“Family Effect” of the Collaborative Process

As an attorney, I am naturally inclined to hyper-focus on the content being discussed in Collaborative full team meetings. While numbers and details are certainly important, divorce’s emotional undercurrent can never be ignored. Thankfully in the Collaborative Process we can rely on our Mental Health Facilitator to navigate those emotional waters. After my first few Collaborative cases, I found myself gravitating towards the context of those meetings. How was my client responding to the group? To the information presented? To my surprise, the Collaborative Process was having what I will call a “Family Effect” or group effect that impacted each of my clients differently.

Unconsciously, we tend to behave differently in group settings. My Mental Health Professional friends can delve deeper into the psychology. However, as an attorney, I am always concerned about how my client is receiving and responding to information during the team meetings. Let me share a few examples of how the Collaborative Process’s “Family Effect” has impacted a few of my clients differently.


In one case, my client would be in a full team meeting and either the Financial Neutral or Mental Health Facilitator would be explaining something and my client would nod and say, “yes, yes, yes.” Once I was able to speak to my client alone, they would adamantly say, “no, no, no.” The “Family Effect” on that client was that they were not comfortable speaking up in a room full of people. Maybe they were afraid to share what they thought because of the influence of all the professionals in the room? Could it have been because they didn’t want to slow down the process? Maybe they just weren’t comfortable speaking up for themselves? Maybe they needed more time to process the information? Whatever the reason, I had identified my client as someone who was unable to speak up for themselves in the presence of the full team. That context helped me tailor the Collaborative Process to that client specifically. During the professionals-only de-brief, I disclosed that my client was having difficulty sharing information in a group setting. In the subsequent full team meetings, we were intentional about taking frequent, short breaks, to allow time for me to check in with my client, and make sure my client’s voice was genuinely being voiced and heard. Turns out, this was exactly what that client needed and we began to make significant progress thereafter. I appreciated that the professional team was able to identify and adapt to this client’s specific needs so quickly.


In comparison to my Yes-Yes-No Client, my Yes-Yes-Yes Client had a very different response in a full-team setting. This client was someone who felt the need to say yes to all offers presented, to the point they would say yes against their own interest, and yes to just about everything. Sometimes it felt as if they were trying to impress the room, by displaying how generous they could be, as if to state, “See, I’m a good person.” Once again, I pulled the client aside privately to check-in. I would make sure they understood what they were potentially agreeing to, and without fail, they would say please stop me from saying yes. The client truly couldn’t help themselves; it was their impulsive response to the “Family Effect.” Knowing that, the professional team slowed down the conversation, emphasized presenting options without pressing for an immediate response, and tasked the client with considering those options as homework, outside of the team’s presence. Voila! That solution allowed my client additional time to think through decisions and avoid their knee-jerk reaction of saying yes to everything.

Best Behavior Client

Sometimes the “Family Effect” of having multiple professionals in a room can influence clients to put on their best behavior during meetings. As the saying goes, in divorce you find good people at their worst. You don’t get married with divorce in mind. Divorce can bring out the worst sides of ourselves. So, the “Family Effect” can help effectively navigate difficult conversations when clients are presenting their best-behavior response. Just like all the other client characterizations, this is not static, and clients can move from one response to another as the Collaborative Process evolves and adapts to each client’s needs.

It has been instrumental in my practice to decipher how my client responds in the full-team meeting version of themselves, versus how they present themselves in my attorney-client one-on-ones. If the “Family Effect” is revealing any sort of discrepancy in responses from your client, bring it to the professionals during the de-brief, as the process can always be tailored to uniquely account for each person’s response.

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