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A new form of divorce, called “collaborative law” uses lawyers, psychiatrists and accountants working as a team to find a solution outside of the courts. First introduced into divorce law in Texas in 2001, collaborative law already shows promise in resolving divorce issues and is rapidly gaining popularity around the country.
Part of the reason for the increasing interest in collaborative divorce procedures is that the process can save time and money for divorcing couples. In Texas, a new study shows that rather than the typical 18-month, $14,000 process using litigation, a collaborative divorce requires an average of 18 weeks and $9,000.
Collaborative divorce is part of a growing movement in the legal community: holistic or transformative law. This method takes an approach that focuses on healing and counseling rather than adversarial law. Rather than hiring separate experts who fight it out in court, the couple pays for a single, neutral expert who helps them both with financial or mental-health issues. Clients and attorneys alike say that they are much more satisfied with the results at the end of the day with this method.
“Collaborative law provides a safe structure where people can negotiate without threat of court, without fear of being cross-examined or having anything they say used against them,” says Norma Trusch, president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Developed in 1990 by a Minneapolis family lawyer named Stuart Webb, collaborative law has since grown rapidly. 4,500 attorneys nationwide have been trained in the process, with a number that roughly doubles each year as the demand for this service rises.
The main disadvantage is that if the parties can't reach a negotiated solution, they must fire their collaborative lawyers and hire litigators.
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Child custody rights may be shared by both parents or, primary child custody rights may be awarded to one parent or legal guardian. Since the 1970s the family court will award child custody rights contingent with the best interests of the child.
Child custody for fathers following a divorce is one of the most important aspects of a dissolving marriage. Throughout history the legal presumptions about child custody for fathers has changed significantly. Before the twentieth century children were regarded as the property of their father. Under common law, child custody for fathers was commonly awarded, as children were considered a father's rightful property. A major shift occurred after this period in history, as family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers.