The “collaborative law concept” is still relatively new to Texas, but has established itself as a viable alternative to divorce litigation when both parties are committed to: 1. resolving the issues of the case amicably; and 2. both parties act honorably and in good faith. Instead of a typical divorce where couples battle out their disputes publicly in a courtroom, collaborative law offers a calmer alternative of dispute resolution. In other words, it offers both a “no fault” and “no fight” divorce for clients who want to avoid conflict in the divorce process.
Collaborative law is a process where all parties commit to resolving their differences fairly instead of through what can be an emotionally, and financially, expensive process of divorce trials (contested hearings)and courtroom legal wrangling. With collaborative law, the divorce is settled by agreement without going to court (or threatening to go to court).
1. The Commitment
Collaborative Law is a process whereby both parties and counsel commit themselves to resolving their differences fairly, without resort or threat of resort to the courts. The process allows the couple to work out their divorce issues by agreement, while avoiding courtroom brawls and the formal discovery process.
Collaborative Law relies on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity and professionalism geared toward the future well being of the family.
Collaborative Law engages in informal discussions and conferences to settle all issues.
Collaborative Law requires each party and each attorney to take a reasoned position on all issues. Where such positions, differ, all participants use their best efforts to create proposals that meet the fundamental needs of both parties and, if necessary, to compromise to reach a settlement of all issues.
2. Trust and Verify Approach
Your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will determine what the parties have in the way of assets and income using an informal “trust and verify” approach, rather than engaging in expensive legal procedures to obtain that information. Spouses are asked to disclose this information voluntarily and to verify it with documentation and tax returns.
3. Is the Process for You?
Would you benefit from:
a. A calmer, friendlier resolution of the issues of your divorce.
b. The possibility of friendship with your partner down the road.
c. Maintaining the best opportunity for co-parenting your children together.
d. Protecting your children from the harmful effects of litigating dispute-resolution between parents.
e. Maintaining a common circle of friends and extended family with your former spouse.
f. Keeping private your personal affairs and avoiding the details of your personal situation being available in the public court record.
g. Maintaining control of decision-making and not being forced to allow decisions about restructuring your financial and/or child-rearing arrangements to a stranger (i.e. a judge).
h. Offering creative self-styled solutions to your particular situation.
4. The Downside
The process is not for everyone, however. If you cannot commit yourself to resolving your differences fairly, (i.e. if you are determined to angrily vent and attack your spouse) this concept is not for you.
5. What Happens If A Settlement Cannot Be Reached?
If the parties are unable to reach a settlement through the collaborative process, the collaborative lawyers must, as a matter of law, withdraw from the case. The parties are free to retain trial attorneys to pursue the matter in court.
6. How Do Collaborative Lawyers Work?
Informal 4 – party meetings are held in the privacy of the collaborative lawyer’s office.
The number one goal of the meeting is the future well being of you and your family.
There is a complete, honest exchange of information.
Collaborative lawyers use creative problem-solving techniques to assist you in producing an agreement tailored to the needs of you and your family.
Your spouse and his or her attorney are treated as part of a settlement team, not as adversaries.
Both attorneys are concerned about the collaborative law process, as well as the outcome.
Your collaborative lawyers are committed to finding ways to achieve a settlement that will work best in your case.
The basic philosophy of collaborative lawyers is to focus on a settlement rather than on preparation for a trial.
Your case will be settled without going to court or the collaborative lawyers must withdraw.
7. How to Start Your Collaborative Law Process
First, we will send a letter to your spouse (or to his/her attorney, if one is already retained) suggesting that Collaborative Law be used to resolve your issues.
Second, if your spouse agrees with our recommendation, then he/she will need to retain a lawyer who has been trained in Texas Collaborative Law (WE can help with suggestions, if desired).
Third, You, your spouse, and their respective lawyers sign a collaborative agreement, make the appropriate filings with the court, which will start the process.
Fourth, You, your spouse, and their respective lawyers attend the first collaborative meeting.
The Collaborative Law concept is new to Texas but has established itself as a viable alternative to divorce litigation in certain cases where the parties are committed to resolving the process honorably and fairly, without any more fighting with one another.
Remember, the benefits of Collaborative Law include:
- AVOID COURT – Everyone can focus on a settlement without the constant threat of going to court.
- LESS COSTLY – This process is generally less time consuming and less costly than litigation.
- COOPERATIVE APPROACH – You are each supported and represented by your own lawyer, so you can confidently cooperate with your spouse in resolving your issues.
- CLIENT PARTICIPATION – You are a vital part of the settlement team: both parties and both attorneys.
- THE CLIENT IS IN CHARGE – The process is empowering, informative and is much less stressful than court because you are in control of the proceedings.
- COLLABORATIVE LAWYERS – Both parties have skilled family lawyers committed to the collaborative process so issues can be resolved fairly, without threat of court.
- IT WORKS! – The collaborative law process works when problem-solving is more important than fighting, and you both want fair solutions.