Category Archives: Making your choices

Why would I want a TEAM of professionals?!?

There are a number of topics that you two have to discuss and reach agreement upon in connection with the ending of your marital relationship. Some are legal, but frankly, many of them are financial and all of them have the potential for being very emotional. That’s why in Collaborative Practice we offer professionals with expertise in each of these areas as part of a team that can best outline and clarify the complicated things and can best help you each to work through the emotions of the experience and help you with solid ideas of what actually is in the best interests of YOUR children.
In this video, prepared by our good friends in Ontario, you’ll see a nice overview of each of the available team members and how their presence benefits you and makes the process more efficient.

I don’t want to be your shepherd.

The divorce process is one of discussions leading to decisions. The discussions and decisions are best if they are jointly held and made. How difficult this is depends on who the two people are. How much and what kind of support do you two need to have the discussions? to embrace a perspective in those discussions that will result in decisions you can both live and continue to work with?

The image that comes into my head is of the difference between a Shepherd and a Sherpa.

Sheep are considered ‘stupid’ and shepherds are necessary because the sheep get so caught up in what they ‘want’ in this moment [o, look, a blade of grass!] that they don’t see danger and won’t even realize where they’ve gotten to and thus are lost. But other than driving them where s/he thinks they ‘should be’ and keeping the wolves at bay, the shepherd doesn’t do much for the sheep.
The sherpa on the other hand is there to support travelers who know where they want to go and are willing to even make their own decisions on the path to follow to get there. The sherpa offers support for THAT journey. The sherpa may decline to take them on that path, but isn’t there to tell them they ‘have to go’ this other way.

Litigation assumes people are fundamentally stupid and need to be managed [the self-serving term that is used is ‘protected’] or they will get eaten alive. Collaborative Practice presumes people can work together and make decisions, though some need some support.

I will always encourage and offer support that I believe might help you on the path you have chosen. I will explain to you how I believe that it might help. I will never tell you “that’s just how it’s done”.
I might decide that I choose to not stay on that path with you if you decide against the help. That doesn’t mean your decision is in any way ‘wrong’.

I am not a shepherd. I won’t treat you like a sheep.

Expanding my Services

Since 2000, I have offered Collaborative Practice service to couples who wanted that type of support as they worked through their decisions about their divorce.

Recently I decided to expand the services I offer as I encountered a steady stream of people who were ready to divorce each other who did not want the input of 2 attorneys or a team of professionals in Collaborative Practice.  And they definitely did not want to do litigation.

What they wanted was someone to help them make sure they were talking about the things they needed to and maybe help them translate their decisions into documents they could bring to court and handle the proceedings their on their own.

So what I can offer you, as a couple, as options include:

  • Using me as a straight Mediator.  Even if you’re already involved in litigation.
  • Using me as a Third Party Neutral, to guide your discussion through the topics on which you must reach decisions.
  • Working with you to prepare the papers required by the court and the clerk and getting you ready to head to court on your own.

In this role, I do not ‘represent’ either of you.  And definitely do not ‘represent’ both of you.  So it’s important that you understand that I can’t give you ‘legal advice’.  That means I can’t tell you whether decisions you two are agreeing to are ‘good’ ones.  Nor can I tell you whether you ‘might do better’ if you litigated.  [The truth of course is that you always ‘might’ do better.  You also ‘might’ do worse.  But in either even you will be spending a lot of money to find out.]

If you or someone you know would like to explore these Unbundled Services, I’d be honored if you were to contact me.


Maybe if Santa tells you?

Sometimes I work with clients who firmly believe that “I know what’s best for the children.”  And then of course s/he and the other parent get into an argument over whose thoughts about “what’s best” will prevail.

I talk to them from my experience [not as a parent, but as a divorce professional], I refer them to mental health professionals. We tell them, sometimes to their chagrin, that what is BEST for their children is if the two of them work TOGETHER going forward.  They won’t be married anymore, but they MUST still be partners.

