Give collaborative divorce serious consideration

Collaboration offers an alternative to confrontational divorce.

People often go into the divorce process with little understanding of what to expect or with stereotypical images of courtroom drama. Nowadays, there is a range of divorce-process options and anyone facing this potential should sit down with an experienced family lawyer to understand the options and the pros and cons considering the unique circumstances of the couple.

The collaborative process

One of those options is collaborative divorce, a unique, modern approach that is by choice nonconfrontational. Collaboration sidesteps the usual process of negotiation through the lawyers to settlement, if possible, followed by a trial if necessary, in which the terms of divorce are decided in court.

In collaboration, the spouses sign a participation agreement in which they agree to stay out of court and to instead settle the terms of their divorce in a series of four-way meetings. The four participants are the divorcing spouses plus each of their lawyers. The parties agree to behave respectfully and honestly throughout the process of creating a divorce agreement.

They also pledge to keep what is discussed and revealed confidential and to bring to the table any relevant information in their possession.

In addition, the parties agree that if collaboration fails, they each must hire new lawyers to represent them. This is motivation for all involved to make the process successful so as not to waste the time and money spent on collaborative meetings.

Another aspect of collaboration that is unique is the use of neutral professionals or experts to provide information the couple needs to create a fair agreement. For example, these neutrals often include financial or tax experts, parenting or child consultants and divorce coaches to assist the parties through emotional impasses. Sharing the cost of these experts rather than each person hiring his or her own can lower the costs of divorce.

Benefits

Some of the positive aspects of collaborative divorce may include:

  • Privacy: No public records of court proceedings are produced.
  • Control over scheduling: The parties decide how quickly or slowly the process will go instead of being at the mercy of a court calendar.
  • Good for children: Many believe that the lack of conflict is better for the children involved than an adversarial court process.
  • Parental relationship: The collaborative negotiation process can help foster a more positive relationship between the spouses if they must continue to cooperate as parents into the future.
  • Creativity: The parties can come up with creative, unique terms in their agreement.
  • Cost: In many cases, collaboration is less costly than court.

Drawbacks

Collaboration must be carefully chosen. For example, if a spouse has displayed dishonesty, or abusive or controlling behavior, he or she may not be an appropriate collaborative partner. If the conflict is so severe as to be traumatic, it may not be a good idea to try to spend time together. Finally, if agreement is extremely unlikely and the process likely to drag out, collaboration may become expensive, since two attorneys are paid for every meeting in addition to the fees of involved experts.

At the McKinney, Texas, law office of Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C., attorney Barbara Jouette provides comprehensive representation in divorce and related family law matters. She uses nonconfrontational methods of divorce like collaboration and mediation when appropriate as well as traditional negotiation and litigation, depending on the circumstances.