Discussing Collaborative Law as an Alternative to the Divorce Process with Guest Sheila Gardner

Many of you associate the divorce process with litigation. When I talk about litigation, I mean appearing before and presenting evidence to the judge to advance your position before the judge makes a decision on the outcome. There are also alternatives to litigation like collaborative law.

Today, I am joined by attorney and mediator Sheila Gardner the founder of Cooperative Strategies Family Law. Sheila joins us to discuss the ins and outs of collaborative law and what it means, how the process works, and who the various players are who make up the collaborative team.

As a trained collaborative attorney, Sheila is able to guide her clients to a mutually acceptable resolution in which both parties feel that their highest priorities have been addressed. She draws from a wealth of knowledge and experience as a practicing attorney. She also draws from her own personal experiences as a parent and a child who experienced divorce at a young age.

You can find Sheila here:
Cooperative Strategies Family Law

Show Notes:
[02:47] Sheila grew up in Milwaukee. In 1975, her parents got divorced. Her family was the first family that she knew of that was going through a divorce.
[03:40] Sheila remembers being six years old and watching cartoons while her father was loading things up in his truck.
[04:11] It was a shock when their mother told them that their dad was leaving.
[05:10] Her parents had the foresight to keep them together as a family even though their parents were not a couple anymore.
[07:17] As an attorney and parent, Sheila realized that she had a skill set that can help others in a way that will protect their children. She has lived it.
[08:53] About four years ago, Sheila realized that she was made for this work.
[10:29] Sheila realized that helping people with co-parenting was one of her callings. She’s found a place to connect her love of supporting parents with law.
[11:14] The idea of family law and litigation and going to trial didn’t sit well with her until she learned about collaborative practice.
[12:07] Collaborative law is an out-of-court dispute resolution process. This means you decide to settle your differences out-of-court.
[12:49] With collaborative law you have full support of a team which includes lawyers, mental health specialists, and even a financial specialist. Everyone is committed to helping the couple find their own solutions.
[17:36] Even though there are more people on the team, things can move more quickly with the collaborative law process. It also affords an opportunity to find resolutions for all of the issues and not have to return to court.
[19:40] How the teams for collaborative law are chosen.
[23:25] There is extensive training for collaborative law and certain standards that need to be maintained.
[24:40] Sheila truly loves people and wants to help them do law and approach conflict in a collaborative way.
[27:12] How collaborative law works for high conflict couples. Having the support of the mental health specialist is very important. Everyone on the team has been trained with conflict resolution strategies.
[34:46] Having a mental support of the child health specialist is invaluable for these children.
[35:09] Sheila also offers co-parenting support services.
[36:53] One of the first things that needs to happen is the creation of the co-parenting plan. This includes schedules, access, and living arrangements.
[37:36] Raising future adult starts with being goal centered.
[43:14] It’s not about the parents. It’s about the child getting to spend the time they need with their parents.
[44:17] What is the process for parent coordination like? Typically a parent coordinator is a mental health specialist. It can also be an attorney who is trained in parent coordination.
[45:09] In some jurisdictions, parent coordinators are appointed by judges.
[46:04] Parents should keep in mind that even though they are no longer a couple, they are still their child’s family.
[47:03] Security and consistency are the most important. Communication is the key to making this happen.
[49:28] Healthy co-parenting sends a message to the children on how to communicate with the world.
[49:50] Make sure to make transitions easy for the kids. Transitions from school can be a good solution.
Do you have any topics that you would like me to cover in future shows? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show, and if you are enjoying what you hear please leave a review on iTunes.

Links and Resources:
Cooperative Strategies Family Law
International Academy of Collaborative Law