Probably the most distinctive feature of a divorce or child custody case is the daily, back, and forth arguing and acrimony that is associated with a case. While it is not uncommon in any legal case for there to be a fair amount of back and forth between parties a divorce or child custody case tends to be especially bad in this regard. The issues at play in a case- child custody, property division, child support, and conservatorship issues- are all highly emotional and highly important to your everyday life. Most legal matters do not hit home as family law cases do.
If you are looking for an option to eliminate or at least reduce the amount of arguing that occurs in your divorce case, then you may need to look no further than collaborative mediation. When it comes to finding out about new methods of approaching divorce cases collaborative mediation is probably one of the most effective and innovative to come along in some time. It certainly offers you a different approach to how divorce can be handled. The reason why I think it is so innovative and effective is that it combines aspects of being family-centered, affordability, and effective all in one sitting.
The downsides of divorce are many
It's no secret that going through a divorce is not easy. The process itself is time-consuming. Remember that during your divorce case you will have the rest of your life to keep afloat, as well. Family, the school for the kids, extracurricular activities, church- the list goes on and on. These things cannot be “paused” because you are going through a divorce. They keep going whether you are prepared for it, or not. Divorce can certainly throw a wrench into your life outside of the case. Many times, you cannot pick up where you left off, either.
Your finances may take a hit during the divorce, as well. Consider that there are costs over and above that of hiring an attorney when you sign up for a divorce. Court costs, filing costs, costs associated with social studies, expert witnesses, realtor costs to sell a home, etc. Most people going through a divorce choose, with good reason, to hire an attorney. These costs climb along with everything else in our inflation-addled world. Do not underestimate the impact of a divorce on your pocketbook. Even the household budget can be thrown out of flux when you consider that you are removing two incomes and inserting only one.
The relationships between you and your children will be impacted. Sometimes the relationship with your kids will improve because of the divorce. In a situation where you are being denied visitation with your kids being able to gain court-ordered visitation with your children is a major plus. Something is better than nothing, as they would say. However, in other situations, your relationship with your kids may suffer because of a divorce. Having less time with your kids is the net result for many families. On top of that, children can sometimes place blame on you or your spouse because of the divorce. If that is your situation, then you may find out that you need to spend a great deal of time needed to repair that relationship once the divorce is over.
On top of that, there are emotional aspects to a divorce that cannot be set to the side. The relationships with your family may become distressed regarding your going through a divorce. Imagine a situation where your parents are deeply hurt by your decision to get a divorce because they will not be able to spend as much time with their grandchildren as they are accustomed to. They may never understand your motivations. All they see are their grandchildren going to live in a place that is farther away from them. I can’t say that most families will go through stress like this, but some will. You never know how the family will react to divorce until you get through the case. Do you have adult children? These grown kids will typically react to divorce in a way where they choose sides because they have seen the issues in your marriage and can place blame on you or your spouse (or both).
Mediation offers a reprieve from the tedious and difficult divorce process
Fortunately, nearly every person in Texas who goes through a divorce has an opportunity to avoid a great deal of the negatives that we have discussed so far today. Mediation allows for you and your spouse to choose an experienced, third-party attorney (or former judge) to review your case with you and negotiate a settlement. Most of the time you will go to that attorney's office and sit in separate rooms from your spouse. Your attorneys will review settlement proposals, make counter offers and hopefully reach a consensus that can eliminate the need to go to court for a judge to decide your case. Keep the power to chart your course by avoiding contested hearings or trials.
Most family court judges that I am aware of require that you attend mediation at least twice- once before temporary orders hearings and once before a final trial. Many judges will take that a step further and require at least two good faith efforts to mediate your case before allowing you to enter the courtroom. This reflects the reality that judges understand that you and your spouse, no matter how upset you are with one another, are better equipped to reach a consensus on contested issues than he or she is. Additionally- courts are backed up like never before due to a host of issues including the pandemic. They are doing their best to dig themselves out of a hole. However, judges are more than happy to continually send you to mediation especially if you are getting closer to a settlement.
Another great thing about divorce mediation is that it is private. In a divorce trial or hearing, there are limited opportunities to keep the proceedings private. Technically, almost anyone can walk into the courtroom and observe the proceedings. Mediation is private. Mediation allows the two of you to meet with a mediator in an environment that is relatively stress-free. Imagine the feeling of not having someone breathing down your neck, literally and metaphorically, during your case. That is one of the many benefits that both mediation and the collaborative divorce process provide its participants.
Being able to make up your mind about the issues that your family is impacted by is a huge benefit of mediation. Do not underestimate just how much better positioned you and your spouse are to make decisions for your family versus a family court judge. There are subtleties in every family that cannot possibly be explored in significant enough detail even after a one- or two-day trial. The judge will get a fair impression of your family and your circumstances but even then, it is limited. You and your spouse know what matters most to your kids. Odds are good that you can look past your differences in most cases to settle on orders that work best for your family. The mediator is there to help you both see when you’re being unreasonable and when you are being reasonable in holding certain positions within your case.
