So many clients contemplating a collaborative divorce wonder, if they can’t cooperate during their marriage, how are they going to collaborate to get divorced. The instability and chaos people usually feel at this point of their decision making is unsettling. How much will a divorce cost? How long will it take? Can I keep the house? What will my parenting time look like? The questions run fast and the answers not fast enough.
The uncertainty can sometimes be tamed by focusing on common interests. Almost always when meeting new clients, they can agree generally on several important things: the kids should be impacted as little as possible, they should spend as little as necessary in divorcing, they are concerned about their finances going forward, they are concerned about how the family dynamic will look when it’s over. Those common goals and concerns can be the focal point used to collaborate in a divorce despite the feeling of non-cooperation in the marriage.
That feeling of uncertainty can be further be corralled under the collaborative process with some guidelines provided through the Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement creates a container for the process, a roadmap for the parties and some comfort from the chaos.
The Participation Agreement is the foundation of the collaborative process. It’s written agreement signed by the parties and the collaborative professionals detailing each other’s commitment to stay in the container and follow the roadmap. Some of the most important security provided by the Participation Agreement is the team all agrees that 1) the discussions will be open and transparent, 2) that any requests for information will be answered truthfully and in good faith, 3) that resolutions will be sought through meetings and discussions, whether with all of the parties and professionals or only parts of the team as needed 4) that the parties are the center of the process and their time frames, goals and concerns are at the front.
By putting some parameters in place and using the idea that both parties usually have more common goals and concerns than differences, the Collaborative Participation Agreement provides some further security enabling the ability to work together to a family’s best end.
Brad Pawlowski and Ken Celiano discuss the Participation Agreement in detail on their Collaborative Resolution Project pod cast.