What is Collaborative Family Law?
Collaborative Law is an alternative method of resolving a family law matter in which both parties are committed at the outset to settling without court intervention. What does that mean in layman’s terms? It says that in collaborative family law cases, both parties believe so firmly that it is best to resolve their differences by negotiation and settlement, that they are willing to sign a contract agreeing not to go to court during the pendency of their case and further that if they reach a point where they are unable to settle, then they decide that they will terminate the collaborative law process and both hire new litigation attorneys. There is a financial incentive to reach a lasting settlement with the cost of all of the legal work to date riding on agreeing. No one wants to start over with a new attorney, and indeed, no one wants to pay a further retainer to a new attorney and bring them up to speed on their case.
When is Collaborative Law Used?
Collaborative law is a method used in all different types of family law, but most frequently in a divorce action. Collaborative law represents a shift in the overall process of adversarial traditional litigation to interest-based negotiations. Collaborative law seeks to align as many of the parties’ interest as possible and find ways to create a “win-win” situation recognizing that no one truly “wins” in a divorce, but hopefully, both parties can obtain results which meet as many of their interests as possible.
What is the Process in Collaborative Family Law?
A Collaborative divorce involves a series of meetings between both parties and their attorneys. In Texas, this model has been expanded to also include two neutral advisors: a financial professional (usually a CPA or CFA) and a communications facilitator (regularly a therapist or counselor). The Texas team approach has become the model which many other states are following, and it has been our experience at the Capps Law Firm, that collaborative cases settle faster, with less aggravation, and with better results where the full team approach is used.
In these meetings, the “team” (which includes the two attorneys and the two neutral advisors) works with the parties to identify areas of conflict, determine each party’s interests, develop those interests into concrete goals, and craft solutions that satisfy both parties’ purposes (to the extent possible).
The Collaborative process requires openness, respectful behavior, and honest communication from both parties, and in turn, it produces a custom-tailored settlement and promotes healthy, functional family relationships going forward.
Collaborative Law Requires Trained Attorneys
Kelly J. Capps is trained in Collaborative Law and believes in its power to produce the highest quality results by circumventing the stress and risks involved in litigation. Is it easy? No. Divorce is hard under all circumstances. However, for many people, this process allows the parties to spend more time focusing on results that work for their family, and spend less time trying to make their factual circumstances fit into the limited options available to the Court. Both Kelly and Sam participate in collaborative family law continuing education courses throughout the year. Kelly is also a member of two practice groups with other Austin area family law collaborative attorneys where she works to develop and expand her skills as a collaborative family law practitioner.
(Note: Though most cases can be resolved through the Collaborative process, there are some instances in which it may not be appropriate, such as where one or both spouses have serious substance abuse issues or where spousal abuse has occurred.)