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 and it provides many benefits.
What Is Collaborative Law?
In short, Collaborative Law offers the opportunity to take a divorce or family law case out of the traditional litigation model that has been used for years, to gain control over the outcome, and to resolve differences with the dignity and privacy that is often lost in the traditional approach to family law litigation.
Why Choose 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.
- Collaborative divorce has a high rate of success. 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.
How Coker, Robb & Cannon Handles Collaborative Cases
Normally, if, after a consultation with one of our attorneys, a party wants to file for divorce and attempt to pursue it collaboratively, we will prepare and file a Petition for Divorce.
Normally, we mention in our Petition that the party is interested in using Collaborative Law and we attempt to make the Petition as non-confrontational as possible. We usually send that Petition, along with information about Collaborative Law, to the other party and hold off on having that party served. The idea is to encourage the other party to learn about the process and seek out a collaboratively trained lawyer, which is normally necessary if the case is going to proceed collaboratively.
Next, assuming that the parties both hire collaborative lawyers and agree to explore using Collaborative Law, the lawyers and clients meet to review and, if acceptable, enter into a Collaborative Law Agreement.
This agreement sets out the terms and conditions governing the process, including big things like an agreement not to seek or threaten to seek Court intervention without formally leaving the process and an agreement that, should the parties not be able to settle their differences collaboratively, the collaborative attorneys will withdraw and the parties will be required to hire new litigation attorneys for the case.
Regarding this last part, most collaborative lawyers can and do handle litigation matters; however, the general consensus is that collaborative attorneys should not represent their client against the other party in litigation. There are a number of reasons for this, but, in my opinion, the most important one is that it assures that everyone is invested in the process and working toward a successful collaborative conclusion to the case – after all, if the process is unsuccessful, the attorneys are out of a job!
Often at this first meeting and subsequent meetings, the parties elect to have a financial professional (like a CPA) and a communications coach present to assist in the process. In Texas, we almost exclusively use this “team model” collaborative approach and often find that it results in a better outcome for the parties and an actual overall cost savings. I’ll discuss the collaborative team in future posts.
Finally, as the process proceeds, the parties will exchange full and complete information, develop options for resolving their differences, and, hopefully, reach agreements. At that point, the attorneys will work on the Final Decree of Divorce and other closing documents. Once the parties have reviewed, revised, and signed these documents, they are ready to be presented to the Court. Under Texas law, once the Court is initially notified that the parties have elected to use Collaborative Law to resolve their divorce case, the Court has to give the parties time to work on the case.
Work with a Proven Collaborative Divorce Attorney in Denton, TX
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 contact a Denton divorce lawyer at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers to learn more about the options that will best suit your particular case. We can be reached at (940) 293-2313.