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Texas Collaborative Law Basics
What is collaborative law?
Collaborative law is a movement away from the adversarial, aggressive divorce process and toward a more family-oriented process. Collaborative law can refer either to a formal process under collaborative law-trained professionals, or a more informal commitment to collaborating with one another to minimize discord. The collaborative law process allows more flexibility than a traditional legal proceeding. You and your former spouse will work together with a skilled team to divide assets, arrive at custody decisions, and minimize conflict.
How is collaborative law different from mediation?
Mediation attempts to minimize conflict by encouraging two sides to come together to negotiate. The process, however, remains a relatively adversarial one, with each side attempting to settle the dispute. Collaborative law, by contrast, works to get to the heart of each side’s motives and goals. Rather than simply negotiating a compromise that no one is happy with, collaborative law tries to find ways to meet both parties’ unspoken needs. The collaborative process also works to minimize disputes and disruptions to the parties’ lives—something mediation cannot do.
Unlike mediation, collaborative law takes place outside of a court room setting. There will still be a final order signed by a judge. But a judge can order parties to mediation. A judge can’t order parties to engage in collaborative law, since collaboration is always optional. Put simply, mediation is often part of a contentious lawsuit, while collaborative law rarely is.
Who should choose collaborative law?
Collaborative law is a viable option for any divorcing couple who wishes to avoid prolonged and messy legal disputes. You don’t have to get along, or even like each other. You do have to be mutually committed to making the process work. Collaborative law works well for most couples who are willing and able to commit to the process. It may not be right if:
- One partner has a history of abusive behavior.
- The partners want to use the legal system to punish or hurt one another.
- The parties are uninterested in collaborating, and one or both parties hopes to take everything away from the other.
How long does a collaborative law divorce take?
One of the benefits of a collaborative law divorce is that it usually takes less time than a long and protracted legal battle. You’ll still need to file formal divorce proceedings, and a court must approve the final divorce decree at which you arrive via the collaborative law process. In most cases, you can expect a process that takes about six months. If your divorce is unusually complex, it might be longer. If collaborative law fails and you opt to proceed to the court system, your divorce can take much longer.
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