Interview with Sue Cook, Owner of Family Therapy and Life Coaching Group

We all know about lawyers being involved in the divorce process, but what about other professionals? Family professionals are often used in the collaborative practice process and may assist parties through their separation, both inside and outside of Court. Livia Jozsa, lawyer with Galbraith Family Law in Barrie sits down with Sue Cook to ask her about her work as a family professional/family therapist and how she can help both lawyers and clients through the separation process.

Sue also answers some of our questions about how family professionals can be helpful in the separation process and what she does. For those wanting to know more about “collaborative law” and the process of collaborative law, we encourage you to visit the Collaborative Practice Simcoe County website at: https://www.collaborativepracticesimcoecounty.com/ You can learn about the different processes for separation here:https://www.galbraithfamilylaw.com/divorce-options/

Livia: Can you give us a brief snapshot of what you do as a family professional working in collaborative law?

Sue:  A family professional can have up to three roles; the first role would be to help prepare the individual spouses for negotiation. This would include making sure that the clients are at the right emotional stage, that they have the proper communication tools, and that they develop coping mechanisms to provide them with support throughout the process.

The second role is to develop the parenting plan. This entails working with each party individually, but also seeing them together as the parents, and helping them come to an agreement on a plan that works best for their family.

Finally, the third role is the case management; however, this is not always conducted by the family professional, it can be undertaken by another neutral party, such as a financial advisor. Case management involves measuring the pace of the process, setting and meeting target dates and timelines, and identifying any blocks that may arise throughout the process.

Livia: Is there a specific timeline that people usually try to finish a collaborative case within?

Sue: It really varies. I know that clients genuinely want things to be done in a timely, cost-efficient manner that brings them closure at the end of the process. However, it really does vary depending upon how ready they are. If it is a complex case, the timeline could be prolonged. The efficiency of the professional team can also play a factor – if the team is really working together well and on top of the caseload, it can decrease the timeline. Currently, I have one case that I think will be done in about three months and then I have another case that has been going on for a year and a half.

Livia: How do you work with other professionals in collaborative law?

Sue: I think one of the most important things for people to know is that the family professionals, lawyers, and financial advisors actually connect with and learn from each other throughout the process. I think you really need to build trust in the team and with each other. You need to understand the personality types of the team, which is something that the family professionals are trained in. So ultimately, you are not just looking at the clients and the dynamic within the couple, but also, the dynamic within the team. We must consider how we can all bring our strengths and move forward in a way that works efficiently for the clients. The team needs to be orchestrated and managed in a way that flows well to exude a sense of trust and safety to allow us to have difficult conversations amongst ourselves in order to facilitate the growth and efficiency of the team.

Livia: Do you offer parenting courses or counseling?

Sue: There are a couple parenting coach options available:

We offer parent coaching services where we are coaching or counselling one parent. This service is suitable if a parent wants to improve their parenting skills. Usually, what that entails is meeting with the parent, observing the parent with their child, providing them with feedback on their parenting, and offering suggestions of things they might be able to do to help with their parenting.

We also do parenting coaching to help the parent to build rapport and relationships with other professionals that are in their child’s life, such as teachers and doctors. We can also help them learn how to communicate effectively with the other parent.

Livia: Would you go into the parent’s home as well and observe them?

Sue: Yes, in the cases where we have done parenting coaching for the one parent, I’ve gone into the home, or in an outside setting, to observe the parent with their child.

By repeatedly observing the parents in the home setting then meeting with them in session individually, we can speak to whether they are actually teachable. And even if the strategies we are asking them to implement are minimal, because they are a really good parent, it just allows us to speak to whether or not they actualize the change.

Livia: That’s great. Because there are so many parents who genuinely want to be involved in their children’s lives, but may lack the skills or not know how to do so, as a separated parent. Do you coach parents on how to tell their children about separation?

Sue: Yes, and quite honestly, I am so excited when people come in and ask me how to do initiate that conversation because it’s such a good foundation for the children. If the parents come to me and are coached on how to tell their children about their separation, that conversation can help those children to transition and to have a solid relationship with both parents. It can make a huge difference for the children.

Livia: Thank you very much for speaking with us and sharing your thoughts, Sue.

For more information on the collaborative divorce process and how it can benefit you, please book a consultation with Livia. Livia will passionately represent you in your case while helping you develop effective strategies to overcome your divorce or separation.

Livia Jozsa

Livia loves assisting clients with their issues, no matter how complex or tumultuous it may be. Livia advocates for her clients passionately and forcefully as needed, but prefers a collaborative approach wherever possible. She does not believe in argument for the sake of argument, but only as a means to resolving conflict within families. Livia is professionally trained in collaborative law. Livia attended Queen’s Law School in Kingston, Ontario and was called to the bar in 2013. She was awarded the Law Foundation of Ontario’s “Community Commitment Award” for extensive commitment to community service as she was involved in many student organizations and legal clinics where she took leadership roles. Livia has appeared in Superior Court in Barrie, Bracebridge and Peterborough and the surrounding areas.