What Is Collaborative Divorce?

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 Divorce helps preserve relationships once the divorce is over and is the rational way to proceed if both parties wish to be rational.

In 2003, Texas was the first state to adopt several statutes relating to collaborative divorce. 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 neutrals.

A Charter Member Of The Collaborative Divorce Institute

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 and property division. I provide collaborative family law and litigation services to clients in Houston and all surrounding communities.

All board-certified family law specialists are trained in collaborative divorce, as we have to know all disciplines of family law. However, some do not believe in collaborative divorce and are not committed to the process. I was committed to the process before there were statutes, and I am a charter member of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Texas, the original state organization of collaborative divorce 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 divorce is represented by a collaborative family law 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 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 collaborative family law attorney present to use as a resource and guide.

If the collaborative effort results in no settlement, collaborative divorce attorneys must withdraw from the case and the parties must retain different divorce lawyers to handle the litigation of their divorce.

Benefits Of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce is an inventive, much less formal method of divorce resolution in which 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 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 divorce by clicking here.

If needed, collaborative divorce-trained mental health professionals and financial professionals can be 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 is called interdisciplinary collaborative divorce, and this is why it is uniformly used in all or most collaborative divorce cases in Travis County (Austin) and in Dallas County (Dallas and surrounding cities).

In many 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 or mental health issues or "Where do I go from here?" 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 — 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 can 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 absolutely do need these additional allied professionals. 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 unqualified to do. Then, the allied professionals who know what they are doing in their area of expertise will competently complete that work at a much lower rate.

You can read the Collaborative Divorce Statute here.

Could The Collaborative Approach Work For You?

If you are contemplating divorce and want to know more about the collaborative divorce process, call 713-965-7608 or use my online contact form to get more information. As a Houston collaborative divorce attorney, my services are available in Houston, Harris County, and all surrounding areas.