Collaborative Law is a growing trend and an effective means of resolving divorces, child custody and other family disputes with less direct court involvement. It is growing increasingly popular with families that want to maintain their privacy, and it often results in a less expensive resolution by enabling the clients to avoid the costs and fees inherent in contentious court battles. The process combines the benefits of non-binding mediation, such as good faith and being client-driven, but differs in some key aspects.
In a collaborative proceeding, as in traditional litigation, each client retains his or her own collaboratively trained attorney. However, rather than each party retaining his or her own financial expert to assist in arriving at a fair distribution of the marital estate, and yet another pair of mental health professionals to advise on child custody and visitation issues, in a collaborative proceeding the parties share one neutral collaboratively-trained financial expert, and one neutral collaboratively trained counselor. So rather than engaging in an expensive “battle of experts”– where each attorney advocates the credibility and logic of one party’s experts over the other client’s team of experts — the parties agree to utilize and share just one set of neutral experts.
Those involved in the dispute must commit to full disclosure and be willing to work together to design a mutually beneficial resolution. Collaborative Law begins with a participation agreement signed by clients and their attorneys stating they will negotiate their entire dispute and not go to court or even threaten to go to court. Should either party decide court is the only option, then the collaborative attorneys must withdraw and the clients must hire litigating lawyers. This requirement is designed to encourage the clients’ mutual commitment to the collaborative process and to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
The benefits of Collaborative Law in Texas are vast and include avoiding the expense and time-consuming nature of court, maintaining privacy and confidentiality, gaining access to reliable legal advice, having the ability to negotiate in everyone’s best interest, remaining in control of the outcome (rather than turning it over to a judge or jury), preserving an important relationship, and enjoying a higher level of client satisfaction.