Collaborative Divorce Practice is a relatively recent development in the area of family law and has been around since approximately 1990. In the past decade it has gained increasing acceptance in the legal community as a dispute resolution method for family law cases. Lawyers who are effective collaborative divorce practitioners must receive special training and continue to update their skills.
The collaborative process consists of the attorneys, their clients and a team of neutrals: the process facilitator, who is a mental health professional, and a financial neutral, who is often a CPA or a certified divorce financial planner. The attorneys and clients sign an agreement to work toward settlement using interest-based negotiation, option generation, and the use of neutral experts. This is different from the litigation model, which uses positional negotiation and often the use of “hired guns” as experts, which can drive up the cost of a case. In the collaborative model, the parties commit to staying out of the courthouse, and if the collaborative process terminates, the attorneys must withdraw and new counsel for litigation must be hired. While the withdrawal requirement may seem unusual, without it, the collaborative process would have no integrity.
With the recent U.S. Supreme decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage is now legal in Texas. Collaborative divorce has always been a viable option for same-sex couples seeking to divide their property when a relationship ends. Now there are still legal questions surrounding the Obergefell decision to be resolved, such as whether Texas will give full faith and credit to marriages from other states before the ruling, and whether the decision is retroactive. Until clarity from the courts is obtained, resolving these issues collaboratively is a viable option.
Amie has handled over 50 collaborative cases and believes in using the team approach. She has worked with some of the best financial and mental health professionals in the Austin area on collaborative teams. Amie has been a member of Collaborative Divorce Texas since its inception and is the current president of Collaborative Divorce Austin (www.collaborativedivorceaustin.com).
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