At a minimum, the collaborative team consists of the two spouses and their two collaborative attorneys. The parties may also choose to utilize other professionals as needed, such as mental health professionals, child specialists, financial experts, etc. The parties and the attorneys work together with these professionals as a team to amicably create a settlement agreement that works for the parties. These professionals often act as neutral third parties that facilitate the collaborative process as a whole. For example, a mental health professional would not operate as a therapist for the parties but as a coach to help them leave some of their emotional baggage at the door before discussing financial issues or child custody.
Utilizing these professionals can actually be more cost-effective than having two lawyers work on a particular issue. Typically, the lawyers’ hourly rates are higher than those of the individual allied professionals. For example, rather than having two lawyers work through the parties’ tax returns and financial statements to divide a property, a financial expert may be able to analyze the issue more efficiently.
Ultimately, the choice to elect third party experts is entirely up to the parties. Thus, one of the major draws of the collaborative process is that the parties have more control over the costs of obtaining a divorce settlement than they would in a traditional divorce process.
Founding partner of McGaughey & Spirito in Redondo Beach, California, Joe Spirito has been practicing family law since 1982 and is currently serving as secretary of the Los Angeles County Bar’s Family Law Section.