There are many benefits to divorcing couples who choose to use the Collaborative Divorce Process. Those benefits begin with an agreement to not go to court–not going to court can result in cost savings to the divorcing couple versus having a full-blown litigated trial before a judge or jury.
Disclosure of Information
During the Collaborative Divorce process, each party is required to informally make timely, full, and candid disclosure of information related to the collaborative matter without requiring formal discovery, such as written requests for document production, interrogatories, admissions, requests for disclosure and depositions. Each party must also promptly update any previously disclosed information that has materially changed during the pendency of the case.
Formal discovery is expensive and time-consuming, but in the Collaborative Divorce Process, the parties are able to define the scope of the disclosure–in other words, if they want to limit or narrow what each other are required to disclose because they already know some pieces of information, they are able to do that by agreement in the Collaborative Divorce Process. In a litigated divorce, once formal discovery is commenced, it is generally a very wide scope, often requiring the parties to disclose information that they both already have. Informal discovery within the Collaborative Divorce Process results in savings for the parties, and by voluntarily agreeing to fully disclose all relevant information, it creates an environment that enables agreements to be reached and a better opportunity for the clients to settle their case.
Effect of Written Settlement Agreement
It is important to note that drafters of Texas Family Code regarding Collaborative Law wanted to preserve the enforceability of settlement agreements. A Collaborative Family Law settlement agreement is enforceable in the same manner as a written settlement agreement in the litigation process, such as following an agreement reached in a mediation. Parties are entitled to an irrevocable judgment, as long as a statement declaring that the judgment is not subject to revocation is prominently made (boldfaced type, capitalized or underlined) within the agreement. Both parties and their lawyers must also sign the document.
Remedies for Failing to Fully Disclose
If one of the parties in a Collaborative Divorce has failed to fully disclose a material asset, the Collaborative Divorce settlement agreement could probably be set aside based on two cases settled in mediation where a party intentionally failed to disclose material assets and the mediated settlement agreement was set aside. Boyd v. Boyd, 67 S.W.3d 398, 403 (Tex.App. Fort Worth 2002, no pet.); Brooks v. Brooks, 257 S.W.3d 418, 422 (Tex.App.—Fort Worth 2008, pet. denied).
Collaborative Divorce is a process whereby a divorce in Texas can be managed more efficiently and cost-effectively for the divorcing spouses and their families. In the end, a Collaborative Divorce offers privacy and protects the family’s assets from a long drawn out litigation process.