Collaborative Divorce is an inter-disciplinary approach to separation and divorce that involves out-of-court settlements based on interest-based negotiation and mediation. The collaborative process addresses finances, assets, legalities, co-parenting, and the needs of the children. This approach moves away from adversarial processes and provides support for couples to work collaboratively towards the resolution of matters that pertain to the restructuring of their relationship and family. The heart of the process is the preservation of the well-being of all concerned especially children during this life-changing experience.

The collaborative team may consist of collaboratively trained Lawyers, Divorce Coaches, Child Specialists, and/or Financial Specialists depending on the needs of the family and the circumstances.

The collaborative process includes both individual and joint meetings between couples and their coaches and lawyers. If children meet with a child specialist, the children’s voice is included in the process and decision-making.

In terms of my involvement with Collaborative Divorce, I am fortunate to have been one of the founding members and former Co-Chair of the Collaborative Divorce Association of Vancouver founded in 1999. I am currently on the Board of Directors of the Collaborative Divorce Association.

I have provided interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce training with Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and The B. C. Roster Society. I have presented locally and at the International Academy of Collaborative Practitioner conferences since 2003. I was a Board member of the IACP in the early stages of this international organization.

These roles have provided me with a meaningful opportunity to work with numerous Collaborative Practitioners in Vancouver and around the world to expand Collaborative Practices in all areas of life on a community and global basis.

When I work as a Collaborative Divorce Coach, I either work with the couple as a mediator or neutral or with one parent while a second coach works with the other parent. If I am acting as a mediator or neutral with both parents, I meet individually with each person and then we meet together to address issues and develop the parenting plan. When two coaches are involved, I meet with one partner or spouse while the other coach meets with the partner or spouse and then the four of us meet together in “four-way” meetings to address parenting issues and formulate a parenting plan. Either way, I can continue to provide support for the family post-separation.

The divorce coaching sessions may take place concurrently with collaborative lawyer negotiations or court proceedings or they may take place before clients meet with lawyers. The divorce coaching sessions may also take place after the separation agreement is signed. The number of mediation or collaboration sessions vary as per the needs of the parents, family, and process.

As a Divorce Coach, I provide:

  • Emotional and psychological support regarding losses and concerns;
  • Information about stages and tasks related to separation and divorce;
  • Communication and conflict resolution skills;
  • Co-parenting strategies if children are involved;
  • Mentoring and guidance regarding decisions;
  • Mediation and facilitation during three or four-way sessions involving the other parent and coach;
  • Guidance in developing a Parenting Plan and Parenting Time;
  • A supportive team approach as applicable;
  • Support for maintaining a collaborative approach towards resolution and a separation agreement;
  • Encouragement for fostering good-will and cooperation;
  • Support for movement towards transformational and growth opportunities during this life transition;

As a Child Specialist, I work with elementary age children as well as teens to provide them with a voice in the separation process. I meet with the children individually in the minimum number of sessions necessary to provide support and assessment as outlined below. Typically, this involves up to three sessions and does not involve counselling per se. The purpose of the sessions is to provide intermediary support for the children as well as information for the parents and the collaborative team. Information is relayed orally to parents during four-way meetings with Divorce Coaches as deemed helpful in formulating a Parenting Plan, Parenting time, and in making other child-centered decisions.

I also work with children in a counselling capacity. I provide a safe and neutral place for children to express their feelings and thoughts about the separation and re-structuring of their family. I provide them with basic information about separation in order to normalize aspects of the experience as well as coping skills. Counselling may take place over an extended period of time according to the needs of the children and family. Besides ‘talk therapy’, I often use art and play therapy during our sessions.

As a child specialist, I provide:

  • Emotional support and an outlet so that the child may have a neutral person with whom they can express their feelings, worries, and experiences of loss;
  • The opportunity for the child to develop coping skills and strategies regarding the changes that take place during the re-structuring of the family;
  • An opportunity for the child to voice his or her concerns and wishes regarding the separation/divorce scheduling arrangement (in this respect I act as an advocate for the child);
  • Parents with information and guidance to help their children through this process in ways that meet their developmental needs;
  • Information to the collaborative team that will support their work with the parents to develop a Parenting Plan and make decisions regarding the welfare of the child.

A Parenting Plan describes parenting arrangements that pertain to the care of the child/ren. It includes parenting time and parental responsibilities. Foremost the plan addresses the best interests of the child and it also takes into account practical needs of both parents. Divorce Coaches can supply the parents with a Parenting Plan template and assist them in the development of a plan.

Sample topics included in Parenting Plans:

  1. parenting vision, goals, principles
  2. parenting time and specific parenting schedules
  3. parental responsibilities (e.g. medical and education decisions)
  4. parent – parent communication
  5. conflict resolution processes
  6. parent – child communication
  7. relationships with extended family
  8. summer schedule, holidays, and special occasions
  9. transfers
  10. extracurricular activities
  11. parental behaviors - with each other and in front of the children
  12. introduction and inclusion of significant others
  13. safety issues

© 2015. Deborah Brakeley 604-224-8937 · #501-1587 West 8th, Vancouver · brakeley@shaw.ca