What We Do
The Collaborative Process
Collaborative Process is a method of resolving disputes where participants work with a team of professionals to craft their own agreements. Clients work together in a respectful way, keeping in mind the importance of protecting their children and other involved people from conflict. Decisions are made by the participants without the involvement of a judge or other decision authority.
In whatever type of legal concern the Collaborative Process is applied, its guiding principles remain the same. All clients and Collaborative professionals agree at the outset that the case will be settled, not contested. If the case cannot be settled, the attorneys and other professionals must withdraw, and the attorneys will assist the participants in finding new attorneys to help them settle the case through the traditional court system. Even in these cases some groundwork will have been laid for a more effective way of clients working together and resolving their differences in the future.
Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party – a mediator – facilitates the resolution of a dispute by promoting voluntary agreement (or “self-determination”) by the parties to the dispute. A mediator facilitates communications, promotes understanding, focuses the parties on their interests, and seeks creative problem to enable the parties to reach their own agreement.
In the area of family law mediation, the family law attorney/mediator may prepare all of the requisite court forms and draft the agreements between the parties. If necessary, accountants, appraisers, child development specialists and other experts may be involved as needed to assist the parties in making decisions.
The Accountants Role in a Marital Dissolution
For decades the legal community has relied on the abilities of accountants to assist them in understanding and analyzing financial issues related to legal proceedings. In divorce proceedings these accountants, known as forensic accountants, have specialized in preparing documents and reports for parties going through marital dissolutions including the following:
- Cash Available Reports – used to assist the parties in determining spousal and child support;
- Marital Standard of Living Reports – used to determine personal living expenses during marriage to assist the parties in determining spousal support;
- Business and Professional Practice Valuations – used to determine the value of the business, including goodwill, if any, for which one or both of the parties hold an ownership interest to assist the parties in property division;
- Community/Separate Property Balance Sheets – used to detail all of the parties’ separate and community assets, liabilities, as well as reimbursement claims to assist the parties in dividing assets as well as liabilities and determining an equalization payment in a property division;
- Asset Tracing – used to support one or both of the parties’ separate property asset rights or claims;
- Separate Property Analysis – used to support one or both of the parties’ separate property claims which may include inheritance proceeds, retirement accounts and/or real property held prior to the date of marriage; and,
- Credits and Reimbursements – used to determine one or both of the parties’ claims including use of community assets post separation, misappropriations and shared community expenses paid by one party post separation.
Forensic accountants have historically assisted lawyers and parties with these reports through litigation. However, in about 1992, Stu Webb, Attorney at Law, thought there must be a better way and hence, the collaborative law process began. Through transparent full disclosure and an honest approach to addressing the issues, the parties resolve their marital dissolution in a more efficient and cooperative process. This results, on most occasions, in cost savings while each party learns how to work with his or her spouse in a respectful manner, a byproduct of which also benefits the parties’ children. With combined experience of over 60 years in the marital dissolution arena, the forensic accountants, i.e. financial professionals, at LAWCDP help guide you through the financial process in a marital dissolution, whether through collaboration or mediation, in the most efficient manner possible, in a non-adversarial setting, without going to court.
The Mental Health Professionals
The Los Angeles Westside Collaborative Divorce Professionals has an impressive roster of mental health professionals including some of the most respected and experienced psychologists and social workers with backgrounds in psychotherapy, custody evaluations, custody mediation and other divorce-related services. They each maintain their own independent practices and bring their expertise to the collaborative experience for those who are divorcing.
The roles they play include:
- The Divorce Coach
The Divorce Coach focuses on helping the client prepare for meetings, improve communication with the divorcing spouse, and reduce the emotional intensity of the process. Although the divorce coach uses therapeutic skills and knowledge, this is not therapy. The Divorce Coach helps deal with the emotional issues that affect the practical decisions that people must make going through their divorce. Coaches can assist in the transition to co-parenting as well as developing a parenting plan.
- The Child Specialist
The Child Specialist helps parents understand the impact of the divorce on children, and may act as a spokesperson for younger children. By staying focused on the developmental needs of children, this expert assists the parents, attorneys and the coaches to make the children a priority during their divorce process. The Child Specialist helps assess the children’s needs, speaks to other professionals who may be involved with the children, and takes this essential information back to the coaches and attorneys.