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Collaborative Case Study #1 — Jim and Jane

CP(NSW) is pleased to present the first of our Collaborative Case Studies. The theory of Collaborative Practice is amazing. But does that translate to successful application in real life situations? In this series we highlight real collaborations (with names and identifying details changed to preserve anonymity). This first case study demonstrates how Collaborative Practice can be tailored to accommodate each family’s particular circumstances and can support parties when there is complexity around issues such as mental health and power imbalances.

Jim and Jane’s Story

Married for 30 years, with 5 adult children (3 still living at home), Jim and Jane met whilst attending university and working. The matter was resolved after five, 5-way meetings, with the assistance of collaborative lawyers and a coach.

Jim was an accountant and Jane was a teacher. Both were still working. Jane had substance abuse issues, and was functional for the majority of the time, but had spent many periods in rehab over the years. Jane was supported by her workplace and family. The children were all affected by their mother’s substance abuse, having returned home to find her incapacitated throughout their childhood on many occasions. Jim was still very committed to Jane and loved her, but was at breaking point, as the two younger children were struggling with mental health issues and he blamed himself for not tackling Jane’s issues earlier. At the time of collaboration Jane had moved out and was seeing a new partner.

  • Jane would not admit to her substance use issues, so it was agreed to not discuss it in the five-way meetings. Jane met regularly with a clinical psychologist to ensure she was well supported throughout the process.
  • There was a potential capacity issue identified, so Jane’s lawyer had to seek assistance from a mental health practitioner, to ensure Jane had the capacity to make clear headed, informed decisions.
  • There was a potential power imbalance with financial knowledge, however Jim had insight into this and prepared an extremely detailed financial disclosure in duplicate for both lawyers. Jane was encouraged to seek independent financial advice and modelling which she did, and Jim was very supportive.
  • The parties’ eldest daughter was due to get married and all of the children were having some difficulties with the fear that their mother may become incapacitated and embarrass them.
  • The parties were very sad, and the meetings were very emotionally draining. The Coach and lawyers worked hard to prepare the clients for the five-way meetings and to manage the emotional dynamics in the room.