Divorce is a topic we’ve seen a lot in the headlines lately as several beloved celebrity couples announced they were calling it quits. Breakups such as Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, and most recently, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, have social media abuzz with comments.
Last year, Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s breakup was associated with a new concept called Conscious Uncoupling, lighting up social media sites for months. Many professionals in the business are seeing the evolution of divorce as many couples grapple with how to end their marriages without exacting the high expense and emotional toll often associated with traditional divorce.
In fact, Texas has been a front-runner in adopting and growing the practice of Collaborative Divorce since the passing of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. Today, this approach is available to divorcing couples here, as well as Utah, Nevada, Hawaii, Ohio, the District of Columbia, Washington state, Alabama, and New Jersey, and is pending in several more states.
Couples facing divorce may want to explore the pros and cons of these new approaches before heading to court as was the tradition until fairly recently. The collaborative approach, for example, emphasizes cooperation over confrontation, and problem solving over grievance airing. Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens openly praised his use of the collaborative divorce approach for his fourth divorce, noting it saved him millions of dollars.
Laws surrounding collaborative divorce also aim to safeguard the interests of any children involved and promote the preservation of the parents’ relationship with each other and the children, post-divorce. This approach offers divorcing couples more control over dispute resolution, the details of the final settlement agreement and privacy surrounding the settlement.
In collaborative divorce, each spouse is assisted by a lawyer so they have the benefit of individual counsel. The attorneys also commit in writing to act honestly and professionally and to treat the other attorney and the clients with respect and dignity to allow for a friendly divorce. All negotiations take place during four-way meetings with both parties and their counsel. Attorneys guide settlement meetings, and help gather documents.
Not every couple is suited for the collaborative law process. If the breakup is particularly contentious, or one spouse has been verbally or physically abused, has a mental disorder, or drug or alcohol issues, a more traditional approach may be a better choice.
One significant drawback to the collaborative approach occurs if the process breaks down and the couple cannot agree on a settlement. Both collaborative attorneys who worked on the case must withdraw from the process and each spouse must hire a new attorney — essentially going back to square one.
Divorcing couples should consider engaging an attorney and a certified divorce financial analyst experienced in mediation and/or collaborative divorce if they want to explore these new approaches.