Preparing for Your Visit
During your first meeting with a Collaborative professional you want to accomplish several things:
• Give the professional an overview of the facts of your case
• Receive an overview of how Colorado divorce law will apply to those facts
• Get a feel for the professional’s personality and communication style
If you take some time to prepare for this first meeting, you will find that more of your goals will be reached. While none of these steps are necessary for that first meeting, they can assist you in getting more accomplished.
Create a List of Assets and Liabilities
Prepare a simple list of your assets and liabilities. You can use the forms JDF 1111 and JDF 1111ss at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=108 as a guide. Be sure to identify any assets that were inherited, received as gifts, or owned before marriage, and any liabilities that pre-date the marriage.
Create a Budget for Living Expenses
It will be helpful if you can start putting together a list of what it costs you to live each month. The JDF 1111 form can be used as a guide. Although this information probably will not be requested by the Collaborative team in your case until you get farther down the road toward settlement, knowing how much money you need each month early on will help you set realistic goals and expectations.
Have an Idea about what is Important to You
One of the first things that will happen after you decide to pursue a divorce using the Collaborative Law model is that you will be asked to create a list of your “interests.” Interests are the things that are important to you that you want to build into the final agreement. Interests differ from “positions,” in that interests look at what is behind what you say you want.
A client who says, “I want to stay in the house,” for example, is expressing a position. Collaborative professionals will help you develop a list of interests by asking, “What do you get if you have the house?” The client might have any number of interests underlying that position. Some of them might include: stability for the children; proximity to work; desirable school district; safe, familiar environment; or reliable investment. While “staying in the house” might satisfy those interests, many of them can also be satisfied in other ways – some might even be better than the original thought of “staying in the house.”
Focusing on interests rather than positions helps the clients and the team be creative as they search for solutions that work for everyone involved. In the Collaborative Law process, your interests and your spouse’s interests will be your guides in crafting a settlement. Your case will go quicker and easier if you give some thought about what is important to you from the very beginning of your case.
Create a List of Concerns about Children
If you have children, make notes about concerns you have about them with regard to the transition from one household to two households. Does a child have special educational or medical needs? Are there mental health issues that need to be addressed? How much information do the children have about the impending divorce?
The Internet is a great place to find information about Colorado divorce. (Link to Colorado Divorce Process) There are also numerous books about Collaborative divorce and litigated divorces. Taking some time to educate yourself before you see a Collaborative professional will allow you to put the information you get at the meeting in context and make it easier to digest.
Write Down Your Questions
Most people are not accustomed to meeting with lawyers and other professionals involved in the Collaborative process. The experience can be intimidating and anxiety-producing. Create a list of questions and take it with you so you will be sure to get the answers you need in order to make an informed decision about how to move forward. Some topics might include:
• Application of equitable distribution laws to your assets and liabilities
• What to expect by way of a schedule for the children
• Finances during the divorce process
• What to expect regarding finances after the divorce
• Continuation of health insurance
• How to handle a spouse who is making threats
• How to talk to children about divorce
• What the Collaborative Law process looks like
• What to expect with regard to professionals’ fees
• Reasonable length of time to expect the process to take