Ending your Texas marriage without acrimony: it can be done
A generation ago, there were few ways - aside from traditional contested divorce litigation or a settlement agreement - to end a Texas marriage. If the parties couldn't come to an agreement amongst themselves on important issues like child custody, visitation and property division, they had to fight it out in court, wasting valuable time and monetary resources. Instead of being divorced in a matter of months, it could easily take a year or more to dissolve a marriage if every issue must be decided by a judge with an already-full family court docket.
Nowadays, though, the divorce landscape is much different. While some Texas divorce actions are still contentious, many couples are now able to use alternative methods like mediation or collaborative divorce to end their marriage. These methods foster a spirit of cooperation, and, in addition to benefits like costing less than litigation and offering a quicker resolution, using an non-adversarial method can be especially helpful for couples with children, as it puts them in a good position to positively and respectfully co-parent their children for years to come.
Alternative divorce methods are relatively new to the family law arena, and having a basic understanding of the various methods available can be helpful to someone thinking about dissolving their own marriage.
The most common alternative divorce method (which is also useful in other family-related legal issues) is mediation. Texas courts believe so strongly in the value of mediation that some judges will require divorcing parties to attempt mediation prior to litigating matters, particularly those relating to child custody and parenting time/visitation. Having a neutral third party - the mediator - help you make decisions can result in an agreement that you both can accept. In addition, mediation typically resolves contested issues quicker than a trial would and it is usually less expensive for the parties.
Another alternative method has gained traction in legal circles across the country in recent years: Collaborative law. Since, legally speaking, collaborative law is still in its infancy, many people are unfamiliar with it. Essentially, collaborative law is a series of meetings in which the husband and wife negotiate a settlement with their attorneys with the assistance of various professionals whose expertise is valuable to the couple's unique situation.
For example, a couple dealing with financial issues might need the assistance of an accountant to help them come up with a fair property and debt division arrangement. Couples who cannot communicate well, or have other emotional issues might benefit from a counselor or psychologist being involved. If there are children, a parenting coordinator could be of assistance. Many parties report that settlements reached through the collaborative process are more successful because they feel a real sense of control over their lives. In their minds, the terms of an agreement are easier to meet since they were a vital part of its creation.
Finding the right kind of help
Obviously, if you have questions about a Texas divorce, whether you think that an alternative method will be of use, traditional litigation will be required or a settlement can be reached, strongly consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney in your area. An attorney can help you determine what method is probably the best fit for you and can give you knowledge about your rights and options that you need to make an informed decision about how to proceed.