If you are facing a divorce, or thinking about filing for divorce, you may have discovered that there are several different paths you can follow in a divorce. The traditional path is litigation and just about any attorney can help you with that. Some people are choosing to do it themselves, without an attorney. That can work in very simple cases. Others focus on mediation, which is a good process, but attorneys should be involved. It is most often used in litigated cases. The newest process is Collaborative Divorce. You probably know something about all but the last process.
Collaborative Divorce is a process where both parties have attorneys, both sides start out by identifying their goals, needs and interests, and then there are a series of meetings where information is gathered and presented informally, options for settlement are developed and agreements are ultimately reached. Usually, in Texas, we also involve a neutral Financial Professional (FP) and a neutral Mental Health Professional (MHP) to make the process more efficient and effective.
Why People Choose Collaborative Divorce
- Preserving family relationships for the sake of the children
- Confidentiality of meetings
- Control over the outcome
- Less stress than litigation
- No arbitrary or standardized outcomes
- Ability to customize unique solutions based on needs
- Equalization of power and knowledge
- Expert help with kids’ issues
- Expert help with financial issues
Are you willing and able to negotiate and work with your spouse?
You would negotiate in the presence of the attorneys and other professionals, and it would be done after the facts have been gathered and agreed upon. Also, the focus is on how the needs of both parties can be met. If you are not comfortable with this, you can go to court and turn over the decision-making to the judge.
There’s no day in court, but there is a safe place for discussions.
Some people get really focused on “having their day in court.” In reality, that’s not a wonderful, cathartic experience. The Collaborative process gives you a chance to fully express yourself, perhaps more effectively than before. The MHP usually works with both parties in the course of the case to help them learn to listen better to each other and to express themselves more skillfully so that their message is heard and accepted.
Collaborative Divorce is not a low-cost option, but it can be cost-effective.
This is not the process for low-dollar “uncontested divorces.” It is the process to use when there are genuine, serious disputes between the parties that need to be resolved. It will take some time, effort and attorney’s fees. But, Collaborative Divorce avoids many of the expense-building elements of litigation, such as multiple hearings, voluminous pleadings, depositions, written Discovery requests and responses, trial preparation and conferences with the court.
By delegating the gathering, organization and review of financial information to the FP, a lot of time and expense are saved while producing a high quality product. Similarly, by having the MHP work out a preliminary parenting plan directly with the parties without the attorneys, a great deal of time and money are saved.
In both cases, the attorneys advise their clients before and after the other professionals work with them. Plus, the financial spreadsheet and the parenting plan are both thoroughly discussed in joint meetings with all the parties and professionals present.
Collaborative Divorce is not an overnight process, but it is usually quicker than litigation.
There will be a series of meetings. We have found that it is helpful to follow all the steps of the process. Some people want to start by negotiating, but we don’t do that for several reasons. First, we need to determine the needs and issues for both parties so we can know what we need to end up with. Second, we need to make sure both parties are fully and accurately informed about the facts of the case. Third, we don’t rush through the development of options or negotiating the final terms because we want an agreement that meets the needs of both parties and which has been carefully thought out and agreed to. Even with that deliberation, it’s still usually much shorter than a litigated divorce takes.
If you are wondering if Collaborative Divorce is right for you, the best thing to do is to meet with a trained Collaborative attorney and discuss how the process might or might not work for you. Good luck!