What is the collaborative divorce process like?

Jane Mapes
By: Jane Mapes
PublishedDec 22, 2022
1 minute read

Divorce does not have to destroy your life. In this article, we answer frequently asked questions about the collaborative divorce process and why it might be your best option.

Collaborative divorce began in 1990 as the brainchild of Minneapolis attorney Stuart Webb. Webb founded the process in response to the numerous roadblocks he kept running across during divorce litigation.

Webb said he would no longer go to court for his divorce clients. Instead, he would help them work out their problems outside the courtroom. If Webb’s clients still opted to go to court, he would withdraw his counsel and hand over the case to a more litigiously minded colleague.

Many municipalities began following Webb’s example. In 2001, Texas became one of the first U.S. states to pass the Collaborative Family Law Act.

In a collaborative divorce, the spouses and their attorneys work together towards a settlement favorable to both parties. They do so with the understanding that both attorneys will withdraw from the case if either spouse decides that he or she cannot settle amicably and must instead take the case to court. The spouses and their attorneys formalize this stipulation by signing a collaborative law participation agreement and filing it with the court.

The collaborative agreement is meant to give spouses and their attorneys more incentive to settle peacefully because the attorney loses his client and the spouse loses his legal representation if the parties cannot agree amicably. This can make clients feel more comfortable because they know that their attorneys are also motivated to settle. Comment: A Pragmatic Look at Mediation and Collaborative Law as Alternatives to Family Law Litigation, 40 St. Mary’s L. J. 303, 316-318.

No, the Texas Collaborative Family Law Act does not require lawyers to be formally trained in collaborative family law. However, various organizations do offer training courses in collaborative family law for attorneys who want to learn more about the practice.

The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas provides a credentialing process in which trained and experienced attorneys can become “Credentialed” or “Master Credentialed.” A Master Credentialed attorney must have completed at least 60 collaborative cases in order to apply.

A 2020 USA Today article found that Texas has the fifth-highest divorce costs in the U.S. — $15,600 for a couple without children and $23,500 with children.

While there is no way to calculate the exact costs, collaborative divorce has the potential to save you quite a bit of money. There is no formal written discovery process. There are no hearings. There is no trial. The cost is directly driven by how quickly you and your spouse reach an agreement.

You and your spouse jointly retain a financial-neutral expert to help you assess your financial information and evaluate various settlement options. That’s one financial expert instead of two.

For cases with children, you and your spouse jointly retain a mental health professional/parenting plan coordinator to help you develop a schedule that best meets your family’s needs. Again, that’s the cost of one professional instead of two.

Privacy is one advantage of collaborative divorce. You can keep the details of your divorce out of the courtroom and the public record. Additionally, you can tailor your collaborative agreement to meet your family’s unique needs.

Many clients choose the collaborative process so they can retain control over the decisions regarding their children and marital estate rather than rolling the dice and letting the judge decide for them.

Another advantage of collaborative family law is that you preserve relationships not only with your spouse but with all the other people whose lives have intertwined with your marriage. This is a healthy way to kick off your healing process.

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