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Frequently Asked Questions

What are my options for divorce?
Going to court is not the only option for your divorce. Many couples are not aware of the choices they have to reach a resolution and may have the perception that only one option exists to dissolve a marriage. Fortunately this perception is not accurate and divorcing couples in Texas can choose the divorce option that is most appropriate for their individual and family needs.

In Texas, approximately 95 percent of all divorce cases are settled by agreement.  How you come to an agreement about how to divide your community estate and the best arrangements for your children differs. The divorce options available in Texas include:

  • Collaborative Law
  • Mediation
  • Litigation
  • “Kitchen Table” Settlements
  • Do-it-Yourself Divorce

The Basic Differences between Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, and Litigation:

One Denton County District Judge, Doug Robison, accurately summarized the differences:

  • In Collaborative Divorce, the parties decide the terms of their settlement and the lawyers review and approve it
  • In Mediation, the lawyers direct the terms of the settlement and the clients review and approve it
  • In Litigation (also known as court, or trial), the judge or jury decides all the issues of the parties’ case

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce has become a popular dispute resolution option in Texas.  In the Collaborative Divorce model, you, your spouse, and lawyers agree in advance that no one will take any contested issue to court. The “Collaborative Team,” which often includes mental-health and financial professionals, focuses all its attention on finding ways to restructure the family so that the needs of everyone involved are met to the greatest extent possible. The lawyers in this team are divorce lawyers and family law attorneys with special training experience in Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce starts with the idea that most people want to move through family law matters as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most people do not want to harm their spouse and children–they just want to change their situation from the way it is to something they believe will work better. Collaborative Divorce eliminates much of the strategic game playing that often accompanies litigation, as well as the hard feelings that are created when one person has to win and the other has to lose. In the unlikely event that clients are not able to settle all the issues in their case using the Collaborative Divorce model, a mediation can usually settle any remaining issues. In the few cases that are not able to be completed in the Collaborative Divorce, litigation attorneys can still take the case to court.

Mediation

Mediation is assisted settlement negotiation within the litigation process. A common misconception is that parties can mediate their issues prior to filing for divorce, as a stand alone alternative dispute resolution process; however, mediation is usually part of and within the litigation process, taking place after a suit for divorce is filed. Mediators do not take sides and their sole role is to help people reach a settlement. In most cases, the parties are required by the judge of their case to try to settle their case through mediation before they go to court for trial.

Some positives to mediation:

  • Mediators are neutral and can offer clients a different, unbiased perspective.
  • Having both clients, lawyers and a mediator in the same place at the same time with everyone’s attention focused on getting a settlement can often create a positive environment for making agreements.

Some negatives to mediation:

  • Mediation often takes place just before a case is scheduled to go to trial, after the parties have already spent substantial money, time and emotional energy fighting.
  • Mediation under these circumstances can sometimes feel coercive to clients, who may never have discussed the realities of their situation with their attorneys.
  • Mediation can be expensive. If the parties qualify for a sliding scale or low-fee mediation (available in some counties) the main cost for them will be their attorney’s fees, but if they do not qualify for a low-cost mediation, the parties will be paying for each of their attorneys (for extensive preparation and the hours spent during the mediation) plus the mediator’s fee, which can be up to several thousand dollars.
  • Mediation is often limited to one-day. Most cases set for mediation in Texas for one full day with the expectation that the case will settle during that time. It is very difficult to adequately review and settle all the issues of a case during a typical eight-hour day long mediation, and if the mediation goes into extra hours, the parties, attorneys, and mediator are fatigued. The best decisions are not made in time-constrained situations or under stress.
  • Many cases are mediated using the “caucus style,” which means each party is in a different room during the mediation. There is no opportunity for them to learn how to cooperate or work together after the mediation is over. If the parties have children together, learning how to work together during their divorce may be particularly helpful when they are co-parenting in the future.

Litigation

In litigation, decisions are made for the parties by a judge, or sometimes a jury. There are very strict rules about what information may be presented to the decision-maker, who may have never seen you before, will have a limited time to get to know your case, and who will probably never see you again.

