Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What to do If Your Spouse Wants a Divorce -- But You Don't

Sometimes the subject of divorce comes up and people are surprised about it. Some people don't pay attention to warning signs of discontent and some willfully ignore problems that are building up.

In spite of, and sometimes because of, the inattention by one spouse, the other spouse may be sensing that it is time to split up. It is quite common for one spouse to have moved quite a distance down the path to unhitching while the other spouse is standing still.

From another perspective, some people are blissfully unaware of problems and some people intentionally put their head in the sand.

Whatever your situation is, being the "left behind" spouse is often difficult and painful.  If you are in that situation, here are some ideas for you to consider.

1.  Get counseling for yourself. Disregard whatever excuses come to mind. Please help yourself and find a counselor to work with. You can gain a lot of understanding of what is happening and what you may or may not be able to do. Eventually, you will feel better. Don't try to figure things out on your own.

2.  You can suggest marital counseling for you and your spouse. Of course, you can't make your spouse attend, but it is worth a try. The counselor may help resolve some issues or may confirm that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There's small cost with a possible helpful outcome.

3.  Listen to your spouse.  If you can have a discussion with your spouse, stop talking and actively listen to what his or her concerns are. You may not have actively listened to your spouse in a long time.  Just listen and try to understand. Combine this with the next step.

4.  Don't argue.  You may think your spouse is totally wrong about something, but now is not the time to argue with him/ her.  If you want to win your spouse back, out-arguing them is not the path. You should learn from a counselor how and when to have discussions. Your passionate argument to convince your spouse to stay will more likely drive them away.  Get some help before you discuss matters.

5.  Be kind to your spouse.  Don't discuss the divorce. Don't put up roadblocks. Don't be uncooperative. Be nice and be someone your spouse would like to spend time with.  If you have kids, be an active, sharing parent. Trying to teach your spouse a lesson or making their life difficult will not rekindle the old romance. Before you act, think about how your spouse will probably react.  Will that help you get back together?

Bonus Suggestion:  Keep in mind that the marital problems are rarely one sided. You each have contributed to the problems.  Be willing to accept responsibility for problems, but focus on the solutions, rather than finding fault.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Why There's No Free Consultation

Free Consultation?
We get many calls that include the question about whether we give a free consultation.  We don't mind getting the question and we understand why many people ask. They may think they can get a regular consultation with lots of useful information at no cost.

No More Free Consultations
We stopped doing free consultations years ago. Back then, we focused on giving out a little information and encouraging the prospective client to call us.  It became clear after a while that many people came in with no intention of hiring us. They just wanted the information.

Our New Approach
So we changed our approach. We started to charge for the initial consultation for those who want to spend time with us in the office.

The Free Part
But we still give away a lot of information. We developed an extensive web site that provides a great deal of information to our clients. Later, we added two blogs that have been running over 10 years and which have over 300 articles with information. There's no charge for the web information.

Check Us Out First
Now, we let people check us out online and decide if they like our approach on issues. They can also educate themselves on many issues.

What You Pay For
Then, if they  like what they see, they can make an appointment to meet with an attorney. We listen to you, give feedback on your ideas and sometimes do some brainstorming to come up with a plan and possible solutions. We explain the law and how it applies to your case, as well as discussing the facts of your case.

This Works!
We know this won't please the people who still something for nothing, and we're sorry we can't help everyone. For the serious people who want to hire an attorney, this seems to work well.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Third Option -- It's Not Just a Choice Between 2 Options

In regular negotiations between spouses, most often, if they don't agree, each one has one preferred proposal. When they have equal votes, it's often hard to agree on a choice. A lot of the reason for that is that the choices are usually framed so that one spouse wins and the other loses or has to give up on something they want.

In those type of negotiations, the process usually leads to stalemate or frustration because someone was pressured into agreeing to something he or she didn't really want.

What if there were a third option, or fourth, fifth or sixth option?

Wouldn't that improve chances of reaching an agreement? Wouldn't it also increase chances of reaching a better agreement?

Traditional negotiations usually involve limited options, with the parties dug in to their positions and often fixated on "winning".

Can you see where this is going?

For couples working in the Collaborative Law process to solve problems, there are more options and those can be improved with the help of the professional team.

One reason the Collaborative process works so well is that the attorneys are experienced in Family Law and they work with the common goal of finding the best solutions for both sides.

Another reason: When we bring in experienced neutral financial and parenting experts, that leads to new and better options based on knowledge and years of experience.

A lot of people think they can work out agreements with their spouse to save time and money. In a few cases, that is true. In most cases, it doesn't work out well. In fact, spouses often get angry and stay angry for a while from those discussions that degenerate into arguments.

