Traditionally, when a troubled couple sought
a therapist, the primary goal was saving the marriage. But
increasingly, new opportunities are opening for therapists who can
help bring a marriage to a (relatively) peaceful end.
And we’re not talking about simple
mediation here. In some jurisdictions, couples are required to
sit with a mediator for a session or two before they’re permitted
to go to court. Often, they’re not very motivated--only showing up
because they have to.
Collaborative divorce is different. The
first clinician we speak to in this report works with couples
who are quite motivated. They may have complicated issues--and
often a lot of money to divvy up. For them, going through the
courts would be tremendously expensive. As a result, they are
willing to participate in a collaborative process which is
merely very expensive. The second clinician has a more
middle class clientele and a short-term approach--but still
manages to bill considerably above his usual rate.
l Jann Glasser runs a
solo therapy practice in Orange County, CA, and is part of a
specialized collaborative divorce team. The structure of these
teams is similar throughout the country, but there are variations
from state to state. In California, each party has its own
attorney and therapist-coach, but they share a financial
specialist. If there are children involved, there’s also a
About 25% of Glasser’s practice is collaborative divorce, and
she always plays the role of the divorce coach. She doesn’t take
the child specialist role herself, but tells us that colleagues of
hers may alternate as coach or child specialist in different
Couples enter the collaborative divorce process in a couple of
different ways. Sometimes they’re involved in couples therapy, and
when that process breaks down the therapist refers them to a
collaborative divorce coach. In other cases, couples are
already preparing to divorce and are referred by their
Initially, says Glasser, the attorneys and coaches meet
separately with their clients. The job of the coach, she says, is
to try to short-circuit conflicts so they can agree to disagree.
"I like to use the term air traffic controller," Glasser
says. "We re-direct the process." Meeting with the full
team--attorneys, coaches, and sometimes the financial and/or child
specialists--"helps them cut to the nitty gritty," Glasser says.
In California, a community property state, there are personal
funds and real estate to split, and sometimes businesses to
How long do these cases last? "It depends on the degree of
communication and cooperation between the couple...Everyone has
the same issues in California. You’ve got to divide community
property, you’ve got to deal with support, parenting, and
time-sharing. It doesn’t necessarily relate to how much money
people have. I had one couple who had to divide up four million
dollars and they did it in two hours. They weren’t at each
"On the other hand, I finished a case in September that took us
a year. There was a business to be evaluated, and the wife was
making allegations that the husband was being sexually
inappropriate with the kids. There was nothing to it, but we
had to deal with it."
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Although Glasser does this work as part of a
group called "Collaborative Divorce Solutions Orange County" (www.cdsoc.com)--the
team members do their own billing.
Attorneys usually get a
$5,000 retainer; financial specialists, $2,500 to $5,000; and
therapist-coaches, $1,200 to $1,500. Glasser charges $150 per
hour--the same as her therapy rate. But she has colleagues
who get $200.
"It can be lucrative, depending on the case," she says. "A
short one? No, that’s not necessarily lucrative. But I had a case
that lasted a year that helped pay for my daughter’s wedding."
Glasser’s group makes a point of doing community presentations
to promote their services. They are considering an ad campaign in
Orange County magazine but haven’t designed it yet. They’re
also looking at highway billboards. "You get big exposure that
l In Milwaukee,
Darrell Hischke also does collaborative divorce with a team
approach--but he doesn’t always work with the same team. The
makeup changes from case to case, and Hischke is hired on an
individual basis by the couple. He almost always works as the
"I find that I connect better with the men," says Hischke.
"It’s not written in stone, but that’s usually the way we do it.
"They need to be able to make a decision together. I
usually tell the husband, ‘Look, when she says those things you
don’t like, you need to take a deep breath, keep calm, and respond
to her with your best foot forward--in a reasonable manner.’ The
expectation is that the other coach will talk to the wife," and do
the same job for her.
Hischke confirms that in most divorces, the big fights are
over kids and money. But there are other complications. For
example, in one recent case, one spouse thought the other drank
too much. Child safety issues were spelled out in minute detail.
Working in Milwaukee rather than super-rich Newport Beach, CA,
like Jann Glasser, Hischke charges a retainer of $500 and bills at
$125 per hour. "I figure about four hours covers it on average.
They’ll meet with me for an hour, and then we’ll have a four-way
meeting for two hours (with the other spouse and spouse’s coach).
Then I’ll talk to the attorneys to help them figure out how they
can make additional meetings go smoothly."
Hischke started training for collaborative divorce in 2002, and
found himself attending workshops with attorneys. It became the
start of an instant referral base. Hischke practices with his
wife, who is also a therapist and collaborative divorce coach.
They continue draw many of their referrals from attorneys they’ve
met at those collaborative divorce trainings.
"A couple will go to an attorney, become interested in the
process, and he’ll give them a list of coaches he’s worked with."
And his web site, www.mayfaircdc.com, is increasingly important as
Contacts: 1) Jann Glasser, 901 Dove St., Ste. 299,
Newport Beach, CA 92660-3036, (949)752-2727,
www.glasserandassociates.com; 2) Darrell Hischke, Mayfair
Collaborative Divorce Coaches, 2645 N. Mayfair Rd, #120, Wauwatosa,
WI 53226, (414)774-4288, www.mayfaircdc.com.