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.
As a new and growing area of alternative dispute resolution, Collaborative Law provides a vehicle for divorcing parties to negotiate cooperative settlements with the assistance of counsel, as well as a team of financial and mental health professionals. This inter-disciplinary team not only helps divorcing parties resolve their equitable distribution and custody issues, but they provide the parties with the resources necessary for post-divorce life.
How is Collaborative Law different from divorce litigation?
In typical divorce litigation, the parties are adversarial. Your attorney represents only your interests, and your spouse’s attorney only represents his or her interests. Once the Complaint for Divorce is filed, the Court controls the speed with which your case goes to trial. All disputes between the parties get resolved by the Court after lengthy and expensive applications or motions are filed. The attorneys undertake extensive discovery, including interrogatories, notices to produce, and depositions. Custody disputes are resolved by invasive and expensive expert evaluations upon which the Court will typically rely. While the goal of litigation is to "win," ultimately, both parties will likely only feel as if they have lost.
Unlike litigation, Collaborative Law allows the parties to go through the divorce process on their own schedule, while affording them the control and the ability to craft creative solutions which are more typical of mediated agreements. The parties will be entirely supported by the attorneys the entire time, but will also have the benefit of mental health and financial professionals to assist in resolving the parties’ open issues.
Perhaps most unique, however, to the collaborative process is that the attorneys have a stake in the parties’ success. The parties and their counsel sign participation agreements that prohibit the attorneys from representing the parties in litigation. This way, the parties and the attorneys, as well as other professionals, make a commitment to work together as a team with the common goal of resolving all issues in a way that best meets the needs of the parties and their children.
Is Collaborative Law right for me?
Collaborative Law is an option for people who are adverse to the stress and drama of typical litigation. It allows the parties to take control of the divorce process, instead of being bound by the rulings and time lines of the Court. The collaborative process has generally proven to be less costly and time-consuming than litigation, and also provides litigants with a positive climate to strive to create "win-win" settlements. Perhaps most appealing, however, is the collaborative law’s process which teaches and enables the parties to communicate and cooperate in the best interests of their children. This ability to communicate post-divorce will benefit not only the parties, but will also immensely benefit their children’s quality of life prospectively.
If you have questions about Collaborative Law and whether it is right for you, the best thing you can do is schedule an initial consultation at no charge. Jessica Mazur, exclusively in our Red Bank office, Andrea Mackaronis and Brian McFadden-DiNicola, Partners in the Family Law practice area in our New Brunswick office, have all been trained and certified in the practice of Collaborative Law and would be happy to help you.
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