Member and Non-Member Professionals Click Here  

Divorce Options

Each individual will experience the divorce process differently, consider their divorce options, and enter the process with unique needs and expectations.   In Texas, the Collaborative Law model is the divorce option that seeks to turn this diversity into the fuel that empowers clients to create customized solutions for their specific needs.

Common Divorce Options in Texas

Many couples are not aware of the choices they have to reach a resolution and may have the perception that only one option exists to dissolve a marriage. Fortunately this perception is not accurate and divorcing couples in Texas can choose the divorce option that is most appropriate for their individual and family needs.

 In Texas, approximately 95 percent of all divorce cases are settled by agreement.  How you come to an agreement about how to divide your community estate and the best arrangements for your children differs. The divorce options available in Texas include:

"Kitchen Table” Settlements

This settlement method is simple. The husband and wife sit down “at the kitchen table” and work out an arrangement that satisfies each of them. The agreement can be taken to a lawyer to be put into legal form, or used to complete do-it-yourself divorce forms.

Unlike some other divorce options, this method of reaching agreements can produce inexpensive, quick, private agreements for couples who do not have children or substantial assets.  Without the benefit of legal advice, however, you may not know if you are giving up valuable rights. It is also easy to “re-invent the wheel,” or make mistakes that someone with family-law experience could help you avoid. People often find, upon taking the agreement to a lawyer, that questions will arise that may cause one or both spouses to change their agreement. If the husband and wife do not have equal information and equal power in the relationship, one person might not get his or her needs met.

Do-it-Yourself Divorce

Bookstores and on-line resources sell forms that can be used to handle a divorce without attorneys. Forms may also be available at local law libraries.

Divorce kits or forms generally provide a check-list approach to property and child-related issues, so users are not left completely in the dark about their options. These may be fine for people with no children or substantial assets.  But not all forms are equal; some can create more problems than they solve. When children and real estate or other major assets are involved, the forms may not be detailed enough to do what you are trying to accomplish. Further, check lists cannot inform you of your rights and leave little room for creativity.  If the husband and wife do not have equal information and equal power in the relationship, one person might not get his or her needs met.

Mediation

Mediation is assisted settlement negotiation. Mediators don’t take sides, and are used for the sole purpose of trying to help people reach a settlement. Mediation in which independent lawyers represent each spouse is generally part of the litigation process. In most cases, the parties are required to try to settle their case through mediation before they go to court for trial.

Mediators are neutral and can offer clients a different, unbiased perspective. Also, having both clients, both lawyers and a mediator in the same place at the same time with everyone’s attention focused on getting a settlement can often create a positive environment for making agreements.

But mediation often takes place just before a case is scheduled to go to trial, after the parties have already spent money, time and emotional energy fighting. Mediation under these circumstances can sometimes feel coercive to clients, who may never have discussed the realities of their situation with their attorneys.

Litigation

In litigation, decisions are made for the parties by a judge, or sometimes a jury. There are very strict rules about what information may be presented to the decision-maker, who may have never seen you before, and who will never see you again.

Litigation does provide resolution for people who cannot find a way to settle their differences any other way. The court system is the only way to “force” a reluctant party to deal with family law issues.  Litigation, though, is a process focused on the negative aspects of divorce and other family law matters. In comparison to other divorce options, it causes people to focus on how they are “right” and the other is “wrong,” when they really just have different ideas about how their lives should look after divorce. Litigation is expensive and destructive to relationships. Even though most cases settle before they ever go to trial, the process of preparing to go to trial, if necessary, causes relationship damage that is difficult – if not impossible – to repair.  Costs of litigation can use up funds that could be put to better use, like children’s college or litigants’ post-divorce financial autonomy.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law is quickly becoming a popular dispute resolution option in Texas.  In the Collaborative Law model, you, your spouse, and lawyers agree in advance that no one will take any contested issue to court. The “Collaborative Team,” which often includes mental-health and financial professionals, focuses all its attention on finding ways to restructure a family so that everyone involved gets their needs met to the greatest extent possible. The lawyers in this team are divorce lawyers and family law attorneys with experience in Collaborative Law.

Collaborative Law starts with the idea that most people want to move through family law matters as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most people do not want to harm their spouse and children, they just want to change their situation from the way it is to something they believe will work better. Collaborative Law eliminates much of the strategic game playing that often accompanies litigation, as well as the hard feelings that are created when one person has to win and the other has to lose. In the unlikely event that clients are not able to settle their cases using the Collaborative Law model, litigation attorneys can still take the case to court.

Copyright 2011 The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas. All Right Reserved.
Training/Events for Collaborative Professionals | Disclaimer | Use of Materials | Site Map | Contact Us