“For people going through a separation or divorce, it can feel like being lost in the solar system with all of these meteors flying by.”
In the collaborative divorce process, several professionals work together as a team to support the needs of a family transitioning through divorce with the goal of avoiding litigation. Sandy Hawkins, a Registered Clinical Counsellor with Concordia Counselling suggests that while there will always be marriages that end, there are ways to handle this with grace and compassion that don’t end up harming kids and families. Karen Redmond, a divorce lawyer at Redmond Law, also wants couples to know that they are not alone, and that through a collaborative divorce process, there are many other professionals available for support, regardless of their situation.
“For people going through a separation or divorce, it can feel like being lost in the solar system with all of these meteors flying by.” Karen’s key role, other than providing legal advice, is to break down the process and slow down the pace, helping people formulate what they need as they move through the steps.
“It doesn’t help the process when you are not part of the process.”
The first important step is to understand the process options and determine how to proceed. Whether the path chosen is mediation, collaboration, or litigation, Karen believes that it is important for people to find professionals who will really listen to them. Karen often positions herself as the quarterback of the many different moving pieces. Without the proper help, mental health or financial, the process can be absolutely overwhelming.
Whether she is working as a mediator or a collaborative lawyer, Karen is passionate and dedicated to ensuring people going through a separation or divorce have all the information, resources and tools they need to navigate through this process. Her role is to come up with a viable separation agreement that addresses key concepts, including: division of assets and debt, determination of income, child support/expenses, spousal support, life insurance and wills, division of property, and custody/guardianship/parenting time. One of the most important measures people can take when preparing for this process is to gather all documents and statements, and bring as much information as possible to the table.
“We try to pre-empt the conflict that could come up if they don’t think about the child’s voice ahead of time.”
Sandy is also part of the collaborative divorce process, offering two different services as part of her practice. As a divorce coach, Sandy’s role is to support the entire family as they move through the transition to their new life as a separated family, and to create a specific parenting plan that is built into the separation agreement. Sandy truly believes that through this process she can help parents realize there are different ways to parent and that the quality of time they spend with their kids has just as much impact even if the quantity is less.
As a Child/Youth Specialist, Sandy works directly with children and with the rest of the collaborative support team, to include the child’s voice in the process.
The collaborative process also involves other professionals, including financial advisors such as Tracy Theemes, from Sophia Financial Group. According to Tracy, who is also a financial divorce specialist, when dealing with the financial aspects of a separation or divorce, it is important to take a step back to look at and redefine your values as reflected in your financial situation. What is money to you? She believes that if a person can identify his or her foundational principles, this will help them to stay on track as they move through the process.
“Money will never define your value as a person.”
Some assets will be more concrete when introduced during a financial conversation, but other aspects will be more nebulous. There is a great deal of emotion tied up with anything related to finances.
To help prepare people to address the financial aspects when going through a separation or divorce, Tracy believes that the five basic steps used for financial planning also apply. According to Tracy, “This architecture remains stable at all times of your life and in all situations, and should always reflect your values.” The five basic questions include: Where am I now? Do I have cash reserve? Where am I headed? How will I get there? How do I stay on track? (You can learn more about these five steps in Tracy’s book, The Financially Empowered Woman.)
“This process, when managed properly, can be expanding, illuminating and creative.”
In her experience, after having worked with over 1000 transitioning families or divorcing couples, Tracy believes that the majority end up happier and more empowered on the other side of the transition.