Since Collaborative Law is still relatively new, many people may feel unsure about how to start the process. It's actually very simple.
1. Be sure you really want a divorce. Counseling or a cooling off period may be helpful. A divorce creates huge changes, which can be great in some cases, but divorces are usually difficult. You should really think about this before you start.
2. Learn a little about Collaborative Law. You're doing that now. You should probably read several blog posts and look at web sites to be sure you have a basic understanding. Also, read information from the jurisdiction where you will be filing, because there are variations in Collaborative Law from state to state. (The same would be true about litigation varying state to state.)
3. Find a Collaborative lawyer in your jurisdiction. Your jurisdiction is the county where you live, such as Tarrant County, Texas. You can search online or you can ask friends, family and trusted advisers. Call an attorney's office and ask for a recommendation. Whatever referral you get, be sure to research online about the lawyer's experience in Collaborative Law. The attorney should have had a two-day basic training (at least), and it would be wise to find an experienced Collaborative attorney who has had extensive training.
4. Consult with the attorney. Meet with the attorney and decide whether the chemistry is right. If not, go see someone else. If the attorney tries to talk you out of using Collaborative Law, go get a second opinion from a trained Collaborative attorney.
5. Talk with your spouse about how to proceed. That can happen before you meet with the attorney, if you are on good terms with your spouse. If you need to wait to tell your spouse until later, you and your attorney should try to figure out the best approach to meet your spouse's situation. Keep in mind that you can't do a Collaborative divorce unless your spouse agrees to it and hires a Collaborative attorney.
6. Your spouse hires a Collaborative attorney. You can't control that aspect, but you can support and encourage your spouse to find the right attorney. Your attorney can suggest several names of attorneys for your spouse to consider, if that would be helpful (sometimes it isn't!).
7. The two attorneys have preliminary discussions. They choose and contact a neutral mental health professional and a neutral financial professional to work on the case. They usually have a conference with all the professionals to go over the background and issues of the case. Then they schedule the first joint meeting.
8. Attend the first joint meeting. Everyone discusses the process and the Participation Agreement is reviewed and signed. Usually, if there's time, the parties discuss their goals, needs and interests so everyone will know what needs to be accomplished in the process. The next meeting is planned and information gathering assignments are made.
... That's how you start a Collaborative divorce in North Texas.