January 13, 2016

The First Steps in My Collaborative Case

Yesterday, I attended the first joint meeting in my first Collaborative case.  We reviewed and signed the Participation Agreement and Joint Petition, and the four of us progressed efficiently through the agenda that I had proposed. My beginner’s anxiety about the opposing attorney – that she would be as inexperienced as I was but somehow would not share my commitment to the Collaborative method – was assuaged early on, as she indicated clearly her familiarity with the Collaborative process and her willingness to work Collaboratively with me and my client.

Unfortunately, the parties, who had earlier agreed to use a financial neutral as a team member, decided a few days before our meeting that they would wade through their finances themselves.  My client (Wife) said that her husband thought that her wanting to use a financial neutral meant that she did not trust him.  Wife said further that holding her ground on the financial neutral was not worth the bad feelings it engendered.

This prompted me to introduce to Wife the idea of a neutral coach, whose job it would be to help clarify and dispel the conflict that arises in even the best divorces.  It sounded to me like there was already conflict arising over the conduct of the divorce, and this was even before the first meeting.  In truth, despite the eventual smoothness of that initial joint meeting, I am still concerned that the absence of a financial neutral will come back to haunt us.  Husband appears to have strong feelings about financial issues, and Wife ceded responsibility for marital finances to Husband.  As a result, Wife will have to trust Husband to disclose fully, to be reasonable in compromising, and ultimately to share her interest in her financial security.  She feels especially concerned for her future security since she has not worked for some time and will likely be dependent upon Husband for some amount of spousal maintenance.  For his part, Husband feels that Wife’s budget is overstated.

One begins to understand why the intercession of a financial neutral, and quite possibly a neutral divorce coach, would serve this couple well as they move forward in their divorce.  However, I also understand that our process will be what it will be, and it is possible that my anxiety about progress as we move forward is, as was my anxiety about opposing counsel, more a product of my inexperience than a realistic assessment of our particular process’s shortcomings.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at https://www.lindawray.com/CM/AttorneyBios/JoshuaGitelson.asp.

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One Response to The First Steps in My Collaborative Case

  1. Bruce Peck Bruce Peck says:

    Good article Josh.

    This provides helpful insight into some of the tricky nuances of any divorce. Fortunately, collaborative family practice is specifically constructed to help move through these issues.

    Bruce Peck

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