Road to an Amicable Divorce – Collaborative Law
This road to a less adversarial divorce is called Collaborative Law.
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.