I know that this may be hard to do. Sometimes we ask for coaches who have a child development/mental health background to assist us in focusing on what is important in the dissolution of your marriage, and how to co-parent in the future.
  • The work towards settlement: The work towards settlement is done in what are called “four-way conferences.” In the four-way conference, you and I will meet with your spouse and his/her attorney together. The meetings are usually 2 hour sessions. These are handled in a business-like manner. We have an agenda before we go into the meeting. We try to meet the topics on the agenda. Agreements are written up at the end of the sessions. If there is homework to be done such as assets to be listed, income tax returns to be analyzed, teachers to be talked to, etc., then there are homework assignments made for everyone. You still have your own attorney and may, therefore, have the advice and protection of that attorney. The process, however, is driven by the needs of the family and the clients. If you are timid and feel unable to talk about those needs, then we will prepare for the meeting until you feel comfortable. How many four-way meetings are needed until a full and final agreement is made depends on the parties.
  • Result: No final document is created unless both of you agree to all the terms. The terms are based upon what you needed and what you were willing to do in order to make it happen. It is about respecting each other throughout the process and afterwards. It is a matter of being able to speak civilly with one another after you have ended your marriage. It is up to you to be a role model to your children on how to maintain your dignity and integrity through a difficult time in your life.
  • Take the divorce: Once all the documents are signed, we make an appointment with the family judge in Tulsa, or your county of residence, to take your divorce.

GROUND RULES FOR THE COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW PROCESS

  1. Interest-based negotiating. You will express yourself in terms of needs and interests that you would like to realize.
  2. No surprises.
    1. You have signed a binding agreement to disclose all documents and information that relate to the issues.
    2. Agendas and issues to be addressed at each four-way meeting will be agreed upon by the attorneys in advance of each meeting.
  3. Focus. You will work for what you believe is the most constructive and acceptable agreement for both you and your family.
  4. Communication rules for each four-way meeting.
    1. Do not interrupt when another person is speaking. You will have a full and equal opportunity to speak on every issue presented for discussion.
    2. Do not use language that blames or finds fault with the other. Use non-inflammatory words. Be respectful of others.
    3. Speak for yourself; make “I” statements. Use each other’s first name and avoid “he” or “she.”
    4. If you share a complaint, raise it as your concern and follow it up with a constructive suggestion as to how it might be resolved.
    5. If something is not working for you, please tell your lawyer so your concern can be addressed.
    6. Listen carefully and try to understand what the other person is saying without being judgmental about the person or the message.
    7. Talk with your lawyer about anything you do not understand. Your lawyer can clarify issues for you.
  5. Preparation. Be willing to commit the time required to meet regularly. Be prepared for each meeting.
  6. Patience. Be patient – delays in the process can happen even with everyone acting in good faith. The collaborative law process is much faster than litigation.

DIVORCE COACHES IN THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

In our complicated lives, many things break. When a marriage breaks, most people seek a lawyer. But divorce is also an emotional and communication problem. When you have an emotional or communication problem, doesn’t it make sense to see an expert in emotions and communication?

Collaborative Divorce Coaches are emotional experts. They understand blame, guilt, fear and anger, which are all normal feelings when a marriage breaks. Those feelings can, however, be destructive if they pour over to your family relationships and your divorce.

The Coaches help you and your spouse move to a different level of communication to help the divorce process move quicker, less expensively, and less destructively. If you have children, the end of the marriage means a need for a parenting plan, and a new way to communicate that focuses on the children. The primary focus is empowering your family to grow individually and in their relations with each other. Your family is not ending, just restructuring.

You will have meetings with your Coach, and then with your spouse and your spouse’s coach. All of you will work with the Collaborative attorneys to address problems that may be keeping the collaborative process from moving smoothly.

For a list of mental health coaches that are trained as collaborative coaches, go to www.yourdivorcechoice.com

Oklahoma Academy of Collaborative Professionals

I hope you have found this DontFightAboutIt.com website useful. Don't fight about it. Use the collaborative process in your divorce. Maintain the respect your relationship deserves. Contact Barbara Bartlett for your divorce in the Tulsa area.

