Collaborative Divorce: How Hiring More Professionals Can Save You Money (Part 2: Neutral Mental Health Professionals)
To read Part 1, click here.
First, let’s clear up this name – Neutral Mental Health Professional (Neutral MHP). Whenever I tell clients that we typically hire a Neutral MHP as part of the Collaborative Divorce Team, I get varying responses: “We don’t need marriage counseling.” or “I don’t need a therapist.” And my answer is “That’s great, because that’s not why the Neutral MHP is part of the Team.” The Neutral MHP provides several services, all of which help to streamline settlement discussions and therefore, create efficiency and cost-savings.
Parenting Plan Development
Unlike a traditional divorce process, the Collaborative Divorce process allows clients to sit down with the Neutral MHP to discuss various schedules and ultimately choose one that works best for their children. This is not counseling or therapy, but rather conversations managed by a Neutral who has no stake in the outcome. And this most often occurs without lawyers present, which means you are not paying two hourly fees to two lawyers to work out your parenting schedule. Rather you are paying one professional at a lower hourly rate than that of one lawyer, much less two.
Whether you have minor children or not, divorce is an emotional event in anyone’s life. And emotions can very easily cause people to spiral away from being able to make rational decisions, regardless of the attorney’s advice. The Neutral MHP has the necessary skills to help clients keep their emotions in check and prevent those emotions from taking over their decisions. How does this help clients save money? Emotional decision-making not only tends to result in decisions later regretted, but it also tends to cause settlement discussions to drag out, leading to more meetings and more legal costs. Minimizing the emotions that can impact decision-making help clients to keep their divorce process more efficient and therefore, less costly.
Future Parenting Coordination
For couples with minor children, the Neutral MHP can continue to work with the parents after the divorce as a court-appointed Parenting Coordinator (a legal position with specific responsibilities under the law). The younger your children are at the time of divorce, the more likely you are to have disagreements post-divorce that need settling or a need to change the schedule for your children. A Parenting Coordinator can help you resolve those future disagreements without going back to court. Not only is there an obvious cost savings with not having to go back to court, you are also working with someone who already knows you and your family, so you are not wasting time bringing someone else up to speed on who you are and what your history is.
In addition to the cost-savings benefits noted above, utilizing the services of a Neutral MHP adds value that is difficult to quantify on a balance sheet. Their involvement in the divorce process helps couples to maintain civility in their negotiations with one another and preserve a positive relationship. This is especially important for couples with children – because you will forever be parents together. And you just can’t put a price tag on this gift of a positive relationship that you are giving your children.
Watch for Part 3 in this series – the Child Specialist.
Rhonda Cleaves is a divorce attorney in Plano, Texas, who has been Credentialed by Collaborative Divorce Texas for her extensive training and experience with collaborative divorce cases. She represents clients in Collin, Denton, Dallas, and Tarrant Counties.