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Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law is a new way for divorcing couples to approach the dissolution of their marriage. Utilizing the skills of a neutral financial advisor and mental health professional, in addition to their two attorneys, Collaborative Law divorces were designed to create an atmosphere of open communication and cooperation in which both parties are allowed to preserve their dignity while working toward an agreed-upon settlement. This process is particularly helpful for divorcing couples with children, because Collaborative Law recognizes that although the marriage may be ending, the relationships and obligations will continue.

Collaborative Law consists of creating a “team” of professionals whose goal it is to develop a workable, long-term settlement plan that addresses the interests of everyone involved. The team includes the divorcing couple, an attorney for each divorcing partner, and two neutrals—the financial advisor and the mental health professional, also known as the “communications coach”. The balance of advocates and neutrals results in a process that is both productive and positive, when compared to traditional litigation.

The fundamental difference between collaborative law divorces and traditional litigated divorces that collaborative law cases are worked out without court intervention. That is, both the husband and the wife agree to participate in a collaborative settlement process in which all aspects of the divorce are worked out without the threat of going to court. This then allows for a balance of power and the protection of rights for each individual. It also provides for interest-based negotiations instead of the positional bargaining that is frequently seen in traditional divorces.

The mental health professional’s role in the collaborative law process is not to attempt reconciliation but to improve communication between the spouses and to help them set priorities for themselves and their children. Working as an advocate for the family, the mental health professional’s goal is to help the divorcing couple navigate the divorce process in such as way as to allow for increased and improved communication post-divorce, when these skills are most needed.

While collaborative law can frequently be healthier, less time-intensive, and more cost-effective than traditional divorce, it is not for everyone. Collaborative law may not work for those dealing with mental illness, substance abuse and/or family violence issues within the home.

For more information about the collaborative law process please visit www.collablawtexas.org.

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