Collaborative Family Law and Divorce

Divorce is something that no one wishes upon themselves or anyone else. Sometimes however, it becomes inevitable. While you may not be able to control the reality of getting a divorce, you can control the process you go through to obtain a divorce.

Imagine being able to go through a complex divorce without litigating it in a public forum. The result would be a method that would reduce stress, fees and costs while also shielding the children from much of the bitterness and anxiety caused by adversarial litigation. We know now that the way a couple acts as they go through the divorce process has a much greater impact on children than the fact of divorce itself.

Not too long ago, Texas became the first state to pass laws allowing divorces and suits affecting the parent-child relationship to be conducted under collaborative law procedures. If you have lived in Texas for the last 6 months and have been a resident of Denton County for the preceding 90 days, jurisdiction for your case will be in Denton County.

The collaborative model is premised on a written agreement signed by the parties and their attorneys. The parties agree to voluntarily exchange all relevant information and abide by a stated code of conduct. When experts are needed to evaluate certain issues, they are jointly retained and act as neutral consultants. There is no litigation and court proceedings are suspended until a settlement is reached and a final decree is entered. The incentive for all participants to resolve the case amicably is achieved by the legal requirement that both attorneys must withdraw from the case if it cannot be settled and has to be litigated.

Since the focus of collaborative law is only on the resolution of issues, blaming parties for past conduct or events is not part of the process. Most attorneys practicing collaborative law are specifically trained in utilizing problem-solving techniques which address both parties’ goals, interests and concerns. Since statutory guidelines for the division of property, child support and visitation do not have to be strictly adhered to in the collaborative model, the parties are free to craft agreements which fit the unique dynamics of the restructured family.

Collaborative law will not be appropriate for every situation. However, we believe it should be considered when the parties’ true interests and goals include any of the following:

  • Recognition of what is in the best interest of the children.
  • The creation and implementation of the best possible co-parenting relationship under the circumstances.
  • The desire for a private, civilized and dignified resolution of the issues.
  • The ability to control the process and the result rather than leaving the outcome to a judge or a jury.
  • The ability to reduce family stress and lower costs and fees.
  • The desire to preserve relationships with family and friends.

Frank Lyle is specially trained in collaborative family law and can help you recognize if the process is right for you. His extensive litigation and mediation experience enables him to provide advice based on your unique situation. The firm may offer a consultation at no charge and can provide informational material upon request. Additional information is available from the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.