Litigation does provide resolution for people who cannot find a way to settle their differences any other way. The court system is the only way to “force” a reluctant party to deal with family law issues.  Litigation, though, is a process focused on the negative aspects of divorce and other family law matters. In comparison to other divorce options, it causes people to focus on how they are “right” and the other is “wrong,” when they really just have different ideas about how their lives should look after divorce. Litigation is expensive and destructive to relationships. Even though most cases settle before they ever go to trial, the process of preparing to go to trial, if necessary, causes relationship damage that is difficult – if not impossible – to repair.  Costs of litigation can use up funds that could be put to better use, such as children’s college costs or the parties’ post-divorce financial autonomy.

“Kitchen Table” Settlements

This settlement method is simple. The husband and wife sit down “at the kitchen table” and work out an arrangement that satisfies each of them. The agreement can be taken to a lawyer to be put into legal form or use complete do-it-yourself divorce forms.

Unlike some other divorce options, this method of reaching agreements can produce inexpensive, quick, private agreements for couples who do not have children or substantial assets.  Without the benefit of legal advice, however, you may not know if you are giving up valuable rights. It is also easy to “re-invent the wheel,” or make mistakes that someone with family-law experience could help you avoid. People often find, upon taking the agreement to a lawyer, that questions will arise that may cause one or both spouses to change their agreement. If the husband and wife do not have equal information and equal power in the relationship, one person might not get his or her needs met.

Do-it-Yourself Divorce

Bookstores and on-line resources sell forms that can be used to handle a divorce without attorneys. Forms may also be available at local law libraries.

Divorce kits or forms generally provide a check-list approach to property and child-related issues, so users are not left completely in the dark about their options. These may be fine for people with no children or substantial assets.  But not all forms are equal; some can create more problems than they solve. When children and real estate or other major assets are involved, the forms may not be detailed enough to do what you are trying to accomplish. Further, check lists cannot inform you of your rights and leave little room for creativity.  If the husband and wife do not have equal information and equal power in the relationship, one person might not get his or her needs met.

How do I talk to my spouse about Collaborative Divorce?
Brainstorming with your attorney about options for informing your spouse can uncover options and insight.

Introducing the idea of Collaborative Divorce to your spouse.   It is important for both husband and wife to believe that the Collaborative Divorce approach is the best way for them to get a divorce process.  If your relationship with your spouse is cordial, you can give him or her information about the process and website references.  However, if you think your spouse might be more likely to appreciate the information if it comes from a source other than you, brainstorm with your attorney about options for informing your spouse about Collaborative Divorce.  Think about what approach would appeal to your spouse as well as what might upset him or her.

Here are some possible ways to introduce your spouse to Collaborative Divorce:

  • Talk to your spouse directly if the lines of communication are open and if you and your spouse have agreed to get a divorce.  Provide your husband or wife with articles, information and website references.
  • Think about who has your spouse’s ear–you can talk to and educate them about Collaborative Divorce. Family members, pastors, marriage counselors, individual counselors, and mutual friends often have the ability to present information in a way that makes someone feel comfortable.  The same information, if offered by a spouse, might be viewed with suspicion and not have the same impact.
  • Sometimes, clients will ask their attorneys to mail their spouse information about Collaborative Divorce.  For some, this might cause sa negative response to the information, so think carefully about whether there are other alternatives before you use this method
How do I select a divorce attorney?

The following are guidelines to consider when selecting a divorce attorney who is the right fit for your needs:

Experience

There is no guarantee that an experienced attorney will be better for you than one who has been practicing for a shorter time, but it is reasonable to start with the idea that the more experienced lawyer will have a better idea about what other local lawyers are like and what might happen if you take your case before a specific judge in your community.  Experience in handling divorces is crucial, not just years of general legal experience.  Divorce law is complex and complicated, so research who in your community has been representing clients in divorces for a number of years.

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization certifies lawyers as specialists in specific areas of law, including family law.  Attorneys who are “board certified” in family law have concentrated their practice in family law, have demonstrated a specific level of experience in different kinds of cases, and have passed a rigorous examination.

Personality and Practice Style

People who are getting divorced often feel vulnerable and lost.  Your family lawyer’s personality should reassure you while not giving you unrealistic expectations about the outcome of your case.  The right lawyer for you will listen to how you feel your case should proceed, then build on that information using his or her expertise, skill and experience.

