What’s the best way to divorce in Texas? You have two options: a collaborative divorce or litigation. A litigated divorce offers only three benefits, including forced discovery, a restraining order against family violence and a court ordered settlement. The collaborative process offers many benefits, including privacy, lower cost, transparency, client control, convenience, preserving family relationships, protecting children, allowing creative settlement solutions and minimizing post-divorce conflicts. Most people find these benefits compelling.
A major benefit of the collaborative process is privacy. Everything said or produced during a collaborative divorce is confidential. The Collaborative Family Law Act gives the collaborative team the same confidentiality as attorney-client privilege. This means none of the collaborative team can be compelled to testify about what happened during a collaborative divorce and no documents must be disclosed. By contrast, in a litigated divorce, everything is public and subject to discovery.
2. Lower Cost
Studies show that the average cost of a collaborative divorce is less than half the average cost of a litigated divorce. These differences were significant and not caused by chance. This means clients who choose a collaborative divorce preserve their marital estate for the family rather than paying it to attorneys for discovery fights, contested hearings and a trial.
Participants in the collaborative process agree to voluntarily produce all relevant financial and family information so they avoid lengthy and expensive discovery fights characteristic of litigated divorces. Because the parties are honest and transparent during the collaborative process, they develop trust, which helps them work out a settlement that meets the goals and interests of both parties. In a litigated divorce, the attorneys hide the ball and spend substantial time and money fighting about discovery.
4. Client Control
A collaborative divorce is settled through interest-based negotiation so clients control the outcome and don’t turn their future over to a judge or jury. By contrast, the typical litigated divorce is controlled by attorneys, who dictate strategy, determine which documents to voluntarily produce and a judge who makes rulings during the temporary hearing and discovery disputes that determine the content of a settlement or judicial order.
Collaborative meetings are scheduled at the convenience of the parties, which is a real advantage for busy professionals who can’t easily take time from work to attend lengthy hearings scheduled at the convenience of the court and the attorneys. In a litigated divorce, temporary hearings, discovery disputes, depositions and the trial are scheduled at the convenience of the court and the attorney.
6. Preserving Family Relationships
The collaborative process helps divorcing couples learn to communicate, respect each other and work together to reach a settlement. By contrast, a litigated divorce brings out the worst in people, makes them hate each other even more, and destroys any hope they can work together constructively post-divorce.
7. Protecting Children
Children are never put in the middle of a collaborative divorce. In fact, the Collaborative Family Law Statute forbids the collaborative team contacting children for any reason. If the team needs information about the children, a child specialist is engaged to interview them and produce a report. In a litigated divorce, children are often put in the middle and forced to meet with the judge in chambers to tell the court where they want to live after the divorce is final. Litigation is always destructive of the parent-child relationship and makes children anxious.
8. Creative Settlements
The collaborative process allows clients and their attorneys to reach creative settlements not generally available in court. The judge will usually order standard possession, guideline child support and an equal split of community assets unless there are unusual circumstances. Collaborative settlements can produce shared custody, out-of-guideline child support, contractual alimony to take advantage of differing tax rates and unusual divisions of the community estate because the settlement is negotiated with the goals and interests of both parties in mind.
9. Minimizes Post-Divorce Conflicts
Parties who participate in a collaborative divorce learn to communicate, respect each other and recognize that fighting is not productive. Consequently, they are able to co-parent effectively after the divorce and they rarely go back to court to fight about the terms of their divorce. By contrast, many litigated divorces end up back in court to resolve disputes that could be worked out between the parties if they were reasonable.
For all these reasons, you should seriously consider a collaborative divorce rather than litigation if you are untying the knot. You and your children will be much better off and it won’t cost as much as a litigated divorce.