Ice is not back with a brand new invention (unfortunately), but he had the right idea.  Collaborative Law is a movement which has been sweeping family law circles across the nation, and is finally beginning to gain traction in New Jersey.  The Collaborative Law Act was passed in 2014 to help give consistency and uniformity to New Jersey’s budding collaborative law practice. Collaborative law is a form of alternative dispute resolution.  It’s an agreement between the parties and their attorneys that their family law matter will be handled in a non-adversarial way.  The parties will use joint experts when necessary, and will work together to develop a resolution that will be a compromise.  Perhaps most importantly, the parties agree not to litigate the matter, and agree that everything discussed and disclosed during the collaborative process will be confidential and privileged.

Why should you consider collaborative law? There are many compelling reasons (other than Vanilla Ice’s imperative).

Litigation is expensive.

When parties opt to divorce collaboratively, they are agreeing to use joint experts as part of their collaborative team, and to work together to develop a settlement which is mutually agreeable. Essentially the case is handled in a series of meetings with the collaborative team (comprised of the parties, their attorneys, the divorce coach/mental health professional, and other professionals on an as- needed basis).  By sharing information, experts, and having open lines of communication, parties are able to avoid a lot of the lengthy discovery, pendente lite (pending litigation, i.e. before the divorce is finalized) support motions, and mandatory court appearances which can exhaust both time and money. Collaborative law can help keep both parties in the black, and use their limited resources on starting their post-divorce lives, instead of wasting it on motion practice.

Litigation is public.

When parties choose the collaborative process, they are agreeing to confidentiality.  They come to an agreement which gets filed with the Court at the time their divorce is finalized. There are no motions being filed with nasty allegations. There will be no trial in front of the judge, no moving private documents into evidence, no witnesses giving testimony to create a record from which the judge will render a decision. Why the push for privacy? You should know that the court’s file is public. Anyone can request to see it or to get a copy of a transcript of the record. With the collaborative process, you can keep the details of your personal life private. For many, this privacy factor provides a compelling reason to try collaborative divorce – particularly if you own your own business or have children.

Litigation is adversarial.

When parties retain attorneys for a collaborative divorce, they are agreeing not to litigate. They sign participation agreements with their respective attorneys which provide that their counsel will only work with them in a collaborative setting.  If one party decides to abandon the collaborative process, they must also find a new attorney to litigate their case. The rationale behind this requirement is compelling; parties will be more invested in sustaining the collaborative model if they would have to abandon all of the work they’ve put in with their attorney if they abandon the process. Furthermore, the stress of litigation often overflows into your life at home with your families.  Often parties who are divorcing remain in the same household until the divorce is finalized, for financial reasons.  It will be easier to deal with sharing your home with your soon-to-be ex-spouse if you are going through a collaborative divorce, as the lines of communication will already be open.

Is collaborative divorce for everyone?  Certainly not.  If you don’t want to settle, or want to get your “pound of flesh” from your spouse, collaborative law will not be for you. But if you want to be empowered to make the decisions which will shape your post-divorce life (instead of leaving up to a judge), then collaborative law may be an option to explore.  All of the family law attorneys at Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, LLP have been trained in and practice collaborative law and can guide you through the process. If you are interested in collaborative law or any other services, or would like a free initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact me at  amackaronis@hoaglandlongo.com or at 732-545-4717.