Collaborative family law is a team process in which the parties commit to not litigate while seeking to resolve their family law case through a pre-defined negotiation process that seeks to achieve mutually beneficial agreements. The process can be modified to fit the needs of the parties, but the most common form in Texas is as follows:
1. Each party has their own attorney, preferably one who is trained in collaborative law and believes in its principles.
2. Two neutrals are also on the “settlement team,” a mental health professional and a financial planner.
3. A collaborative law agreement is signed and a notice is given to the courts that nothing else should happen in court while the parties are using the collaborative process except for agreed matters filed with the court.
4. The parties have individual meetings with his or her attorney and possibly neutrals and joint meetings with all participants.
5. The collaborative law process works through pre-defined negotiation steps of (a) communicating goals and interests; (b) voluntarily exchanging all relevant documents and information needed to reach agreements or requested by the other party; (c) brainstorming potential solutions; (d) evaluating options; and (e) documenting agreements.
6. These steps are repeated as necessary until all issues are agreed to, or, if any issues are still not agreed to, then the parties can agree to resolve any remaining issues another way, such as mediation or arbitration.
7. Either party can terminate the collaborative law process at any time with partial agreements or no agreements.
Potential Negatives of Collaborative Law
1. If either party terminates the collaborative law process, you cannot use your collaborative law attorney for litigation. However, since 90 to 95% of collaborative law cases settle, termination is generally a low possibility. Also, any progress and work done in the Collaborative Law process can still have a positive effect on eventually resolving the case more amicably although litigation is being used. The collaborative law case file, including all documents voluntarily exchanged, are given to the litigation counsel which can save time in preparing for contested hearings of trials.
2. Higher Cost. Having two neutral professionals and joint meetings with attorneys can be more expensive than other ways to resolve a family law matter, but it can be much less than litigation, especially if positive grounds in communication and problem solving keep you from going to court again over children or other issues.
3. Time. If the collaborative law process is terminated such that litigation is required, the time for the whole case can be longer.
Positives of Collaborative Family Law
1. Learning and using problem solving skills and knowledge in the family is very needed for parents and families and should positively impact your family for years and possibly generations.
2. Privacy. Your information will not be presented to whoever is in the court as litigation can and your settlement, documents, and sensitive information can be kept private.
3. Scheduling. Meetings can be scheduled according to your schedules rather than the inflexiblity of court schedules.
4. Efficiency. It avoids the often wasted time associated with litigation.
5. Lower costs. Collaborative law can be much cheaper than litigation.
6. Better agreements. Because the process is designed to achieve a mutually agreeable and preferable solutions for the parties and taking into consideration the needs of all the family members, it should be better for the individuals and families.
7. Tailored. The collaborative law process and team can be tailored to the needs of your issues.
8. Focus. Focuses on the issues that need to be addressed making it a more efficient process.
Collaborative Family Law has many advantages to it, and should be strongly considered when selecting the appropriate approach for your family law matter.
Contact me for a consultation to discuss whether Collaborative Family Law is a good option for your situation.