If the issues or future civility are important to you, maybe you should consider the Collaborative Law process as the means for achieving a peaceful solution.

Monday, October 1, 2018

What to do If Your Spouse Suggests a Collaborative Divorce

If you are suddenly faced with a request for a divorce and your spouse wants to use Collaborative Law, what should you do?

Since  you are reading this, you are obviously researching the topic and that's good.  It helps to have a little knowledge about the process to help you make decisions. 

Here are some suggestions to consider. 

1.  Remain calm.  You may have been thinking about divorce or discussing it. Although some spouses can hide their planning, it is rarely a total surprise.  There usually are problems that are obvious. As difficult as divorce can be, life afterwards can be a major improvement in many ways.

2. It's going to happen.  Keep in mind that if one person in a marriage wants a divorce, it will ultimately happen. You can slow it down, but you can't stop it.

3. Get counseling. Divorce is never easy. Seeing a counselor for a while can be a big help. Check with friends, associates and especially lawyers to find a counselor who can help. Try out one or more counselors to find someone you are comfortable with.

4.  Look into Collaborative Law.  If your spouse already wants to try it, you are lucky! In most cases, it is a much better process for many reasons.  You can get information from several sources:  blogs like this, web sites, YouTube videos, Facebook pages and different organizations, such as Collaborative Divorce Texas, and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. In addition, there are local practice groups, which are small groups of Collaborative professionals who work together in certain geographic areas.

5.  Hire an experienced Collaborative attorney.  Find out how many Collaborative cases the attorney has handled.  In Texas, you can ask if the attorney has been credentialed by Collaborative Divorce Texas.  They award "Credentialed" and "Master Credentialed" designations which are earned by having handled a significant number of Collaborative cases and being recommended by other Collaborative professionals, among other things.  In addition, make sure there is a good chemistry between you and the attorney so you can work well together.

If you are facing divorce, whether you like it or not, Collaborative Law is the way to go in many cases. It is less stressful, more efficient and leads to more creative solutions that can work for either party,  For your best experience, follow these steps.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

DIY Divorce Negotiating -- Why it's a Bad Idea!

In an age when more and more people want to "do it themselves" with so many things, people negotiating their own divorces seems like a natural.  After all, who's more interested in the outcome than the parties themselves?  Think of the money they can save by not hiring lawyers, and think of the fights that can be avoided by keeping the lawyers out of it. Plus, the parties either believe they know the details of their case or trust their spouse will share the information. 

Everyone knows Texas is a 50-50 state, right, so dividing things up should be easy. And you can find all the forms for child support and visitation online.

So, what could go wrong?

Although I am naturally an optimist, I have to point out a number of potentially costly problems with the DIY approach. 

1.  You may be misinformed.  For example, property doesn't have to be divided 50-50, and usually there's some variance from that.  There are a number of factors that can affect the division. You may also not know whether something is separate property (not to be divided) or included in the community property.  Some situations are complicated and relying on the internet may not be smart.

2.  You can be bullied. Hopefully, that's not the case, but I have seen numerous cases where one party dominates the other and obtains a very favorable property division, child support order or custody arrangement. That is much less likely when there are attorneys involved.

3.  You may not be aware of the true strengths of your bargaining position.  Knowledge of the law, along with experience, can unlock a lot of options for getting the result you want to achieve.  Some issues are settled and don't need to be re-litigated.  Or, you may be in a weak position and it would be helpful to learn that before you are in too deep.

4.  You probably have no experience with how different approaches work.  For example, you or your spouse may want a 50-50 time sharing arrangement with the kids.  There are several different models used for that purpose and an experienced lawyer can help you understand how they work and which might be best option for you.

5.  Overall, it is better to have someone experienced to bounce ideas off.  You are dealing with serious and very important issues.  Having a second opinion or alternate point of view can help you test your ideas or your spouse's ideas before you agree to them. Take a little time and have a discussion.  What you are discussing will affect you and your children the rest of your lives.

While the tendency may be to favor saving money by doing the negotiating yourself,  that can easily leave you with bad agreements and bad court orders.  What you are going through has such enormous effects on your future that you really need to be smart and get help.  Be smart, not cheap!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Why is Collaborative Law Better than Mediation?

Although I am a Mediator as well as a Collaborative attorney, I almost always recommend using the Collaborative process, rather than Mediation or Litigation, for divorces and other family law issues. That's in spite of a very impressive success rate for Mediated cases. 

