In Texas, collaborative divorce is a creative alternative

In a traditional Texas divorce, the parties are adversaries and usually hold contentious, opposing positions. They may be able to negotiate a marital settlement agreement through their attorneys, but if they cannot, they will end up in litigation before a state court judge, who will decide the legal issues for them. The court's divorce order will have profound and ongoing effects on the parties and their children because it decides important issues that include child custody and visitation, child support, property division, alimony or spousal support and more.

Alternative dispute resolution methods in Texas divorce

For some people, the idea of this antagonistic and usually expensive approach to divorce doesn't sit well with them. In Texas, there are alternative ways to get through the divorce process:

  • Mediation: a neutral third party who is trained in negotiation methods and conflict resolution is hired to help the parties negotiate a marital settlement agreement.
  • Arbitration: an impartial third party is retained to hear the parties' positions on their divorce issues and make a binding decision.
  • Collaboration: a newer, novel approach to divorce in which the spouses sit down around a table with their lawyers and other neutral professionals to craft a creative marital settlement agreement.

The basics of collaborative law

The literature about collaborative law repeatedly uses words like respect, dignity, control and creativity. Collaborative divorce was hatched in Minnesota by an experienced divorce attorney who thought there must be a better way to do things than the knock-down, drag-out fights divorces often become.

Normally, a spouse's divorce attorney does not communicate with the other spouse directly, only to his or her lawyer, and to do otherwise is considered unethical. But collaborative law turns these relationships on their heads, allowing the two spouses and their legal counsel to have a series of meetings in which they all talk through and negotiate the legal matters that need to be decided together. Neutral experts may be brought into these meetings to consult on things like financial and tax issues, parent-child matters, and how to negotiate and communicate without escalating into heated argument.

At the beginning of the process, the parties agree to treat each other with respect and to be honest and forthcoming about all facts like disclosure of assets. So there needs to be a certain level of trust that the other spouse will indeed keep his or her word.

A catch is that if an agreement cannot be crafted through collaboration, the attorneys must resign and the parties start over with new counsel in a new divorce method. This gives all both the spouses and their lawyers incentive to work very hard in collaboration to make it work.

Seek legal advice

This is only a basic introduction to collaborative law, which has many other aspects. If you are facing a Texas divorce, speak with an experienced Texas divorce attorney about the various methods of divorce available to learn whether collaboration or another method is the better choice for you in your particular circumstances.