Houston Collaborative Law Lawyer-Charter Member of Collaborative Law in Texas
Houston, Texas, Board-Certified Family Law Attorney
Collaborative Divorce and Collaborative Law in matters involving Parent-Child or Custody disputes (hereinafter referred to as Collaborative Divorce) is a process that allows the parties in a family law dispute to resolve their case outside of the courthouse without the trauma and cost associated with the adversarial system. Collaborative law for Divorce and for Custody helps preserve relationships once the divorce or custody dispute is over and is the rational way to proceed if both parties wish to be rational. The Collaborative Divorce process is absolutely CONFIDENTIAL. If there is a child born during a marriage and a divorce occurs, the lawsuit filed is an Original Petition for Divorce and Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. So, under Collaborative Divorce, both cases are handled pursuant to Collaborative Law, if that process is right for you and your case.
In 2003, Texas was the first state to adopt several statutes relating to Collaborative Law which is legally used only in Family Law matters, such as Divorce, Custody and Modifications of Orders. Collaborative Divorce is a process in which the divorcing parties agree that they will seek to reach an amicable settlement by working together-rather than against each other-with the assistance of collaboratively-trained attorneys who are advocates, and, if necessary, collaboratively-trained professionals, such as psychologists and financial planners, who are Collaborative Law trained neutrals. They are needed because attorneys are not trained in Psychology or Marital and Family Therapy, nor are they Financial Planners or Certified Public Accountants, usually. And, of equal importance, because those skills are needed in every case, the neutrals rarely charge as much as the attorneys to do the same, essential, tasks
In the last Legislature (2011), Collaborative Law became a Chapter in the Family Law Statutes as a Uniform Law, Title 1-A, Chapter 15 of the Family Code. A copy of the new statute is attached in the Articles Section of this Website.
There are a limited number of lawyers who possess the specialized training and experience necessary to participate in Collaborative Divorce. I have had formal training in the process, allowing me to offer collaborative Divorce as an alternative to litigation when it comes to issues such as Child Custody, Divorce, Property Division and Modifications. I provide Collaborative Divorce, and litigation services to clients in Houston and all surrounding communities.
All Board Certified Family Law Specialists must be trained in Collaborative Divorce, as we have to know all disciplines of Family Law. However, not all Specialists believe in Collaborative Law in general and Collaborative Divorce in particular, and are not committed to the process. I have been committed to the process, before there were statutes in 2003 and I am a Charter Member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas, the original, state organization of Collaborative Law attorneys. And, I am a member of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of Houston practice group.
The Collaborative Divorce process
In Texas, each party in collaborative law is represented by a Collaborative Divorce and Collaborative Parent-Child attorney. In the Collaborative Divorce process, the lawyers, though true advocates for their clients' interests and goals, shepherd the clients through the process toward a successful, amicable solution of their own-making.
The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to minimize the emotional and financial damage to parties in the midst of a marital dissolution as well as parents and children, by addressing problems unique to each dissolution of marriage in a calm, communicative, and thoughtful manner. Collaborative Divorce allows a divorcing couple to maintain control of the settlement process with their Texas Collaborative Divorce and Collaborative Parent-Child attorney present to use as a resource and guide. If the collaborative effort results in no settlement, collaborative law attorneys, by law, must withdraw from the case and the parties must retain different, litigation divorce lawyers to handle their divorce.
The benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative Divorce is an inventive, much-less-formal method of divorce. In the process of resolving your Divorce case, you, your spouse, and your respective lawyers agree to resolve the issues through cooperation rather than adversarial means. In fact, all parties must sign a formal contract (Collaborative Law Participation Agreement) agreeing to those terms.
This process of open communication involves a series of informal meetings known as joint sessions with both parties and their lawyers. Unlike a traditional mediation or divorce litigation, Collaborative Divorce allows discussions to be interrupted and resumed later if difficulties or tension arise, while still permitting divorcing spouses the comfort of professional advice and guidance in a completely confidential environment. Please see the articles on Collaborative Law by clicking here.
In Houston and around the state of Texas, Collaborative Divorce is Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Law-trained mental health professionals and financial professionals are brought into the process to assist in the achievement of the ultimate goal: the fair settlement of the case on the terms chosen by the clients, without court interference and without hostility. This Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce is uniformly used in all or most Collaborative Law cases in Harris County (Houston), Travis County (Austin) and in Dallas County (Dallas and surrounding cities). In most cases, there are issues of Financial matters. Lawyers are not traditionally trained in financial matters, such as financial planning and serious tax analysis. Sometimes, there are issues of anger, control, or mental health issues or, "where do I go from here into the future" issues. Lawyers are not traditionally trained in these issues, either. As a matter of fact, if you are in litigation, the lawyer cannot be concerned about what happens during the NEXT part of your life, post-divorce, once everything in your case is resolved and the attorney turns to another case to litigate or resolve. But, Collaborative Divorce does look at these extremely important matters and these allied professionals assist in the managing and forecasting of these issues at about half the cost of the attorney flailing around, attempting to satisfy the client's needs. Some Collaborative Divorce cases do not need these additional team members. Some Collaborative Divorce cases absolutely do need these additional allied professionals, especially if there are children. Is it more expensive? I guess sometimes it is. But, if everyone does their job...and only their job, it probably isn't, because lawyers who charge $350 to $500 per hour will be relieved of doing very time-consuming work in the areas that they are untrained and unqualified to handle. Then, the allied professionals who are well-trained in their areas of expertise and practice will competently complete that work at a much lower rate.
You can read the Collaborative Law Statute here.