by Ginny Simon, Neutral Facilitator

All clients should enter the collaborative process with confidence that the agreement that they reach will fulfill their goals. Frequently, goals are often doing what is best for the children, financial security, keeping the family home, or maintaining a life style similar to what they have had as a married person. The collaborative team works hard to understand each person’s individual needs and desires. One way to do this is through a process of stating goals and sharing them with all team members. As a coach, I meet individually with each party to list these goals before the first team meeting. At the first team meeting, which involves the two attorneys, myself, and perhaps a financial neutral, I assemble a chart of these goals. Each party has a chance to present a goal and the other party responds by saying whether they share the goal. The goals are then listed for everyone to see. Common goals are highlighted. Frequently, it is reassuring to the clients to see that they share goals. It is then possible to get a picture of shared and individual goals. The team can refer back to these goals throughout the process as they may change. New goals can also be added.

During my first individual meeting with the clients we also discuss triggers. These are the issues that are likely to be hardest for the party to discuss. Triggers might be issues, or words, that are likely to set off a strong reaction. While these triggers are generally only shared with the parties by agreement, as a coach I am aware of what they are, and I can be sensitive to times when these triggers might make the process hard.

Each client in the collaborative law process will have their needs and wishes heard. This process of setting goals and knowing triggers will move the meetings forward so that they are productive and done sensitively.