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.

Is the collaborative process right for me and my soon to be ex?

Exploring each party’s important interests and looking at options to satisfy them require a level of maturity and ability to think long-term which some divorcing couples don’t have. The hurt, the anger, the impulse to protect oneself when the marriage fails, often produces a desire to inflict pain. Attacking in court is an effective way to hurt a spouse, if the parties have the money to litigate effectively. One can make his or her dirty laundry public, and may be able to force friends and business associates to give sworn testimony. All of these actions come at a cost to both spouses and any children involved.Collaborative law attempts to maintain a civil relationship throughout the negotiations process as well as after an agreement is reached. Although some people still choose to fight their differences out in court, knowledge of this option give you other opportunity to try to settle your case without the financial and emotional burdens that generally come with litigation.

What is the next step I take if I think Collaborative Law is the right approach for my divorce?

Step 1. Call the Law Office of Shannon M. Sears, P.C. at (817) 442-9880 and schedule a meeting. Shannon M. Sears, Attorney at Law, is trained in the Collaborative Law process and a member of The Collaborative Institute of Texas.
Step 2. Talk to your spouse about the collaborative law alternative and refer them to a Collaborative Law Attorney. For a list of Collaborative Lawyers by county or name visit the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas’ website (www.collablawtexas.com). Tell your spouse to review the list and ask them to find someone they feel is qualified. Generally, it is better to leave the choice to your spouse rather than providing a specific name.
Step 3. Begin the collaborative process with the help of your attorneys.
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