When a marriage is over, it is often a time for things to get ugly. Sometimes, very ugly! Almost every adult Texan has seen such ugly scenarios play out at some point in their lives. The courtroom divorce can likewise add to the ugliness while the couple fights and picks over every detail and kicks and screams in and out the courtroom doors.
No matter how you get to the divorce stage, you can still salvage an ugly situation from finishing ugly. Collaborative Law is a process that allows the couple to still not like each other, but it lets them proceed with a structure that permits each of them to objectively assess and build options to start anew without the other. Of course, not every divorcing couple comes through the collaborative process as friends, but nearly all come through with higher regard for, and from, the other person than they do in the traditional litigation model where a court decides their respective fates.
I see two very basic reasons why collaborative law yields a much more favorable outcome for the divorcing couple:
- The divorcing parties choose the process and make it their own; and
- The parties and their team of neutrals trust the process.
First, choosing the right process is important, and it is the crucial step in how a couple will work through their divorce. It does not seem to be difficult—choose an almost certain ugly path in litigation or a much more palatable path through collaborative—but our culture of racing to the courthouse and sticking it to the other side unfortunately remains prevalent. It is imperative to do your homework initially before consulting with prospective attorneys, because many attorneys only practice along the ugly path. They often do not even present the collaborative path as a viable option. This is a shame, even though the Texas Family Code now readily provides a well thought-out plan and procedure for couples to consider instead of running to court. See Chapter 15, Texas Family Code—Collaborative Family Law Act.
Second, the collaborative process promotes and fosters trust. Even if one side may not fully trust the other, trusting in the process and following that path inevitably creates a fuller picture and a higher-functioning level of discussions that allows even the weakest party to meaningfully participate and make fruitful decisions toward a favorable resolution. By agreeing to follow the tenants of full-disclosure and consensus decision-making, parties level the heavy-handed control so that each spouse can achieve his or her goals.
If the team is built properly, everyone can rely on the collaborative process to unveil the issues, build the options, and present the solutions. Forcing the parties to constantly compare each decision to what a judge would do in court is not the way to go down this path. Better decisions are made when the goals and interests of each spouse are kept as the primary measuring stick.
The choice is yours. By choosing the right path, and then relying on the collaboratively-trained attorneys and the neutral professionals to guide you through the path, the collaborative success will become apparent, and you will likely be happier and more satisfied with your end result. If you are considering a divorce, then seriously consider a collaborative divorce as your path to resolution.