Collaborative Family Law offers an innovative, alternative approach to divorce litigation. House Bill 1363, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001, incorporated the Collaborative Law Model into the Texas Family Code. Collaborative Divorce offers an alternative process for this major life transition.
Our attorneys are trained and experienced collaborative family law practitioners. They can suggest other counsel for spouses — divorce attorneys who are also trained in the Collaborative Law approach.
The parties agree at the outset how and from which source the legal fees and other expenses of the divorce will be paid. While fees for a collaborative divorce may be similar to those of a contested divorce, the money is spent crafting a creative, tailored agreement for the family, instead of being spent on burdensome discovery, interim hearings, and legal maneuvering.
In the event the parties fail to settle their issues through the Collaborative Law process and mediation, the collaborative lawyers must withdraw, and new trial counsel must be retained by each party. This component encourages parties to remain in the process. We work hard to help parties decide if Collaborative Law is right for them prior to proceeding collaboratively.
The Collaborative Process
If you and your spouse choose to pursue a Collaborative Law divorce, you will each have your own attorney. The parties and the attorneys commit to working towards an amicable settlement without going to Court.
The Collaborative Law process involves informal discussions and joint conferences for the purpose of settling all issues. Each party and his/her attorney agree to proceed with honesty and mutual respect. The parties negotiate the terms of their divorce in good faith, acknowledging the need to work together and compromise in order to settle the issues.
The parties also agree to make a full and complete disclosure to one another of all relevant information. Collaborative Law utilizes informal discovery, such as the voluntary exchange of financial information, and relies on neutral experts such as tax advisors, financial planners, appraisers, and family counselors. The neutral financial professionals work with both parties to prepare a joint inventory of assets and liabilities obviating the need for the lawyers to duplicate efforts. The communications facilitator helps keep the meetings moving forward in a productive manner.
Parenting plans, which allocate parental responsibilities and time with the child(ren), are jointly worked out by the parents, with the goal of serving the best interests of the children and the family.
The Collaborative Divorce process typically entails a series of meetings lasting approximately two hours (known as “joint meetings”) that have a prepared agenda. In these meetings, the parties gather information, generate options and work together toward a final resolution.
Participants in the Collaborative Family Law process only see the inside of a courtroom to formalize the final agreements reached by the parties. Control remains in the hands of the parties themselves, and is never abdicated to a judge.
The Collaborative Process: Potential Advantages
• The Collaborative Law process allows a family to maintain privacy. Some of the terms of the final agreement and most of the financial information will not be disclosed in public court records.
• Parties are more likely to comply with final orders they worked hard to negotiate than final orders that a court has imposed upon him or her.
• Parties learn ways to productively communicate in the Collaborative Law process which helps them preserve a cooperative relationship which will benefit the children as the parties proceed with co-parenting after divorce.
• Clinical research has shown that the inevitable increase in hostility and conflict arising out of adversarial litigation may emotionally damage the litigants' children. The Collaborative Law process is designed to minimize this level of conflict.
• The parties do not take the risks of going to court and having a third party (judge) make important decisions for their family.
The Collaborative Process: Potential Disadvantages
• A Collaborative Law approach will not succeed if trust between the divorcing parties is completely lacking. If you strongly suspect that your spouse will lie and/or would not be open and honest in his/her dealings with you, a collaborative divorce may not be an option.
• The Collaborative Law process, like mediation, may not be appropriate if there is a history or pattern of family violence. The Court has remedies, such as protective orders, which are not utilized in the Collaborative Law process.
• Individuals who feel threatened or intimidated or in an unequal bargaining position in the presence of their spouse may find the Collaborative Law process unsuitable. If you feel coerced into submitting to the Collaborative Law process, you should not participate.
• There may be a preliminary question of law or fact upon which all negotiations depend that should be determined by the Court at the outset, thereby eliminating the Collaborative Law process as a choice.
• Court orders to compel production of information are not available during the Collaborative Law process.
• The Collaborative Law process is not appropriate when punitive action is sought, such as contempt proceedings to enforce prior orders.
• In the traditional litigation model, formal discovery may disclose facts that the other party is attempting to conceal.
If the case does not settle using the Collaborative Model
• If the parties are not able to settle their issues through the Collaborative Law process, the collaborative lawyers must withdraw and new trial counsel must be retained by each party. This can result in a more expensive divorce process.
• Neutral experts used during the Collaborative Law process cannot be used again if the case does not settle. Each party will need to retain additional experts to support their position in Court.
• There will be some duplication of effort as the Litigation Attorney develops the case, which will add to the expense of legal fees.