To help you understand collaborative practice, it is also beneficial to understand your role and the roles of each of the professionals assisting with your individual settlement process:
Role Of the Client:
In order to prepare yourself, the following is a reminder about what to keep in mind during the Collaborative Process:
- Avoid taking positions and instead look for interests and concerns.
- Work to understand your partner’s goals and perspectives, without having the need to agree.
- Do your best to keep promises and agreements.
- Put effort into working towards a common solution.
- Mindfully look forward to what is to come instead of back at what was.
- Assume and accept responsibility for choices made.
Role of the Family Professional & Child Consultant
In order to prepare you for settlement discussions and meetings, the following is information to explain the role of the Family Professional & Child Consultant.
The Family Professional will help you to understand and deal with:
- Strong emotions stemming from betrayal, fear, anger, lack of self-esteem.
- The emotions related to challenging issues, such as not enough money, mobility, differences in parenting styles.
- The loss of hope of reconciliation, or when there has been an affair; when you or your spouse is feeling like a victim or feeling a sense of entitlement.
- Low levels of trust between spouses; differences in knowledge and control.
- Respectful communication focusing on the future, not the past, for problem solving to find suitable resolutions.
- Developing age appropriate parenting plans.
- The voice of the children, when age appropriate, if and as needed.
- Substance abuse/addictions; mental health issues; personality issues.
- Different stages of accepting the separation by helping to understand the other’s needs at a pace that is neither too slow nor too fast.
- When there are team issues, such as differences in experience levels of lawyers; past history of poor working relationships to ensure that the dynamics of the professionals do not negatively impact you or your spouse in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
- Provides strong advocacy as a neutral professional to maintain balance.
The Family Professional – Child Consultant helps parents when:
- There is a need for strong advocacy on behalf of the child; an additional neutral professional is needed for mediation of a Parenting Plan so that the Collaborative Family Professional can remain neutral with the parents.
- Parents need to develop a Parenting Plan and the voice of the child is important because the parents have conflicting views of the child’s needs or preferences.
- The child is older (e.g. teenager) and they are requesting that their views and preferences be considered in the determination of the residential schedule.
- There are parental capacity issues and/or CAS (Children’s Aid Society), police, or other agency involvement with the family which may be a result of a parent’s substance abuse/addictions, mental health or personality issues.
- The child is struggling to accept the separation or is fearful of the unknown, such as moving to a new home, changing schools, etc.
- The child has additional challenges such as learning difficulties, bullying or other peer related struggles, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
Further Things to Consider Regarding the Involvement of a Child Consultant:
Sometimes a referral to a child therapist is all that is needed. Most often, a Child Consultant is needed in a Collaborative process when the Family Professional needs to remain neutral, and the voice of the child is required.
Including the voice of the child needs to be assessed carefully. What is the motivation behind the request? Is the child being influenced by either parent? What is the age/developmental stage of the child?
Role of the Financial Professional
In order to prepare you for financial settlement discussions and meetings, the following is information to explain the role of the Financial Professional.
- Understanding of the financial issues at stake when each spouse has a different level of knowledge, experience & history with the family’s finances.
- Understanding complex financial situations, such as: pensions, tax liabilities, secondary properties, businesses, excluded assets/debts, high debt levels.
- Understanding “messy” finances, such as assets in the name of one spouse with corresponding debts in joint name or the name of the other spouse.
- Understanding financial issues that may be viewed differently under the law and assisting in evaluating alternatives that may provide a better solution in your circumstances.
- Understanding how emotional issues could drive inappropriate financial decision-making.
- Balancing the need for each spouse to be heard and generating multiple options to resolve issues.
- Questions about non-family related expenses and post-separation expense sharing.
- Calculation of Guideline income to assist in determining child and spousal support.
- Assisting in structuring equalization settlements.
- Forensic analysis, such as lifestyle analysis, asset & income tracing.
- Potential for identifying savings through effective use of available tax credits & deductions, such as Child Canada Benefit (CCB), Eligible Dependent Credit (EDC).
- Gather, organize, analyze, report and share full financial disclosure using Draft Joint Net Family Property (NFP) report and Draft Income Sharing calculations for support purposes.
- Understanding issues that arise when there is a significant passage of time since the date of separation.
- Recent or anticipated change in the financial situation (either by choice or circumstances), such as: job change, job loss, pending retirement, estate planning.
- Post-separation expense reconciliation to ensure all relevant disbursements have been considered in the discussions.
- Post-separation spending plans (budgets) for cash flow (income and expenses).
- Future Financial Settlement Projections to help illustrate various scenarios for income support, living expenses, taxes and net worth division, to help you answer the question, “ Will I be financially OK if I agree to these terms?”
- Prepare various income &/or net worth reports, such as comparative reports for child &/or spousal support for specific time periods (i.e. retroactive), net worth for different dates of separation, child related special extraordinary expenses (i.e. special needs child).
- Valuation of businesses. During the valuation of the business(es) the valuator will work mutually with both spouses to ensure neutral and active participation in the process.
- Valuation of securities, derivatives, including stock options, and restricted share units (RSUs).
- Calculation of Guideline income to assist in determining child and spousal support, involving the complexities associated with corporations, family trusts or other structures.
Further Things to Consider Regarding the Involvement of Financial Professionals:
Depending on your financial complexities, other financial professionals may be needed for some aspect of settlement, such as an Accountant, Actuary (for Pension Valuations & Taxes), Financial Planner, Insurance &/or Mortgage Representatives. These professionals are agreed upon by both spouses and hired by mutual consent.
Role of the Lawyer
In order to prepare you for settlement discussions and meetings, the lawyer’s role in the Collaborative Team Process is to:
- Provide legal advice, guidance, and support.
- Help you prioritize your goals considering what is realistic and the costs.
- Help you articulate you and your spouse’s goals and perspectives while generating options to meet those goals.
- Guide you through the process to keep it respectful and effective by assisting you to make wise decisions.
- Ensure your agreement is workable and enforceable.
- Negotiate using collaborative and interest-based negotiation principles.
- Provide independent legal advice prior to any decisions and to ensure that agreement(s) are entered with understanding of nature and consequences of terms and voluntarily, without undue influence or coercion.