Collaborative Law: Is It Right for Your Divorce?
Updated: Jun 3
What if you don’t want a judge to make final decisions about your divorce agreement? Or, maybe you’d really like to bypass the trauma and expense stemming from litigation even though you’re facing a split.
If so, collaborative law may be the best option for you and your partner. It’s a legal process allowing couples who’ve separated or decided to end their union to work together with their attorneys to reach an amicable settlement without the threat of litigation. Depending on your needs, your collaborative team may also include financial advisors and mental health professionals.
In 2009, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) became available to individual states for enactment when the Uniform Law Commission adopted it. The UCLA provides uniformity among states and establishes uniformity in core procedures and consumer protection. This law represents necessary, comprehensive statutory framework guaranteeing the benefits of the collaborative process and provides clear rules about the mechanics of the practice help for attorneys and clients. New Jersey became the 11th state to enact a Family Collaborative Law Act when Governor Chris Christie signed it into law on September 10, 2014.
How can Smedley Law Group help you?
We believe that if you choose to end your marriage amicably and under your own control, you should explore collaborative resolution prior to turning to litigation.
Tom Jenkins, Esq., of counsel for Smedley Law Group, is a collaboratively trained attorney and founding member of the South Jersey Collaborative Divorce Professionals (SJCDP). To further help couples who make the decision to proceed with collaborative resolution, he co-founded the South Jersey Collaborative Law Group (SJCLG) in 2010.
The information below, sourced from SJCDP, is for your reference only and presented to provide you with a basic overview of the collaborative process, answering some of the most common questions we hear.
How does the collaborative process work?
You and your partner will retain separate, specially-trained attorneys who’ll represent each of you to help resolve issues fairly and equitably without either of you going to court - or threatening to do so. The benefits? All participants agree to work together respectfully, honestly and in good faith to achieve outcomes that meet the legitimate needs of both clients and their families. A good rule of thumb if you’re going the collaborative route is to engage two collaboratively trained attorneys so they can successfully employ the principles of collaborative law to ensure a smooth process and successful outcome.
How are collaborative proceedings different from conventional divorce proceedings?
Unlike conventional divorce proceedings, collaborative proceedings don’t involve the court system or judges. That means they don’t involve the court or judges until an agreement has been reached, and then only in the form of an uncontested divorce.
Neither party is served with divorce papers pending the collaborative process.
Collaborative practice is a non-adversarial approach and both you and your partner, and your attorneys, pledge in writing not to go to court or threaten court proceedings.
All parties negotiate in good faith and work together to achieve mutual settlements outside of court, which only becomes involved once a mutually acceptable, written resolution of all issues is submitted as a final decree.
Why is collaborative law effective?
Our collaborative attorneys encourage a good-faith, problem-solving approach so that you and your partner each achieve your goals. And while each party’s attorney represents his or her client, both attorneys view themselves as partners, not adversaries, in this problem-solving process. We believe that collaborative law offers you the potential for creative problem solving, with both attorneys pulling in the same direction to solve the same list of problems.
When should I talk with a collaborative attorney?
If you’re considering divorce, it’s a smart idea to talk with a collaborative attorney as early as possible to review all your options. The earlier you do this, the better the chance your spouse will agree that an amicable settlement is the best option.
Is collaborative law the best choice for me? Collaborative law is worth considering if some or all of the following are true for you:
You want a civilized, rational resolution of the issues.
You’d like to keep the possibility of a viable working relationship with your ex-spouse in the future.
You and your ex-spouse will raise your children together, and you want the best working relationship possible.
You want to protect your children from the harm associated with litigation between parents.
You have ethical or spiritual beliefs that place high value on taking personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity.
You value control and autonomous decision-making and don’t want to hand over decisions to a judge.
You recognize the restricted, and often unpredictable, range of outcomes that can result from a conventional divorce and want a more creative, individualized range of choices for resolving the issues in your particular situation.
What’s my first step?
If you and your partner agree that the collaborative process will work best for you, each of you must secure your own collaborative law attorney so you can work together to start the decision-making process. That’s due to the uniqueness of this process and the mindset that goes along with it. In addition, you’ll both benefit because collaborative attorneys are trained - and committed - to avoiding litigation.
If you’re considering the collaborative process, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.