It’s no secret or mind-bending revelation that divorces can be painfully
emotional experiences. While the end result may be what is best for you
and your family, the process to get there is rarely a pleasant one. However,
there is a way to help lessen the emotional strain on you, your spouse,
and your children. The only requirement is that you and your spouse
agree to agree to compromise.
This road to a less adversarial divorce is called
Collaborative Law takes your divorce out of the courtroom entirely. Everything
that happens is between you and your spouse, and not a Judge. Therefore,
you won’t have to wait on the crowded Court docket for trial to
start. You won’t have to sit on the witness stand. Your spouse will
never be provoked during cross-examination. In other words, most of the
confrontation found in divorce is taken out of the equation. This alone
helps remove most of the stress from a divorce proceeding.
However, you can only have a Collaborative Law divorce if both you and
your spouse agree to do so. Not only that, but both of you have to be
willing to sign an agreement that confirms your commitment to try to settle
out of court. Even your attorneys will be bound by the agreement, and
they will also have to agree to disqualify themselves from future court
proceedings if the Collaborative Law process fails. These agreements solidify
to both the spouses and the attorneys that all of you are deeply committed
to working with Collaborative Law.
Collaborative Law procedures also drastically reduce the amount of paperwork
for both sides. Most negotiations are discussed face-to-face in “four-way
meetings” with the parties and their attorneys, which results in
very few letters mailed and faxed. Not to mention, think of all the extra
paper and copying expenses that are saved since the attorneys do not have
to file countless pleadings with the Court.
At these meetings, everyone remains on a first-name basis and the tone
is kept as cordial as possible. All four involved work together to find
the best solutions for the spouses and their children that everyone–including
the attorneys–can agree to. This process of the four-way meetings
helps maximize the possibility of a successful and amicable settlement
to be reached. On average, more than 85% of all Collaborative Law proceedings
are successful. While all litigated divorces are successful — you
ultimately end up divorced — the odds that both parties are happy
with the result, would have agreed with the result, or have avoided the
relationship-damaging effects of litigation are certainly less than 85%.
Once an agreement on all matters has been reached, the parties draft and
sign a document detailing the settlement, and then the document will be
filed in Court for the Judge to approve. Once the Judge approves, the
agreement becomes a legally binding order, not unlike a contract.
Since this method for divorce is so unique and specialized, only attorneys
who have received specialized training in Collaborative Law generally
represent parties in a Collaborative Law divorce.
Collaborative lawyers are trained specifically to help their clients negotiate, learn what is
realistic and what is not, and to ensure that the agreements made are
indeed best for the children. The process is further improved under the
model most commonly used in Texas, which usually incorporates other, neutral
professionals to assist with the financial and emotional, including child-related,
portions of the case.
If you believe that a Collaborative divorce is right for you, be sure to
talk to your attorney about it before you get too far into your divorce proceedings.