What Others Say
What Clients Say About Collaborative Law
ìWe came out of it much better than we would have if somebody had told us what we were going to do. Civility was the key. Because we had an agenda and a goal for each meeting, we were both able to be civil. It forced a lot of interaction between us because we had to make decisions on our own. We made every decision based on mutual agreement, and nobody left angry. Iíve been told by people who have heard about this process itís unbelievable that we were able to handle it like that.î
–Husband (Husband and wife were each represented in Collaborative Law divorce by lawyer members of Dallas Alliance of Collaborative Family Lawyers)
ìDivorce is difficult for anybody, but this process was much smoother and left us feeling we had more control of our destination. It can be very painful, but itís much better when youíre sitting down together with both of your attorneys and working this out together rather than in a courtroom where somebody else is going to tell you how youíre going to live your life and when youíre going to see your children.î
–Wife (Wife and husband were each represented in Collaborative Law divorce by lawyer members of Dallas Alliance of Collaborative Family Lawyers)
ìIt wasnít an easy thing, because there are a lot of raw feelings involved, but I think that having the four parties ñ the two of us and our lawyers- sitting down together in a process that foster communication, was very helpful. We have two children in college now, so weíre still dealing with those kinds of parenting issues and I think our communication has actually gotten better. Using the collaborative process as opposed to something perhaps more damaging emotionally allowed us to have better communication going forward. If youíre going to have any kind of relationship down the road with the person youíre divorcing, this process can assist in building communication skills that you can use later.î
–Husband (Husband was represented in Collaborative Law divorce by lawyer member of Dallas Alliance of Collaborative Family Lawyers)
What Judges Say About Collaborative Law
When asked who favors Collaborative Law, the following are comments made by local Judges:
"Smarter people who are looking for a better way. Rational people, intelligent people, fairly well-educated people who recognize that the courtroom is about the worst place to resolve a dispute, especially when there are kids involved. People who are sufficiently mature to realize they can't live together, but they need to make rational decisions about property, debt division, and the kids, and not turn it into a war. People who are truly interested in what's best for the kids ñ generally, these are the folks who are genuinely committed to staying involved in their children's lives. Those who want to fight and punish someone don't go the Collaborative Law route ñ they go to court."
–Collin County District Judge Mark Rusch
"This is the way the law was always supposed to work," says Judge Robert T. Dry, Jr. of the 199th Judicial District Court in Texas. "Somewhere along the way, we developed this competitive environment for attorneys, and most people were looking for an edge. It became oxymoronic to be ethical and aggressively represent your client."
"In the courtroom, we are constrained by the law; we have discretion, but it's discretion within certain boundaries," explains Collin County District Judge Mark Rusch. "In a Collaborative Law situation, you can do all kinds of things, come up with very creative and innovative solutions that work for one family but may not work for somebody else. These are the things I may not have the ability to do or the time to come up with in a litigated divorce, given the crush of the rest of my docket. With Collaborative Law, you can custom-tailor something that will work, and work well, for your particular needs. That's one of the best things about it."
What Lawyers Say About Collaborative Law
"People generally demonstrate more respect for one another in the collaborative setting," says Donald R. Royall, partner in The Royalls, a Houston family law firm, and past chair of the family law section of the State Bar of Texas. "An important factor is the opportunity for mentoring that this process affords for the lawyers. Contrary to the courtroom setting, the lawyers are not expected to be confrontational in collaboration, even when they disagree. They can model appropriate behavior without being concerned that they might not be living up to their client's expectations of their skills as a courtroom advocate."
Royall adds: "Collaborative Law training allows the attorney to disable almost all the mechanisms learned in law school and expected in a successful law practice. Interpersonal skills that produce effective interactions between individuals are essential in Collaborative Law. We lawyers don't get much formal training along those lines, and this is probably our area of greatest learning need. These skills take training and practice to develop effectively. We must learn to listen for things other than what might be considered relevant and admissible in court, so that we can truly know our clients. It is essential that we understand and advocate our client's values and interests, not our own. Still, we are lawyers, not social workers or therapists. We need the training to recognize when those and other resources are needed."
"Collaborative Law is a cooperative effort, not a public forum," observes Mary Jo McCurley, a partner in the Dallas firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley & Nelson and chair of the family law section of the State Bar of Texas. "With Collaborative Law, you can settle the case with a scalpel rather than a hatchet, which is what you get in court. Because the parties have crafted the agreement themselves, they own it more than if a judge has told them what to do. They're more likely to follow the terms of the agreement."
"Finding Collaborative Law was an epiphany for me. Finally, a process that allows people to handle their family matters in a private and safe environment and provides them with expert advice on the legal, emotional, and financial components of restructuring their families and finances."
