Many people think Collaborative Law is useful only in the easy cases where both parties are basically in agreement. They think that spouses or ex-spouses couldn’t sit down together and have civilized negotiations on sensitive child custody or financial issues. Because couples sometimes get into arguments when they discuss emotional issues on their own, some think that Collaborative Law can’t work in high conflict families or where there may have been infidelity or other misconduct.
Actually, Collaborative Law can and does work in these situations.
Why? There are several reasons.
- Collaborative Law emphasizes looking forward and not assigning blame for past actions.
- In Collaborative cases, we can bring in a neutral mental health professional to help the parties communicate in ways that allow them to effectively explain their positions on issues without offending or alienating the other party.
- For children’s issues or difficult financial issues, the attorneys often bring in neutral specialists who can work with both parties. That allows them to feel secure and really understand what’s going on and what options may exist.
- Where parties value privacy and control over their own destinies, Collaborative is a much preferred alternative, especially in sensitive or difficult cases.
Here are some of the issues which can be effectively resolved with Collaborative Law:
- Prenuptial agreements
- Post-marital partition agreements
- Division and sharing of parental rights, powers and duties
- Child custody
- Child support
- Visitation, including specialized schedules for certain occupations
- Education expenses, from day care to pre-school to private school to college to graduate school
- Alimony/ spousal maintenance
- Property division
- Complex property division issues
- Debt division
- Tax planning
- Paternity issues
- Break-up of same sex relationships
- Modification of existing orders
- Enforcement of existing orders
- Health and life insurance issues
- Disability needs
- Special needs children
- Professional practices
- Family businesses
While this is not an exhaustive list, it does provide an indication of the broad range of issues that can be successfully navigated through the use of the Collaborative Law approach.
Collaborative Law is still a relatively new dispute resolution process in Texas. As more people learn about Collaborative Law, there will be more experimenting and use of the process for unusual fact situations that don’t fit as well under the “cookie cutter” approach that is often used in litigated cases. At the least, parties with family law issues should discuss and seriously consider the possibility of using Collaborative Law to help reach an agreement.
TIP: You may want to consider using Collaborative Law for almost any family law case. If an attorney is not prepared to discuss the usefulness of Collaborative Law, you should probably get a second opinion from a trained Collaborative lawyer or other professional to get a realistic assessment about whether Collaborative Law is appropriate in your case.
Contributor: Dick Price (www.pricelawfirmtx.com), attorney in Fort Worth.