But I don’t think any of us could say it any better than does the Man in Red from this episode of Highway to Heaven:

 [You can see the whole episode here.]

Your first meeting with an attorney

When you make plans to see an attorney about your divorce, you will be able to find lots of suggestions for what information to bring, what questions you will be asked. These suggestions are all focused on the attorney. This is information the attorney uses to make guesses in answer to only one just question: “What is going to happen? What will the outcome be for me?”
I say “guesses” because that’s just what they are. Educated. Experienced. But still guesses. No worthwhile attorney would ever tell you “THIS is what your result will be.” But that’s what you’ve likely been told to ask about. That, and how much the whole thing will cost.
I’m suggesting that you think about asking some different questions. Ones that will actually help you in your initial consultation.

What they are and how they will help you more was the subject of an article I was recently honored to have published in The World of Collaborative Practice magazine. You can read it here.

It was also a topic I addressed when I was interviewed by Joanie Winberg, creator of the “Survive and Thrive After Divorce BOOT CAMP“, as part of her “Ask Joanie” Series.     Here’s that interview.    I look forward to you asking me your questions.

Why do we take “Trainings” in Collaborative Practice?

Over the years since my first training in CP–Jan, 2000–I’ve taken over a dozen additional trainings, both basic and advanced. I’ve trained others several times, both basic and advanced. So someone might ask why would you do that?  Don’t you know ‘how to do it’ yet? Okay, so nobody really asked, but I’ll answer it anyway.

There are two ways in which CP differs from the standard practice of law, from ‘litigation’. One is process. The other is purpose. Or, HOW we do things and WHY we do them. Or we might say aptitude and attitude. The latter in all of those pairs is critical. It is what we collectively refer to as the ‘paradigm shift’.

Over the years, I’ve grown a bit concerned as the number of trainings and trainers has expanded–if not exploded–about my perception that the paradigm shift has been getting increasingly short shrift in basic trainings. Its importance gets mentioned, even emphasized, “Collaborative Practice requires us to make a ‘paradigm shift’. To change how we think about things and approach them.”  But little more is said about it; about the nature of the change, much less how to undertake it.  And then ensue 2 days or more of talk and role play about procedure. My concern is that with so much time being spent on protocols, the impression may be given that the paradigm shift means nothing more than simply following these protocols.

There was a note I scribbled to myself recently: “If you believe that you have made the paradigm shift, that alone may be good evidence that you probably have not.” I say that because the ‘paradigm shift’ is not ever complete. Because it is an internal reshaping of 1) how I see myself, 2) how I see my relationship with my client, the other client, and my colleagues, AND 3) what I see as my ‘job’.

That kind of shift is never complete, or done, or ‘made’.  It is always in process. And most importantly, no change in protocols will cause it to happen. Instead it is the shift in paradigm which prompts, indeed requires, a change in protocols. They are both part of Collaborative Practice, but they are not equal. Making one will require the other; but doing the other neither requires nor even prompts the former.

I know it’s easier to teach a course on when and how to meet and keep notes. And much easier to sell such a skills ‘training’.  I don’t mean at all to suggest that ‘how to’ is not helpful and important. However, if all we are teaching is a new set of ‘rules of procedure’, is CP really even worth getting excited about?  I don’t think that the first ‘basic’ training is at all too soon to begin suggesting that the ‘paradigm shift’ involves a good deal of ‘personal work’ and outlining ‘how to’ do that work as well. I hope to see more of it actively incorporated in basic trainings as we continue to grow.


When you are choosing a Collaborative Practice professional, take the time to find out how much ‘training’ s/he has been through.  It does make a difference.

Also keep in mind that any professional who tells you s/he is ‘certified’ or a ‘specialist’ in Collaborative Practice is, well, stretching things.  There is absolutely no organization that ‘certifies’ Collaborative Practice professionals.  So, take the time to find out how involved in CP that professional has been.  Not necessarily how many ‘cases’ they’ve done, but how much they genuinely embrace that they haven’t learned everything yet and so they keep taking trainings.