1. We need time to develop the parenting plan. Usually, we have the clients meet, without the lawyers present, with the neutral Mental Health Professional (MHP) or the child specialist. It sometimes takes two or three meetings to get the details worked out. Once the MHP and the parties put together a draft of a parenting plan, the MHP writes it up and then we all discuss it at a joint meeting.
2. We need time to gather and organize the financial information. The neutral Financial Professional (FP) identifies and requests the information needed and then collects the information directly from the parties. This is just a reporting step and no plan is produced at that time for the property division. The FP usually creates a spreadsheet with the financial details which is then reviewed at the next joint meeting.
3. Professionals plan meetings. They communicate by email or conference calls to discuss on-going issues and to plan the agenda for each meeting. They normally debrief after each meeting and often meet before each joint meeting so everyone knows what's going on.
4. Attorneys meet or talk with their clients to prepare for meetings. We like to check in to find out if there are any new issues. We also work on developing options that can be discussed at joint meetings. In addition, we answer clients' questions.
5. Clients do homework. Ideally, the professionals are working less than he parties are. It is important for the clients to gather information and to think about the issues before we go into joint meetings. They can work with their attorney and the other neutrals, but each person will have to provide information and ideas in order for the process to work.
Because this is a creative process where we don't necessarily follow standard guidelines or procedures, people using Collaborative Law have an active role in the process. Important activities take place outside of the joint meetings. With all that activity, we have to space out the meetings, but we are using the time constructively.