While recognizing that every case is to be treated on an individual case-by-case basis, our Collaborative protocols in Cincinnati call for use of a single neutral mental health professional, and a single neutral financial specialist when circumstances require involvement of more than just the two Collaborative attorneys. The attorneys must recognize the need for additional experts and the clients must also agree to the involvement of additional experts. Convincing the clients of the added value of the allied professionals is often a challenge to the attorneys. Clients get confused, and do not believe that they need “therapy”. In reality, providing therapy is not the function of the Collaborative mental health professionals known as “Family Relations Specialists” in Cincinnati. For the clients, however, spending any extra money on additional professionals beyond the legal fees for their lawyers is a hard thing to swallow. Even so, the cases that require these additional neutrals progress much more smoothly when the correct allied professionals are involved than without them. In other areas of the country, some Collaborative Practice groups encourage each client to have his or her own divorce coach, a neutral case manager, a financial specialist and two Collaborative lawyers. What we have learned in Cincinnati is that there is no one correct model. It all depends upon who the clients are, what are their issues are, who their respective attorneys are, and whether they,[the clients, will be amenable to having a Family Relations Specialist involved.
In the typical case, after each attorney has met his or her client, the two lawyers will assess the need and value of having one or more allied professionals involved. This depends upon what issues are presented and what emotional state the clients find themselves. Usually, a determination will be made prior to the first four-way Collaborative meeting with both clients and both lawyers (when the Collaboration Contract is signed and the process begins). Each attorney will explain the need and value to his or her client and hopefully get buy-in from them. Ideally, any allied professional will be at the first meeting when the Collaboration Contract is signed, when the Process is begun and when the clients express their goals and interests for their divorce/dissolution. In this fashion, a Collaborative Team is hatched.
We now have over 70 members of the Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professionals and we are a multi-disciplinary group. We have a website and a point system to qualify for the website's on-line roster. Points are garnered by attending meetings and attending workshop seminars. Every month we gather to de-brief and discuss difficult cases, share information, and create a common culture. We also use a single Collaborative Participation Agreement and a formalized set of protocols. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, with headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, provides notice of Collaborative seminars and workshops around the country, and indeed, around the world. The notices are on their website, www.collaborative practice.com. There are training opportunities and continuing education credits available year in and year out. We also have a single Collaborative Participation Agreement and a formalized set of protocols.