Some couples facing a divorce can agree on the idea of protecting themselves and their children from the emotional turmoil of a divorce trial as well as trying to preserve as much of their property, assets, and finances as possible.
These objectives often lead to what is called a collaborative divorce which involves a commitment to settling your divorce disagreements outside of a Houston courtroom.
A collaborative divorce does not automatically ensure that the process will be easy, simple, or amicable.
However, with the guidance and help of collaborative Houston divorce lawyers and potentially other experts, you and your spouse will have more control over how your divorce is settled.
You will work out your differences mutually as opposed to having a family law judge make the decisions for you.
If you are interested in the collaborative law process regarding your divorce, you can turn to The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P. serving Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, and The Woodlands.
Our Houston collaborative divorce attorney can walk you through the process, bring in appropriate outside professionals, such as accountants, appraisers, child psychologists, and more for any needed guidance, and advise and represent you throughout the process.
Our firm is dedicated to providing alternative methods to resolving family issues for clients throughout the area.
Looking for a collaborative law attorney? Contact The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P. online or at (713) 533-8457 to learn more in a free, initial consultation.
Texas Family Code defines the collaborative law process as follows:
“Collaborative law is a procedure in which the parties and their counsel agree in writing to use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their dissolution of marriage dispute on an agreed basis without resorting to judicial intervention except to have the court approve the settlement agreement, make the legal pronouncements, and sign the orders required by law to effectuate the agreement of the parties as the court determines appropriate. The parties' counsel may not serve as litigation counsel except to ask the court to approve the settlement agreement.”
A collaborative divorce starts with an agreement made between all parties which must include certain provisions. These provisions include a “full and candid exchange of information between the parties and their attorneys as necessary to make a proper evaluation of the case; suspending court intervention in the dispute while the parties are using collaborative law procedures; hiring experts, as jointly agreed, to be used in the procedure; withdrawal of all counsel involved in the collaborative law procedure if the collaborative law procedure does not result in settlement of the dispute; and other provisions as agreed to by the parties consistent with a good faith effort to collaboratively settle the matter.”
In the collaborative law process, you and your spouse will be represented independently by collaborative divorce lawyers who can advise you separately as well as conduct four-way sessions to help you and your spouse forge your divorce settlement agreement on the issues involved in your case. These can include the division of marital property and debt, child custody and visitation, child support, and alimony.
When Is Collaborative Divorce Appropriate or Inappropriate?
The process is appropriate in the following situations:
- For divorcing couples who want an effective divorce even when they could not be effectively married;
- For divorcing couples who want results more than revenge, and/or want to speak to each other after the divorce, particularly where children are involved;
- When privacy is paramount to one or both of the spouses in their work and/or social lives after the divorce;
- Where significant separate/community property and division is complex.
The process may be inappropriate where there has been a history of domestic violence or abuse or where one party has an untreated or unacknowledged substance abuse or mental issue.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
The benefits of this process are many, including:
- Disputes are resolved in private; skeletons are not paraded in the courtroom.
- Scheduling and speed of resolution is controlled by the parties, not the court or the attorneys involved.
- Chaos/hostility between the parties and/or their children is reduced.
- The process results in better communication between the parties.
- The monetary and emotional costs of divorce are significantly reduced.
- The settlement options are endless.
- Control of the process remains with the parties versus control by the judge.
The Downside of Collaborative Divorce
For some couples, collaborative divorce may not be optimal. They may consider the following to be downsides to the process.
- It does not allow you to have your “day in court” for public vindication or for public humiliation of your spouse for his/her role in the breakup of the marriage.
- It requires civility between the parties and attorneys.
- It does not allow for getting even, beating the other side down, or for being a “victim.”
- It forces proximity and interaction between spouses.
- It requires decision making.
- It requires you and your spouse to work through your emotions which can be painful.
Failure of the Process
What happens should you and your spouse be unable to resolve your divorce through the collaborative process? The linchpin of collaborative divorce is that a penalty is incurred for letting the process fail and having the divorce proceed to litigation. The penalty is that the lawyers in the collaborative process must withdraw or be dismissed from the case and new lawyers have to be retained for litigation. This requirement provides incentive to make the process work for both the parties and the lawyers involved. Attorneys who will not execute collaborative divorce agreements that include this provision are not committed to the process and should not be retained.
Conduct Guidelines for a Successful Collaborative Divorce
The following guidelines can help to ensure the success of your collaborative divorce and should be followed as much as possible throughout the process.
- Participants will focus on the future and avoid unnecessary discussions of the past. Participants will focus on resolving conflict and not on assessing blame.
- Participants will listen carefully to the goals that begin every four-way meeting and will take actions and make decisions in furtherance of the shared goals.
- Participants will address others in a courteous manner and tone. Participants will not interrupt when another person is speaking. Participants will avoid sarcastic, contentious, critical, defensive or judgmental communications/comments.
- If a participant feels progress has ceased or that he or she is about to lose control and say or do something to impede progress, that participant will call for a break. If the break is insufficient to calm the affected participant, the meeting may be terminated.
- Each participant will speak only for himself or herself. Participants will use “I” instead of “you” sentences.
- Participants will express their true interests.
- Participants will be patient with each other and their lawyers. All participants will assume that each participant is acting in good faith and realize that everyone does not move at the same pace. To pull together, each participant must sometimes accommodate by slowing down. Delays in the collaborative law process can happen with everyone acting in good faith.
- Participants will follow the agenda for each four-way meeting. If there are other topics that a participant wants to address, he or she will ask that it be included in the agenda for the next four-way meeting.
- Participants will be honest.
(Courtesy of the Dallas Alliance of Collaborative Family Lawyers, 2003)
Consult with Our Houston Collaborative Divorce Attorney
If you believe the collaborative process can work for you and your spouse, we advise that you consult with our attorney to discuss the specifics of your prospective divorce. We can further educate you on the process and help determine if it would be appropriate in your circumstances. The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P. is here to help you find positive and productive solutions for divorce and all other family law issues.
Book your free case evaluation by contacting us online or at (713) 533-8457 today.