Archive for October, 2014

Managing Expectations

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the collaborative divorce process is that it is client driven.  That means that the clients identify what is most important to them at the beginning of the process and the focus of the team throughout the process is to try to find a solution that honors those interests and goals that the family has identified.  However, the role of the team members is also to keep the process on track.  As team members we will often times have a “debrief” at the conclusion of a case to examine what the team did well, and what areas there are for improvement.  The team debrief is a way for us as practitioners to reflect on the process with the benefit of hindsight and to see where we can learn and perhaps improve, for the next case.

At a recent debrief, our team focused on the length of time it took to resolve a case.  At the outset, the family had set a timetable for resolution that the team ultimately was unable to meet.  The team realized, during our debrief, that the family had an unrealistic expectation of the length of time this particular case was likely to take.  We as team members, and experienced practitioners should have modified the timetable at the outset, rather than have it take longer than anticipated at the end.  Sometimes we can’t always predict how a case will evolve, but as a team we should be constantly aware of the time that the case is taking, and have some discussion of realistic timeframes if the family is expecting a time table that may not be feasible.  Ultimately the parties will be most satisfied with the outcome if they are aware of the process and have input into any changes that are necessary along the way.  Using the roadmap may be a good start to managing everyone’s expectations.

Attorney Schirch

Attorney Schirch

Attorney Schirch is a collaborative divorce lawyer with Shanelaris & Schirch, PLLC in Nashua, N.H.


Liz Ferris Speaks at CLANH Annual Meeting About Strategies for Growing Your Collaborative Practice

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Top Ten Strategies for Growing your Collaborative Practice


1.      Master the initial client consultation.

2.      Attend ongoing training and practice group meetings to improve skills and competence.

Client focus:

3.      Focus on the client experience and exceptional client value.  (Seek client feedback)


4.      Develop and maintain an effective web site and blog to educate and inform clients on the value of Collaborative Practice. Post informative podcasts (attached is a podcast on describing collaborative practice) and the IACP video on your website


5.      Update your website bio and all online profiles, including Avvo and LinkedIn to include the value you provide clients versus a description of “what you do”.


6.      Maintain visibility with the public through your LinkedIn profile, articles, blogs and press releases.


Go to LinkedIn and view profiles for Janis Pritchard, Jason Sposeep and Robert Merlin


7.      Build and maintain a strong professional network of lawyers, mental health , financial and business professionals.

8.      Contribute and actively participate in the your collaborative community.


9.      Clarify your vision for your practice. What do you want to be known for? What problems do you excel at solving? Who are your best clients? Use your vision as an inspiration for scheduling the time to market your collaborative practice and attend practice group meetings and ongoing trainings. (See attached worksheet )

10.     Make a commitment and be accountable for executing your plan.


Timing of Divorce in Preparation for College

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

As couples with teenage children are considering divorce,  one of the things to think about is the timing of the divorce.  We have always considered the timing of divorce as this impacts the parties’ ability to file a joint income tax return.  However, I had never considered how this might impact their children’s ability to get financial aid.  I recently came across a post from Robert Bordett, a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in Georgia, in which he shares some information he learned about the timing of divorce and its impact on financial aid.

A collaborative divorce process allows the family to consider all factors associated with their divorce, including the timing.  As Mr. Bordett explains, the timing of the divorce can be crucial to the child’s ability to get financial aid.  This is because the income that is considered on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form is the parent’s income for the year prior to the start of college.  If a couple’s divorce is final in January of 2015 and the child starts college in September of 2015, the information from the joint tax return must be used for the FAFSA form.  If the divorce is final in December of 2014, then the information from the primary residential parent’s tax return can be used instead.  If the primary residential parent is the lower wage earner, this can make a significant difference on the amount of financial aid the child receives.

This is just one of many reasons that the Collaborative divorce process makes sense.  It provides the necessary information and flexibility to enable parties to consider things like the timing of their divorce.

Attorney McKay

Attorney McKay

Attorney McKay is a collaborative divorce lawyer with the Law Offices of Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC in Londonderry and N. Woodstock, N.H. www,