Think about how a lawyer makes you feel when you are in his or her office.  Does it seem like people in the office are interested in your well being?  Are they courteous and respectful?  During your first visit with an attorney you will probably see the best he or she has to offer because the attorney and staff will want to make a good impression on potential clients.

Fee Structure

It is essential that an attorney and client have a clear understanding about how the client will be charged and how the fees will be paid.  Most family law attorneys in Texas will bill the client at an hourly rate (which will differ based on specific communities and the experience and skill of the attorney) and will require a retainer in order to begin work on your case.

While it is almost always difficult to discuss money transactions, it is a discussion that needs to occur.  Attorneys usually have written fee agreements or employments contracts.  Read these documents carefully.  If you have a limited amount of money available to pay for a divorce, tell the lawyer this information at the beginning of the relationship.  If the lawyer does not believe he or she can complete the case for that amount of money, it is probably best to look elsewhere for an attorney.  Most attorneys have a list of less-expensive lawyers to whom they refer, so ask for names.  The worst outcome is to get into the middle of a divorce or other family law matter then have insufficient funds to pay your lawyer or another lawyer to complete the process.

Ask an attorney you are interviewing how he or she will help you find ways to keep the costs of the divorce down.  Make sure they know what your financial parameters are, and what expectations you have regarding costs.

Referrals

It is helpful to ask for referrals from friends who have been through divorces, but remember that the facts of their case, their personalities, their estate, and their children are different from yours.  Just because an attorney was a good fit for your neighbor does not mean that same lawyer will be right for you.  Ask friends and acquaintances what about their lawyer they liked and did not like.  Also ask about their spouse’s lawyer.  What did that attorney do to help calm the waters or make matters worse?  Information from friends and lawyers, though, is just a piece of information.  Use that, along with the other information you gather to decide which lawyer will best meet your needs.

Comfort Level

Choosing the right divorce attorney for you can be the factor that decides how easy or difficult your entire divorce process will be.  The decision is too important to make lightly.  Do not hesitate to interview more than one attorney so you can get a feel about what alternatives are available.  At the end of the interview process, you have to assess your overall comfort level with an attorney before you decide if he or she is right for you given your circumstances at the time you begin the divorce process.

How can I maintain my privacy during my divorce?
Information in a litigated divorce is often part of a public record for anyone to see. Collaborative divorce can help you maintain your privacy throughout your divorce.

A Divorce can be a Very Public Event

Hearings and trials are open to the public–anyone can come in and watch.

Almost everyone has an interest in keeping some information out of the public eye. Details about people’s personal lives, habits, health and relationships are generally considered not to be for publication.  Likewise, business executives and professionals do not want friends, relatives or competitors to know details about their business or profession. The threat of publicity can become a coercive weapon.

In addition to hearings in court, motions (some with affidavits alleging bad behavior attached), pleadings, lists of assets, and sworn statements are all filed with the court clerk.  Even with recent rules that limit the general public’s access to those records, there is always a danger that those documents will make their way into the public eye.

Collaborative Divorce is Private

Protecting privacy is one of the most important advantages of Collaborative Divorce. Minimal paperwork is filed with the court, and the papers that are filed generally contain no facts specific to the people involved in the case.  The only time anyone appears in court in a Collaborative Divorce case is to present the Agreed Final Decree for the  judge’s approval and signature in a short hearing that usually takes less than five minutes.

How can I minimize the effects of our divorce on our children?
Perhaps the single most important factor in determining how your children adjust to divorce is how their parents interact. There are ways to effectively parent throughout your divorce.

How Parents Interact During and After the Divorce: Perhaps the Single Most Important Factor in Determining How Your Children Adjust to the Divorce

Almost all divorcing couples will experience a certain amount of hostility toward each other during their divorce, and that conflict sometimes continues for a time following the divorce while the family adjusts to its new structure.   But when conflict continues for years, the negative consequences for the children can be profound.  The more intense the conflict between parents, the greater the potential for damage to children. Likewise, the longer conflict continues, the greater the risk of long-term negative effects on children.

Many factors that determine a child’s adjustment to divorce are beyond your control:

  • Research has shown that children under the age of five initially experience the most pain from parental separation, but over time they are better able to adjust to divorce than older children.
  • Boys appear to have more short-term difficulties, while girls are more likely to exhibit effects of a divorce over a longer period of time.

