Your Complete Guide to Collaborative Divorce in Texas

Filing for divorce can be overwhelming. Most people considering divorce find themselves swamped with questions: Is my divorce contested or uncontested? How does property division work? What about spousal support? Child custody? How will this divorce affect my life? How can I plan for the future and still devote time to the divorce process?

Choosing the right legal method for your divorce can help you answer these questions and put together an effective strategy for tackling your divorce head-on.

To that end, filing for a collaborative divorce can help make the divorce process less stressful and enable you to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement with your soon-to-be-ex. Today, we're covering everything you need to know about filing for a collaborative divorce in Texas.

At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we're proud to offer comprehensive collaborative divorce services to clients. To learn more about how we can help you navigate your divorce, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce?

We recently wrote a blog about the various ways you can approach a divorce. In that blog we gave a brief overview of divorce alternatives like DIY divorce, mediation, and collaborative divorce, so give it a read if you're not quite sure what your options are heading into divorce.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties hire an attorney. Those attorneys then work with each other and the parties over several sessions to negotiate equitable, mutually agreed terms for the divorce. Typically, the parties discuss one divorce-related matter (property division, child custody and support, alimony, etc.) per session. However, depending on the case and how contentious a particular issue is, it could take several sessions to work through a single issue.

It's also worth noting that the parties or their attorneys can bring in other professionals as consultants during sessions. For example, while discussing property division, each attorney may bring in an accountant specializing in asset valuation to support their argument for what constitutes an equitable division of assets and liabilities. Bringing in a consultant such as an accountant can often help make sure each party has a good understanding of the value of property which can assist the parties in working towards an agreement. It’s important that both parties and their respective attorneys are on the same page when dealing with an issue prior to negotiating it so that the best effort can be made to settle that issue.

The presence of dedicated attorneys representing each of the parties differentiates collaborative divorce from other methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), like mediation, where neither party is required to have a dedicated lawyer. It also separates the collaborative divorce process from a traditional in-court divorce, which involves a judge presiding over the case.

Collaborative divorce can be a great option because it focuses on conflict de-escalation and creating mutually beneficial arrangements for divorcees while simultaneously being more legally protective than other popular methods of ADR like mediation. Additionally, collaborative divorce is almost always less expensive than litigating a divorce in-court because the parties work together towards a divorce rather than fight each other throughout the process

How Do I File for a Collaborative Divorce?

In a standard divorce, you need to file divorce papers with a court in your county of residence. The judge may then decide to proceed with the divorce in-court, or request that the parties attempt to resolve their differences through a process like mediation before continuing.

In a collaborative divorce, the parties avoid involving a court until the last stage of the divorce. If you are considering a collaborative divorce, it is important to discuss it with your spouse. After such a discussion, we suggest consulting a family law firm (like our wonderful team here at Coker, Robb & Cannon) and learning more about collaborative divorce to see if it's right for you.

If you and your spouse decide a collaborative divorce is a good option for your case, you each need to find your own collaborative divorce lawyer. Most lawyers are happy to recommend other law firms for the opposing party, so if you have a lawyer in mind, you can ask them for a reference for your spouse.

Once you and your spouse both have a lawyer, your divorce attorneys will sit down and examine the case. If they agree that a collaborative divorce is a good option, they will discuss that with you and proceed with the collaborative divorce process.

Like mediation, collaborative divorce works best when both parties are willing to negotiate in good faith. If you want to "get back" at your soon-to-be-ex, collaborative divorce probably isn't right for you. It's all about creating mutually beneficial, equitable agreements between spouses, so keep that in mind as you proceed.

Discussing the Divorce with Your Lawyer

Once you have decided to initiate the divorce process and have retained an attorney, you'll meet privately with your lawyer to discuss divorce-related processes like property division, child and spousal support, and custody. Your lawyer will help you gather all the relevant information for these processes and work with you to identify an outcome that aligns with your best interests.

During this time, your lawyer will also help you understand the timeline for your divorce and discuss various external professionals you can bring in (accountants, forensic bankers, family counselors, etc.) to increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome.

Meeting with Your Partner

As we mentioned earlier, collaborative divorces occur over a series of meetings. The collaborative divorce process relies on both parties freely and honestly providing each other with information that helps them agree on terms for the divorce. If you are unwilling to be transparent and openly share information, or you believe that your spouse would be unwilling to do so, a collaborative divorce may not be the best route for you to pursue.

How long your collaborative divorce will take and how much time you'll need to prepare depends on the specifics of your case. Your divorce attorney should be able to give you a comprehensive case strategy and an accurate timeline for your case after meeting with you and discussing the important issues.

Finalizing the Divorce

Once you and your partner agree on terms for the divorce, you'll both sign an agreement finalizing those terms. At this stage, you'll have to involve your local family law court.

A family law judge will look over the divorce agreement to ensure it's legally sound and equitable for both parties. If they approve of the divorce agreement, they'll sign it, finalizing the divorce.

You should know that, while a collaborative divorce is an excellent option for many divorcees, it's not right for everyone. If your divorce involves domestic violence or a significant power or financial imbalance between the spouses, you may wish to litigate your divorce in-court to provide each party with more legal protection. The attorneys at Coker, Robb & Cannon are also well equipped to assist you through the divorce process if your case involves one of these concerns.

At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we can help you identify the best path forward in your divorce. Once we determine what's right for you, we'll help you navigate your divorce with confidence.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.

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