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Collaborative Law is an Alternative to Divorce Litigation

Divorce can often be very acrimonious. Disputes over property division, child custody and visitation often lead to heated confrontations. For spouses and parents seeking a more amicable alternative to a traditional contested divorce, there is a relatively new process called collaborative law. An Austin collaborative divorce lawyer can help guide you through this process, ensuring a more cooperative and less confrontational approach to resolving your divorce issues.

More than half of the couples that commit their lives to one another through marriage will file for divorce, according to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With so many couples choosing to terminate their marriages, divorce is not ‘one size fits all.’ While some couples in Texas decide to engage in an emotional courtroom battle, others may turn to a more civil form of divorce. Collaborative law continues to gain popularity as an alternative to traditional court litigation.

In a collaborative law divorce, both spouses and parents are represented by an attorney who is trained in collaborative law. Each of the parties and the attorneys sign an agreement stating it is their intention to try and resolve all issues present in the divorce without the necessity of trial. Since the agreement states that both attorneys must remove themselves from further representation of their clients in the event of trial, all of the parties involved work collaboratively toward a resolution of disputed matters. Additional methods of trial-free resolution include mediation and arbitration.

Defining Collaborative Law

Collaborative divorce allows couples to sit down with one another and discuss the terms of their divorce settlement, including topics of property division, child support, parenting plans and alimony. However, unlike mediation which is facilitated by a neutral mediator, couples going through the collaborative divorce process are accompanied by their attorneys. With personal legal representation by their side throughout the sessions, people are better able to create an equitable divorce settlement. In some cases, financial advisors and psychologists can be part of the negotiation sessions as well.

When entering into the collaborative law process, couples must agree to the following:

  • Disclose all of the information pertinent to the case
  • Make decisions based on the best interest of everyone involved in the divorce, especially any children who are involved
  • Work together and compromise to reach a final settlement

If a couple cannot agree to the terms of the divorce settlement, each party must get a new attorney to represent them during court litigation. Collaborative divorce is not ideal for every couple, especially if intimidation or abuse is a factor in the case.

Emotional and Psychological Benefits of Collaborative Law:

Emotional Well-being

Going through a divorce is often very emotionally demanding. Since the collaborative law process is conducted in a cooperative and respectful atmosphere, it is much more likely to minimize emotional wear and tear. Ideally, this means that the couple is using collaborative law not only to work out the terms of their divorce but also for the terms of their post-divorce co‑parenting arrangement.

Psychological Support

An integral part of collaborative law is the inclusion of mental health professionals to assist divorcing couples with the psychological aspects of their relationships. Helping couples manage their emotions and communicate with one another more effectively and efficiently are important services mental health professionals can provide.

Often, divorce proceedings can be stressful and anxiety-provoking, and having someone to help mitigate these feelings could assist a couple in staying focused on the goal of divorcing in an efficient and less expensive manner. These services become even more critical when parents with children are divorcing. For many couples, regular therapy is helpful but not always seen as an option.

Preserving Relationships

The main dividing line between collaborative law and more traditional forms of negotiation or litigation is thus its emphasis on relationship preservation, which is especially crucial for couples with children who have to continue to co-parent after their divorce. This collaboration allows parents to co-create parenting plans and take into account the children’s best interests, facilitating the co-parenting relationship, even if the romantic relationship has come to an end.

Collaborative law decreases the chance of future legal and relationship conflicts.

Reduced Stress

By removing the ‘winner-take-all’ dynamic of the courtroom, collaborative law can reduce the stress of divorce. Clients will most likely feel in more control of their lives as the outcome is based on their wishes and feelings. Having the opportunity to negotiate the terms of how your lives will be divided when you are about to end the marriage can be very empowering as it results in resolutions that both sides feel comfortable with.

Financial Planning in Collaborative Law:

Comprehensive Financial Analysis

Financial issues are among one of the most important concerns in a divorce. In collaborative law, a financial professional is often hired to help make a detailed analysis of the couple’s finances. These professionals include certified public accountants, forensic accountants and financial specialists, and are particularly valuable in assisting an attorney in the analysis of the marital estate.

This includes the calculation of income, valuation of business entities, tracing of separate property, estimation of spousal maintenance, and identification of any tax implications. These professionals offer the couple a complete analysis of their financial situation so that they can negotiate a settlement that is clear to everyone.