–Janet P. Brumley
What Mental Health Professionals Say About Collaborative Law
"Collaborative Law is a new way of resolving disputes and represents a fundamental change in how families can resolve their differences. Not only does it significantly reduce cost and reduce stress, but its most important feature is that it truly works in the interest of children. Scientific research tells us that ongoing parental conflict is the single most likely factor to harm children of divorce. Collaborative Law reduces conflict, increases cooperation, keeps parents in charge, and allows decisions to be made without the children being drawn into the conflict. In my view, it is a revolutionary concept that will be of great benefit to many families, and I support it wholeheartedly."
–Michael C. Gottlieb, Ph.D., ABPP, Board Certified Family Psychologist
"During a painful and confusing time in the lives of divorcing parents, collaborative family law offers a humane and effective way to reach agreements based upon a joint effort to understand and meet all family members' most important concerns and interests ñ a way for all family members to win, even during a time that much is being lost."
–Mark R. Otis, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
"Collaborative Law gives a divorcing couple the opportunity to tailor a post-divorce agreement to their own specific concerns in a respectful and deliberate manner. The Collaborative Law process is efficient, it works, and it supports the value of each family member. In addition, the process provides a useful model for the couple to resolve future disagreements and meet each other's, and their children's, needs without resorting to recriminations and competitive problem solving that can only poison family relationships."
–John A. Zervopoulos, Ph.D., ABPP, Clinical and Forensic Psychology
What Financial Professionals Say About Collaborative Law
"In Litigation cases, good deeds seldom go unpunished. In Collaborative Law cases, good deeds and fair dealing are expected and are the norm."
–Paul French, CPA CVA CFE BVAL CDFA CFFA CPIM CMA
"The Collaborative Law process offers my clients a safe environment in which to explore financial options -- options that address their family's unique needs. The use of a neutral financial professional brings structure to what can be a challenging time in their lives."
–Maggie Tolbert, CFP, CDFA
"Collaborative divorce is common sense. This is a process that allows you to maintain confidentiality, control, dignity, and respect. And by working with a collaborative team, creative solutions can be developed that address the issues of each family member."
Scott Clarke, CFP, CDFA
What The Media Says About Collaborative Law
"Ten lawyers representing ... Dallas' top family law litigation firms got together... and decided to make divorce clients a promise: If you want to walk away from your marriage without a bloody battle, leaving open the possibility of a cordial relationship, we will put down our litigator's guns and help you do it."
–"Dallas Lawyers Adopt Collaborative Approach," Texas Bar Journal (March 2000)
"The end of a marriage doesn't always have to look like a scene out of Divorce Court. A group of Dallas lawyers has a new approach to reach a friendly parting of the ways."
–Fox 4 News, KDFW (February 28, 2000)
"It's the sense of control that is so much better in Collaborative Law. Instead of lawyers and judges being in control, the control remains very firmly with the husband and wife."
–"One Last Time: Divorcing Couples Can Work Together To Avoid A Nasty Fight" by Pamela Yip, Dallas Morning News (September 2, 2002)
"A new way of settling divorces is providing couples with a way to end their marriages while avoiding nasty, costly courtroom battles. In the process, called 'Collaborative Law,' each partner hires a lawyer, and all four parties ñ the lawyers and their spouses ñ sign a 'participation agreement.' In it, everyone agrees to work toward a settlement, and not to go to court. And if discussions do break down, both lawyers must withdraw from the case and may not file any motions in court whatsoever. It's quicker, cleaner, and cheaper."
–"Collaborating On Divorce" CBSNews (January 23, 2001, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart)
"Texas' reputation for rough-and-tumble justice may be in for a revision... the state became the first in the nation to adopt a statute clearing the way for Collaborative Law, a process designed to soften the experience of getting a divorce."
–"Texas Shows Its Softer Side" by Jenny B. Davis, ABA Journal (March 2002)
"It can be effective for people who value their privacy because the proceedings are kept private... In divorce court, hearings and filings are often available to the public." ñ"A Growing Number of Unhappy Couples Try 'Collaborative Divorce'" by Diya Gullapalli, The Wall Street Journal (July 17, 2002)
"Unlike a traditional divorce, which often involves lawyers taking adversarial positions, lengthy mediation sessions and bitter court battle, the theory behind collaborative divorce is that the couple takes charge of the process."
–"Divorce Over Easy" by Jennifer Mathieu, Houston Press (August 29, 2002)
"Couples who opt for the new process tend to be well-educated, married more than 10 years and have assets worth protecting... Such divorces are often easier on children and spare them the emotional turmoil of being dragged through the system."
–"New Civil Procedure Lessens Sting of Divorce," by Jan Jarvis, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (September 22, 2002)