The Many Hats Worn by the Collaborative Divorce Facilitator / Parenting Specialist
The Collaborative Divorce Facilitator (CDF) is one of the Collaborative team’s key neutral professionals. Being a neutral means the CDF is working on behalf of both spouses (and their children). In some states, the CDF role is known as the MHP and is oftentimes filled by a Licensed Mental Health Professional with the specialized skills to manage the emotional and communication challenges that almost inevitably bubble up throughout the divorce process.
Role #1: Coordinating and Facilitating All Joint Meetings
The CDF will schedule and facilitate all of the joint meetings lending her/his neutral voice to the negotiation. The CDF will guide all parties through the agreed upon agenda for each meeting. This frees up the other professionals to focus on their areas of expertise and allows the attorneys to focus on your desired solution.
During the discussion it is the CDF who will keep all participants on track so that everyone’s time is well spent. Should a situation arise where either one or both of the parties are unable to continue discussing a particular issue, the CDF may suggest that one or both parties meet with him/her for an “offline” (or one-on-one) discussion so that the next time the group meets, a potentially challenging discussion might proceed more smoothly.
Role #2: Managing emotions and creating a safe space for constructive conversation
In addition to facilitation and scheduling duties, the CDF stays focused on how each party is dealing with the emotions that bubble up during the process and is the person you can rely on to assist when the process becomes emotionally challenging.
The CDF ensures that everyone is heard and understood in the meeting and helps shape the expression of interests and needs. By creating a safe space, the CDF enhances the ability of the parties to work together to effectively resolve problems and create solutions. By modeling collaborative behavior and active listening, the CDF helps the parties learn by example and even begin the healing process. If need be, the CDF will identify additional resources to assist in addressing the emotional needs of the parties and their children.
Role #3: Developing the Parenting Plan and Preparing the Parties for Co-parenting
As needed, the CDF may spend time with each spouse in 1:1 meetings and/or jointly without the attorneys to assist in crafting a parenting plan that works well for you and your children. Together you will explore options for parenting schedules and receive guidance about the developmentally appropriate needs of your children.
It is hoped that during this time you and your spouse acquire skills that improve your communication which will help you become more effective co-parents.
Soon-to-be ex-spouses need to remember that even though they will no longer be husband and wife, they will always be mom and dad.
Children of divorced parents love them both and will want them both at upcoming graduations, weddings, holidays, etc. Working to rebuild trust and communication is imperative in a successful co-parenting relationship. Parents who put their differences aside serve as effective role models for their children.
Role #4: Dividing up Marital Assets
Oftentimes the divorce process can get stuck in discussions surrounding the division of assets. If one or both parties are emotionally attached to various possessions and unwilling or unable to be flexible, the CDF will have creative ways to assist the couple in getting unstuck and moving the divorce forward. While many see divorce as a “legal” process, experienced divorce professionals know it is more about finances and emotions than the law.
Role #5: Developing Communication Skills
Wearing the hat of a Communication Coach, the CDF will work to assist you and your spouse in developing a more cooperative co-parenting relationship with one another. With the help of the CDF you can discuss maintaining relationships with extended family members and friends and how this will work in the future. Through coaching individually or together, the CDF will be a valuable resource for guidance on the issues regarding continuing to work together if, for example, you are in a family business with your spouse.