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What does the collaborative law process entail for divorcing spouses?

In the previous post, our blog discussed how the collaborative law process might be right for those divorcing couples looking to prevent prolonged courtroom battles, preserve assets and, most importantly, protect their family from any unnecessary trauma.

In today's post, we'll continue with this discussion by talking more about what the collaborative law process actually entails in an attempt to dispel any misconceptions or apprehension on the part of divorcing couples.

What actually happens in the collaborative law process?

Collaborative law involves the soon-to-be former spouses and their respective attorneys coming together in a neutral office setting -- rather than a courtroom -- to reach mutually acceptable solutions on important divorce-related issues such as property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support. Impartial experts with special training on everything from finances and appraisals to mental health and children can also be retained to assist with the process.

Do the parties have to sign any sort of agreement beforehand?

Prior to undertaking any discussions, the parties must sign a written agreement that sets forth certain ground rules that all parties must abide by throughout the entire process. This written agreement also serves as a sort of quasi roadmap in that it establishes how the discussions will proceed and how the mutually acceptable resolutions on divorce-related matters will be reached.

Are there assurances that the attorney won't turn around and use the words of a former spouse against them in the courtroom?

First and foremost, when the parties sign the aforementioned written agreement, they are vowing to resolve all matters without the involvement of a judge or jury. However, the written agreement also contains a clause dictating that in the unlikely event that talks break down, the attorneys involved in the collaborative process cannot handle any ensuing litigation and must withdraw from the case altogether.   

Our blog will continue to explore this topic in greater detail in future posts, including more about the advantages of collaborative law, the team members involved in the collaborative law process and how to broach the subject of collaborative law with a spouse.

Source: The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas, "What is collaborative law?" 2011

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