Collaborative divorce law is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is a relatively new option for couples pursuing divorce in the State of New Jersey. Collaborative law approaches conflict from a healing perspective rather than from an adversarial perspective. Divorcing spouses who wish to use this method form a collaborative “team,” consisting of the spouses, their attorneys, and other appropriate professionals such as financial advisors and child custody specialists. All members of the team then work together to maximize positive results for both parties.
Collaborative attorneys, like all attorneys, advocate zealously to obtain the best possible results for their clients. In a collaborative setting, however, the advocacy is underscored by a spirit of cooperation and compromise. Collaborative attorneys know that the most successful negotiated agreements tend to be those that meet at least some of the needs of both parties. They understand how to get to the bottom of each party’s true interests and explore a range of different options that might work in building a satisfactory settlement.
Using collaborative methods is not always easy, and for some divorcing couples it will not be possible at all. Divorcing spouses often have difficulty trusting one another. Unfortunately, adversarial proceedings like litigation tend to further erode openness and trust by encouraging spouses to fight not only for their own interests but also against the interests of the other spouse. In collaborative law, parties are encouraged to work toward rebuilding enough trust to facilitate an amicable settlement
Couples who wish to avoid litigation and do not feel that mediation will meet all of their needs can choose to resolve their entire divorce case through the collaborative law process. The process is suitable for resolution of all issues relating to divorce, including equitable distribution of property, alimony, child custody or parenting time, and calculation of appropriate child support.
How the Collaborative Divorce Process Works
At the beginning of the collaborative divorce process, each spouse hires a separate attorney with training in collaborative law – with Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group having many experienced attorneys to help you in the collaborative law process in divorce. The spouses and the attorneys all sign a participation agreement stating that they will use their best efforts to keep the divorce case out of court. The collaborative attorneys agree to represent the parties during negotiations and help them reach a settlement agreement, and they also agree to withdraw from the case if either spouse decides to file any court papers other than those necessary to complete an uncontested divorce. Limiting attorney representation to the collaborative process allows the attorneys to focus more on resolving the dispute than on strategizing for potential litigation.
The collaborative team usually includes several people in addition to the divorcing spouses and their attorneys. If the case involves a more complex situation, such as distribution of one or more assets requiring valuation, or a disagreement about child custody, the spouses decide together how to obtain and use any necessary professional opinions. In most cases, they agree to hire joint experts and share the costs. The joint experts agree not to serve as witnesses in any litigation between the couple, and any reports the experts create will not be admissible in court. In addition to any necessary joint experts, each spouse may hire a therapist to act as a “divorce coach” and help resolve any potentially overwhelming emotional issues that threaten to sabotage resolution of the case. The attorneys and the parties engage in a series of four-way meetings, with the other professionals participating only as necessary. During the four-way meetings, the parties exchange all information openly and efficiently, avoiding the need to go through any formal court-regulated discovery procedures.
If you are considering pursuing collaborative law in your divorce, contact us, we can help you decide whether or not it is the best approach in your case.