Upon entering into marriage, nobody expects that one day they’ll have to go through a divorce. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that sometimes can’t, and shouldn’t, be avoided.
Right now, between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Many of these cases involve drawn-out legal battles, fighting, and emotional stress felt by the entire family.
But it doesn’t have to work like this. There’s a much more civil and amicable way to end a marriage and that’s a collaborative divorce. During this process, a couple avoids the courtroom by working together with attorneys to come to a peaceful settlement.
If you think this approach will work for you, it’s time to speak with a collaborative divorce lawyer. But how do you know you’ve found to right attorney?
Let’s look at some important questions to ask.
How Much of Your Practice is Collaborative Law?
It’s important you work with a collaborative divorce lawyer who’s extremely familiar with this type of proceeding and devotes a large amount of their practice to it.
This is a much different approach than the traditional courtroom setting and requires specialized knowledge, experience, and instincts. Working with someone who’s new to this approach may not be a good idea.
The attorney you work with most likely practices traditional family law trail proceedings. Thus, they must shift back and forth between those and the negotiation techniques of collaborative law. It’s important they practice collaboration often so they have a solid grasp of what works and what doesn’t, given the case.
It’s important to remember that although this is a more amicable approach, the outcome still depends on the knowledge your attorney brings to the table.
What Kind of Collaborative Law Training Have You Had?
Any collaborative divorce lawyer needs to have gone through the proper training in order to develop the negotiation skills needed to navigate the process.
It also helps if the attorney you work with practices mediation services as well. This, along with experience in alternative dispute resolution means they’ve acquired the negotiation skills needed to come to a peaceful resolution.
Ask about prior cases like yours and what the outcome was. It may also help to look at client testimonials and reviews to get a sense of the type of service they provide.
The collaborative divorce process requires a great deal of sensitivity, along with coaching from your attorney. You need someone who has studied the process and can work with you and your spouse to formulate the best settlement.
What Are the Benefits of the Collaborative Approach?
If you’re unsure whether collaboration is the right choice, ask your attorney how they think it would benefit you and your spouse. This will give you a better idea of how the process works and if it’s right for you.
One of the primary benefits is that it gives you much more control over the result of your divorce. It also allows you to voice your concerns and opinions regarding details of the settlement.
In a collaborative setting, you and your spouse make compromises and agree upon conditions of the settlement. For some, this is more desirable than a judge making the final decision.
Another benefit is fewer time constraints. You have more freedom when it comes to scheduling meetings and working with your spouse. You’re not at the mercy of the court’s schedule.
What is Your Process?
It’s important to know how your collaborative divorce lawyer plans to approach your case. There are a number of techniques attorneys use. Some may not work for your particular situation.
Your attorney will probably use a participation agreement, which each party signs before starting the process. This agreement sets goals and conditions for resolving any disputes. These terms may be adjusted to meet the needs of each party.
A team of experts may also work with you and your lawyer to help guide you through the process and advise on certain matters. This could mean financial professionals, counselors, and parenting specialists. While some cases don’t require a whole team, they’re often very helpful.
Ask your attorney what their step-by-step process is and make sure you voice any concerns before getting started.
Can You Resolve a Child Custody Issue?
A divorce automatically becomes much more sensitive if children are involved. Many people think it’s essential that the courts play a role when child custody is a part of the equation. However, a collaborative approach can also resolve custody issues.
A collaborative divorce lawyer can access your situation and let you know the best way to handle a custody matter. This is also where a parenting specialist can help you and your spouse come to an appropriate resolution.
Many times, a collaborative divorce provides a healthier outcome for the child than going to court would. Through amicable negotiation, the best interests of the children are kept at the forefront of the discussion.
Unfortunately, when couples go to court, they’re fighting for a custody decision that benefits them, not the child. Collaboration helps avoid this.
What Happens if We Can’t Reach an Agreement?
Even though the collaborative approach aims to dissolve a marriage in the most amicable way possible, it doesn’t always work out. A divorce is an emotional event, and some couples have a hard time agreeing on terms.
It’s important to ask an attorney what happens if you and your spouse can’t make things work through collaboration.
Many times, if the process fails, a couple will end up going to court or opting for mediation. If this happens, will the attorney withdraw completely or can they still represent you?
Find the Right Collaborative Divorce Lawyer
If you’ve decided a collaborative approach to your divorce is more attractive than settling in court, it’s important you work with an attorney that has your best interests in mind. You also need skilled and knowledgeable representation from someone trained in collaborative divorce.
Ask a potential attorney the questions discussed above before determining if it’s a good fit. Open communication is essential in these types of cases, so make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney and team.
We provide skilled collaborative law and divorce services in Dallas and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to set up a consultation.