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Texas Collaborative Divorce: How Does it Work?

Austin Divorce Attorney Jimmy Vaught

Video transcript:

The other parent had an affair with the other parent's best friend, so you can imagine there was some tension in the room.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're planning to get divorced in Texas, could a collaborative divorce be the right thing for you? Well, that's what we're going to ask the lawyer on today's episode.

Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com. My guest is attorney Jimmy Vaught with the Vaught Law Firm in Austin, Texas. I want to remind you, if you'd like to ask questions about your specific situation, just head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, then you can do it right there.

Jimmy, it's good to see you again. Thank you for helping us out.

Jimmy Vaught:

Of course. It’s good to see you again.

Rob Rosenthal:

Well, let's just start with a definition. Specifically in Texas, what is collaborative divorce?

Jimmy Vaught:

A collaborative law divorce is basically where the parties sign what's called a participation agreement, and so the parties and the attorneys are bound by that. What that means is if anybody opts out, and either party can opt-out, then they have to start all over again with different lawyers. The way collaborative law works is that you have a series of four-way meetings with the lawyers, the parties. A lot of times we’ll use a financial person if there's properties involved and they meet with the parties to develop a spreadsheet, and it's not uncommon to have a mental health type person to work with parties to work out some of the issues concerning children.

Rob Rosenthal:

What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce? Is it cheaper? Or why would somebody choose this way?

Jimmy Vaught:

There’s been some debate about whether it's cheaper or not; it probably is. The benefit is that everybody works together to try to come to a desired result. In collaborative law, nobody can go to court, so you don't have any court hearings, and I think one of the perks is to keep the drama down, particularly with the children, so it makes it easier to co-parent in the future.

Rob Rosenthal:

It sounds to me very similar to meditation. How is this different or similar to mediation?

Jimmy Vaught:

Well, mediation is a different animal, so to speak. In mediation, the parties meet usually in separate rooms, they have their own lawyers, and then a mediator is hired to work for the parties, to go back and forth to facilitate a settlement. Whereas with collaborative law there’s no court proceedings, whereas mediation usually comes with court proceedings or a contested divorce, so to speak. But in collaborative law you don't have any court hearings and it's much more... The parties are making decisions just like they are in mediation, but it’s much more low-key and kind of a kinder and gentler way to settle a divorce.

Rob Rosenthal:

Is any family law attorney able to do a collaborative law divorce, or do you need special certification or anything?

Jimmy Vaught:

Well, normally you should receive some training in collaborative law. I've actually been trained in collaborative law, and do some occasionally. Some lawyers do it without any training; there's no requirement for training, but it's probably better for you to find someone who's actually been trained in collaborative law.

Rob Rosenthal:

Is it something that you recommend? It would seem to me that it really requires there not be a lot of animosity amongst the parties.

Jimmy Vaught:

Well, actually, that's one of the options that we provide clients who come to see us. Some choose to do it, some choose not to. Even if they choose not to, most of our approaches usually start with trying to keep the drama down, but it's one of the options that we do offer people who come to see us.

Rob Rosenthal:

Are there certain situations where it just wouldn't work? What if there's complicated finances or custody? Or could it work for anything?

Jimmy Vaught:

Well, I mean, it probably doesn't work very well when you have a really contentious situation between the parties, but sometimes it does, and there are some people who think any case is appropriate for collaborative law. If it’s a really, really contentious, high-conflict situation, I think collaborative law is probably not the place to be, but I've also had some where it was pretty contentious. I had one where I represented one parent, and the other parent had an affair with their spouse’s best friend, so as you can imagine, there was some tension there in the room.

Rob Rosenthal:

It takes somebody with a certain set of skills to be able to navigate that, I'm guessing.

Jimmy Vaught:

Yeah, that’s right.

Rob Rosenthal:

Jimmy, thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions. I appreciate it.

Jimmy Vaught:

Sure thing. Thanks so much.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Austin attorney Jimmy Vaught with the Vaught Law Firm. Remember, if you'd like to ask questions about your specific situation, just head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says, “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do it right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

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