Details of the Collaborative Divorce Process
Denton, TX Family Law Attorney David S. Bouschor, II goes over the collaborative divorce process.
Phone: (940) 323-1300
Well, a collaborative divorce process really starts with the client. Collaborative divorce we call it. It’s client centered instead of litigation, which is really litigation centered. If you think about it – we use a lot of metaphors – if you think in collaborative law, the attorney is standing behind the client, and in litigation the attorney is standing out in front of the client. The attorney is standing up in court and arguing, whereas in collaborative law the client is sitting at the table and negotiating and discussing.
So the process really starts with the first interview with the attorney. The client can be already informed and understand collaborative law or they may have never heard of it before. The discussion and decisions about whether to go collaborative or litigation really need to be made from a position of knowledge because there are some issues that make a collaborative law case very difficult, and there are some things that make collaborative law very well suited for the client. Most people aren’t going to have the experience to understand what works well and what doesn’t work well, and that’s where an experienced attorney comes in, because if they’ve had 50 cases, they can say, “Well, this would be my suggestion.” But the idea of whether they go collaborative or not has to be from the client and the client’s decision.
So that process starts there. If it is determined by the client and the attorney that the collaborative process is going to be used, what this office does – which is not unique – is we literally give a list of attorneys that have been collaboratively trained to the client. We arm them with some information, which may include a book. It may include just handouts. It may include websites. And we tell this person to go talk to their soon to be ex-spouse and ask them if they’d like to come to the collaborative law process. Now, that’s how I do it. I know some other attorneys actually file a case and then send a letter inviting them to the collaborative law process, but I don’t like poking somebody in the eye and then telling them we want to be nice.
If the other side decides to go collaboratively, they will go hire an attorney that has collaborative training. The reason why I’m stressing the collaborative training is – well, law schools are talking about collaborative law now, but when I got out of law school, it wasn’t on the radar screen. And the way that attorneys think, the way that attorneys give advice is very different in a collaborative law setting, so if you’re not trained for it, if you’re going to go in and be a litigator and stand in front of your client at the collaborative law table, the process is not going to work. And that ends up being a waste of time for both clients and, if you waste time, you’re wasting money.
So we send the information home to the soon to be ex-spouse. If that spouse hires a collaboratively trained attorney, then literally what happens is that attorney calls me and says, “Hey, I’ve been hired. My client wants to do collaborative law, and let’s get this started.” So we then set up a meeting between all, the two attorneys and the two clients. And often in Texas we will have a FP, which we call a financial professional who’s normally a CPA, who’s going to help with the property issues. And we have – we call him an MHP, which is normally somebody with a social degree, and they will help with all the child issues and the communication issues. A lot of people will say, “Well, gee. I don’t need a communication issue,” and then I usually tell my client, “Well, the fact that you’re sitting on the other side of my desk, I can tell you that you probably don’t have the best communication skills with your soon to be ex.”
So we have that meeting. If everyone is still decided that we want to do collaborative law, then there is a collaborative agreement signed with all the parties. That collaborative agreement comes out of the Texas Family Code and it has specific dos and don’ts, which by the time they’re signing it, they understand. Then the process – we have what we call roadmap to resolution, and our metaphor is that there’s this road and you gather information, you evaluate the information – and evaluation can be both cost and tracing, if necessary. Then you negotiate your case and you come up with a solution that both of you can live with, and you end up with the final documents that are then signed by a court and you are divorced.