What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a dispute resolution process that does not involve the courts. It is a process that is based on facilitative principles, such as mediation, but is distinct from mediation in that the parties are represented by their own attorneys who facilitate the discussion in accordance with an agreement. In the United States, over 15,000 attorneys have been trained in the collaborative law model.
Collaborative law has gained popularity particularly in the divorce context, where the process is also known as collaborative divorce.
Collaborative Law is valuable in situations where the parties have a need or a desire to maintain a relationship beyond the conflict to achieve dignified closure. The collaborative process is designed to minimize conflict while working toward resolution. The participants and their attorneys agree to make a good faith attempt to reach a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court. Frequently, the involvement of other professionals such as divorce coaches, child specialists and financial advisors are used. Working together, they strive to resolve the dispute in a way that addresses everyone’s legal, financial, and emotional needs.
History of Collaborative Law
Lawyer Stuart Webb of Minneapolis, Minnesota is generally credited with being the founder of collaborative family law. In 1990, after 15 years' experience practicing "traditional" family law, Mr. Webb decided to do something about the frustration and stress he and his clients were experiencing. He decided to "unilaterally disarm".
He announced that he would no longer go to court on behalf of matrimonial clients. He would do his best to help them settle their problems through negotiation, but if negotiation proved unsuccessful and either spouse commenced court proceedings, he would withdraw from the case and refer his client to a lawyer with a more litigious temperament.
Texas Family Code and Collaborative Law
The Texas Family Code states that Collaborative Law is a procedure in which the parties and their counsel agree in writing to use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their dissolution of marriage dispute on an agreed basis without resorting to judicial intervention except to have the court approve the settlement agreement, make the legal pronouncements, and sign the orders required by law to effectuate the agreement of the parties as the court determines appropriate. The parties' counsel may not serve as litigation counsel except to ask the court to approve the settlement agreement.