The collaborative team includes a specially-trained Attorney for each spouse, a specially-trained neutral Family Relations Specialist, and a specially-trained neutral Financial Professional. It can also include other specialists as needed. This versatility is one of the hallmarks of the collaborative law process, which seeks to customize both the approach to resolution and the final settlement.
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Collaborative Divorce Attorneys are highly skilled family law attorneys who are experienced in negotiation and mediation techniques. NJCLG attorneys must receive special training in the collaborative law process as well as in mediation. A Collaborative attorney will assist the client in identifying their needs and interests, discuss all legal and practical options, brainstorm solutions, negotiate a settlement, and prepare the court documents necessary to finalize the divorce. The attorney provides legal support throughout the process.
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The Collaborative Divorce Family Relationship Specialist is a fundamental member of the Collaborative divorce team, helping to preserve the mental and emotional health of the divorcing couple. The Family Relationship Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with specialized training in Collaborative Practice and mediation techniques who assists each spouse and the team professionals in communicating effectively within the process. The Family Relationship Specialist meets with the spouses either jointly or separately depending on their needs, but does not act as a therapist. Rather, the Family Relationship Specialist uses his or her professional training and experience to assist the spouses and other team members to manage emotional and psychological issues with the goal of promoting a smooth and efficient Collaborative process. The Family Relationship Specialist also communicates with the team to provide insight and assistance to help facilitate discussions and negotiations.
The Family Relationship Specialist can join, as needed, the spouses and their Collaborative attorneys in a series of five-way meetings preliminary to settlement, and works to keep conflict at a minimum, which allows for a smoother and more harmonious divorce. Less conflict can lead to less emotional and financial costs.
Another role that mental health professionals can play in a Collaborative Divorce is that of the Child Specialist, a licensed mental health professional with specific training in family systems and child development relevant to child custody or parenting issues. The Child Specialist helps parents and the team to remain focused on the feelings and needs of any children involved. This provides the parents with valuable information, options, ideas, and suggestions that reflect the best interests of the children. The Child Specialist can meet with parents to obtain developmental information, identify family strengths and set goals for the children’s needs in the process. The Child Specialist can also meet with the children to assess their current and future hopes and needs.
Note that sometimes the role of Coach and Child Specialist will be performed by the same mental health professional, while at other times these roles will be divided between two mental health professionals.
The Child Specialist has four primary responsibilities:
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Financial Professionals help you gather, understand, organize and value your financial assets. They identify and clarify financial goals and interests and comprehend short and long term implications of settlement options.
The Financial Professional is a licensed professional, and meets additional training requirements to qualify him or her to handle the unique financial challenges presented in divorce and family law cases. The primary role of the financial professional is to educate all participants, including the couple, their attorneys and mental health professionals, as to the financial implications of the divorce
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Other Team Members: In addition to attorneys, family relations, child and financial specialists, you may choose to retain other experts or consultants such as appraisers, mortgage brokers or vocational experts. Unlike traditional litigated cases, where the parties hire competing experts to “fight it out,” both parties in the collaborative process jointly retain the experts they need and consider the options the experts present.