What is Collaborative Divorce?

divorce

The ending of a marriage is heartbreaking, but a divorce is bitter and messy. Couples must hire attorneys and hash out everything in court. Finally, a judge who knows nothing about them hands down decisions that will impact their lives. However, couples in Texas have an alternative. Collaborative divorce allows couples to work together rather than go to court.

In collaborative divorce, spouses and their attorneys meet together in structured settlement meetings and address each issue, then come to a mutually acceptable agreement. In order to do this effectively, they must create certain boundaries. This is done in the form of a Participation Agreement. In this signed document, spouses agree to work together in good faith. They agree to complete transparency, disclosing all financial records and other relevant information. Most importantly, they agree not to go to a judge to settle any disputed issues. One of the main reasons couples choose collaborative divorce over traditional divorce litigation is privacy since their divorce case is kept out of the public eye. If a spouse decides to back out of the collaborative agreement and opts to take their case to court, then both spouses must both hire new attorneys and move forward from there with a litigated case.

In court, the couple's options are limited. With collaborative divorce, they are free to make decisions based on their family's unique needs. They are also able to consult various professionals that make up the team. These professionals may include:

  • Mental health professionals – Also known as communication facilitators, the mental health professionals help couples with problem solving and communication skills. They provide communication between the couple and other members of the team to keep everyone focused on completing the process. They also help the couple create a parenting plan that will be necessary in the final divorce document submitted to the judge.
  • Child Specialist – Children often keep feelings of anger or confusion bottled up. A child specialist can create a safe space for them to communicate these feelings and help them deal with the divorce. They can also help parents understand their children's feelings, as well as help prepare them for the transition to co-parenting.
  • Financial advisor – The main function of the financial advisor is to create a list of assets and debts held by the couple. They help them create household budgets based on present and future incomes, discuss any financial issues that might arise, and give general advice about issues such as taxes.
  • Miscellaneous specialists – There are many other specialists that may be called upon in unique situations. Couples may need assistance with real estate, business evaluation, estate planning, retirement plans, evaluating antiques, and so on.

Once every issue has been addressed and both teams are satisfied, the attorneys will draft final documents and submit them to the appropriate court. Once the judge signs them, the divorce is final.

There are many benefits to opting for a collaborative divorce. The couple retains power over all decisions made based on their own family situations, especially child custody and visitation. They schedule their own meetings, rather than wait for an opening on a judge's docket. It may save them money, too, if the process is quick and amicable. Finally, they maintain their privacy. No documents from a collaborative divorce are made public.

Collaborative divorce allows the spouses to maintain their dignity during the divorce procedure. It allows them to work together with respect and learn ways to continue as co-parents to their children.

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