The collaborative law process can be an excellent way to resolve issues arising out of a separation in an amicable and dignified manner. Having chosen collaborative law, what should you do to ensure the process works for you. Hopefully the following will help you achieve productive four-way meetings.
You don’t want to arrive for the meeting flustered. Make sure you know where the venue for the meeting is. Allow for time to get parked. If it is ‘pay and display’ make sure you allow sufficient time. If the meeting runs longer than anticipated you don’t want to be watching the clock and feel pressurised that you need to get back to your car to avoid a ticket.
Be respectful to each other throughout the meeting. Use names, not ‘he’ or ‘she’. Remember you are there to try and work matters out, not score points against each other. At times it will be difficult but try and adopt a constructive approach to discussions. In this regard, language can be extremely important. Think carefully about what you say. Avoid apportioning blame. It is preferable to use ‘I …’, not ‘You …’.
Similarly, it is important to listen to what your former partner is saying. Don’t be tempted to interrupt. You will each have an opportunity to speak. Anger can cloud your concentration so do your best to not have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that is said. Otherwise you may end up focusing on just the negatives and miss out on potential positives. You are there to explore options. Remember that what is felt to be ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ is subjective. It is acceptable for people to have different opinions. Couples in happy relationships don’t agree on everything so agreeing on everything once you have separated is not to be expected. Acknowledging differences can help explore ways round them.
Your lawyers are there to help you. If you don’t understand something, whether it be terminology or a proposal being suggested, don’t be afraid to ask. If need be, keep asking until it is explained in a manner you do understand. It is essential that you understand what is being said to be able to make an informed decision. If you think something about the collaborative process is not working for you then raise that. It may sound innocuous but this can be something as simple as how you are seated in the meeting. You want to get the most out of the meetings so avoid any unnecessary distractions. Your lawyers are there to make it as comfortable a process for you as possible.
Do prepare for your meetings and be clear what you need to be doing between meetings. As with most things, you get out what you put in. Working together with your respective lawyers is the best way to ensure a successful outcome.