Approach to Vocational Assessment in Collaborative Divorce Helps Settle Spousal Support

“Many divorcing women are scared to death of becoming bag ladies, and many men are scared to death of becoming indentured servants.” J. Mark Weiss, JD

Vocational assessments, when provided by a collaborative career coach help settle spousal support in collaborative and mediated divorce cases. The approach, a combination of personal and career counseling and coaching, engages the whole person who is divorcing, and addresses the entire family system.

This type of career coaching empowers a divorcing woman by involving her in the creation of a plan for her future including next steps for education, job search or small business start-up. It goes beyond traditional vocational assessment and employment projections to include help with fears about re-entering the workplace, guidance to gather info about her options and consideration of the impact her plan may have on her spouse and the rest of the family.

Typically fears are induced by past employment or educational challenges, technological change, age, not knowing what’s out there and a perceived loss of skills, relevance and self-confidence. In addition, most women are concerned about how going back to work and/or school will affect her children. All of these concerns are addressed openly, creating safety. As fears are faced and ideas generated to navigate them, it becomes more possible to assess her interests and skills and think about what she might want to do. A discussion of her values is helpful in clarifying priorities and trade-offs as she begins to negotiate with her husband.

Once the vocational assessment has helped her identify her best career options or validated an idea that she’s been considering, she is coached to research her ideas further through on-line resources, informational interviews and speaking with college advisers. This hands-on work fosters a vision of what is possible and is useful in narrowing options. It also creates a sense of ownership and boosts self-confidence. Women bloom.

If feasible, a woman’s educational plan and timing can be tied to her children’s school schedule. For example, her first day back in college to obtain a BA can be timed with her child’s entry into kindergarten or first grade, minimizing childcare costs and giving her more time to pursue her studies.

In addition to offering support and guidance to a divorcing woman a collaborative approach to vocational assessment addresses a husband’s fears and concerns and incorporates his feedback as the team of attorneys, coaches, financial neutrals and couple work together.

If he is open to helping his spouse pursue more education (and many men pursuing mediation or a collaborative divorce are) his needs and concerns are explored essays captain. As the couple’s finances become clearer or are subject to change, husband’s voice to create a step-down in spousal support is heard and incorporated into wife’s plan.

Specific examples of incorporating a husbands needs in the process include facilitating the speedy evaluation of his wife’s business plan to meet his need to move on, or appreciating husband’s need to understand her total school costs in monthly terms and controlling the cost of education by exploring options at the community college. Usually a man will want to know his soon to be ex will strive to earn the most she can thus helping to ensure financial security for all.

Ideally the open, trusting enough and creative atmosphere at the table has engaged the couple to explore mutually, agreeable objectives. For example wife’s need to work a PT job while going to school PT could involve husband timing visitation around her schedule, in order to give her a break
or study time when she could use it.

Hopefully these settlements within the settlement include the possibility of checking in down the road, if needed. We do indeed live in times of change. Projecting around the corner is trickier. Build sensible modifications that can be experienced as helpful structure during this on-going life and career transition. Track criteria committed to by the couple, such as progress towards a bachelor’s degree or technical certificate. Earning increases or decreases and employment/business development status including clearer projections can be eyed as well.

Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
Collaborative Divorce Coach and Career Counselor
Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions
503) 227-4250

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Reasons to Use the Collaborative Process – Privacy

Going through the divorce process through the traditional litigated model opens up a person’s most private financial and social secrets to the public record. Even though legal files are not yet fully available on the internet, anyone can go to the courthouse and review your divorce file. For people who value privacy, the collaborative divorce process delivers.  This is one of the major reasons that celebrities and high net worth individuals have been utilizing the collaborative divorce process.

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Is A Collaborative Divorce Faster Than A Regular Divorce?

As a Portland Oregon divorce lawyer trained in both collaborative divorce and litigation, I hear a lot of process questions about which dispute resolution method is faster. The speed at which you can get through either process is fact dependent, however, with willing and motivated parties, collaborative divorce can be faster and more efficient. With collaborative divorce, you avoid being subject to the court’s schedule and potential multiple court dates, and can instead set your own schedule for how fast the case goes. The caveat is that the collaborative model is built on cooperation and consensus, and if there is no agreement, the process can stall out.

By Sean Stephens


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How Is Collaborative Divorce Different Than Mediation?

In my 17 years of practice I have helped many clients with their Oregon divorces. One of the best developments I have seen is the growth of collaborative divorce, and the increased use of mediation to resolve disputes.  I have come to view my practice as  dispute resolution, with trial work and litigation as only one tool I have to help clients resolve divorce disputes. In talking to clients about the benefits of different dispute resolution models, prior to helping a client understand all of their options, a common question I hear is “Why not just mediate vs. go through the collaborative process? Aren’t they the same?”

In mediation, the parties use a neutral third party to aid in negotiation and help settle the case. The mediator may mediate face to face, or mediate with parties in different rooms and shuttle back and forth. Lawyers may, or may not participate, depending on the client’s wishes. When there is an agreement, the mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms.  The mediator will try to find common ground, but cannot give either party legal advice. While some parties choose to mediate prior to filing for divorce, mediation frequently happens during the divorce process, and with the negatives that come from negotiating with a trial date looming.

In a Collaborative divorce, both lawyers are present during negotiation to keep everyone focused ont the end goal, a settlement.  Central to Collaborative divorce is the participation agreement, a contract signed by the parties and lawyers that neither client will file for divorce and litigate without formally backing out of the collaborative process.  Your lawyer needs to be trained in collaborative process, and your lawyer will work with you one on one to ensure the process is on track and positive.  On reaching an agreement, the lawyers draft an agreement and the final paperwork.

Both processes require trust,  a free sharing of information, and a commitment to respect the parties and their goals. A strength and weakness of collaborative divorce is that if the process fails, you need to retain new counsel because of the participation agreement.  A failed collaborative case can cause substantial  additional  legal expense and frustration. In mediation, if mediation fails, you can proceed with your mediation lawyer on to a traditional case.

When asking your lawyer questions about divorce, I recommend talking to a firm that has experience and training in collaborative law and mediation, and not just litigation. This level of experience will help you make a well reasoned process choice for your divorce.

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How Collaborative Family Law Reduces The Hostility Of Divorce

We see Oregonians seeking divorce turn to collaborative divorce for a variety of reasons. For some, they choose the collaborative approach because they want to maintain control of the divorce process instead of leaving the decisions up to a judge. Others simply wish to avoid the adversarial divorce they saw their parents have. Conventional divorces can often be emotionally draining and difficult, especially for any children involved. Collaborative divorce seeks to avoid the hostility of conventional divorce by giving equal consideration to the needs of both spouses. It also keeps the needs of the children at the forefront of the divorce process. Collaborative divorce attorneys negotiate for the best outcome while remaining respectful and cooperative. The parties focus on openly communicating and sharing information. The collaborative process focuses on amicably reaching a settlement while avoiding litigation. In short, people who choose collaborative divorce strive for a win-win situation instead of struggling for a win-lose situation. Collaborative family law is an attractive choice for those who want a more positive outcome after a divorce.

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