Collaborative Family Law: A Smarter, Healthier Approach to Divorce


by Bill McNaught

As a culture, we need to rethink the concept of divorce. Traditional divorces can be expensive, combative spectacles that involve a public trial. The process is financially and emotionally damaging to couples and children. The traditional legal path is often an angry, aggressive and stressful process.

It often leads to life-changing emotional trauma, and when children are involved, it can affect the capacity of children to have meaningful longterm relationships. Sadly, children can suffer for the rest of their lives.

A Collaborative Alternative

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a team of trained professionals to positively support couples through a constructive processes designed to achieve a fair, collective and family-based outcome? A team of cross professionals to support a fair process would be good for couples, children and our culture.

There is a process that does exactly this. It is called Collaborative Family Law. Through the collaborative approach, a specially trained team of professionals supports couples through the divorce process. It is settlementand client-oriented. The couple and attorneys commit from the start to resolve their divorce through team-supported negotiations outside of the court system. Couples work with trained attorneys, mental health experts, divorce coaches and financial advisors who are neutral and committed to the collaborative process.

Avoid Court

Everyone agrees from the beginning that the family will not go to court or spend money on litigation. This may not be for everyone, but more than 50 percent of divorcing families are eligible for the collaborative law process. There are screening processes to qualify as many families and couples as possible.

Instead of going to court, couples use creative solution-oriented attorneys, family counselors and financial advisors in a team approach for a fair outcome. The entire process takes place during structured meetings in private offices.

This is a practical approach based on shared family values and human interests that focuses on basic psychological needs like safety and security, self-esteem and selfactualization. Collaborative teams positively teach couples to navigate and resolve – not inflame – family problems.

Divorce is a complex and difficult process involving emotional, legal, economic, parenting, community and psychic components. It can be disorienting, chaotic and unsettling. Collaborative law commits the couple to a healthier process and a fair outcome. Clients are informed and well educated by the team to make the best decisions for their families and themselves in a supportive environment.

Bill McNaughtBill McNaught is a collaborative lawyer, legal counselor, trial attorney, mediator, nonprofit counselor and consultant, and creatively minded problem solver who offers both alternative, traditional, and quasitraditional approaches to help people. He is on the board of directors of the Collaborative Professional Association of San Antonio. Learn more at

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