The first step in a collaborative divorce can be the hardest – finding an attorney who is collaboratively trained and experienced. Once you have done this and made the decision to move forward with a collaborative divorce, the professionals will schedule a five-way meeting.
The anticipation of the first meeting can cause a lot of anxiety. This is likely the first time you meet the other attorney. Personal things may be discussed. It can be overwhelming if you are not prepared. But DON’T WORRY – it will be fine. It could be worse, you could be going to court.
The reality is the first meeting not be so bad. The first meeting will be an introduction to how your divorce will proceed. Here is what you can expect at that first five-way meeting:
Before the first meeting, the professionals will confer and come up with an agenda. This will outline the meeting. An agenda will allow you to review what will be discussed at the meeting so you can properly prepare.
The professionals will debrief before the first meeting. This may occur before or on the day of the meeting and are usually pretty short. This allows the professionals to work out any issues BEFORE you and your spouse get into the room.
During the first meeting, there will be introductions and a brief discussion about goals. This is an opportunity for both you and your spouse to outline and discuss what are your biggest concerns and goals. It can be “I want to make sure the children come out of this OK” or “I want to be able to have a comfortable place to live” or whatever else is a major point for you. These goals will be written down and can be referred to throughout the process.
The team will review the Participation Agreement and Ground Rules. This is an important step. This allows both you and your spouse to fully understand what are your expectations during this process, as well as the expectations of the other team members. It also reinforces the principals that this process helps keep you out of Court and your information stays confidential. By setting the ground rules early, you and your spouse will be focused and have the tools to stay on track.
In the initial meeting, you will review the roadmap of your case. This will allow you and your spouse know when you will discuss certain topics, when information should be exchanged and how those meetings will be run. For example, you may decide to only meet with the coach to work on the parenting plan or to meet with a financial neutral to assist with develop spending plans.
During this first meeting, important timely issues will be addressed. It may be about how things will be paid during the process. Temporary parenting plans may be worked out to make sure the transition shall be smooth for the children while a more permanent plan is discussed. The team will work with you both to make sure that the immediate needs are met so you both can focus on coming to a resolution that works best for you and your family.
Before the first meeting ends, the team will come up with the agenda for the next meeting. This way you and your spouse know what you both need to do by the next meeting. Having an agenda leads to preparedness, which results in more productive sessions. Better productivity can lower costs of your divorce.
The first meeting can be scary if you do not know what to expect. Hopefully now that you know what to expect you can breathe and focus on making sure you and your family get through this divorce OK.