Traditional Litigation or “going to court” is the route people are typically most familiar with in divorce cases.
You may have been through that yourself already or with your parents or friends. You have probably seen a courthouse divorce on tv or in movies. The litigation model does not always mean going to court, but the possibility of going to court is always there. It is a dark cloud always hanging over your head, and you don’t know if and/or when the thunderstorm’s going to start.
Some people also use the threat of going to court as a weapon: “If you don’t agree with me then fine, we will go to court.”
When that happens, your expenses will be greater because you are going to be paying your attorneys to obtain documentation and information and prepare to present all of that before a court. That’s time and money. Sometimes, the time between notice of a court hearing and when you’re actually before a judge in order to be able to present your case, is very limited. This can result in a very large expense in a short amount of time as you scramble to obtain documentation and information and prepare for that court hearing.
In litigation, there’s always the possibility of communication simply shutting down.
“We’re not going to talk about this anymore. We’re going to let our attorneys talk. Have your attorney call my attorney.” Now, two people who know each other extremely well are no longer communicating. Instead, you are paying other people a substantial amount of money to have these conversations and then come back to you, have more conversations, and go back and forth to decide whether the two of you can agree or not.
In Collaborative Divorce as well as Mediation, you have more control.
Many litigation cases will wind up being settled in mediation. When you go to mediation in Texas, the vast majority of times you are not in the same room with your soon to be ex-spouse. In a video (virtual) mediation, you are in breakout rooms where you are with your attorney in a separate environment in which the other side cannot see or hear you.
The mediator goes back and forth between the two rooms trying to help you reach a consensus on different issues. They are trained to work towards gaining more insight and finding what’s really at the root of each party’s requests in order to best help you reach an agreement.
In a Collaborative Divorce, your involvement in making decisions is even greater.
There is less of a concern about one side hiding things, destroying documents, or lying about the existence of things, and denying the existence of certain circumstances. This is because you sign a binding legal contract before the divorce process begins. This contract establishes that not only will there be an open line of communication and exchange of full information, but that you will each have a duty to disclose any mistake. Everyone starts working with that mindset. Additionally, everyone in the Collaborative Divorce process looks out for the best interest of each of the parties and the children (if you have minor children at the time of your divorce). You are there to fully share all the information and become fully educated in order for you and your soon to be ex-spouse to be able to make well-informed decisions.
The Collaborative Divorce includes a team of professionals working with you through the divorce process.
We help you gather all your information and address each family member’s needs both during the process and post-divorce. In many divorce cases, one spouse may have historically managed the family finances while the other spouse may have historically managed the day-to-day inner workings of the household. The person that managed the finances, usually also paid the bills. They probably have a greater handle on the money coming in and where the money’s going out. The spouse managing the household will necessarily need to be educated on their financial history, including their assets and debts, as well as the totality of the monthly expenses of the family.
The Collaborative Divorce process includes a neutral financial professional who will gather information from both parties, and then share it all in an open forum with everybody. If you were not the spouse who historically managed the family finances, you can meet with that financial neutral to become educated on your assets and debts, historical budgets, options for dividing your assets and debts, how your financial decisions are going to be made in the future, as well as a potential post-divorce budget.
In the rare case where the parties run into difficulties reaching an agreement on a final issue or two during either their joint collaborative sessions, and/or with the assistance of their neutral financial professional, and/ or with their neutral mental health professional on a child related matter, they are able to finalize those few remaining issues in a short mediation with a neutral third party mediator.
For most divorces, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are most definitely the better choices. Litigation should be considered a measure of last resort rather than first.