Q: I’ve been hearing about something called collaborative law as a better way to handle a divorce. Is it really better?
A: The short and simple answer is “Yes!!” Collaborative law is a dignified, cooporative process for resolving family law cases. The Collaborative process puts control of the case into the hands of the divorcing couple and removes the divorce from the courtroom. With the assistance of the Collaborative team, the couple focuses on their interests or needs and they work together to find solutions to those interests.
Q: My ex and I are headed for an ugly custody battle. I’m afraid of what this fight will do to the kids.
A: Kids suffer through any divorce. Custody battles can do a lot of damage. Fortunately, Texas now has the Collaborative process. One member of the Collaborative team is a Communications Coach. This person is a trained, licensed therapist who does not do therapy, but will assit the couple in bettering their communication skills in regard to parenting the kids in a divorce situation. The collaborative process allows the divorcing couple to work together for the best interest of the kids. The couple, with team assistance, can create a visitation and support system that meets the kids schedules and needs rather than some generic plan imposed by a judge.
The “Can I make my spouse do _____________” question.
With rare exceptions, it is necessary to go to court to make the other side do something. I prefer to try to reach agreements first. If the situation warrants, I encourage spouses to discuss the divorce proceedings and the needs of the spouses and children. Couples with no ability to constructively communicate while married or living together can often reach agreements once the initial shock of filing for divorce has worn off.
If the spouses reaching agreements is not feasible at the moment, I like to contact the attorney representing the other spouse. Despite what you have heard, attorneys, especially in Denton County, can and will zealously represent their client and at the same time work cooperatively with the other side in order to find solutions that benefit everyone.
Denton County Standing Orders
Every family law case in Denton County comes with an automatic injunction known as the Denton County Standing Order Regarding Children, Property, and Conduct of the Parties. Here is a link to the order: http://dentoncounty.com/dept/District_Clerk/Acrobat/DCSORCPCP.pdf. These orders set forth rules each party must follow while the case is ongoing.
A few of the orders are: the current residence of the children cannot be changed; a spouse may not cancel the credit cards of the other spouse; spouses may not hide assets; etc. If necessary, these orders can be changed by agreement of the parties or by having a hearing before the judge.
What about the children?
My years of experience have shown me that the children of divorcing and divorced parents need both parents. Unless there is a danger to the child, I will encourage clients to seek orders that allow the children as much access to each parent as possible. I encourage clients to go to counseling with their spouse even if the counseling is not intended to repair the marriage, but to assist the family through the transition and, when it comes to the children, learn to do separately what they have done together while married.
There will be orders entered in regard to visitation (possession and access), child support, and health insurance. In regard to visitation, the first order always is that visitation will be as agreed upon by the parties but if the parties cannot agree then specific provisions are set out in writing.