Collaborative Divorce

mediation lawyers Austin, TXMediation Lawyers Austin, TX

The thought of divorce may bring up images of couples battling it out in a courtroom, or fighting over child custody, a marital home, or bank accounts. However, when couples wage war over the end of a marriage, the stress and strain that is placed on an entire family can leave long-term scars and every person involved often ends up losing. Hence, couples are now considering the collaborative law route to ending their marriage.

In the collaborative law process, the couple is the entity which makes the final decisions on how child custody, the marital estate, and other items will be divided. This is different from a traditional divorce where a judge makes those final decisions.

The collaborative process is also different from mediation. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own mediation lawyers and also works with other professionals to come up with an agreeable resolution. In mediation, the couple works with only one person — the mediator.

According to recent studies, collaborative divorces are often quicker than traditional divorces. Although it is important to remember that each case is different and outcomes depend on the complexity of the issues, more than half of collaborative divorces are settled within nine months. Collaborative divorces are usually less expensive than traditional divorces, as the price of litigation drives the final price up to almost three times the amount of a collaborative divorce.

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) recommends the following guidelines to help couples decide whether or not a collaborative process will work for them:

  • The couple must agree to a voluntary, free and open exchange of information between them.
  • The couple must agree there will be no litigation involved in their divorce process. If one couple should move in that direction, then all Austin, TX mediation lawyers and other professionals who were involved in the collaborative process must withdraw from the case.
  • The couple will choose professionals who share the same goal – to reach a peaceful and agreeable conclusion to the marriage without involving the family courts system.
  • The couple is committed to respecting each other’s goals in the collaborative process.

Many couples who have gone through couples counseling together are often able to take the communication and negotiating skills they learned in counseling and apply them to the collaborative divorce process. The following are useful tips on how to have discussions with your spouse, especially as you approach divorce negotiations:

  1. Realize that acknowledging you have heard or understand what your spouse is saying is different than obeying. Comments such as “I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. . .” and “Now that I understand. Can I have some time to consider it before I give you an answer?” lets your spouse know that you are actually listening.
  2. When discussing how household or other items should be divided, use “I-statements” instead of demands. For example, if an item holds sentimental value to you, let your spouse know by stating, “I feel sentimental about . . .” instead of saying, “You can’t take that.”
  3. Do not take things personally and do not assume that everything your spouse does is directed to frustrate you. For example, if he or she is late for a meeting, consider all the reasons for being late such as traffic, delayed at work, etc. And, do not assume they are late just to make you angry.
  4. During conversations, direct your frustration at the situation, not the person. For example, if selling your marital home may be necessary, articulate your feelings by stating, “This is really a such a hard decision to make and I would like to see if we can work together to figure out a solution,” instead of stating, “If only you had earned enough money when we were married, we would not be in this situation now.”
  5. Pick and choose which battles are really the ones that matter.
    Be approachable and easy to talk to. Otherwise, your spouse will not want to discuss things with you and that could put a halt to negotiations.

To find out if collaborative divorce is right for your situation, contact one of our mediation lawyers at the Law Offices of Ryan S. Dougay in Austin, TX clients recommend for a free consultation.