Divorce is difficult and painful. With Collaborative Law, the goal is to not add to the pain. Spouses often see themselves as adversaries in a battle. Divorcing couples experience confusion, anger, feelings of loss and lack of hope. The fall-out sometimes makes post divorce communication almost impossible. However, there is a better way. Texas has passed a collaborative law statute which allows couples to agree to an open and transparent process of negotiating the terms to end their marriage. Rather than public hearings in court, the parties sit together with their lawyers in a series of confidential meetings.
It does not have to be “divorce-by-trial.” Lawyers trained in Collaborative Law Practice offer a more reasonable approach based on the concepts of mutual respect and open and honest communication. They focus on the welfare of the child(ren), offer a more amiable and cooperative ending and a healthy new beginning.
What is a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement?
Both parties and both their attorneys sign a collaborative law participation agreement at the beginning that commits them to open and polite communication, to voluntary and complete exchange of financial and other information, and to respect the other’s interests. Either party can stop the collaborative process, but both attorneys who worked under the collaborative agreement are then prohibited from continuing with the case.The following core elements are set out in a contractual commitment among all the parties:
- negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients
- engage in open communication and information sharing,
- create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients, and
- withdrawal of the professionals if either client goes to court.
What are the confidential meetings like?
Collaborative law four-way meetings typically last two hours and occur two weeks apart. The meeting is called a “four-way” because of the number of people typically at the meeting. (i.e. husband, husband’s attorney, wife and wife’s attorney.) The parties have homework in between developing budgets, gathering information about income, assets and liabilities, and looking at various custody arrangements that may work for the children. Husband, wife and their lawyers look at the underlying interests each party has and frequently discover that many of their important interests, such as economic security for their children, are the same. The challenge is to work out solutions that maximize satisfaction both of the parties’ shared interests and of their conflicting ones. Specialist may be brought in to help resolve issues from time to time for example, a financial planner, facilitation coach, or child specialist who is trained in the collaborative law process.