Collaborative mediation is a step in the direction of improving upon even the basic mediation process involved in most Texas divorces. When it comes to collaborative law in divorce cases, you are looking at a situation where you and your spouse are agreeing to set aside your differences and do what is best for your kids and both of you. It is looking ahead to the future rather than getting bogged down in the murky details of a divorce as it is ongoing. Instead of getting lost in the trees why not soar above them and hang out in the clouds? If this is the vantage point that you prefer in a divorce, then a collaborative divorce may be just what you need.
Collaborative divorces are simpler
Imagine being able to sit down and discuss brass tacks with your spouse immediately in your divorce. While it is true that in any divorce you can immediately do that, the fact is that most spouses piddle away their time in a divorce in many regards. Once you hit a wall with informal negotiations many people simply assume that there is no chance of settling a case. At that point, you would just be waiting for mediation. That's not the worst strategy in the world. However, it does assume that you have no better options. I would present to you today that a collaborative divorce with mediation is the better option that you can and should be seeking.
Collaborative law is a new development in the general field of family law. If both you and your spouse agree to participate in the collaborative law process, then you can reap the benefits of that process almost immediately. A written agreement goes into place after being signed off on by you and your spouse. You would hire separate attorneys who would agree to represent both of your interests as a team. The participation agreement between the two of your lawyers would be identical and would pledge the following information to one another.
First, you all would be going into this process with a respectful attitude towards one another. On a good faith basis, this makes a ton of sense. Negotiation is extremely difficult if you are being belligerent, nasty, or otherwise difficult with your spouse. Nobody is trying to tell you that you do not have valid concerns over your divorce. However, it is one thing to understand that your divorce is necessary, but it is another thing to be hostile to your spouse. It may feel good at the moment to act in this way, but rarely does it ever accomplish what you want it to. You may find that this attitude holds you back more than anything else in your entire case.
Next, you and your spouse would agree to think about what matters to your spouse and hold that as something important to you, as well. This is a tough one, admittedly. If you are getting a divorce, it is likely to do there being a major disagreement between you and your spouse somewhere in your relationship. Or else, why would you be getting divorced in the first place? Along those same lines, it is easy to look past what your spouse "wants" as him or her being selfish or shortsighted. Divorce is a war, after all. Isn't it appropriate to do whatever it takes to come out on top in that war? I would argue, no, there are certain actions that you should refrain from taking no matter how high the stakes are in your divorce. If you follow the Golden Rule, consider the position of your spouse in all things, and try to walk a mile in their shoes then you will almost certainly find yourself approaching the case from a much different vantage point.
In a divorce, there is a process known as discovery. Discovery puts the two of you in a position where both of you submit requests for information- admissions to questions, documents, and things of this nature- and have up to thirty days to respond with either the information requested or valid objections to a specific request. The discovery process can take place throughout the case but most frequently occurs between a temporary order hearing and final orders mediation. This way you can obtain information about your spouse to gain an insight into their case and their preparations for a trial. Operating under the same information and evidence is crucial to being able to negotiate successfully for a conclusion to your case.
Discovery works much of the time, but it can also be a royal pain to the rear-end. Often parties and their attorneys look to use discovery as a huge game of misdirection and time-wasting. Valid requests for information are often objected to almost daring the well-meaning party to request a hearing to present the issue to a judge. Only then will the party turn over the information. Other times, the amount of information submitted can be voluminous to a degree where it can cost you thousands of dollars simply to have your attorney review all of it. Killing you with kindness is another way to look at this. All in all, discovery can accomplish the objectives of you or your spouse but can delay your case substantially at the same time.
Rather, a collaborative divorce invites and essentially demands that you and your spouse immediately and without the need for a request formally to turn over all relevant information, documents, and other material that could be relevant to your case. Doing so saves time, money, and effort. If you have something that you think is relevant to your divorce you should speak to your attorney about it first. Then if you all determine that it is relevant to the divorce you should turn it over to the other side. They will do the same with you. This will save you some time and money while providing the two of you with an opportunity to display the good sportsmanship necessary to effectuate a successful collaborative divorce.
Probably the most significant promise that the two of you would make in your collaborative divorce agreement would be to hold off on going to court unless necessary. For whatever reason, many people see the courts as a resource to be taken advantage of with frequency. This propensity to find yourself in front of a judge with regularity is not only expensive but is counterproductive in many cases. Rather than working together to get past your differences and resolve problems on your own, going to court punts the issues to a judge. While there is nothing wrong with this method it flies in the face of the objectives of a collaborative divorce. Unless you are getting a little uncomfortable with the negotiation process then you probably aren't doing the collaborative divorce right.
All in all, collaborative divorces can work well for many different kinds of people. However, the only way that you can know with any degree of certainty that a collaborative divorce is right for you is if you contact an attorney to discuss the topic. Remember that a divorce is incredibly personal. So much so that you cannot rely upon a random blog post that you find on a family attorney’s website. The best chance you have to learn how a collaborative divorce may impact your life and family is to speak to an experienced family law attorney today.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
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- You've filed your Divorce... now what? The "Discovery Process" and why it's important
- 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
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- 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Attorneys
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Attorneys right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce attorneys in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, and surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.