FAQ


QUESTION: How do I start a collaborative divorce?

You may contact us to retain me. Your spouse should go to www.yourdivorcechoice.com and pick an attorney from that list. If you are not comfortable discussing it with your spouse, then we can discuss alternatives when I meet with you. Once I have met with you, and your spouse has met with his/her attorney, then the attorneys will arrange the first 4-way meeting. For further explanation of the process, see "What is the Collaborative Process".

QUESTION: Can we use the same attorney?

No. The collaborative process works because both attorneys are trained to represent his/her own client’s interest, as well as to work as a team towards settlement. One attorney cannot represent both of you. I can, however, assist both of you in drawing up settlement agreements you have already reached on your own. In this process, I do not represent either of you, but simply draft your documents.

QUESTION: What if I want to hire you as a litigation attorney?

I urge all my clients to examine their circumstances to determine whether they are candidates for the collaborative process. Most of you are, and just need to recognize that. But if you believe that litigation is the method for which you need to dissolve your marriage, then contact me for my availability.

QUESTION: Is the collaborative process cheaper than litigation?

Yes. It is not inexpensive, but it is definitely cheaper than a litigation type divorce in the Tulsa area. In litigation, an attorney spends about half of his/her time arguing, debating, and threatening the other side in order to have demands met. We get rid of all that in the collaborative process. There is no preparation for trial, since there is no trial. The collaborative process is at least half the cost of litigation. Since each case is individual, I cannot give you the actual cost, but I can guarantee that it will be cheaper.

QUESTION: How is the collaborative process different from litigation?

In litigation I represent you. Your spouse is represented by an attorney. The spouses never talk. The attorneys argue and position themselves in order to “win” the case. I will make a long list of documents and questions I want your spouse to answer. The opposing counsel will do the same to you. We will have hearings on whether I am entitled to certain documents, where the children will spend the night, and who is going to pay what bills. These things can be accomplished in one 2-hour meeting in the collaborative process. In litigation, all of the attorneys’ work drives the parties further apart. The parties are lucky if they can speak civilly to one another after the attorneys have done their jobs. In a collaborative process we instill respect and cooperation. Each meeting has goals towards meeting both of your needs. We work as a team to figure out what the family can best afford, and what is best for the children. This gives you a platform in which to begin a cooperative relationship after divorce.

QUESTION: How is this different from mediation?

Mediation is a process where a third party facilitates an agreement. In the collaborative process, both attorneys act as facilitators towards the agreement. We cut out the “middle man.” In addition, the pure method of mediation is often not practiced in the Tulsa area for divorce. Mediation is sometimes handled as a settlement negotiation where arms are twisted and the poorest points of your case are enhanced in order to force you to settle. Rarely do people come out of these kinds of mediations feeling like they have successfully agreed to settlement. They feel coerced into it.

QUESTION: How is this different from arbitration?

Arbitration is simply private litigation. There is a judge, witnesses, and testimony. It is not as formal as a trial. It can be effective for some issues, but it still is what we call an “adversarial” proceeding. By its very nature, arbitration causes the parties to be oppositional to one another. Pretty soon it becomes a contest of wills on who will win, rather than how both parties can reach a beneficial settlement.

QUESTION: What if we have an agreement already, but just need a lawyer to write it up?

I am available to assist you in writing up the documents. If I am hired as simply a person to draft documents, my allegiance is to neither of you and I cannot give advice. If one of you would like to hire me and you ask me for advice, I can then represent you (and only you), draft the documents as you wish, and then help you take the divorce.

QUESTION: Is this only for divorce?

No. This way of resolving disputes works for any type of disagreement. The key is having attorneys who are trained to work with and not against each other.

QUESTION: What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where a third party facilitates an agreement between the parties.

QUESTION: What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process where the parties submit evidence and testimony in an informal fashion, and the arbitrator makes a decision for the parties.

I hope you have found this DontFightAboutIt.com website useful. Don't fight about it. Use the collaborative process in your divorce. Maintain the respect your relationship deserves. Contact Barbara Bartlett for your divorce in the Tulsa area.