Over the last 25 years incredible advancements have been made in the field of medicine. Procedures that used to require hours in surgery, long hospital stays, and months of recovery now have folks out of the hospital and back on their feet in a fraction of that time, with less discomfort, and at a lower cost than it was previously thought possible. Similarly, significant advancements have been made in creating less-invasive methods of resolving legal conflicts in the field of family law.
Even in bitter divorces, husbands and wives usually want to do the right thing. They just disagree about what the “right thing” is. Unfortunately, our judicial system creates only two types of participants: winners and losers. That type of system usually serves the public interest well in matters of criminal acts and contract disputes. However, when dealing with the disintegration of a family unit, both participants have already lost before they ever step into the courtroom. Two people who once loved each other enough to get married in the first place have failed in their marriage. Their children are in turmoil, and their finances are strained, if not in complete ruin. Whether they actually wind up trying the case to a judge or jury, or settling on the courthouse steps, no one has been spared the emotional or financial devastation of the experience.
1. What is the less-invasive alternative?
Thankfully, there is a less-invasive alternative that is revolutionizing the way couples dissolve their marriages. Collaborative Divorce is the 21st century’s cutting-edge method of resolving family law disputes without the use of a judge, jury or even a courtroom. This unique approach allows the participants and their specially-trained attorneys to meet privately and work through and resolve every detail of a divorce or other family law dispute quickly, cost-effectively and in a dignified manner.
The Collaborative Divorce model transcends traditional notions of mediation by contractually eliminating the threat of the courthouse from the very beginning. In effect, the lawyers are barred from the courtroom! And if either party later reneges on the contract, which is called a Participation Agreement, both attorneys must withdraw from the case. While this might seem a strange notion, it creates stronger alignment and a shared goal to successfully resolve the conflict.
2. How Does It Work?
The signing of the Participation Agreement establishes certain rules and boundaries to promote a safe environment that is characterized by confidentiality, mutual respect, and control over the outcome. Through a series of scheduled meetings with pre-planned agendas, the participants work their way through the substantive issues that must be addressed and resolved as part of any divorce.
In contrast to traditional, positional bargaining methods, the Collaborative Divorce approach challenges the participants to focus on their true interests – the “why” behind the “what.” By uncovering the participants’ true interests, the team can develop options and achieve solutions you would never see in a courtroom. Once an agreement is reached, the attorneys memorialize the agreements in a form that can be signed by a judge, thereby finalizing the divorce.
3. Why Does It Work?
The vast majority of divorce cases that are filed ultimately resolve without a contested final trial. Yet for the litigated cases, the period of time in between the decision to divorce and the finalization of it is frequently filled with embarrassment, uncertainty, and a terrifying lack of control. In contrast, the collaborative method empowers the participants to retain both their privacy and control over the process and its outcome. Increasingly, couples confronting divorce are choosing the less-invasive collaborative model, which provides the participants with the tools and the opportunity to function at their best even during a difficult time of transition.
If you were confronted by the reality of divorce, would you rather participate in a minimally-invasive process using the most advanced tools and procedures available today? Or, would you prefer to stick with traditional methodologies?
Curtis W. Harrison is a board-certified family law attorney and partner with GoransonBain Ausley, who practices in the North Texas communities of Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, Grayson County, and surrounding cities.
Kim Munsinger, Have You Heard About Collaborative Law? San Antonio Lawyer, Sept. 2010.
Id. at 37.
Janet P. Brumley, Divorce Without Disaster: Collaborative Law in Texas 32 (PSG Books 2004).