Monday, June 23, 2008

Having a "Good" Divorce

Occasionally, I hear someone comment that a friend was lucky to have a "good" divorce. If it was a traditional divorce and it didn't get too nasty, bitter or expensive, that friend was indeed lucky. Nowadays, it is possible to have a good divorce without being lucky. Now, it can happen if one is smart and willing to work with one's spouse. If both parties want a good divorce, they can choose to use Collaborative Law.

To me, a good divorce is one that is civilized, rather than a battle to gain a big advantage over their spouse. A good divorce utilizes neutral experts who provide guidance so that both parties can win.

Sometimes, both parties want the divorce. Sometimes it's only one of the parties who wants it, but even the party opposed to the divorce recognizes that it's better not to fight. It's better to be creative and focused on problem solving. That's a good divorce.

A good divorce has a lot of communication. It goes on between the parties, between the attorneys, and between the other professionals brought in and the attorneys and parties. That communication from all angles helps avoid conflict and minimize problems. It leads to more understanding of each other and the willingness to compromise and support each other's goals.

A good divorce may be one which is negotiated in private, respectful meetings.

There will be conflict and disagreement in a good divorce, but the parties and professionals will be better able to deal with the problems and respect each other's interests and needs. A good divorce provides the tools and structure to address the issues in conflict and find solutions that are acceptable to both parties.

Collaborative Law provides the best opportunity to have a good divorce. People considering or facing divorce should contact a Collaborative Lawyer to find out if it would be a good option.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mineral Rights -- No Longer Ignored

Whatever your position is on whether and where gas drilling should be permitted in Tarrant County, Texas, there is a lot of leasing going on and mineral rights have become a hot topic in divorce cases. In a Collaborative Law case in Tarrant County, mineral rights need to be on the agenda when dealing with property division. The mineral rights can come into play in several ways.

(1) The parties may own rural land in Tarrant County. If there's been no oil or gas leasing, someone will probably want to buy or lease the land (and minerals). Either way, there's some money to be made that can be divided along with the other assets of the marriage.

(2) If the parties own some developed land in Tarrant County, there probably has been or will be some leasing activity in the area. Some companies are buying properties, but most are just leasing.

(3) If the parties own any property in other counties, they should investigate whether there is any oil or gas activity in those areas. The biggest gas field in Texas right now is centered around Tarrant County, but oil activity is picking up around the state as the price per barrel continues to climb.

(4) If the parties' land is already leased, the royalties (if and when received) can be shared. If the initial bonus payment is still around, it can be divided or offset between the parties.

(5) Leases have generally been more profitable when neighborhoods band together or land owners lease large tracts. It's probably better not to try to negotiate a lease individually.

If your Collaborative attorneys don't know much about mineral rights, they can bring in an oil and gas specialist to help out, just like a parenting specialist or divorce financial planner is often brought in. While mineral rights may not be a big issue in other areas, in Tarrant County, they can have a major impact on the bottom line and they should not be ignored.

Monday, June 2, 2008

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Collaborative Law Attorney

I and others have written about how to find a lawyer for a litigated family law case. There are many good suggestions in that context that could also apply in a Collaborative case. There are some different considerations and qualifications relating to Collaborative Law. Here are 5 tips to help you locate a quality Collaborative Lawyer in Tarrant County, TX.

  • Make sure the attorney is qualified and experienced in Collaborative Law. Find out if the attorney is a board-certified specialist in family law. Look at the attorney's web site and any directories he/she may be on. You can also check the State Bar of Texas web site for information about an attorney, but an even better source is the web site of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas. Most experienced Collaborative attorneys are members of the organization and there is a long page of background information about most members on the web site. You can call and ask about the types and number of Collaborative cases the attorney has handled, or you ask questions in person, when you meet with the attorney.

  • On a related subject, make sure the attorney has had plenty of training in Collaborative Law. It is so different from litigation that attorneys must be re-programmed so they can act appropriately and manage meetings. Attorneys do well if they have some training each year and have had some recently. All attorneys should have had at least one 2-day basic course in Collaborative Law. When meeting with a prospective attorney, feel free to ask about the attorney's training.

  • You want the attorney to be comfortable and competent in working with financial and mental health professionals. My experience has been that bringing in the two other professionals increases the probability of success and makes the process work better for the parties.

  • The attorney should be active in his/her field. There are several groups that can be joined, such as local practice groups, CLI-Texas (the statewide organization) and IACP, an international organization of Collaborators.

  • Last, but certainly not least, you should decide (after personally meeting with the prospective attorney) whether the chemistry between the attorney and you seems good. You will be having a number of joint meetings and even more short meetings with just your attorney. Make sure that the relationship seems right. Go with your gut feeling.

The way to find a good Collaborative Lawyer for yourself is to mix some common sense, follow general advice about hiring an attorney (get referrals, check similar experience, etc.) and then look for the specialized qualifications that outlined above. Good luck!