litigated divorce, you will often have the need to involve experts to clarify certain issues, and in some instances to testify. These can include appraisers, brokers, financial valuation or vocational experts, mental health practitioners, GALs, and parent coordinators. Whether or not a professional is needed to assist will depend on the issues in your case. For example, if the parties can agree on the value of real estate than an appraiser would not be needed, but if they can't then a real estate appraiser will be needed to evaluate the value of the asset and potentially testify if the other party disagrees.
The Collaborative Divorce process typically includes a team approach to divorce which utilizes specialized professionals to assist the attorneys. There are many instances where another professional can assist in moving a case forward and reduce the cost spent on attorney's time. Here are just some of the types of other professionals that might be involved:
Coach: Attorneys are not trained to deal with mental health issues, which can range from dealing with the emotional loss in a divorce to dealing with mental illness or personality disorders. A Divorce Coach is a mental health professional that participates in the Collaborative process. In some models the Divorce Coach is only called upon when needed, like a therapist. But the trend is towards involving the neutral Divorce Coach (or in some instances two Divorce Coaches, one for each party) in every step of the process.
The Divorce Coach can help the parties deal with their individual emotions that stem from the loss of their marriage, the process of the divorce, and other underlying past issues. In addition, the Divorce Coach can help the parties form a parenting plan and discuss the child related issues in a more constructive manner than the custody/visitation legal context. For more information on the role of a Collaborative Coach read a previous Guest Post: What Does a Collaborative Law Coach do?
Child Specialist: Sometimes the process may also include a Child Specialist, i.e. a mental health professional involved in the case for the sole purpose of helping the parties understand what the children are going through as a result of the divorce, and how to help them. For more information on the role of a Child Specialist read a previous Guest Post: What does a Child Specialist do in a Collaborative Divorce?
Financial Planners: In cases where the parties could use assistance gathering and understanding their finances and budgets, a financial planner (often a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can assist the parties with these issues as a neutral. Oftentimes, they will also provide potential scenarios showing the different options for support orders or property division and how those different options will affect each party's net worth in the future. This information and assistance can be very helpful in assisting parties in reaching settlements.
Experts: In a Collaborative case, an expert opinion may still be helpful, and any expert that might be hired in a litigation case could also be hired jointly in a Collaborative case to provide an expert opinion to both parties. For example a real estate appraiser can be jointly hired by the parties in a collaborative case if they don't know or can't agree on the value of an real property asset. These experts could include appraisers, bankruptcy attorneys, business valuation experts, etc.
Although there is a cost involved in using any additional professional to assist in moving your divorce case forward, their expertise is cases where they are necessary usually saves time and money that would have been wasted otherwise.