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Using Collaborative Law in a Divorce

Collaborative law can be used as a way to enter into the divorce process in Texas. When using this method, you do not have to rely on the court; instead, a settlement is reached after a lot of discussion and negotiation. When you use the collaborative law method, you and your spouse each hire your own lawyer, but you also involve third-party financial and/or mental health professionals, such as a financial advisor, certified public accountant (CPA) and therapist.   These professionals are supposed to advise you on the most logical agreements, in order to reach some form of resolution.  

Collaboration begins when you sign a participation agreement that has all the ground rules that are to be followed. Next, your goals and concerns are established and information is gathered to come up with a solution.

While I am not an advocate of collaborative law, which I will explain shortly, it does work in some instances and there are benefits that are worth mentioning. One is that you are approaching your divorce as a team – all of your lawyers, financial professionals, and mental health professionals are there to help you. The focus during collaboration is to reach a settlement rather than prepare for trial, so the atmosphere is generally not as hostile.  It also eliminates the situation where your personal life and private affairs are discussed openly in court.  Many proponents of collaborative law also like to boast that it allows you to resolve issues of your divorce in a friendlier manner and gives you the chance to maintain some form or friendship, if you actually wanted one.      

In my opinion, there is a major flaw to collaborative law.  If you cannot reach a settlement using this method, you actually have to fire your current lawyer and find a new one.  Finding the right attorney to represent you is not an easy task and if you go through collaborative law, you could end up doing it twice.

The collaborative law method is a lengthy process.  You have to be willing to commit yourself for the next three to six months and there is no guarantee that after this grueling process that you will have reached an amicable agreement. When you use this approach, you are looking at attending numerous meetings until everything has been discussed, disputed and settled upon. You will have to do “homework” in between the sessions, which are typically set two weeks apart to give each spouse enough time.  Plus, on top of everything else, you will have to see your soon-to-be ex on multiple occasions, which can be challenging since you may not even want to be in the same room.

Collaboration is also expensive.  When you go this route, you risk wasting your money and having to start over. If you are considering using collaborative law in your divorce, it’s best to contact a qualified family law attorney in your area to discuss your options.