Off to school – Ready to Learn

Next week is the 42nd Annual Advanced Family Law Course put on by the Texas Bar. Most years, it takes place in San Antonio. Every year it is great.

What’s great about it? It is Continuing Legal Education (CLE) at its finest. We lawyers get to learn. We get to think about the law and talk about changes being made by the legislature and the courts. We get to talk about where the law has been and where it is going.

The course lasts from Monday to Thursday and has 21.5 hours of education available. That’s more education than the State Bar requires attorneys to get in an entire year.

Some attorneys dread CLE. Some of us love it. Those of us that love it a great deal get as much of it as we can.

Lawyers that get at least double the required amount can join the College of the State Bar of Texas. As the College’s website says:

The Texas Bar College is an honorary society of lawyers who are among the best trained attorneys in Texas. Members are qualified attorneys who are interested in both high ethical standards and improved training for all Texas attorneys.

The College recognizes Texas lawyers who attend at least double the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) required by the State Bar of Texas.

What makes a good attorney? One thing is education – and a major part of a lawyer’s education is the continuing education that he or she gets.

Even while some of Beal Law Firm’s attorneys are in San Antonio getting more educated, you can reach us at lawyers@dfwdivorce.com or find us at www.dfwdivorce.com. We will have several attorneys in the office and ready to help every day next week, and even those of us in San Antonio will be available to help via skype, facetime, email, and telephone.

Is Collaborative Divorce the Same Thing as Uncontested Divorce?

Recently, we conducted a very unscientific poll on the @BealLawFirm twitter account. The question asked was, “Do you know the difference between a Collaborative Divorce and an Uncontested Divorce?” The choices were: “1) Yes, 2) No, and 3) Aren’t they the same?” Fewer than 6 in 10 people even claimed to understand the difference between the two – and a huge percentage of the account followers are lawyers, law firms, etc.

So, with more than 4 in 10 people possibly not understanding the difference between the two – or even if there is one, it seems that Collaborative Divorce bears some explaining.

Collaborative Divorce is an alternative to traditional divorce. Traditional divorce is conducted in the litigation model, whereas Collaborative Divorce is an entirely different model.

In the Litigation Model, divorces typically move through several stages until the case is either settled or makes it to trial. The stages are:

  1. Negotiation between the parties;
  2. Negotiation between the attorneys;
  3. Mediation;
  4. Post-mediation negotiation; and
  5. Trial.

Throughout all of these stages, the parties can engage in formal discovery – including written interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admission, requests for disclosure, written depositions, and oral depositions – and/or ask the court to grant various requests in countless motions and hearings.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties agree that they will suspend their rights to engage in anything other than formal meetings between themselves and the rest of the collaborative team, which typically includes their attorneys and two neutral professionals. One of the neutrals is known as the Financial Professional (FP) – usually a CPA, CFP, or CDFA – and the other is the Mental Health Professional (MHP). Although the MHP is likely to be a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, the role of the MHP is not to counsel or analyze any of the participants. Rather, the MHP’s job is to run the meetings and help the parties arrive at an agreement on parenting issues. The FP’s job is to gather the parties’ financial information and help construct current and proposed budgets.

So, with all that being said, what is a Collaborative Divorce? It is a series of meetings in which the parties attempt to arrive at an agreement on all issues in their case. Because the meetings and everything discussed at the meetings are confidential, should the process break down, the parties are free to re-enter the Litigation Model, but both of the Collaborative Attorneys MUST withdraw from representation at that point.

What is an Uncontested Divorce? It is an ill-defined term that everyone uses to describe a case in which the parties to a divorce argue to a lesser degree than the arguing that takes place in a divorce that is referred to as a Contested Divorce.

The terms do not mean the same thing, because typically when an attorney speaks of an Uncontested Divorce, he or she is talking about a case in which the parties are in the Litigation Model, but able to arrive at an agreement fairly early in the process. The term Collaborative Divorce is reserved for divorces that are being conducted in the Collaborative Model and under the rules for Collaborative Divorce promulgated in the Texas Family Code.

If you would like to discuss your needs with respect to a Collaborative Divorce, Uncontested Divorce, or Contested Divorce, please contact us at lawyers@dfwdivorce.com or find us at www.dfwdivorce.com.

Beal Law Firm – For Almost 25 Years

Beal Law Firm has been helping clients for almost 25 years. Here’s to the next 25!

May of 1992 was a great time. Beal Law Firm’s founder – Eric Beal – was leaving a prominent Dallas law firm and striking out on his own.

With no money, no clients, a mountain of debt, poor parents, a small child, and several other hurdles to overcome, the law firm was begun. Originally, it was known as The Law Offices of Eric Beal, and its first paying client was a termination and step-parent adoption.

The firm began its existence in the Sunbelt Savings building that essentially shared a parking lot with Wet and Wild in Arlington, Texas. At first it was just Eric, his old computer from law school, a brand new laser printer, and the smallest space available in the building’s executive suites.

Within three months, with the help of a lot of great referrals from some great friends, the firm had moved into the largest office in the executive suites, and from there it was off to the races.

Now, almost 25 years have passed.

As of today, Beal Law Firm has eight full-time lawyers, one Of Counsel lawyer, two full time legal assistants, one administrative assistant, one financial assistant, and an Office Manager – Certified Financial Planner® – Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™.

The time has flown by, and it’s exciting to think about what the next 25 years will hold. Thank you to everyone that has helped to make our success possible.