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How does the collaborative law process affect child custody?

A relatively recent change in the Texas family code now provides standards and regulations for couples seeking to end their marriages through peaceful resolution. The 2011 Collaborative Family Law Act allows divorcing spouses to avoid some of the more unpopular aspects associated with traditional adversarial divorces. The CFLA accomplishes that by encouraging both parties to participate in joint negotiations regarding their property division and child custody related disputes.

Under the CFLA provisions these negotiations ideally occur outside of the courtroom and with both spouses represented by legal counsel. The overarching idea behind the collaborative law process is that spouses are allowed to resolve their differences through a series of private sessions while simultaneously receiving guidance from their family law attorneys. These negotiations sessions are aimed at amicably resolving property division, visitation rights and child custody (conservatorship) -- all outside of the courtroom.

The CFLA process will also allow third-party experts to be present during the negotiations. Although not required, this may involve the inclusion of financial planners or child therapists. In some cases, these neutral third parties can provide sound advice that can be beneficial to both spouses. For example, a financial expert could review the divorcing couple's total marital assets and determine a reasonable distribution of that wealth between them. Additionally, a therapist specializing in child development issues can be helpful in determining the most favorable visitation schedule based on the particular needs of each child.

The CFLA process is certainly not appropriate in every divorce. However, the increased privacy, speed and potentially lower costs associated with CFLA divorces should not be ignored, especially as long as each spouse can agree to amicably resolve their marriage through negotiation rather than litigation. Your family law attorney should be able to answer additional specific questions regarding child custody and collaborative law in Texas.

Source: Texas State Statutes-Family Code, "Collaborative Family Law Act" Nov. 17, 2014

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