WHAT DOES A COLLABORATIVE LAW COACH DO?
By Gina Arons, PsyD
When a couple decides that their marriage has come to an end, Collaborative Law offers an open and respectful divorce process in which clients, attorneys, and other collaborative professionals work together to develop an agreement that is acceptable to each of the parties.
As an integral part of this collaborative team, the Collaborative Law Coach serves as a neutral facilitator who works to understand the client’s emotional concerns, share important information with the attorneys, and offer communication strategies. Coaches are licensed mental health professionals with specialized Collaborative Law training who bring unique perspectives and expertise to the collaborative process.
Within the context of a divorce, clients often feel hurt or disappointed by their spouses and may find it difficult to listen or remain open to one another’s ideas. Throughout this process it is very useful to have a Collaborative Law Coach who can facilitate communication and help mitigate tensions that may hinder the success of the collaborative process.
From the very beginning, the coach helps to build a strong foundation for the collaborative process by serving as a useful resource for both clients and their attorneys. Before the first 5-way meeting, the coach meets with each client to address their concerns and gain insight into their needs, interests, and goals. The ideas and issues raised during this initial meeting serve as a guide to developing a divorce agreement that feels viable to both parties.
The coach also meets with both attorneys to establish a good working relationship and to share essential information that will enable their clients to feel comfortable and understood throughout the process. Taking into account current or potential areas of conflict, the coach and the attorneys develop plans to ensure that each client will feel heard and supported during the collaborative process. A coach may also meet with clients independently in order to assist with other aspects of the divorce. For example, a coach with child development expertise may help clients to develop a parenting plan which is sensitive to the needs and well being of their children and is manageable for each of the parents. Additionally, if volatile or complex emotional issues arise that may interrupt the collaborative process, it can be very useful for clients to work through the problem with their coach before moving forward in making difficult decisions. It is important to note, however, that the coach does not serve in the role of a psychotherapist, but rather is a member of the collaborative team―sharing all relevant information with both attorneys in the service of enhancing the collaborative process.
During all the stages of a Collaborative Law case the coach works to ensure that the process is proceeding in a positive way. Through regular contact with the attorneys and clients via email, phone and meetings, the coach is a vital part of the team of professionals who work together with the clients to reach a peaceful resolution.