When you and your spouse decide it’s time for a divorce, how do you divide your assets? Do you need a court to approve your parenting plan? Will you or your spouse need spousal support? The process can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone.
Our collaborative divorce lawyer in McKinney, TX, can help you through the collaborative divorce process to negotiate acceptable terms in your divorce with your spouse. Call us at J Lowe Law today at 214-310-1491 to schedule a consultation with our experienced divorce lawyer in McKinney, TX.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Most people understand what traditional divorce is regarding court proceedings and negotiating terms for property division, child custody, child support, and alimony (called “maintenance” in Texas). Some people have heard of mediation, a process where a mediator carries terms back and forth between spouses until they can reach an agreement.
So what is a collaborative divorce? The collaborative divorce process is an option that falls between mediation and going to court for a divorce. Collaborative divorces often seek guidance from financial specialists and child specialists called “neutrals.”
Both you and your spouse will have your own lawyers. However, collaborative divorces don’t go to court. Our collaborative divorce attorneys at J Lowe Law can help you file an Agreed Final Decree of Divorce to end your marriage amicably about out of court.
How Is the Collaborative Divorce Process Different from Going to Court for Divorce?
The primary way that collaborative divorce is like a contested divorce in court is that both spouses have an attorney. Otherwise, the two procedures are very different. Differences include:
- Property division each party considers fair. Texas is an equitable distribution state. That means that the court will consider several factors about the divorce and divide shared property according to what it considers fair. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse may reach an agreement you find more equitable than what the court might decide.
- Agreed-upon parenting time for child custody and visitation. Courts consider a child’s interests when deciding about child custody and visitation. However, the court can also be strict about enforcing custody and visitation rights, limiting both parents’ time with their child and ability to pursue career opportunities, extended vacations, or contract jobs.
- Reasonable child support agreements. Courts consider many factors when determining child support payments but are not always reasonable in their expectations of a paying parent’s capability to pay. You and your spouse may come to a more affordable arrangement with a better chance of making payments on time.
- Reasonable spousal maintenance agreements. If a spouse gave up a career, school, or promotion to benefit the family, the higher-earning spouse should pay some amount in maintenance to make up the difference in current and prospective earnings and maintain the lower-earning spouse’s lifestyle.
- No formal discovery period. Civil litigation has a discovery period where both attorneys formally request information about the other spouse’s finances, assets, and other data. There is no formal discovery in collaborative divorce. The finance and child specialists help you and your attorneys acquire and understand relevant information and documentation.
Collaborative Law vs. Mediation
Despite negotiating divorce terms outside of court, collaborative divorce isn’t exactly like mediation, either. In mediation, both spouses use a neutral third party as the mediator to help them negotiate the terms of their divorce. In a collaborative divorce, each party has their own attorney. Additionally, the neutrals can advise the attorneys and their clients on aspects of the divorce.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
When you contact our collaborative divorce lawyer in McKinney, TX, you’ll learn more about the potential benefits of collaborative law, including:
- Collaborative divorce often costs less than divorce proceedings in court
- You have an attorney representing your interests
- Your divorce terms stay private (court proceedings become a matter of public record)
- You have more control over the terms of your divorce
- Collaborative proceedings often take less time to settle court proceedings
- You can assess the terms of your divorce according to your interests
- You keep your divorce civil rather than litigious
Downsides of Collaborative Divorce
There are some potential downsides to collaborative divorce over mediation or uncontested divorce, including:
- Potentially high costs from lawyer fees and paying neutrals for their time
- Requiring agreement to the process from both parties
- Lessening your bargaining power for certain assets or support if you have a better chance of awards from the court
What to Consider in Your Collaborative Divorce
Most divorces have many aspects to consider for your case. In your divorce, you need to consider what matters most to you. Do you care about keeping the family home, retaining custody of your children, accepting maintenance payments from your spouse while you go back to school, or other factors?
Dividing Assets and Debts
Spouses each have a right to claim certain assets in property division. In court, the judge often divides both assets and debts by considering specific factors, such as:
- Length of the marriage
- Contributions to the home by either spouse
- Age, health, and mental condition of each spouse
- Earning capacity of each spouse
- Income of each spouse
- Separate assets
- Cause of the divorce
- Other discrepancies between earnings, contributions, lifestyle, and responsibilities
Judges also often consider which spouse is the primary custodian of any minor children when determining which spouse keeps the marital home. If one spouse keeps the home, the court often gives the other spouse a larger share of other marital assets.
You and your spouse should consider similar factors when negotiating a fair division of marital assets and debts.
For example, if your spouse has a gambling addiction that they didn’t tell you about until after the marriage, and they have squandered marital assets by gambling, should you share the debts? In this case, our team at J Lowe Law can help you negotiate that your spouse should retain 100% of their gambling debts but take a larger portion of the shared assets to address the debt.
Child Custody and Support
The court also considers the interests of the child when making determinations for child custody and support. However, the court can also make so many demands of the non-custodial supporting parent that the custodial parent rarely sees the benefit of the award.
As your collaborative divorce lawyers, we can help you negotiate agreeable terms to ensure that you still see your child even if you are not taking custody.
If either spouse earns significantly less than the other, negotiating maintenance might be more agreeable in a collaborative divorce than in court. Spousal support is a tool to ensure the lower-earning spouse can maintain their standard of living.
You and your spouse can determine how long payments last, such as up to one year after completing a degree program, until remarriage by the supported spouse, or a specific amount of time, such as for ten years after the divorce.
Contact Our Collaborative Law Divorce Attorney in McKinney, TX
Collaborative divorce is an excellent option for divorcing spouses when the split is generally amicable and both you and your spouse are willing to negotiate. When you need a lawyer from a collaborative practice on your side, call us at J Lowe Law at 214-310-1491 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with our collaborative divorce lawyer in McKinney, TX.