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Alternatives to Litigation

The District Courts of Collin County have a large volume of civil and family law disputes which come before the Courts for resolution. The issues involved in civil litigation include personal injury, disputes between businesses, contract disputes, construction, real estate, partnerships, and negligence cases, just to name a few. The issues involved in family law disputes include divorce, modification and enforcement of prior orders affecting children. Family law cases, in particular, are highly emotional and cause life changing events which result in the dissolution of marriages, disruption of families, division of community property and debts, and orders concerning possession and support of children.

There are many cases which are filed in response to anger, hurt feelings or pain without consideration of the long term results of litigation. Those long term results include dissipation or depletion of family resources, dissension among extended family members, serious life style changes for children, feelings of abandonment and alienation, and fracture of families.

You now have a choice of using courtroom litigation, mediation or collaboration to solve your problems. Your choice can promote a mature and thoughtful settlement of the issues or an invitation to all out war.

Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party assists the opposing parties to reach a voluntary, negotiated resolution. In the mediation process you and your spouse or former spouse would meet with a trained family law mediator. The mediator would assist you in making your own decisions to settle your differences. You may have a lawyer present to give you legal advice throughout the mediation process. There are private attorneys trained in mediation techniques as well as non-attorneys who provide mediation services.

Each of these alternatives allows parties to be in control of the outcome of their divorce or modification suit. Each allows the parties to be creative and work out an agreement in a manner which a Court may not have the legal authority to do. When parties invoke the power of the Judge to rule on their case, they are asking a stranger to make final decisions on these very personal and unique problems, rather than working together to come up with a solution with which both can be satisfied.

When parents are caught up in their own issues and best interests, their children usually take a back seat; and many times they are used to promote and accomplish the goals of the parents, rather than the parents focusing on the needs of the children. When children are used in this manner, parents may doom their children to a life of litigation and conflict until they are adults. If only parents could see what damage is done to their children when they are caught in the crossfire of litigation and spite fights by their parents. Please take the time to view a timely public service video, Kids in the Crossfire, produced by the Texas Young Lawyers Association, which is sure to give you pause before heading for battle or continuing to battle over your children.

Please think carefully about the choices available to you. Litigation is an adversarial approach. It is very expensive, increases conflict and many times proves devastating to the children involved. The bad feelings from courtroom litigation can affect you and your children the rest of your lives. On the other hand, mediation or collaborative law can result in a settlement that is less expensive, less traumatic and more creative. The choices you make now can have an enormous immediate and long term effect on you and your children. Choose wisely.

The collaborative process utilizes lawyers and other professionals trained in negotiations and family matters to represent you and your spouse or former spouse only for the purpose of helping you settle your case. These lawyers can never go to court for you, except to finalize or close the case. They will help you get the coaching and experts you need to reach an agreement without the trauma of litigation. Their training and expertise is used to solve problems, not fight.

For more information:

Kids in the Crossfire

Collaborative Law Institute of Texas

Collaborative Law Alliance of Collin County

SMU Dispute Resolution and Mediation, Plano