Equitable Division of Assets

The equitable distribution of assets is a central part of the collaborative law process. A financial professional helps a couple sort out all assets – home, investments, retirement accounts, cars, or other personal property – and divides them evenly based on what is fair, considering both people’s needs and who brought what to the marriage.

Tax Implications

A divorce team in a collaborative process can include a tax professional who can advise the parties regarding the tax implications of different settlements and plan for whatever may occur in the future. Without planning for tax consequences, financial surprises can ultimately erode a party’s authority and ability to deal with change.

Long-Term Financial Planning

Collaborative law also encourages investment in long-term financial planning, such as the need to consult with a financial adviser to establish a long-term financial plan for the future. This might include conducting research into your own retirement plan and options, or looking into savings and security for retirement, along with a budget for life after divorce.

Parenting Plans in Collaborative Law

One of the most important parts of a divorce involving children is creating a parenting plan. In collaborative law, this is a process by which parents collaborate, with the counsel and support of their attorneys and child specialists, to create a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests. It addresses custody schedules, visitation, and responsibilities for decision-making authority.

In part because of the structure provided by collaborative law, the parenting plans in collaborative cases tend to have more flexibility. Unlike court-imposed arrangements, collaborative parenting plans can be tailored to fit the unique needs and circumstances of the family. This flexibility can reduce conflict between parents in the future.

For example, co-parenting plans created in the collaborative process are more likely to include creative solutions, such as alternative holiday schedules that account for mixed marriages and multiple families a child is exposed to.

Child specialists can also be called upon to help provide perspective on the children’s developmental needs and help identify a parenting plan that benefits the children. When the focus on the children’s best interest is what guides decisions, parents can reach an agreement that promotes both their emotional well-being and a stable loving home.

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Collaborative Law Can Work for All Family Law Matters

If you are in need of a collaborative law attorney in Central Texas, we encourage you to contact the Vaught Law Firm. We have extensive training and experience in the field of collaborative law, and have helped numerous clients obtain a divorce, modification or relocation family law matter without the stress and acrimony of protracted litigation. We can effectively protect your rights in a collaborative law divorce, modification or relocation matter.

Advantages of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce has many advantages over traditional court litigation and is growing in popularity among divorcing couples in the U.S. There are clear advantages to using the collaborative divorce process to create a settlement and terminate a marriage. Negotiating and creating a divorce decree through the collaborative process can be quicker and less expensive than through the court system. Some couples can finalize their settlement within just three or four sessions. Rather than wait for a court-appointed date, couples have more flexibility in scheduling their sessions.

Couples who dissolve their marriage through collaborative divorce often end up with a better relationship than they would have if they had gone through a court battle. This is especially helpful for parents or business partners who must maintain a relationship post-divorce.

Finding the Right Legal Partner

Before entering into the collaborative divorce process, you need to make sure you have the right legal partner who will look after your family’s best interests. You may want to seek the legal assistance of an attorney in Austin who will listen to the details of your case and point you in the right direction.

FAQs

Q: Is Collaborative Divorce Suitable for High-Conflict Situations?

A: Collaborative divorce may not be suitable for high-conflict situations, especially those that involve a significant power imbalance or any history of domestic violence. In these cases, normal litigation or mediation with appropriate safeguards might be more effective to ensure the safety and fairness of both parties. An attorney can help you decide which route is better for you.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation in Texas?

A: In a collaborative divorce, each party has an attorney to provide legal advice and advocate for that party. In a mediation, there is a neutral mediator to facilitate the discussion who is not permitted to provide legal advice to either party, and the attorneys may or may not be present. Collaborative divorce provides legal support throughout the process. Mediation provides only neutral facilitation.

Q: Can You Share a Divorce Lawyer in Texas?

A: No, you cannot share a divorce lawyer in Texas. Each party must have their own legal representation to avoid conflicts of interest and ensure that their individual rights and interests are fully protected throughout the entire process. Sharing a lawyer would compromise the lawyer’s ability to advocate effectively for both parties.

Q: What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce?

A: There are several benefits to a collaborative divorce, including reduced conflict, lower costs, increased privacy, and customized solutions. This process offers a more positive post-divorce relationship, which is particularly important for couples with children. Talk to a divorce attorney at Vaught Law Firm, P.C., to determine whether or not a collaborative approach would be beneficial for you.

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