Collaborative Family Law is an innovative and increasingly preferred method of handling family law matters, including divorces. Emphasizing cooperation and problem-solving strategies rather than adversarial approaches and litigation, it avoids the destruction so often associated with divorce. Negotiations between the two parties and their attorneys are interest-based; they encourage respectful consideration of each other's priorities in crafting a resolution instead of staking out inflexible positions. Collaborative Family Law differs from traditional litigation in that each spouse and his or her lawyer sign a Collaborative Agreement up front in which they agree to negotiate in good faith and not to litigate. If the negotiations break down and one party decides to go to court, both attorneys must withdraw and the clients must hire new attorneys. By agreeing to this condition, the collaborative lawyer bears responsibility for bringing the process to a successful outcome
When necessary, other experts such as financial advisors and child specialists join the collaborative team as neutrals. This prevents both parties from having a "hired gun" who will automatically side with the party who is paying him. Negotiations are handled on an informal level, with each party attending a series of structured joint sessions in which both spouses, the two attorneys, and the neutral professionals (if hired and invited to the meeting) sit down and discuss the resolution of the divorce. One major difference between collaborative family law and other approaches is that the clients themselves craft the terms of their divorce and the final outcome rather than having an outside third party (such as a judge or jury) decide the outcome for them. To learn more about Collaborative Family Law in Texas, go to www.collablawtexas.org.
Neutral Mental Health Professional: The Collaborative Law Model in effect always involves the use of a collaboratively trained neutral Mental Health Professional (MHP) to serve as the team leader. The MHP’s involvement is absolutely fundamental to a successful collaborative process. While the MHP is not providing therapeutic services to either of the parties within or outside of the process, they are providing the key leadership role to the Team and are the “keepers of the Collaborative Process” by ensuring that the spouses and other professionals are meeting their obligations between meetings, that there is a proper agenda, that meetings start and end on time, that there are minutes, and that the Process remains in place – in short, the MHP’s “run the show.” Along with providing key leadership, the role of the neutral MHP is to help the spouses and the Team as a whole identify and address the emotional and fear-based issues that stand in the way of resolution and to pave the way for the spouses to find creative solutions and final resolution.
Loretta Maase is a Neutral Mental Health Professional trained in the Collaborative Law process. Contact us for more information regarding this process and fees.