Introduction to IACP Client Survey
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) has been conducting a survey which studies clients’ experiences with collaborative divorce and collaborative family law in general. Collaborative divorce is a process by which parties, instead of going to court to litigate, agree to a private framework that lends itself to developing more creative options for financial, child custody, and other family issues. Most times, a neutral mental health professional/communication coach and a neutral financial professional are engaged to facilitate the process.
These findings were compiled in the Spring 2012 edition of The Collaborative Review: The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“What Clients Say About Their Experience in the Collaborative Process” by Linda Wray, J.D.).
About the Surveyed Collaborative Clients
Ninety-eight participants of the collaborative process responded to the survey between 2007 to 2010. The participants were split pretty evenly between men and women. The majority of respondents were between the ages of 40-59, were married for 16 years or more, and used the process in dissolving their first marriage. The majority of respondents had children. Most respondents had unsuccessfully attempted marital or couples counseling prior to engaging in the collaborative process.
Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed settled their case via the collaborative process.
Satisfaction with the Collaborative Process and Its Outcome
Clients were asked their level of satisfaction on a variety of issues surrounding the outcome of their cases, including issues relating to their relationship with their children, relationship with their former spouse, co-parenting matters, development of post-divorce communication and parenting skills, and the terms of their settlement. About three-quarters of clients were extremely or somewhat satisfied to the general outcome of their case, compared to 13% who were extremely or somewhat dissatisfied.
Clients were most satisfied with the outcome of the collaborative process on issues dealing with their children. Clients felt that the interests and emotional well-being of their children were served well in the process. Clients were also satisfied with their improved co-parenting skills.
Clients responded that they were somewhat satisfied to extremely satisfied with the following features of their collaborative process:
- Meetings scheduled to accommodate clients’ schedules (as opposed to hearings accommodating the Court’s schedule);
- Respectfulness of the collaborative process;
- How free clients felt to express themselves in their case; and
- The opportunity to address concerns directly with the other participant (as opposed to communicating solely through attorneys, mediators, or court motions).
Clients were neutral to somewhat satisfied on the following features of their collaborative case:
- How well the process focused on concerns important to the client;
- Restructuring of their family in a constructive way;
- The degree of control the client had over the process;
- Maintaining a constructive/healthy relationship with their spouse;
- The minimization of stress; and
- The efficiency with which the client’s case was handled.
Almost three-quarters of clients stated that they would definitely or probably refer a person to the collaborative process, as opposed to 10% of clients who reported that they definitely would not or were unlikely to refer.
Collaborative clients were somewhat to extremely satisfied with their own attorneys during the process for the following actions:
- Explaining matters so that the client understood what was happening at each stage of the case;
- Identifying goals, interests, needs, and concerns;
- Developing options;
- Assessing how options met goals, interests, needs, and concerns;
- Maintaining respect for the client personally and for his or her viewpoint;
- Listening; and
- Assisting the client with determining which options were most acceptable to both parties.
Clients tended to be more satisfied with their attorney, and the collaborative process in general, if a financial professional or mental heal professional were involved in the process.
Collaborative Mental Health Professionals
Collaborative clients were somewhat or extremely satisfied with the following actions of their neutral mental health professional:
- Managing communication between all team members (including clients and attorneys);
- Helping manage emotions;
- Creative problem-solving;
- Managing conflict;
- Maintaining neutrality;
- Helping develop a parenting plan;
- Helping develop co-parenting skills;
- Providing children a voice; and
- Assisting the clients with improving communication.
Collaborative Financial Professional
Clients were somewhat or extremely satisfied with the following actions of their financial professional:
- Explaining financial matters so that the client understood what was happening at each stage of the process;
- Identifying financial goals, interests, needs, and concerns;
- Assisting with gathering financial information;
- Assisting with developing financial options;
- Assisting with determining which financial options were most acceptable to both parties.
As you can see by these findings, the commitment to the collaborative process brings with it the possibility of individually-tailored settlement options for your families’ unique needs. The inclusion of neutral financial and mental health professionals allows the development of a post-divorce family plan that maximizes family assets and minimizes the destructive impact divorce can have on children. Finally, unlike with many traditional family law cases, participants report that they are generally satisfied with the process and the outcome.
If you have questions regarding collaborative divorce and you wish to speak with a trained Collaborative Attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our consultation form.
Attorney Adam B. Cordover is on the Board of Directors of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.