Jody Johnson and Honey Sheff, both CDD members, presented on July 20th at a gathering of collaborative law professionals in Frisco. The talk centered on effective strategies that collaborative professionals can employ when facing challenges with clients. These problems can cover a broad spectrum–from clients who do not really want the divorce, those who want to control matters beyond their reach, to mental health issues that often surface–collaborative professionals need a specific toolbox to address matters as early as possible. The reality is, not all cases are suitable for collaborative divorce. Jody and Honey referenced a certain case in which both were involved that unfortunately terminated the collaborative process and moved instead to acrimonious litigation. As a collaborative team, they recognized early on that the challenges were significant. Pulling apart the details of this specific case, they examined steps that professionals can and should take when roadblocks or an impasse occur. They asked an important question: is it ever appropriate to advise clients to terminate if the collaboration just isn’t working?
WIth all of this in mind, they continued the discussion with another pertinent question: how does the collaborative professional assess whether clients are right for collaborative at the beginning? No matter how experienced, short of a crystal ball, it can be difficult to assess how a case will progress in real time. Often, the very case that appears cut and dried becomes murky and the one that seemed like a bear turns out to be surprisingly friendly. Jody and Honey believe that ultimately, producing a better outcome for most clients is worth the much more rare case that ends up going south. For instance, their example case terminated over a year ago, yet is still caught up in contentious, expensive litigation. Perhaps if these clients had seen the collaborative process through the rough spots, they would be well into their new lives now. Jody and Honey finished their presentation with an encouraging reminder for the collaborative professional: when clients embroiled in a challenging case choose to stay the course with collaborative, they often reach new ground as the greatest beneficiaries of the process.