Worried about the cost of a collaborative divorce? Would you like to save money for your clients without sacrificing the collaborative process? Here are five suggested ways you can save money when doing a collaborative divorce while still meeting your professional obligations. Each method has risks and benefits, so think carefully about your clients, their needs, concerns, and whether saving money is worth the risk when you choose one of these cost-cutting methods.
Use the Collaborative Team Efficiently. Not every team member needs to attend every meeting with the clients. For example, clients can meet with the mental health professional to discuss parenting issues and the financial professional to work out tax issues and collect financial information. When you consider holding meetings with less than the full team, consider the following factors: what are the issues you need to resolve? If you are going to be discussing the parenting plan, perhaps the financial professional need not be there. And, if you are discussing asset division, perhaps the mental health professional can be absent. What is the level of conflict? Are there serious emotional issues that require the mental health professional attend? Do the clients need help communicating? Does one of the clients need extra emotional support from his or her attorney?
Give the Clients Homework. Think about the motivation and abilities of your clients and shift as much homework to them as they can handle. For example, let them collect as many financial documents as possible before they meet with the financial professional, give them options for parenting plans and have them discuss and think about which will work for them before they meet with the mental health professional or the collaborative team. Also, suggest that each client consider which assets will meet their goals and interests prior to brainstorming and negotiating a settlement agreement.
Don’t Charge for Reading Short E-mails. When you are planning the logistics of meetings, answering a simple question from a client, or planning the next agenda, don’t charge for the three or four minutes it takes to complete the simple task. Your clients will appreciate it.
Schedule Offline Meeting with Professionals. There are lots of tasks that can be handled by a single professional rather than the whole team. For example, the clients can meet with the mental health professional to discuss custody and visitation schedules rather than taking time during the team meetings when there are four professionals in the room. Also, if the clients have tax or other financial questions, they can handle these issues with just the financial professional rather than the entire team.
Clients Can Help Control Costs. Explain to your clients that fighting costs extra and that if they stay reasonable and calm during the meetings rather than becoming emotional and arguing about every little issue, the negotiations will go more quickly and they will save money. Also, suggest that the clients come to meetings prepared to deal with all items on the agenda. Finally, tell your clients it will be helpful and cost effective if they are on time and keep their agreements.