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Alternatives to Texas divorce court: Collaborative Law

Contentious divorces between celebrities are constantly in the news, with spouses battling over child custody, alimony and property division. "Who gets what?" seems to be the prevailing question posed by the media, which paints every celebrity divorce as an ugly contest between spouses. Yet, just like other divorces, many celebrity divorces are handled outside of the courtroom, in settlement conferences and alternative dispute resolution settings.

Divorce is inherently emotional - you are going through a major life change - but it does not have to be a battle. There are ways to keep your Texas divorce out of the adversarial court process and to work with your spouse to make decisions that fit your unique situations.

In fact, our law firm strives to keep most divorces out of the courtroom. While some divorces are best handled in front of a judge (such as divorces where there is unequal bargaining power or evidence of domestic abuse), most divorcing couples can benefit from alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Judges are required to use the Texas family law code and specific formulas for property division, child support and alimony. They often make cookie-cutter decisions that are "fair" under the law, but do not cater to the individual needs of everyone involved in the divorce. Through ADR, parties are able to determine their own fate.

Collaborative divorce

A relatively new ADR method, collaborative law brings together divorcing spouses with multiple neutral third parties to work toward holistic, mutually beneficial solutions. These third parties can include attorneys, financial experts and mental health experts.

The goal of the collaborative approach is to help divorcing spouses come to an agreement that takes into account all aspects of a divorce, including financial issues (both present and future), the emotional strain on all parties (including children) and the legal issues. Instead of following the child support guidelines, for example, the collaborative approach asks, "What does your child need and how can you and your spouse work together to meet those needs?"

Collaborative law not only settles all of the divorce issues; it also helps divorcing parents create a framework they can use when working together in the future.

Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. For example, if you believe you and your spouse will have trouble coming up with solutions together, the traditional divorce process may be better. Since all parties and neutrals work together in collaborative divorce, you will not be able to use the same experts and attorneys if you later decide to move to the traditional process.

An experienced family lawyer can help you decide what is the best approach for you and your unique divorce.

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