This post is from Sally Holt Emerson, an Amarillo-based attorney with the Underwood Law Firm, who has been board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law for more than 20 years. Among other local, state and national organizations, she is a member of the Board of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas, the founding Council of the State Bar’s Collaborative Law Section, and the Texas College of Collaborative Law.
When seeking a collaborative divorce in Texas, there are two approaches that divorcing couples may consider. In the no-team method, the only participants are the two parties and their respective attorneys. The other method, the team approach, brings in a financial professional, a mental health professional, or both, to be members of the team.
For those who opt for the no-team approach, cost is the most commonly cited reason. The parties may be barely able to pay their attorneys, and may not have the funds to be able to pay for the services of the neutral professionals. If there are no children’s issues involved, the parties may not believe they need a mental health professional, but may need financial advice from a neutral financial professional. Conversely, if there are only issues regarding children, and not much in the way of property, the parties may decide they only need the services of a mental health provider.
Though every case is unique, I find that collaborative divorce works best when the parties are willing to pay for both kinds of neutral professionals to help them in the process. The team approach spreads the work between the neutral professionals and the attorneys. This may result in less expense in attorney’s fees. Since the attorneys’ hourly rates are usually higher than the neutral professionals, it can potentially save the divorcing couple money.
At the Advanced Family Law Course sponsored by the State Bar of Texas in August 2012 in Houston, Texas, the Collaborative Law workshop tract included a panel discussion, facilitated by collaborative law professionals, by three actual clients who had successfully divorced using collaborative law.
Two had used the team approach and one did not. The client who did not use the team approach said that she sincerely wished that she had done so, because she felt that her divorce took much longer without the help of the neutral professionals. The two clients who used neutral professionals said that they were extremely happy to have had these sources of support during their divorces.