Sunday, March 1, 2015

Why to Consider Collaborative Law

Whether you are facing the start of a divorce or other family law matter, or you are already unhappily experiencing a litigated family law matter, you should be aware that there is a more peaceful, less stressful, more creative alternative to litigation.

There are actually many reasons why people choose to use the Collaborative Law process.  Here is a checklist of some of the reasons.  If any of the reasons appeal to you and you are facing a divorce, you should consult with an experienced Collaborative attorney. It's best to start in the process, but you can always switch over in mid-stream if both parties have Collaborative-trained attorneys.

  • Privacy: You don't want your finances or personal behaviors out in public.  Many people don't want publicity and are concerned for their jobs.  Public officials, professionals, business leaders, professional sports figures and others usually prefer that their private lives not be opened up in public.
  • Need unusual terms:  Courts tend to use standard guidelines and approaches, but many people need special consideration that's not available in court.  It might be alimony, even if they don't technically qualify for it, or special visitation schedules because of unusual work schedules, or special consideration with the children or unusual cooperative agreements to keep a joint business going without taking it apart in a property division.  Collaborative agreements can be a lot more flexible and creative than court is.
  • Control timing:  Courts almost always will impose a scheduling order if the case doesn't move quickly to resolution. That schedule often stretches out for a year before the final trial date.  With Collaborative Law, on average, cases usually can be finished in 3 to 6 months, but can be done more quickly or more slowly, depending on the needs and desires of the parties.  A Collaborative case can be pending for up to 2 years without a court interfering with it.
  • You want a civil, peaceful process:  Litigation is a combative system not based on cooperation. Litigation attorneys must follow the rules and deadlines of the system and they depend on having a variety of hearings that can get pretty ugly.  Collaborative Law uses a series of short meetings and in Texas, we normally use a neutral therapist as a communication specialist who helps both parties work together effectively.
  • You want to make your own decisions:  Litigation leaves most decisions ultimately to the judge, or the attorneys make agreements based on what they believe the judge would rule.  In Collaborative Law, parties make their own decisions.
  • Want a neutral Financial Professional to help you understand the financial issues and options: In litigation, in some cases, each party will hire their own financial advisor, but most of the time, they don't use one.  In Collaborative Law cases, we normally use one neutral advisor for both parties in every case.
  • You want to offset a power advantage by your spouse:  It's very common in litigation for one party to have more power than the other because the party has knowledge, experience or information, or maybe has physically intimidated the other party.  In Collaborative, the neutral experts prevent such imbalances by sharing information and educating both parties.  Intimidation is not allowed to be used.
  • You want to be sure you get all the information you need for making decisions: In litigation, it's not unusual for one party to hide information. It rarely happens in Collaborative Law because we have an extra set of eyes reviewing the finances for everyone and we have open disclosure of relevant information.  Kid issues are worked through with the communication specialist or sometimes with a child specialist who are very experienced.
  • You want a more efficient process:  Litigation is  pretty inefficient.  Cases often have multiple temporary hearings. Information is usually gathered by the inefficient and over broad Discovery process which requests much more information than is necessary.  Collaborative Law has a step-by-step process that is followed in a series of short meetings that have agendas that are followed.  The process generally takes a lot less time than Litigation.
  • You want to keep a good relationship with your spouse:  Litigation pits each spouse against the other.  One wins and other loses.  In Collaborative cases, the parties work to achieve mutually beneficial goals.  With creative solutions, we avoid the old win-lose scenario.
  • You want to minimize fighting over the children:  Standard options in litigation often lead to unnecessary fighting over the kids.  Instead of finding ways to cooperative, as in Collaborative, litigators often are in custody fights or fights over the number of days per week they see the kids.  With the child specialist or communication specialist, Collaborative parents work informally to create plans that they are both happy with.
  • You want to improve your communication with your ex:  Improved communication in litigation means sending messages through your lawyer rather than sending ugly text messages or using the kids as messengers.  In Collaborative Law, we work on listening skills and practice how to say things in less offensive ways so that reasonable discussions can be held.