There’s no doubt that the pain of a divorce is hard; ending a relationship, breaking up a family, and building a new life are surely enough to take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.
Traditional divorce practices can leave bitterness lingering for years, making the healing process drag out that much longer.
Over the past ten years, an effective approach to divorce has evolved, known as the Collaborative Divorce process.
In the Collaborative Divorce process, spouses and their lawyers commit to working out their divorce issues without going to court.
The core of the Collaborative Divorce process is that you are moving from an adversarial “fight and win” approach to a “problem resolution” approach. To achieve problem resolution, both parties will need to be committed to actively engaging in this process.
For the Collaborative Divorce process to be successful both parties must commit to being “all in.”
How Does It Work?
The first step is to hire an attorney who is experienced in handling Collaborative Divorce cases. Lawyers must undergo their own paradigm shift to be successful in the Collaborative Divorce process. Indeed, empowering clients to identify their own goals and interests, and helping them to achieve those desired outcomes, is a very different skill set than a traditional adversarial negotiation process, where the parties try and make the other side back down and acquiesce to the demands.
Once both parties have hired attorneys experienced in Collaborative Divorce, the parties will sign the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement. In the Participation Agreement, the parties agree:
- To settle outstanding issues in a non-adversarial manner using interest-based negotiation;
- To act in their children’s best interests to promote the relationships between the children and each parent, and to minimize any emotional damage to the children as a result of the separation;
- To communicate in a constructive manner, and to not take advantage of errors made by the other party;
- To retain neutral experts, when needed, to advise the parties. Often, a neutral financial professional and a neutral mental health professional are retained to assist the parties in learning more about their estate, and coming up with the best options for the parenting plan.
- To commit to full disclosure of all relevant information. Instead of engaging in an expensive discovery process, the parties voluntarily agree to provide relevant information.
- To make decisions jointly, without one party unilaterally changing the status quo; and
- To hire new lawyers in the event they are not able to reach a resolution in the Collaborative Divorce process (this is referred to as the “Collaborative Commitment.”)
The parties and professionals will schedule joint sessions, where they will meet together to identify their respective interests and issues that need to be resolved. Using a roadmap for resolving conflict, they will gather information, brainstorm options, and ultimately reach a final resolution on all the issues that need to be resolved for the divorce to be final. The parties may also have meetings “offline” with the neutral professionals. If the parties encounter roadblocks to resolution, they can elect to work with a mediator who can help them find creative solutions.
Why Do People Choose Collaborative Divorce?
People choose Collaborative Divorce for a variety of reasons. The Collaborative Divorce process allows parties to maintain control of the divorce process, instead of working according to the court’s schedule and deadlines. The Collaborative Divorce process allows parties to protect the privacy and dignity of their family, by avoiding public court battles. And for most people who choose the Collaborative Divorce process, they prefer a method of bringing an end to their marital relationship whose aim is not to destroy the other side.
Some additional advantages include:
- Transparent process
- Informal setting
- Honest and free exchange of information
- Custom tailored outcomes
- Address future issues
- Negotiating a result that works for you
Why work against each other when you can create a settlement that addresses everyone’s interests?
To ensure a successful Collaborative Divorce, you’ll need an experienced lawyer committed to the Collaborative Divorce process. You’ll also want someone who knows how to try a case, because they can help you evaluate your settlement options and ensure the best outcome for your future.
At Hargrave Family Law, we have the experience and skills to help you decide whether the Collaborative Divorce process is a good fit for your situation. Jennifer Hargrave is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists, the Dallas Bar Family Law Section and the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas. Jennifer Hargrave has helped countless families achieve their goals – both within the Collaborative Divorce process, and alternatively in the courtroom when necessary.