When it comes to collaborative divorce, Texas has been leading the way since 2001. Since then, Texas couples have had the option to avoid the more public and often contentious environment associated with a litigated divorce, and instead, settle their differences across the table from one another.
Collaborative law also differs from mediation. In mediation, an impartial lawyer serves as an intermediary and the divorcing parties don’t communicate directly. They only speak through their attorneys.
While collaborative divorce is a great option for many couples, it isn’t for everyone. We asked Dallas Divorce Attorney Aubrey Connatser to weigh in.
Collaborative divorce in Texas can offer several benefits, including:
1. Typically lower legal fees than with a litigated divorce.
According to Aubrey, “If you’re involved in a high-conflict, litigated divorce, the process can drag on for months, and more witnesses and experts may be called to testify. The longer it takes to finalize the divorce, the more likely your legal fees are going to skyrocket.”
2. Tends to be less contentious and resolve more quickly than litigation.
“We often find that collaborative divorces not only move faster, but they often result in less acrimony than divorces handled through traditional litigation. In fact, collaborative divorces are frequently referred to as ‘friendly divorces’ in Texas,” Aubrey says.
3. Much easier to keep private matters out of the public domain.
Collaborative divorce provides a much higher level of confidentiality than a litigated divorce in Texas. If you want to keep your personal affairs and dirty laundry under wraps, the collaborative approach to divorce is typically the best option.
As Aubrey explains, “With a collaborative divorce, the couple drives the divorce process, not the judge. Proceedings are held in private, behind closed doors, instead of in open court, where interested citizens and the media are allowed to observe.”
In addition, paperwork filed with the court clerk in a litigated divorce (motions, sworn statements, financial records, pleadings, etc.) may be considered public records, unless your family law attorney takes appropriate measures to seal those documents.
“Collaborative law is often appealing to our high-profile clients who seek to keep their personal and business affairs private,” adds Aubrey.
Learn how to keep your divorce records private in this earlier post.
4. Can lay the groundwork for a more positive approach to co-parenting post-divorce.
When children are involved, the collaborative divorce process in Texas allows parents the opportunity to hash out the “hard stuff” with the help of their respective family law attorneys, along with neutral experts (mental health and financial professionals).
“It typically provides a more conducive environment for parents to sit down together and work things out for the sake of the children, such as child custody and visitation. The collaborative approach is often better for children in the long-term, because parents can learn how to get along and resolve issues sooner versus later,” Aubrey says.
5. May be a better option if you hope to reconcile.
In some cases, where a client hopes to reconcile with his or her spouse, Aubrey often encourages him or her to consider a collaborative divorce.
As she explains, “If you’re hoping to reconcile with your partner, your odds will probably be better if you go the collaborative route. Not only will you get more face time with your spouse, you’re more likely to treat each other with dignity, respect and honesty and communicate well during the collaborative process as opposed to litigation.”
Collaborative Divorce in Texas Isn’t the Best Fit for Everybody
While collaborative divorce can be a smart option for some couples, there are some scenarios where litigation makes more sense. “This is especially true when the parties are on an uneven playing field financially or emotionally, or when substance abuse or domestic violence is involved,” cautions Aubrey.
Check out this past post about collaborative divorce for details on the three scenarios where you should think twice.
Before deciding which type of divorce is right for you, speak with a reputable family law attorney who has experience handling litigation, mediation and collaborative divorce in Texas. A divorce lawyer who understands the pros and cons of all three options will be better equipped to help you seek the divorce that best meets your goals.