I represented clients in the Collaborative Process where counsel for the other spouse not only advocated for their client but positioned themselves to such a degree movement forward ground to a halt. Several cases with this occurrence not only caused a visceral reaction by me, and was destructive to the cases, it was difficult for me to navigate representation on behalf of my clients. I had the good fortune of sitting on the Standards and Ethics Committee of IACP and to learn from the drafters of the IACP Standards and Ethics. I memorized Section 3.2 as a result of my committee work and my experience with these cases.
3.2 Advocacy in the Collaborative Process.
A. A Collaborative Professional will respect each client’s self-determination, recognizing that ultimately the clients are responsible for making the decisions that resolve their issues.
B. A Collaborative Professional will assist the client(s) in establishing realistic expectations in the Collaborative Process.
C. When the matter relates to the care and support of children, elders or other dependents, a Collaborative Professional will encourage the client(s) to consider the impact of decisions on the dependents.
D. A Collaborative Professional will consider the impact that the professional’s experiences, values, opinions, beliefs, and behaviors will have on the Collaborative matter.
E. A Collaborative Professional will avoid contributing to interpersonal conflict of the clients, including when identifying and discussing the clients’ interests, issues, and concerns.
When does teamwork stop working because a Collaborative Professional’s respect for his or her own client’s self-determination is a barrier for the other client? How does the team recognize what is a realistic expectation for one client and destructive to the other? How does the team help the disruption avoid interpersonal conflict between the clients? In two of the cases the mental health neutral managed to maintain enough control of all involved to move the case to conclusion. In the third case, no amount of effort on the part of the mental health and financial neutrals could work around the positionality of the clients, one of them driven by the conduct of a lawyer and the other spouse. That case terminated.
Was it a violation of the Standards and Ethics early on when the attorney in the third case advocated so strongly on behalf of his client it left no where to go for the rest of the team? Was the positioning so hardcore it drove the case to termination? In hindsight the case should never have been Collaborative. After months of negotiating the team was finally moving toward real teamwork but the clients were so entrenched, we could no longer work within the Collaborative Process. Had I paid more attention to the 3.2 I might have called the other attorney and had a conversation about the aspirations of 3.2 and suggested we conform our conduct to the Standards and Ethics. In the future, if I find myself in the same position, I will be mindful we are guided by principals and ethics to which we must repeatedly return to the Standards and Ethics for FACP and IACP if we are going to be the best version of our Collaborative selves. I hope we all memorize the FACP and IACP Standards and Ethics and remember to conduct our cases to these standards every time.