Sunday, December 1, 2019

Proceed With Caution

Sometimes people going through a Collaborative divorce will start to discuss things and negotiate directly with their spouse outside of Collaborative meetings.

Usually, if the topic is something like what time to pick up or return the kids on a special occasion, that's appropriate and it may be necessary.

On the other hand, some people may begin pushing their spouse to negotiate directly, without the attorneys or other professionals, and that can cause problems.  Realistically, the parties are in the Collaborative process because they can't just sit at a kitchen table and work things out.

In spite of past differences, people sometimes drift into direct negotiations. It could be to save money, save time or because things are just going very well at the moment. Other times, it may be a result of a conscious or unconscious desire to control or dominate the partner.

There are several reasons to Proceed with Caution: 

  • Things could go badly and damage to the negotiations can occur. The good relationship could quickly disappear.
  • Someone might be pushed into a bad decision without the advice of counsel.
  • One or both parties may be overlooking legal concerns or options that are available.
  • One or both parties may be acting on a mistaken idea of the law.
  • Money may be spent or assets disposed of which could disadvantage one or both of the parties.
Keep in mind that the Collaborative attorneys and other professionals have a more objective viewpoint than you and your spouse do. The attorneys and professionals also have knowledge of the law and usually the experience of having handled at least hundreds of cases.

For the best outcome, please be patient and stay in communication with your attorney before you start negotiating on your own.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Do You Really Need a Team of Professionals?

For some people, the leap from hiring a lawyer to hiring a team of professionals for a divorce is very difficult. In Collaborative divorces, it is common in North Texas and other areas for the Collaborative attorneys to select a neutral mental health professional (MHP) and a neutral financial professional (FP) to work with the parties.

The attorneys and other professionals divide up the work so that the best qualified people are in charge of gathering information and leading the discussions for their areas. The MHP leads in working on issues relating to children, if there are parenting issues. In addition the MHP leads joint meetings. The FP is in charge of gathering and organizing financial information for everyone.

Some people worry about the cost, others don't want a complicated process, while some feel more comfortable with a more traditional approach.

Cost. As you may know, attorney fees can be expensive. On the other hand, the MHP and FP typically charge roughly half the hourly rate of the attorneys.  In regular litigation, the attorney does all the work. In Collaborative, you have a specialist taking charge of the preliminary work for parenting and financial issues, but charging around half the rate of the attorneys who would have been doing the same work. Much of the MHP and FP's work is done directly with the parties and without attorneys being present. You get great results at a reduced cost.

Complicated.  Dividing responsibility so that the most qualified person oversees different areas and works directly with the parties is a less complicated process.  The preliminary work is done by specialists and then reviewed by all. The attorneys provide the legal overview to make sure an appropriate and enforceable order is the result.

Traditional approach.  The alternative is to file pleadings, go to court,  and negotiate with the courtroom looming in the background. You can let the judge apply a standard possession schedule and standard child support orders. The parties can exchange information through the traditional written Discovery process, which usually costs thousands of dollars before it is over. It all takes a lot of attorney time, which translates into cost.

If you happen to have a divorce where both sides are in agreement on everything, you don't need Collaborative Law. If you agree on getting a divorce, but disagree on the parenting issues or on the finances, you should consider a Collaborative divorce.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Will It Work?

Collaborative divorce sounds good in theory, but many people wonder whether it can work in their case.

What Happens if it Fails?
If the process fails, the parties have to hire new attorneys and essentially start over. That means additional cost.

Incentive to Keep Working
The cost, delays and inconvenience of switching attorneys all create a big incentive for the parties to keep working together and to try other approaches if they struggle to reach agreements.  It's a big part of why the Collaborative divorce process works.

Reasons for Failure
But, in initially deciding whether to use the Collaborative process or go to litigation, people sometimes feel overwhelmed by their bad situations. They sometimes think Collaborative would fail because of one of the following reasons:
  • You and your spouse may be really mad at each other and don't want to talk to each other.
  • You and your spouse don't trust each other.
  • You're afraid your spouse can out-negotiate you.
  • You don't know what to do or what to ask for in a settlement.
  • You and your spouse don't seem to be able to agree on anything.
How We Deal with Those Concerns
These are all very common obstacles that divorcing people face. Experienced Collaborative attorneys and other professionals are used to dealing with these problems.
  • We can get you and your spouse in a calmer state and able to talk respectfully.
  • We start off figuring out the goals and needs (our targets) for each party. We go deeper than the standard, "I want half of everything".
  • Then we break down the process into manageable steps: gathering information, developing options, negotiating with the aid of the professionals and reaching agreements.
  • Throughout the process, we have the deep involvement and leadership of the professionals needed for parenting plan decisions and property division issues.
  • The parties learn of new options for settlement that they often have not thought of.
  • We can take as much time as is needed to develop the information and options so that both parties are comfortable with an agreement that benefits both parties.
 Bottom Line
 The Collaborative Divorce process works about 85-95% of the time.  That's pretty successful.

If you have concerns about how it might work in your situation, please contact an experienced Collaborative attorney who can help you visualize how the process would be for your case.

Note-- Second Opinion:  If an attorney tries to talk you out of using the Collaborative process, do yourself a favor and get a second opinion from an experienced Collaborative attorney who has actually worked through a number of cases. Unfortunately, some people advertise for Collaborative cases and use that to draw in potential clients without having the experience or real interest in Collaborative Law.

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.