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  • Writer's pictureEric Beal

Divorce or Custody: Top Five Reasons Why Collaborative Law May Be Right for You

A Collaborative Family Law case is handled under a different set of rules than a Litigated Case. The substantive law is the same, but the procedural rules differ. If you are in or about to be in a Divorce or Custody or other Family Law case, you need to decide what is best for you. Here are Five Reasons that you need to strongly consider the Collaborative Model:


Example of what a Collaborative Divorce Meeting may look like


1. You are an adult and you are married to an adult


You could look at this the other way and say that if you do some self-reflection and realize that you are too emotional about your situation to act rationally or if your spouse or the other party is, then you should think twice before choosing to start your case collaboratively. That would be true – and it’s true either way you look at it.


If you can act and make decisions rationally, rather than being driven by the desire to “get back at” the other side or “make them pay,” and if you honestly believe that your spouse or the other party in the case can do the same thing, then a Collaborative Divorce (or Collaborative Law case) may be right for you. You can handle a paternity case collaboratively, a modification of custody case collaboratively, or an annulment collaboratively. Any legal matter can be handled collaboratively. The question is not “can you,” the question is “should you.” And you need solid information and advice to make that decision.


2. You can trust your spouse to be honest – at least with respect to financial matters


In order for a collaborative case to work, both parties need to represent – promise – that they will not hide things. It is equally important that both parties promise to engage in full disclosure – at least with financial things.


You have to be able to trust that your spouse will be honest about money and property and where things are and where the records are. And you have to be willing to do that. Does that mean that a Collaborative Divorce will not work in a case with adultery? Absolutely not. Some people will “cheat” on their spouse but be 100% transparent and open about finances. There is no absolute rule. Sometimes Collaborative Divorce is the best, fastest, and cheapest way to resolve a case in which one side or the other has a boyfriend or girlfriend.


3. You have full knowledge of your financial matters If you already know what all there is, where it is, and the ability to figure out what it’s worth, you may not need all the nasty discovery tools that are available in the “Litigation Model.” The “Collaborative Model” does not use those tools. That can save a tremendous amount of money and time. In the law, maybe more than in any other context, time is money. Divorce lawyers almost always charge by the hour. If you are not going to need all of the discovery tools – typically Requests for Disclosure, Requests for Production, Requests for Admission, Interrogatories, and Depositions – then you need to at least consider handling your case collaboratively.

This factor, however, does not mean that you need full knowledge of your financial situation in order for collaborative to be right for you. It simply means that if you do have that knowledge, then collaborative may be an especially good choice for you.


4. You want as much privacy as possible in your divorce or other family law matter


In most divorce cases, as well as most family law cases of any type, there is not one, single, contested hearing. That means that all the stuff that makes for good television – a lawyer grilling one party or the other on the witness stand in front of a packed courtroom – rarely happens in Texas Family Law. Even in a case that has one or more hearings, the hearings usually are not hotly contested with detail of salacious facts. And even the few that have these, are not typically played out in front of much, if any audience. First of all, in most cases, if there are any contested hearings, it will likely be a Temporary Orders hearing. In some Counties, the Judge will only allow 20 minutes or so, per side, for a presentation of the complete case. Given that in a case with any complexity, there are a great many issues that need to be discussed, how many details can be gotten into in that amount of time – especially when there may well be an objection that, “Judge, we object to going down that road here. We’re here on Temporary Orders, and any allegations of Adultery – by either party – are irrelevant at this stage of the case.” And the Judge may well sustain the objection. Of course, that does not mean that detailed written discovery won’t be conducted on the subject. The way to eliminate all of that for sure is to engage in and complete a Collaborative case. In a collaborative case, you trade away your rights to do all of that discovery for an agreement that you will handle things in private meetings, rather than hearings, written questions and answers, etc. 5. You want to have as much control as possible in your divorce case As stated above, Collaborative Matters are all about meetings, rather than hearings, threats of hearings, motions, written requests, and depositions. In Texas, there are typically two lawyers, two clients, and two “other professionals” present in all of the “online meetings.” There can be what are called “offline meetings,” where the lawyers aren’t present or where only the lawyers are present. A Collaborative Divorce does not mean that everyone gets along completely and with no tension from the beginning of the case until the end. It does not mean that everyone is “happy” about getting the divorce or thrilled with the resolution of the case. But, what it does mean is that nobody is getting “ordered” to do anything that is not agreed to – although it is possible for there to be “outside” orders whereby the court has ordered that one or both parties do or not doing certain things while the case is pending. In a Collaborative Divorce, you get to choose when to have your next meeting – not the Court, not the Judge, and not the other party. Everything is done by agreement – when the meetings are scheduled, how long the meetings will last, and what gets decided at the meetings. If you conclude a Collaborative Family Law case, you will have settled your case. You are not “told” the result by a Judge, you have agreed to the result, even if it’s done somewhat (or completely) begrudgingly.

Conclusion


Collaborative Law may be right for you. If you are in a Texas divorce or thinking about a Texas Divorce – or other Texas Family Law Matter – you owe it to yourself to at least educate yourself on and consider a Collaborative Case. You need to find an attorney that knows about the Collaborative Model and the Litigation Model and can advise you on the pros and cons of both. If you only consult an attorney that refuses to consider either type of case, you may not be getting compete information – or advice that is in your best interest, rather than the attorney’s. Learn More Here: What is Collaborative Divorce?


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