Collaboration: your Texas divorce doesn’t have to be a public battle

"Resolving disputes with dignity" - so reads the motto of The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas, an organization of family lawyers, mental health professionals and financial experts specially trained in collaborative divorce negotiation and dedicated to the respectful, cooperative and private winding down of the family matters of a marriage.

Many people are not familiar with the relatively recent phenomena of collaborative divorce, but it can be a healthy, positive alternative to traditional divorce litigation and is worth consideration if you are a Texan facing the end of your marriage.

The collaborative divorce process

In a nutshell, the collaborative divorce starts with a participation agreement in which the divorcing spouses agree to the terms of the process, which include:

  • Committing to resolving all issues in the divorce through negotiation out of court.
  • Keeping the negotiations confidential and private.
  • Sitting down around the negotiation table in a series of meetings with each spouses' attorney, along with any neutral professionals the couple agrees to hire to assist in the process such as a child specialist, financial advisor or divorce coach to help with emotional upset and difficult communication.
  • Maintaining dignity and respect.
  • Negotiating a settlement agreement of all issues that come up in the divorce like property and debt division, child custody and support, alimony and more.
  • Pledging to be honest and forthright in the process.
  • Agreeing that if the collaborative process breaks down, each spouse must retain a new lawyer to represent them in another divorce process like mediation, or traditional negotiation or trial.

Collaborative divorce was invented by a Minnesota family lawyer who was turned off by the negativity and strife of traditional divorce. Many who favor it cite its positive impact on families with younger children, both in the preservation of a civil relationship between the parents after the marriage ends and in presenting a united front to the kids free from dissention. People also like that their "dirty laundry" does not have to be aired publicly in a court trial.

After the settlement agreement is negotiated, it will be submitted to the court for approval and to become the basis of a divorce order.

For a couple that still can communicate and for whom working together in this endeavor is not too difficult emotionally, collaboration can be a positive experience and often cheaper than traditional litigation. However, if the parties are not able to make steady progress in negotiation, it can also become expensive, since two lawyers and other professionals are getting paid for each negotiation and meeting.

Collaboration would not be a good idea if there is a history of abuse, unbalanced power or control, or dishonesty.

Talk to a Texas family law attorney trained in the collaborative divorce process to find out if this might be an effective method for negotiating the end of your marriage.