The Boy Scout/Girl Scout Law, that is.

By Jennifer Jackson, JD and former Scoutmaster

In our sound bite society, a useful tool for collaborative practice for all of us, participants and professionals alike, might be a list of aspirational guideposts to apply to a Collaborative Divorce, creating a prenuptial agreement or resolving a civil dispute where preserving relationships is important. Steering clear of a “Ten Commandments of Collaborative Divorce”, I give you a Collaborative Credo as inspired by the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

I will do my best to be prepared.
If you are the client, you need to thoroughly prepare for your meetings, both emotionally and intellectually. You need to follow through with the tasks you’ve been given promptly and thoroughly. If you are the professional, listen carefully, pay attention to what is happening in the room, take accurate notes, review the materials and the minutes before each meeting, and you too must follow through with the tasks you’ve been given promptly and thoroughly.

I will do my best to be honest and fair.
“Fair” is often a personal perspective and not everyone can agree on what is fair. But if we are all honest during the process, not only in terms of providing information but honest about our goals and concerns, and true to our own sense of fairness, we can build the trust we need to succeed in the process.

I will do my best to be considerate and caring,
making sure everyone at the table is heard and understood.

I will do my best to be courageous and strong.
“Collaborative” does not mean putting yourself last or compromising your goals and beliefs. All participants are expected to engage fully, to speak their minds, be fully present in the meetings and to be clear about what is important to them.

I will do my best to be responsible for what I say and do.
Blaming others and not taking responsibility for your own contribution to difficulties and challenges can stand in the way of a productive collaborative process, whether you are the client or the professional.

I will do my best to respect myself and others.
Respect is the foundation of the Collaborative Divorce process. Respect for yourself is key to being “courageous and strong”. Respect for others is key to being “responsible for what I say and do”. We all need to see one another as integral parts of our collaborative team whether professional or client, and appreciate each participant’s role, as well as your own, in getting to agreement.

I will do my best to use resources wisely.
We all need to stay cognizant of – and respect the limitations of – financial resources. Not all resources are financial, however. Collaborative Divorce offers a rich array of support for clients: financial professionals, mental health professionals, educational/vocational specialists and others. These need to be chosen carefully and taken advantage of wisely as well.

I will do my best to make [my] world a better place.
For clients, particularly in a divorce, it can be through thoughtful co-parenting, preserving a durable post-separation relationship, and/or modeling dignified and respectful dispute resolution for children, friends and family. For professionals in any Collaborative case, be it divorce, probate, or prenuptial negotiations, it can be through modeling dignified and respectful dispute resolution for clients, educating them about their finances and helping them build security, and/or, in a Collaborative Divorce, guiding them toward creating a healthy post-separation family.