I first discovered collaborative law as a law student at the University of Houston. For those not familiar with it, Mary Flood of the Houston Chronicle provides a good explanation:
The couple and their lawyers, all four, sign a contract that they will cooperate, hide nothing and honestly work toward meeting both parties’ needs. The four of them decide who else might be needed, like a CPA or a mental health counselor. Hopefully, after several meetings and on their own schedule they will agree and file joint papers with the court.
The entire article is a great read for anyone who might be considering seeking a divorce or for any lawyer looking for a different way to handle family law cases. Although I have not handled a collaborative law case myself, it is a method of practicing law that has been in the back of my mind for some time now.
Of course, not everyone is so thrilled:
The Colorado Bar Association issued an advisory opinion in February saying collaborative law is unethical because of the conflict created when the attorney signs a contract with both a client and the spouse. Colorado still allows attorneys to practice collaborative law as long as the contract to withdraw is just with the client and not the spouse.
Luckily, Texas has embraced collaborative law for the purpose of family law. There is also the possibility of this method spreading to other areas of law:
In Texas, the state legislature has considered bills in the last three sessions to formalize collaborative law in more types of civil cases, where it could be used by business partners or in employment situations, for instance. But these bills have always been defeated.Trial lawyers opposed it this year, saying mediation offers people a better way to work out a divorce and noting couples can get stuck paying their collaborative lawyers and attorneys for a lawsuit.
I, for one, will be keeping an eye on any developments that lead to the expansion of collaborative law.
Texas Family Law Legislative Update
A few interesting changes to the Texas Family Code are making their way to the governor’s desk as the current session of the Texas Legislature wraps up:
HB 555: This bill would make several changes to the way parenting plans are implemented in Texas courts. The one aspect that stands out most for me is the shift away from requiring parenting plans in temporary orders.
HB 448: This bill would increase the cap on the calculation of “net resources” for the purposes of determining child support payments. Currently, the percentage guidelines for child support apply only to the first $6,000 of net resources of an obligor. Under this new bill, this would be raised to $7,500, with an automatic adjustment for inflation every 6 years.
As I see other interesting bills making their way to the governor’s desk, I’ll try to report them here. The current session ends on May 28th, so there is still time for a few more bills to make it out before the Legislature recesses.