An important step in every collaborative divorce is developing settlement options that meet each person’s goals and interests. To create settlement options, the collaborative team and clients jointly list areas of agreement and disagreement. Next, they strive to generate settlement options that fall within the zone of agreement. Some of the issues that require settlement options include:
- Creating a parenting plan
- Allocating financial assets
- Deciding who will be responsible for family debts
- Choosing where the children will live
- Who pays child support.
It helps to be creative when developing options; a good way to be creative is to brainstorm with the team and clients.
Brainstorming. Brainstorming was developed by Alex Osborn to improve advertising. He formed a group, told them to defer critical judgment, and asked the members to generate as many new ideas as possible to solve a single goal. He welcomed unusual concepts and old ideas combined in new ways. Osborn believed the group should concentrate on a single topic rather than brainstorm about multiple tasks at one time. A particularly effective brainstorming technique for collaborative law is idea–mapping. It begins in a relaxed atmosphere with a defined topic; each team member and client contributes his or her ideas, which are written on a single map. Team members are encouraged to produce new options and search for ways to combine old ideas.
Apprehension (fear of criticism) and blocking (waiting to offer your idea because someone else is speaking) may interfere with brainstorming. However, these problems can be minimized by following a few simple rules. For example, instructing everyone in the group to suspend criticism until after the brainstorming session is finished and the options have been generated will generally produce more ideas. Second, encouraging individuals to write down their ideas so they won’t forget them while someone else is speaking preserves most ideas. Making sure the members feel safe and asking them to continue thinking about options outside the group can also produce more constructive ideas. Finally, encouraging members to help each other develop and extend options rather than trying to show how smart they are facilitates effective option development.
Once the team and clients have developed settlement options for each divorce issue, the next step is to evaluate each option to determine whether it meets important goals of both parties. If the option meets that criterion, the team and clients will agree to keep it as a settlement option. If it doesn’t, the team and clients will place it in an alternate stack as an option to use as a trade-off against another option that meets a goal of the other side. Finally, when all the options have been developed and evaluated, the team and parties will review the options that meet both clients needs and begin the process of settlement negotiation. Sometimes during negotiation, an impasse is reached and the team and clients need to develop new options to resolve the impasse.