What comes to mind when you think of the word “divorce”? For most people, it’s angry spouses fighting it out in court, endless battles over marital assets, and children caught in the middle. But it doesn’t have to be this way, thanks to what is known as collaborative divorce. In this process, the two spouses work towards a mutually beneficial agreement to bring their marriage to an end.
Youngberg Law Firm is trained in the collaborative divorce approach, and can help spouses who are looking for an alternative to traditional domestic litigation. We can explain the benefits of this type of divorce and see if it’s a fit for you.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Traditional divorce is rooted in winners versus losers, which makes conflict unavoidable. Collaborative divorce is based on problem-solving and negotiating, with the spouses working together to end their marriage on terms they both can live with. Spouses must agree in writing to use the collaborative approach and to resolve their differences without going to court.
Some of the key features of a collaborative divorce are:
- Mutual respect, dignity, and civility. This doesn’t mean spouses have to be friends or automatically agree to each other’s demands. Rather, that they recognize divorce is inherently stressful and will do what they can to mitigate that aspect of the process.
- A focus on needs and interests rather than positions and stakes. The collaborative divorce is built upon identifying and respecting the needs and interests that the spouses have. The spouses’ respective interests don’t have to conflict with each other, which is the point of a collaborative approach.
- Transparency throughout the process. To make collaborative divorce successful, the spouses commit to full and honest disclosure of financial and other relevant information. Transparency is not a hallmark of the traditional divorce process, but it’s essential to collaborative divorce.
How Does It Work?
Both spouses have to agree to pursue a collaborative divorce. If they do, they need an experienced collaborative divorce attorney who understands the principles and techniques, along with Texas family law, that will be involved.
The spouses and their lawyers will have an initial meeting in which a Participation Agreement will be put in place. The agreement will commit the parties to the collaborative process and also require them to pledge confidentiality. Unlike traditional divorce, where the spouses’ dirty laundry is aired in open court, collaborative divorce is private. All settlement discussions, negotiations, documents, and disclosures made in the collaborative setting are confidential.
Instead of going to court, the parties will have a series of joint meetings – as many as are necessary to fully resolve all of the issues identified. Your attorney will be present at these meetings, and you can discuss anything you need to privately. While the collaborative approach is built on negotiation and open discussions, your lawyer only represents you.
Some spouses find that bringing in outside professionals trained in specific areas can help move the process forward. For instance, you may wish to have a child specialist assist with issues related to parenting and to help your child work through the challenges of divorce. These professionals can help reduce conflict, resolve issues, and thereby minimize the time and expense of the divorce.
If the divorce is successful, an agreement will be drafted, signed by the parties, and submitted to court for approval. However, if the process fails, the respective attorneys are obligated to withdraw and cannot represent either spouse in subsequent litigation.
Which Cases Are Best Resolved By Collaborative Divorce?
While every divorce is different, spouses generally find that the following types are best handled with a collaborative approach:
- Cases involving children. Constantly bickering over who should have custody serves nobody, especially your children. A collaborative divorce, sometimes with the input of a child specialist, can foster an environment of effective co-parenting that makes the divorce easier for parents and children.
- Cases in which your privacy matters. The only public aspect of a collaborative divorce are things that have to be filed with court, such as the divorce decree and property settlement. Agreeing to keep your issues private makes it easier to work them out, since you know that they won’t be weaponized against each other.
- Cases in which the parties want to control their destinies. If you go to court, chances are that most issues will be decided by a judge who cannot possibly understand your interests as well as you and your spouse. A judge doesn’t preside over the collaborative process; rather, the parties decide what is best for them.
Are There Cases In Which This Type of Divorce Is Not Recommended?
Your attorney won’t pressure you to choose a collaborative divorce. Quite the opposite: before deciding to go this route, your lawyer will want to make sure it’s truly best for your situation.
There are some cases, however, in which the collaborative approach is not recommended. Those include:
- Domestic abuse, including emotional abuse. The trust and transparency that are necessary for a collaborative divorce is nearly always absent from these cases. A divorce involving domestic abuse may require orders that restrict communication and interaction between spouses.
- Addiction and mental health issues. If one spouse is abusing alcohol or drugs, or suffering a mental health problem, they are less likely to abide by agreements and communicate respectfully. These cases often require a judge to step in and control the process, making one impossible.
- Financial imbalance. Whichever spouse has more money or assets will likely have more bargaining power. Financial imbalance often causes insecurity that can detract from the trust needed for a collaborative divorce.
Contact A Denton County Collaborative Divorce Attorney
If you think collaborative divorce might be an option for you, reach out to Youngberg Law Firm. We will review your case and help you decide if it’s the right choice. Whether you choose the collaborative or traditional approach, our firm will work with you through your divorce. Call us today to schedule a consultation.