Want to Avoid Divorce Litigation? Collaborative Law May Be the Right Choice for You

Want to Avoid Divorce Litigation? Collaborative Law May Be the Right Choice for YouNo one goes into a marriage expecting to end it one day. The very nature of marriage is its commitment, something one hopes will last for the rest of their lives. However, sometimes it’s necessary to break that commitment, no matter how much it may hurt. Personalities and priorities can change, trust can be broken, and paths can naturally drift apart. Whatever the reason, divorce may be the only solution.

Of course, this is daunting. Divorce has a reputation for being an ugly process – but it doesn’t need to be, especially for couples who are mutually agreed that this is the option they want, and who are looking for a way to resolve their differences with the least amount of stress and turbulence they can. For couples who are largely agreed on where they want to end up but have different needs or priorities when it comes to getting there, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be the answer.

Collaborative law, or a collaborative divorce, utilizes ADR as a way to help couples who are seeking “the peaceable resolution of disputes, with special consideration given to disputes involving the parent-child relationship, including disputes involving the conservatorship of, possession of or access to, and support of a child, and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures,” per the Texas Collaborative Family Law Act.

How is a collaborative divorce different from an uncontested divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on everything: child support, child custody, asset division, alimony, and so forth. These divorces usually proceed because of “insupportability” – AKA, as no-fault divorces.

Couples who utilize a collaborative divorce process may have significant disagreements about how to proceed, but are hoping to avoid the expense, time, and stress of litigation.

How is a collaborative divorce different from mediation?

While mediation is a collaborative process, it is separate from collaborative law. Understanding the key differences between the two can help you and your ex make an informed decision that’s right for you both.

Collaborative law involves both parties hiring separate attorneys and any other necessary professionals and meeting together to negotiate agreements and terms. This is where it is most similar to mediation, as both parties must avoid using certain terms or language to keep things amicable, and it is done outside of the traditional court system.

There are a few unique benefits to collaborative law:

  1. The condition that the parties cannot use or threaten to use the court system in any way. If this happens, everything stops and neither attorney can proceed.
  2. Any agreement reached is legally binding. If you cannot reach an agreement, then a family court judge will hear the dispute.
  3. The process can be personalized to your needs. Collaborative law, by its very nature, is creative. This means that you, your spouse, and your attorneys, with the input of the professionals YOU decide to involve, can create an agreement that works for you.

Mediation, on the other hand, is much less formal than even a collaborative divorce. Attorneys are not required to be involved at all (though it’s always in your best interest to hire a divorce lawyer to represent you). It basically refers to a conflict-resolution process with the assistance of a neutral, third-party mediator to keep things running as smoothly as possible. The mediator has no power or authority unless given by both parties, and the entire process can be completed in weeks rather than months. It’s also the least expensive way to separate.

While there are many advantages to mediation, keep in mind that an incredible amount of compliance is needed for it to work. Mediation is best for when you and your spouse already agree on almost everything, and just need to hammer out the finer details. If there is anything potentially stickier than that, it may not be best for your specific situation.

Who else is involved in a collaborative divorce?

You have your attorney, of course, as will your spouse. But there are other professionals who may be a part of the process, including:

  • Appraisers, who can assess and value property and business profits (if applicable)
  • Financial experts and advisors, who can help with pensions and retirement funds
  • Psychologists and counsellors, who can help assess the effect of the divorce on the children
  • Doctors and life-care planners, if one spouse or the child(ren) have significant health concerns

Can I keep my divorce private if I use a collaborative process?

Yes and no. The collaborative law process in and of itself is private and confidential. Your attorneys and the professionals involved all agree to this confidentiality, which means whatever is discussed remains between you.

However, once your divorce is official, the fact that you got divorced becomes part of the public record. Anyone in Texas can search for your divorce certificate – the document that says where and when you officially got divorced. Most divorce records – the filings submitted to the court – are also searchable by the public. What is not searchable is the divorce decree, which includes things like alimony payments and child support, and so forth. This information should only be accessible to you, your spouse, your attorneys, and potentially the judge.

In the end, you and your spouse are the only ones who can decide which option is best for you. Once you make that decision, the divorce attorneys of Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm are here to help you achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule a consultation with a collaborative divorce lawyer in Killeen or Copperas Cove, please call 254-680-4655, or fill out our contact form. Also serving Belmont, Temple, and all of Central Texas.