You and your ex-spouse may be raising children together for years to come, and even if your children are grown, you will continue to parent them for the rest of our lives. How you and your ex interact during and after the divorce may be the most important factor in determining how your children adjust to the divorce. Working towards an effective co-parenting relationship from the moment you make the decision to divorce is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.

Your Child’s Perspective

Children love both parents, and see themselves as being part mom and part dad.   When one parent attacks the other – even where no physical violence is present – children feel personally injured.  Avoid discussing these subjects with and around your children:

  • negative comments about the other parent (and their family and friends)
  • the divorce process and events leading up to it
  • money, especially in the context of child support (children under 18 and not yet graduated from high school)
  • details of the other parent’s life or your children’s time with their other parent
  • the other parent’s relationships

You damage your children and inhibit their ability to adjust to a new situation when you put them in the middle of communication between their parents.  Tips for parents going through a divorce:

  • never ask a child to keep secrets or to spy on their other parent.
  • give your child the space and support to love both parents.
  • if you have questions about parenting practices in the other parent’s home, check it out with the other parent before you discuss the situation with your children.  If a child reports an event that seems troubling, say, “I need to talk with your mom/your dad about that.” You can then gather necessary information, and you are sending a clear message to your child that you and their other parent are united where children are concerned.

While it is crucial to support and listen to your children, children can often benefit from additional support and comfort from people other than their parents during and after divorce. Children are often highly attuned to a parent’s emotional state and children can take on the task of helping mom or dad to feel better — sometimes at the expense of their own emotional well-being.  In addition, children typically find it difficult to be completely open with their parents about their experience of the divorce.  Both parents will likely be more emotionally fragile than normal as they find their own ways to heal and regroup after divorce, so outside resources can be most helpful.

Resources for Your Child and Family:

Information about helping children adjust to divorce is frequently available at the community level through child and family service agencies, and many therapists specialize in helping families transition through divorce.  Therapy provides a safe place for a child to speak openly and attend to his or her needs without having to worry about hurting a parent’s feelings.  School teachers are excellent sources of information about how your child is adjusting outside of the home, and school counselors can be a good starting point for conversations between your child and a therapist.

How do I cope during my divorce?
During divorce it is essential to acknowledge your emotions and manage your feelings in a way that helps you make smart decisions to preserve your family, important relationships, and your dignity.  This section on divorce information provides tips and strategies for managing stress and coping with your divorce.

Remember what the flight attendants say about the oxygen mask when you are traveling with children? That’s right–they tell you to put your mask on first so that you will be able to help the others who need you.  Going through a divorce is just like that oxygen mask advice. Now is the time to take care of yourself.  The emotional stress of divorce can manifest itself in any number of ways.  One person might be more susceptible to illness than usual; another might find it hard to concentrate at work; you might have far less patience with the people you care about, particularly your children.  It is critical for you to find ways to help you relieve stress and stay centered.

Strategies for staying healthy throughout your divorce include:

(NOTE: Before engaging in a divorce recovery group, journaling, or talking to friends and family, it is a good idea to clear that with your attorney as there are potential risks to those activities)

  • A professional therapist can help you sort through your feelings and provide a place for you to unload some of the overwhelming emotions that tend to dominate people during divorce. Many people are tempted to use their attorney as their therapist, and while many lawyers are good listeners,  a professional therapist is specially trained to help you deal with your emotions during this time. Attorney’s hourly rates are usually much higher than a therapist, so using a therapist to deal with your emotional issues and using your attorney for the legal issues will be the most efficient use of your professionals fees. Try to consider the therapist your oxygen mask during the divorce, remembering, if powerful emotions are not directly addressed and defused, that they will manifest in other ways, often unexpectedly and sometimes destructively.
  • Eat healthy food and get plenty of rest. For some people, this will be especially challenging because they cannot sleep and eat very unhealthy foods when they are under stress. While this will work for a short time, to take care of yourself and your children during and after your divorce, you will need all the strength you can gather, and that will best be gathered by eating health and getting good rest. Don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you need help on this.
  • Physical activities such as exercise, yoga and meditations are excellent ways to turn off your thinking, which is typically working in overdrive (and not necessarily for your benefit) during a divorce.  Bodywork like massage can also be very effective for releasing emotion and restoring balance.
  • Divorce recovery groups are available in many communities, providing an outlet for processing emotions and a peer group that can be a source of support.
  • Keeping a journal can be an effective way of expressing and processing emotions.
  • Supportive family and friends are great resources – accept their kindness.  Those who do not support your happiness but want to stir up drama are not people you can count on now.  You will surely get lots of well-meaning advice.  While this is informative, you are ultimately best served by listening to your own feelings and the advice of unbiased professional resources.  Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” can help you access the right resource in the moment.

