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Collaborative Case Study #2 — Beth and Peter

This is the second in our series of Collaborative Case Studies.  Case Study #2 was an actual, somewhat challenging collaboration that demonstrated that the collaborative process was an effective and appropriate forum for this family, which held them whilst they navigated mental health issues and the emotional toll it took on the whole family. It also showed how the team worked together to overcome the various hurdles which presented themselves and how they supported each other through the process.

The names and identifying details of the parties have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Beth and Peter’s Story

Peter has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Two years ago, he had a significant episode which saw him hospitalised and which signalled the end of the marriage. The parties have three children, two daughters aged 21 and 19 and a son who was 14 at the time of the collaborative process. The property pool was complicated and comprised of a house worth approximately $4,000,000, superannuation and shares worth approximately $900,000 and it was disclosed that Peter had loaned his brother $1,000,000 of joint marital funds, which was unknown to Beth.

Peter’s mental health problems emerged around 10 years prior, when he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He had panic attacks and could no longer work in his high-pressure job, so he left and managed his investments. During the ensuing years, his moods fluctuated, and he was very verbally aggressive to the family until he finally had a major event leading to his diagnosis of major depressive disorder/OCD and subsequent hospitalisation.

  • Peter’s ongoing behaviour had given Beth anxiety and PTSD and affected the children’s relationship with him to the point that his son did not want to spend any time with him.
  • Peter blamed Beth for turning the children away from him and needed a lot of assistance from the coach to reflect on his own behaviour and how he might rebuild trust and a stronger connection with his children.
  • After the 2nd 5-way meeting, Peter’s mental health deteriorated again, and the process had to be put on hold for a number of months. When he reconnected, the lawyers and coach agreed that he would need to provide a medical certificate from his psychiatrist that he was competent to participate in the process.
  • The loan made to Peter’s brother was unsecured and Beth was very nervous about having any ongoing liability or that it would ever be repaid. Peter’s lawyer worked with Peter and his brother to have a new loan agreement drawn up with security included, which gave Beth enough comfort to agree to include the liability as joint.
  • Following 5, 5-way meetings and numerous 3-way Parenting meetings, this matter settled, and the parties were very grateful for the assistance the whole team provided them and their family and thanked everyone for their help to maintain a respectful relationship with each other.