Filing for a divorce can be a challenging and long process. In Texas, the law allows you and your spouse to pursue a collaborative divorce to simplify the process and reduce your stress. Its purpose is to avoid litigation and instead conduct an “interest-based negotiation.” Both spouses and their respective lawyers seek to find common grounds and solutions that are beneficial to both parties and any minor children the couple may share.
Both you and your spouse must willingly enter the collaborative divorce process and agree to it in writing. This type of divorce proceeding usually involves meetings in an office rather than a courtroom. This legal option offers many benefits to couples that are looking for a way to peacefully reach an agreement to simplify their marriage dissolution in Texas.
What Are the Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce?
- Streamlines the divorce process. A collaborative divorce in Texas can often save you a significant amount of time and money. You can however work your way through the negotiation process at your own pace to make sure that you reach the agreement that meets your needs and goals, including if you and your spouse have a business together and aim to organize it and any assets you want to carefully separate in a mutually beneficial way.
- Helps maintain privacy. This option also allows you and your spouse to keep your divorce private compared to the public court hearings involved in a trial. It can be especially helpful when you have minor children or if you do not want to risk media attention if you and/or your spouse are high-profile persons. A litigated divorce also involves documents that the state considers public records like motions and sworn statements.
- Eases stress on children. A collaborative divorce can create a strong foundation for post-divorce co-parenting. From child custody and visitation schedules to child support payments, amicable negotiations can set the tone for how you and your spouse communicate and set a positive example for your children after your divorce is final. It can also make you more amenable to resolving big and smaller issues right away rather than addressing them later, which can ease some of the stress for your children.
Finally, some individuals may hope to reconcile with their spouse and a collaborative divorce can increase your chances of doing so. While it does not guarantee this will be the case, promoting good communication and fostering of respect and honesty may lead to reconciliation.
What Is the Process for a Collaborative Divorce in Texas?
A collaborative divorce in Texas generally only requires filing three pleadings with the court: the original petition, the collaborative law participation agreement, and the final divorce decree. This is substantially less paperwork than during litigation.
After you and your spouse put in writing that you willfully enter the collaborative divorce process, you can start preparing for your first meeting with your attorney. In addition to their presence during the joint meetings, you usually schedule additional one-on-one consultations with your lawyer. Each meeting happens in a neutral setting, generally an office with each party’s lawyer and a neutral third party.
During the joint meetings, you and your spouse can negotiate all aspects of your divorce, including:
- Property and asset division
- Child conservatorship
- Child support
- Any other details relevant to your parenting plan
Meetings often happen on a monthly basis and can involve the following individuals in addition to both spouses and their lawyers:
- A family counselor
- Parenting coordinators
- Financial or real estate experts
You and your spouse can expect about six meetings to reach an agreement that meets your respective goals. Once you have done so, you both need to appear before the court for the hearing during which a judge finalizes your divorce as long as you have met Texas's mandatory 60-day waiting period.
When Should I Consider a Different Type of Divorce?
If at any time during your negotiations, you and your spouse cannot agree on a specific matter, you need to continue negotiating with the assistance of your lawyers because this divorce option does not involve a judge who may otherwise issue a specific ruling on a troublesome aspect of your marriage dissolution. In this type of situation, the divorce negotiation could turn into a long and expensive process, which goes against the purpose of a collaborative divorce. If you and your spouse decide to give up on the legal process and go to court, you need to hire different lawyers.
A collaborative divorce may not be a good fit for the following reasons:
- Financial imbalance. Your divorce lawyer may also recommend you do not choose a collaborative divorce if you and your spouse have vastly different finances, especially if you are seeking alimony because Texas usually limits it. If you ask for spousal support and the other party declines your request during a collaborative divorce, no third party can rule in your favor contrary to litigation.
- History of domestic violence. If you have suffered domestic violence from your spouse, a collaborative divorce is likely to be a scary and draining situation as you would need to spend hours in the same room and negotiate with your abuser. They may also attempt to intimidate you to gain the upper hand in the agreement. Going to court can minimize your contact with them and a judge who understands your situation can more effectively protect your rights and safety.
- Addiction. Other circumstances that are not conducive to a collaborative divorce are when your spouse has a substance use disorder. They may not only fail to show up for all necessary meetings but if they are reluctant to pursue treatment, the lack of judge in the process means no one has the legal authority to order them to get professional help.
Hire a Trusted Divorce Attorney to Protect Your Rights and Assets in Texas
If you are considering divorce, contacting a reputable family law attorney should be your first step. It helps you learn about your options and make an informed decision about the type of divorce you want to pursue. At The Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC, we carefully review your situation before making personalized recommendations for your divorce, including whether you have any minor children, the state of your finances and assets, and any other relevant factors that can affect your marriage dissolution under Texas law.
Although we believe in the effectiveness and benefits of choosing a collaborative divorce, we understand that this solution is not an appropriate fit for all our clients in Bell County. Our priority is always to protect your and your family’s rights and assets. Whether you can negotiate your divorce outside of the courtroom or need to go to trial, our team is here for you throughout the legal process. We are available to address any questions or concerns you may have at any point before, during, or after your divorce.
Are you considering a collaborative divorce in Killeen or its surrounding areas? Contact The Law Office of Nancy Perry Eaton, PLLC, today at (254) 221-8588 to schedule a consultation!