I hate divorce. This may seem strange coming from a divorce attorney; however, it’s no different than an emergency room doctor saying, “I hate gunshot wounds.” Divorce is painful, but it has to be dealt with, nonetheless. Just as medical doctors deal with broken bones, divorce attorneys deal with broken marriages, and we know that our clients are embarking on a painful journey. The emotional roller coaster will have them at times feeling angry and at other times feeling sad, lonely, and hurt.
Traditionally, the divorcing adversaries battle it out publicly, and at the end of the day a judge who doesn’t know them will decide their fates and the fates of their children. Someone occasionally leaves the courthouse feeling relieved, or even satisfied, but rarely happy. In fact, one judge is known for saying “if anyone leaves my courtroom happy, I know I haven’t done my job.” On top of that, divorce is expensive. Some people spend $20,000 fighting over $10,000 worth of property. It makes no sense, and I sometimes say “you can send your kids to college, or you can send mine.” That does the trick for a lot of people, at least momentarily. The worst part of litigation, however, is its potential effect on the children. The best attorney in the world can’t make this scenario look like a walk in the park.
Instead of litigation, some people try to save money and avoid conflict by attempting a do-it- yourself divorce. Many of them later experience even more conflict due to ambiguities in the decree. The problems caused by improper drafting can cost thousands of dollars, and some of the resulting problems are unable to ever be remedied once the divorce is final.
There is another option. Collaborative Divorce has become a viable alternative to traditional divorce litigation around the country. Many Texas attorneys are now using the collaborative method in their family law practices, not only for divorce, but for all types of legal disputes. In Collaborative Divorce the parties resolve their differences outside the courtroom, in a private and less adversarial setting. This process acknowledges the emotional needs and goals of each spouse. Instead of having to follow a timetable dictated by the court, the parties have the opportunity to schedule meeting times. Further, the divorcing parties will reach an agreement that is tailored to meet their own needs instead of being forced to accept a one-size-fits-all solution that may be unsatisfactory to everyone involved. You might be imagining the parties sitting around a table, holding hands and singing “Kumbaya”; however, Collaborative Divorce is based upon more than 30 years of research and the model is closely followed by the professionals involved. The Collaborative attorneys adhere to strict protocols as well as the statutory rules of the Texas Family Code.
Many people confuse Mediation with Collaborative Divorce. Mediation is simply a tool that is used during the litigation process in an attempt to settle the case prior to final trial. The parties are not able to “achieve divorce” simply by going to mediation, and the “Mediated Settlement Agreement” is not a divorce decree. In Collaborative Divorce, a team of specially-trained professionals handle all aspects of the divorce, from beginning to end. Financial experts, mental health professionals, and attorneys combine their efforts and expertise in order to provide individualized attention and specialized care.
Collaborative Divorce may not be right for everyone who needs to resolve a family law dispute. However, the parties to a Collaborative divorce typically spend less money, experience less trauma in the process, and are better able to interact and co-parent their children after the divorce than litigants. Both spouses must commit to the Collaborative process, and each should hire his or her own attorney who has been trained in Collaborative Divorce.