Mediation has its place in the world of dispute resolution.  Once Litigation has started, Mediation is ordered by courts in North Texas in most cases before the parties can have a final trial. The reason is that almost every case will settle in mediation.

So, why the preference for Collaborative Law over Mediation or Litigation? Here are some of the reasons that are important.

1.  Collaborative work starts at the beginning of the case. Mediation usually occurs months down the road.  There have been a lot of hearings, documents exchanged, arguments had and money spent by the time the case gets to Mediation. In contrast, we start direct communications (talking!) from the beginning.  We don't spend time and money going to court, doing Discovery (formal exchange of documents) and arguing over lots of side issues.  We identify and focus on the issues that are important to both sides.

2.  Often, Mediation is done with a court date looming in the background.  The implicit threat of court often eliminates some options. In Collaborative, we control our timetable and work as fast or slow as the parties want.  We don't have a threat of compulsion or an adverse Judge's ruling  to force an unpleasant agreement. In Collaborative cases, we have up to two years during which the Court cannot control our schedule.

3.  Mediation usually occurs after a lot of problems continued and often got worse.  Collaborative Law uses a neutral mental health professional, with the close cooperation of both attorneys, to manage emotions and communications. Plus, the structure of the Collaborative Law process is much more rational.  We identify the goals and needs for both parties.  Then we gather information about the parties, their children and their finances.  Next, we generate options for settlement, followed by negotiations to reach agreement so that the needs of both parties are met. Finally, we draw up the paperwork and get it signed by the Judge.  When problems come up, we work together to find solutions because we have all committed to do so.

4.  Collaborative Law is not part of a strategy to financially weaken the other party, a common strategy in Litigation.  Unfortunately, there are sometimes motions and hearings in Litigation that seem to serve little purpose other than to harass the other party and drain their resources. In Collaborative cases, we know that the parties are better served by staying focused on the issues relating to settlement of the problems they have identified. We work on being efficient and regularly review the financial accounts of the parties so everyone knows what's going on.

5.  Collaborative Law eliminates ambush and strategies to "win". Both sides work together to achieve the goals for both parties. There's no solution until both sides are satisfied.  It is not a situation where there's only one "winner"! Both sides have to win, or we keep working.

These are just some of the reasons why Collaborative Law is often a much better process than Mediation or Litigation for handling family issues, including divorce.  For more information relating to your specific circumstances, go talk to a trained, experienced Collaborative attorney.  It will be time well invested.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Why Does Collaborative Law Work?

Sometimes just explaining the Collaborative process isn't enough to convey how great a process it is. I have seen statistics showing successful outcomes in 85-90% of the cases where Collaborative Law was used.

So, why does it work?  Here are some of the reasons.  

1.  We have a team of professionals working together.  In a typical Collaborative case (at least in North Texas), we utilize at least four professionals:  2 attorneys, a neutral financial advisor and a neutral therapist who manages the Joint Meetings and also usually helps the parties put together a parenting plan.  Sometimes, we have a separate "child specialist" who helps the parties with the parenting plan.  All team members have training in Collaborative Law and experience in their fields outside of the Collaborative Divorce context. An experienced team of Collaborative professionals adds a tremendous value to the process.

2.  There is a focus on solutions, not fighting.  This is part of the contrast with litigation. We don't waste time assigning blame or accusing each other of various misdeeds. Obviously, if we're dealing with a couple divorcing, there have been misdeeds by both sides. Instead of looking backward, we focus on creating a better future for both parties.

3.  There is a lot of direct communication. This happens at meetings, most often under the supervision of the neutral mental health professional.  Part of what happens in the process is that both parties learn and practice better communication skills.  Most couples finish the process better able to talk about important matters without fighting.  That's especially important when there are children.

4.  The process lends itself to flexibility and creativity.  We are not bound to use standard solutions and statutory guidelines.  We start by focusing on what the parties want and need.  Then, we gather information and finally start choosing solutions to fit the circumstances of the parties. We have been very successful in getting Judges to approve highly customized solutions that our clients came up with.

5.  You and your spouse get to decide. You know what your needs are and your spouse does, too.  Instead of letting a disinterested Judge impose arbitrary and standard answers to everything, you get to come up with solutions you like and we make them the terms of the Decree of Divorce. You have the power to determine the details of your life after divorce and that is much better than turning it over a Judge to decide.

These are just some of the reasons why Collaborative Law works.  Yes, I am a fan of the process.  If you are facing divorce or have some other legal issue to be resolved, do yourself a favor and talk to a trained Collaborative lawyer about whether Collaborative Law could be used in your case.  I'll bet it can be!