Be gentle and generous with yourself during this challenging time – this is the rainy day that you have always saved for.  Seek the courage to experience this painful transition as deeply as you can bear.  In doing so, you will ultimately find relief, compassion and understanding.

Divorces resolved through the Collaborative Divorce model are less traumatic than litigated divorces, but that does not mean they are easy.  Most of the legal side of your divorce requires you to make business decisions – right at the time when you are not thinking clearly.  Doing your best to handle your emotions outside of the joint meeting room will result in a smoother process and a more beneficial result for all concerned.

How can I minimize my financial loss and protect my assets?
Taking control and managing your money and assets during divorce will provide you with a greater sense of empowerment and security about your future. A Collaborative financial professional can assist you in making informed decisions about your financial future.

What do financial neutrals do on the Collaborative Divorce team?

Neutral financial professionals, such as Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Certified Financial Planners (CFP™), and Certified Divorce Financial Advisors (CDFA),  are trained in the Collaborative Divorce process and join the Collaborative Divorce team as neutrals – they will not be on your side or your spouse’s side.  Their overall role is to help you understand enough about your finances to make informed decisions (with your attorney). Because there is only one neutral financial professional in your divorce (as opposed to both of you having your own financial professional in litigation), they can save you money.  Neutral financial professionals are usually the most highly trained, experienced and efficient professional to help you accomplish most of the financial tasks for your divorce.

The neutral collaborative financial professional can help you and your spouse:

  • Gather and organize required financial information
  • Verify information about your estate
  • Develop realistic financial goals for the future
  • Become educated about financial matters related to the divorce
  • Prepare future household cash-flow plans and projections
  • Prepare plans to meet current and future expenses for children
  • Help you and your spouse develop settlement options
  • Analyze the pros and cons of different options to resolve the financial aspects of your case
  • Provide specialized tax calculations and analysis
  • Identify separate-property or other financial claims
  • Help with processes to reach values on businesses, real property or other assets of the marital estate
Will this ever end? I’m ready for this to be over…
The end of a marriage represents not only a loss, but also a new beginning. If you’re newly divorced, a lot more than marital status has probably changed. This is a time to take stock and make some plans. This section of the web site will provide you with strategies for moving forward with life after divorce.

As with any loss, you will go through stages of grief, ideally arriving at a state of acceptance. Not only does this afford you the peace and contentment you so richly deserve, it also positions you to make clear and thoughtful decisions regarding your future. Take the time to process the loss: accept the love and support of your family and friends, see a therapist and talk through your emotional experience, join a divorce recovery group, explore meditation or yoga. Allow this loss to find a place in your identity that doesn’t define that identity, but instead enriches it. If you find yourself unable to break free of an overwhelming sense of grief, seek professional help.

Divorce frequently brings changes to your social life. Engaging in activities that you enjoy, that bring you into contact with others who have similar interests, can be an excellent way to explore new social networks and make new friends: take a cooking class, join a cycling group, look up the local chapter of the Sierra Club, volunteer for an organization you support. This is a time to explore and rediscover what brings you joy. If you are feeling peaceful about your divorce, with some understanding of what happened and how to minimize the chances of that history repeating itself, you’ll bring a great foundation to new relationships. If the wound from the end of your relationship does not yet feel fully healed, consider concentrating on new friendships instead of romance for until you know you are ready for that next step.

