Here are some tips on how to get started in a case where the parties want to use Collaborative Law.
Step 1: Learn About Collaborative Law
Information is available here and on many other websites that are easily accessible. In addition to this website, we recommend the following websites:
- The local Collaborative group: Collaborative Divorce Tarrant County.
- The state organization: Collaborative Divorce Texas.
- The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Another useful source is our blog, Texas Collaborative Law.
Step 2: Find an Experienced Collaborative Lawyer
For tips for selecting a lawyer generally, click Here.
Experience: The best Collaborative attorneys are usually the most experienced. Unfortunately, some non-Collaborative attorneys try to lure in clients by mentioning Collaborative Law on their websites. They may even praise it on the website. But, if you meet with them, they tell you right away that Collaborative won't work in your case and you need to settle for litigation. If you hear that, ask how many Collaborative cases they have handled and what training they have been to. They have probably handled NONE or one or two at the most. They may or may not have have had a two-day basic training.
Solution -- Get a second opinion from an experienced Collaborative attorney. In my view, there are almost no cases where Collaborative could not be used.
Qualities: In a Collaborative case, substantial legal experience, good communication skills and extensive and continuing Collaborative Law training are of paramount importance when one is looking for a good Collaborative attorney. Collaborative Law requires a major change in perspective for attorneys and relies on very different skills than litigation does, so specific Collaborative Law training is necessary for attorneys choosing to work in the field.
Lists of Trained Attorneys: If you are interested in using the Collaborative Law approach, you need to find attorneys who have had training in Collaborative Law. For Tarrant County, Texas, many local trained Collaborative lawyers are listed on the web site which was mentioned above.
Another good web source for attorneys is the web site of Collaborative Divorce Texas. Look for the button to find a professional and then look for ones in Tarrant County. There is a similar list on the IACP web site.
Personal Referrals: Just like with any other significant decision, you should investigate before you decide. When you are looking for an attorney who can help you in a Collaborative case, you should seek referrals from people you trust and then check out the experience and qualifications.
Research: Through the Internet, there are many different web sites and places to get ratings and recommendations of attorneys. You can research their postings on blogs and social media to get some ideas about their approach to handling different types of issues.
Rapport: Once you have done the preliminary research, you should personally visit with one or more attorneys. You should think about what your real needs and objectives are in the case and make sure your attorney is attuned to them. It is very important that you and your attorney communicate well and develop a good “chemistry”.
There are many fine attorneys, but sometimes a good attorney is not a good fit for a person in a certain situation. From our point of view, we evaluate prospective clients to determine our comfort level with them. If something doesn't feel right, we don't hesitate to refer them to another qualified attorney who we think will be a better fit.
A personal connection and rapport are very important. You should ultimately base your decision on your gut feelings and not just rely on what others say you should do.
Step 3: Encourage Your Spouse to Try Collaborative Law
With the help of your attorney, determine the most effective way to explain to your spouse the reasons why Collaborative Law would benefit him/her and your family, and then share that information with your spouse.
You might consider discussing with your spouse one or more of the following advantages of Collaborative Law:
- Control over the Outcome
- Creativity/Customized Plans
- More Civilized Approach than Litigation
- You Stay out of Court
- Helps Preserve Relationships
- Goal Orientation
- Neutral Experts Help Out as Needed
It is helpful to “put yourself in your spouse's shoes” when you are deciding how to best explain the option to your spouse.What would be the most important or appealing factors to him or her?
It is important to emphasize that it is necessary for your spouse to hire a trained Collaborative Lawyer in order to utilize the process.
If your spouse has retained a Collaborative-trained lawyer, you can make the case a Collaborative case. It can even be converted to Collaborative Law even after it has been filed, if both parties agree. Unfortunately, if your spouse has retained a non-Collaborative lawyer, you will not be able to proceed as a Collaborative case.
Step 4: Once Both Parties have Collaborative Lawyers, Set the 1st Meeting
Prior to the first joint meeting, the attorneys usually have a discussion and select a neutral mental health therapist to work with the parties during the process. We sometimes have both parties meet with the therapist before the first meeting and the therapist sits in all joint meetings to assist the parties, which turns out to be one of the best innovations of Collaborative Law.
Step 5: Sign the Participation Agreement at the 1st Joint Meeting,
A copy of the Participation Agreement will be provided by each attorney. The Agreement should be read carefully and it is usually discussed thoroughly either before or at the first joint meeting.
Step 6. Discuss Goals at the 1st Joint Meeting
The goals for each party become the focal point of the process. They are the target that everyone watches as issues are discussed. The goals should be thought out in advance of the first meeting and the parties should carefully explore their short-term and long-term needs and objectives. The goals can be revised later during the process if something changes, but careful evaluation at the beginning makes meetings more efficient and effective in helping the parties. Click here to view a form that will help you formulate your goals.