Collaborative Divorce – How It Works
The Collaborative Divorce process is a settlement method that takes place away from the courthouse. In a traditional litigated divorce, couples face off against one another in hearings and trials before a judge; friends, family, and teachers are forced to give deposition testimony or appear in court as a witness; information is exchanged through a formal system called “discovery” between the lawyers. In short, a very private, personal matter is handled in a very impersonal, public way. Not so with a Collaborative Divorce.
A Collaborative Divorce is a specific settlement procedure defined by the Texas Family Code. It should not be confused with a “little c” collaborative divorce which could be a couple and their attorneys working together in a cooperative manner. In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse is required to have his or her own attorney and sign an agreement (called a Participation Agreement) to work towards settlement and not go to court. Beyond that, there is flexibility in how the process moves forward.
Our firm most often uses the Texas Neutral Coach Model. The model works within the following framework to reach a settlement that is tailored to your family’s specific needs:
- Despite working together in a collaborative manner, the attorneys are advocates for their respective clients as in any legal process.
- The clients and their attorneys jointly retain a Financial Professional to gather all of the spouses’ asset and debt information, assist with any future budgeting concerns, address the handling of children’s expenses, and help to develop different settlement options for the clients to consider.
- The clients and their attorneys jointly retain a Parent Advisor to help develop a parenting time schedule. The Parent Advisor is a licensed mental health professional who regularly works with families and also helps to manage communications and emotions during the Collaborative process. This is not therapy. Clients are encouraged to continue any ongoing therapy with their personal therapists.
- The clients have a series of brief one to two hour meetings with all of the professionals or sometimes with only the jointly retained professionals to work out an agreement. Each client is prepared for these meetings throughout the process by his or her attorney.
- Once an agreement is reached, the attorneys draft the legal documents to finalize the divorce with the court.
In the end, the clients reach an agreement that is uniquely suited for them and their children. It’s not cookie cutter, nor is it designed to fit the needs of someone else’s family. And it is all done in a private, personal setting.