Collaborative law is the ideal vehicle to negotiate, work out, and dissolve contractual agreements between two same sex persons. Texas law does not recognize same-sex marriages and it is still unclear whether courts in Texas can divorce a same-sex couple who married in another state. Regardless of the present state of the law, LGBT couples still have contractual means to dissolve their estate and/or enter into cohabitation agreements, property agreements, and custody agreements/adoptions. Collaborative Law provides a confidential and safe platform for partners to resolve these issues in a legally binding manner that benefits all parties involved by producing tailor-made, case specific, desirable outcomes.
Few, if any, laws specifically govern the rights and responsibilities of unmarried partners regarding the sharing of property and finances. If such relationship ends, there are no uniform guidelines for sorting commingled finances and dividing jointly acquired property. Because unmarried partners cannot turn to a divorce court as can a married couple to effectuate property division, costly and emotionally draining civil court battles may ensue, leaving it to a judge to rule on the couples intentions and to determine the disposition of their shared property. Therefore, it is important that two persons – who are sharing a life together, accumulating property together, and possibly have children together – work out an acceptable agreement to both parties that governs a possible future dissolution of the relationship.
Many of these future battles can be avoided when partners create a cohabitation agreement, other contractual agreements, or custody agreements when they first decide to live together or become a family. Collaborative law provides a healthy and effective way to create a cohabitation agreement between two persons and to amicably and efficiently dissolve that relationship, if necessary. A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract that can firmly establish the rights, responsibilities and liabilities of each party with regard to any jointly owned property. By setting clear ground rules, a detailed cohabitation agreement can help to protect both individuals and provide a basis for resolving any legal disputes should the couple break up. Although Texas law does not grant the right of marriage to same sex couples, a formal cohabitation agreement can provide the same level of protection for same sex couples as it does for any other unmarried couple living together. Legal disputes over assets, personal property and real estate in the dissolution of a domestic partnership (for either a heterosexual or same sex couple) may be heard in civil court, often as a breach of contract claim or joint business venture. All issues affecting children, including paternity, custody and support, are appropriately referred to the family courts and are appropriate for the collaborative law setting.