No matter how you and your ex managed finances, once divorced, you are responsible for establishing and maintaining a household entirely on your own. This is a good time to assess your financial situation, establish some goals, and begin working with a budget. Draw up a new will, plan for retirement and organize your business affairs to reflect your newly independent status. Finances can be a tremendous source of anxiety as you launch your new life–gathering information to help you understand your situation and enable you to make informed decisions can go a long way towards calming that anxiety.

If you are a parent, a lot will have changed for your family as a result of this divorce. The best gift you can give yourself and your children is to establish a workable parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. Start a dialogue as soon as possible to lay the groundwork for a two-household approach to parenting.

Establishing a life after divorce can be daunting, but it can also give you a sense of accomplishment, for some it can even be exciting. This IS an opportunity, with lots of changes and – perhaps – some tremendous improvements. It’s a time for exploration; a time to see what feels good to you and fits in your life. You may try some things and say, “Never again!” but the opportunity is there to get in touch with some undiscovered parts of yourself. As much as you can, stay open and be courageous!

How do I get started?
Making a beginning towards a newly structured family with the guidance of your attorneys and other professionals. They will guide your decisions to a well-informed, favorable outcome.

What is the Collaborative Divorce Team–Understanding the Role of Each Professional

Trained Collaborative Divorce Attorneys

In the Collaborative Divorce process, you and your spouse will each have your own attorney to represent your individual interests. The attorneys should be trained, experienced Collaborative Divorce attorneys and be committed to the Collaborative Divorce process. Having an attorney trained in the Collaborative Divorce process and committed to it insures your best chance for successfully resolving your case out of court. Just like in a traditional divorce, you and your attorney will have confidential conversations and a strategy for accomplishing your personal goals in the case, but the process by which those goals are reached does not require destroying your relationship with your spouse or spending your community estate on a court battle. Collaborative Divorce attorneys are specially trained to reached your goals by what is known-as “interest-based negotiation,” which is a method that enables the outcome to be less destructive than that attained in a mediation or a trial.

Neutral Collaborative Divorce Professionals

One Collaborative Divorce Client said, “I learned from that meeting that the Collaborative team was going to make sure that my voice was heard during our meetings – just as they were going to make sure I was aware of my husband’s interests. I began to actually look forward to our meetings in a strange way, because I felt stronger and more in control of my life after each one.” –Collaborative Law Client

Like the attorneys, Neutral Collaborative Divorce Professionals are also specially trained in the Collaborative Divorce process, but rather than representing a party’s individuals interest, without taking sides, the “neutrals” help the parties create and design options that will enable the parties to meet their individual goals and interests while reaching their common goals and the best overall outcome for all involved, whether a couple or a family.

Neutral Collaborative Divorce professionals are able to provide the divorcing couple with unbiased information necessary to resolve their case–a concept unique to Collaborative Divorce. In litigation cases, the husband and wife hire competing experts to support their respective positions at trial, causing further damage to the parties’ post-divorce relationship and at significant cost.

Because they neutrals are hired by both parties to provide information (rather than to support one person’s position), clients engaged in the Collaborative Divorce process find the neutral experts’ opinions to be more credible and reliable than they would be if they were expected to support one side or the other.

Clients often express concern that they will spend too much money if so many professionals are involved in their case. In fact, the neutral team members usually save them money because the least expensive, most competent person in a given field is doing what he or she does best. In a Collaborative Divorce, the couple’s resources are used on one neutral source of information rather than paying to experts to “fight it out in court.”

Most Collaborative Law teams include:

Neutral mental health professionals (the “MHP”)

Neutral mental health professionals (MHP) perform several roles on the Collaborative Divorce team:

  • They serve as process facilitators and communications coaches, to assure that meetings go smoothly and that the group is making progress toward completing the case
  • They are consultants who help clients develop and focus on what goals and interests they would like to have satisfied as they move through their Collaborative Divorce
  • They also serve as negotiation facilitators with the clients outside the joint meetings helping clients reach agreements on child-related or other specific issues. The MHP can help parents with questions such as how to tell their children and other family members and friends about the divorce. They help the parents create a parenting plan for making decisions and spending time with their children after the divorce is completed.

