Generally speaking, decisions are best made in the collaborative meetings. The reason for that is both parties have their counsel present. Counsel can help the parties effectively articulate their primary interests. The attorneys can provide the legal information that the clients need in order to feel like they understand the legal parameters and what the courts would do with those same issues if the court were ruling on them. Now, it is possible of course for the parties to agree to something that looks different than what the court would do with the information and circumstances. That is their prerogative in the collaborative process and certainly that’s what helps the parties come to creative decisions. The bottom line is they have legal backdrop to decisions. Likewise they have financial information from the financial neutrals, presented in a balanced manner to help them fully understand the nature and extent of the marital estate as well as what cash resources are available to the family. That helps them better buy in to reasonable outcomes as to what would be a fair and balanced financial resolution for this family, what’s the best way to divide the marital assets and liabilities and what is the best support plan for the family.
So yes, it’s probably best that the issues be discussed with the team present and all of the information available to make decisions together outside the collaborative meetings. When they don’t have their support system, the parties might get off track or not address all aspects of the decisions and all details that they need to resolve. They actually undermine themselves when they try to make decisions outside of the meetings. The reason for those meetings is to provide the safety net and the support system that the parties need to make effective and enduring decisions. That’s why we typically advise our clients in the collaborative process; please do not try to make decisions outside the collaborative meetings. You need to make those decisions where you have the information and education and support of the collaborative team.
An exception might be if there is a minor matter to be resolved or there are decisions regarding division of household items or other limited matters that they can hopefully, effectively handle between the two of them. And a lot depends on how the parties interact too. But bottom line is that it’s a good idea to let the collaborative team help with designating exactly which issues might be safe to address with the other spouse outside of the collaborative meetings.
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