I recently finished a collaborative case in which the clients did not want to hold a final meeting with the full professional team. We tried convincing them of the merits of a final meeting. Because this process is the clients’ process, we obliged their request.
In the end we got a signed agreement. But to get there, we seemed to be on a never-ending road trip with many pitstops along the way. We professionals debriefed. We asked ourselves, “Could we have done better?” If we had a formalized final meeting, could we have circulated a completed agreement faster? By outlining the tasks to be completed post-judgment, might we have better set the clients up for success after divorce?
Why wouldn’t clients want to complete the collaborative process as their team of respected and seasoned professionals have laid out for them? What can we professionals do to get the clients to “drink the Kool-Aid” of the full process and its benefits, from start to finish? Should we instill the importance of going through the full process, including a final meeting, from the first consultations? Should we simply schedule final meetings a forgone conclusion, with no if, ands, or buts?
Is it the cost?
Maybe, having been through multiple meetings, clients feel a final meeting will be too expensive. How can we professionals explain to clients, with back and forth emails and calls among the professionals, rather than the full team’s sitting down together and getting across the finish line, may cost the clients more? Often this is their first time going through a divorce. We must educate and, exercising our professional judgment, guide the clients to concluding the process in a way we believe will likely be most productive, efficient, and cost-effective for them.
Is it emotions?
Maybe the clients didn’t want to sit together at a final meeting. They may be plagued by the inevitable emotions and stark reality of ending their marriage. What can we do as professionals to reduce this emotional component in an emotional process? Being sensitive to these emotions and developing a strategy with the neutral collaborative facilitator in managing them may be invaluable for the couple.
In the End.
All of these things are important to think about and they all play a role, in some part, as to a client’s hesitancy in wanting a final meeting. It is important for us as the professional team to be strong in what we feel is the best and most effective path forward for the clients. It is the clients’ process, but don’t forget that they come to us for guidance on things on which we have experience. My experiences in the Collaborative Process have reinforced that a final meeting provides proper closure and helps clients complete the process effectively.