What neutral mental health Professionals Do Not Do in the Collaborative Divorce Process:

  • They do not perform therapy for either client or the couple. Instead, they help the parties and the remainder of the team work at their optimal level. Divorce is almost always a difficult and emotionally-challenging experience. The parties’ feelings range from anger to sadness to frustration to depression to confusion – to name just a few. Having a mental health professional on the team to help the parties deal with those feelings during the process allows everyone to attend to the business decisions that are required to finish a case.

MHPs serving as team members are engaged at the beginning of a Collaborative Divorce and generally attend all joint meetings. They often meet with the husband and wife, individually and/or together, at various times during the process between joint meetings to work toward resolution of specific issues or to intervene if communication becomes difficult. Learn more about the role of the neutral mental health professional in Collaborative Divorce cases below.

Neutral financial professionals (the “FP”)

Neutral financial professionals such as Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Certified Financial Planners (CFP™), and Certified Divorce Financial Advisors (CDFA) help you to make informed decision about your financial future.

The financial neutral will gather, organize and help you understand the financial information relating to your divorce.  Financial professionals are trained in the Collaborative Law process and join the Collaborative team as neutrals – they will not be on your side or your spouse’s side.  Their role is to help you understand enough about your finances to make informed decisions.

The neutral Collaborative financial professional can help you and your spouse:

  • Gather and organize required financial information
  • Verify information about your estate
  • Develop realistic financial goals for the future
  • Become educated about financial matters related to the divorce
  • Prepare future household cash-flow plans and projections
  • Prepare plans to meet current and future expenses for children
  • Develop settlement options and analyze the pros and cons of different ways to resolve the financial aspects of your case
  • Provide specialized tax calculations and analysis
  • Identify separate-property or other financial claims
  • Help with placing values on businesses, real property or other assets of the marital estate

Other experts, like the ones listed below, can be brought into a case to provide specialized information as needed:

Child specialist

When there are minor children, a neutral child specialist may be asked to talk with the child, to be the child’s voice in the discussions about their future without the child having to actually be involved in the case. Child specialists help parents learn and implement co-parenting skills; make recommendations about what arrangements would be in a child’s best interests; and help parents ease the children’s transition from one household to two.

Appraisers

If there is a need for information about the value of real property, businesses or specific items of personal property, neutral appraisers can be hired to give opinions of value.

Accountants

If a case needs tracing of assets, tax planning or for the books of a business to be analyzed and explained to the parties, it is best for either the parties’ accountant (if the parties are confident of their impartiality) or a neutral an accountant to be engaged to protect the neutrality of the neutral financial professional in the case.

Therapists

Therapists are sometimes engaged to work with children or one or both of the parties if there are specific needs to be addressed.

Experts in other specific fields

Family law cases in Texas often include issues involving other areas of law. Oil and gas experts; estate, trust and probate lawyers; retirement and investment specialists, special needs advisors, and insurance professionals, for example, can also provide critical information to divorcing couples. The beauty of the Collaborative Divorce system is that clients receive customized information specific to their case at the same time from these neutral professionals, enabling the parties to ask questions in each other’s presence and their attorneys’ presence, which is much more efficient than carrying that information back and forth between the individual client’s representatives.

What is child visitation?
The parent with sole physical custody usually is called the custodial parent. The other parent is called the noncustodial parent and usually has visitation rights. The parents can agree to visitation terms or the court can decide for them if they can’t come to an agreement.
What is the difference in physical and legal custody?
The parent who has physical custody of a child is the parent with whom the child lives. A parent who has sole physical custody has the primary—and in some cases exclusive—responsibility to care for the kid’s everyday needs, including food, shelter, and safety.

Parents may split physical custody, which means the child lives with one parent 4 days a week and lives with the other parent 3 days a week. When parents share physical custody, the child doesn’t have to split time evenly between parents. Most states require that a child spend a minimum of 110 overnights with each parent to qualify as a joint physical custody arrangement.

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s health, education, and welfare. For example, a parent with legal custody can decide where a child should go to school, how the child should be disciplined, and if the child should have a certain religious upbringing.

Like physical custody, parents can share legal custody or one parent may have sole legal custody rights. A parent who has sole legal custody over a child is the only parent allowed to make major educational, medical, or religious decisions on the child’s behalf. Even if parents share legal custody rights, an order may designate one parent as the final decision-maker. If parents who share legal custody can’t reach an agreement on a decision, the designated parent has the final say.

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