Tasks to Complete in Collaborative Process
There are three sets of tasks that most couples with minor children need to complete in a legal separation or divorce:
- the Parenting Plan
- the Financial Plan
- the Relational Plan
After the decisions associated with each of these plans have been made, it is the responsibility of the attorneys to pull them together into legal form and make certain the couple’s agreements are enforceable and will receive the support of the court system.
Parenting Plan – The Parenting Plan helps to protect the well-being of the children and provides structure for the co-parenting relationship. The Parenting Plan will generally include the following:
- Assignment to one or both parents of decision-making responsibility concerning the health and education of the children.
- An on-duty/off-duty parenting schedule.
- An agreed set of standards of conduct for the parenting relationship.
- A plan for work or education-related childcare if needed.
- A plan for schedule changes and future problem resolution outside of court.
Financial Plan – Couples will be helped to determine marital assets and to create cash flow projections to help determine a Financial Plan. The Plan will include:
- A distribution of assets and liabilities which is optimal for both partners.
- A determination of how to share the cost of providing for children.
- In appropriate cases, a determination of how best to reallocate income to help with the expenses of a financially dependent spouse.
- A determination of how to protect as much income as possible from taxation.
Relational Plan – In the future there may be ongoing relational issues for a couple, especially if they have children left at home. It is important to ask questions such as:
- What are the most effective ways for a couple to communicate in the future?
- What methods of communication can be used?
- Is there a history with extended family members that can continue to be honored and kept?
- Will there be extended family members who may try to make matters more difficult for the couple? How can these be addressed?
- What can be done to alleviate the stress of the children surrounding a separation or divorce?
When these three tasks have been completed in the Collaborative Process, the attorneys will draft a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement. It will incorporate the Financial Plan, including all agreements concerning division of marital property, spousal support, and child support. The Separation Agreement and Property Settlement is a legally binding contract that is enforceable in court and eliminates the need to go to court on these matters. The Parenting Plan and Relational Plan may also be incorporated into the Separation Agreement and Property Settlement, or a couple may choose to have a Child Custody Order entered in a non-adversarial court proceeding. After a one-year separation period, from the date the divorcing couple no longer share the same residence, and after the Separation Agreement and Property Settlement has been signed, either spouse may file, through their attorneys, an action for an Uncontested Divorce. Following a divorce hearing at which the attorneys appear on behalf of their clients, a divorce decree is issued and the couple will be officially divorced. After the signing of the Separation Agreement and Property Settlement, families may want to stay in contact with Team Professionals to make certain the terms of the Financial Plan, Parenting Plan and Relational Plan are being smoothly implemented.