I. COLLABORATIVE LAW AND THE HISTORY OF METHODS OF RESOLVING FAMILY LAW CASES—by Leonard M. Roth and Jack H. Emmott III
The purpose of this article is to introduce you, the reader, to the new legal option for resolving all family law disputes that is under the umbrella of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Most have heard of the primary types of ADR, Mediation and Arbitration, which are, in general, adjuncts to litigation. Important facts #1: over 95% of all contested family cases settle, usually after many years of contentiousness between the parties have frayed all human connections. Important fact #2: settlement usually occurs after many thousands of dollars have been spent and after the participants' life spans have been shortened due to the trauma and stress of litigation. Cases are sometimes settled under great pressure in the hallway outside the courtroom on the day of trial. Where is that elusive "day in court", "due process of law" and "the fair flow of evidence" clients sought? Courts compel litigants to go to mediation before trial. On other occasions, the litigants decide to forego the court and hire, at considerable expense, an expert or experts to hear their case and make a binding decision in arbitration. Again, others resolve their case for a large fee.
Then, in September of 2003, the legislature passed two statutes creating Collaborative Law in Texas, and the arsenal available to resolve disputes dramatically changed. Collaborative Law will change the way Family Law disputes are resolved. This article will explain the statutes and the process and will give you the history and practical effect of litigation and of ADR and Collaborative Law in successive articles. So, what is the big deal about Collaborative Law? Why is this process sweeping the Family Law legal scene in Dallas and Austin and all over the country and the world, yet, virtually unknown in Harris County? I am not endorsing family disputes, but family law disputes happen. Important fact #3 and #4: at least 50% of first marriages fail. Approximately 75% of second marriages fail. I wish it were not so. These noted facts apply to all races, ages, nationalities and religions. This article can be one of the most important bits of information and knowledge that can help you or you loved ones navigate a family law dispute through a process (1) that virtually occurs outside the court system, (2) that preserves necessary relationships, (3) that puts the client in charge of their own destiny, (4) that is completely confidential, (5) that allows both parties to maintain friendships and continue to participation in groups and entities with a minimum of stigma (actually, participants will probably be looked upon with higher esteem), (6) that will minimize the trauma and stress of a family dispute for you, your extended family and your children, and, finally, (7) that will probably, but not always, save you money. And, if you view sanity as a state of mind worth preserving, Collaborative Law is the option. In the coming articles, you will learn about litigation, ADR and the new Collaborative Law process available to everyone.