FAQs About Collaborative Divorce

Is a divorce settlement reached through the collaborative law process as legally valid and enforceable as a conventional divorce?

Absolutely! At the time of the Divorce hearing the parties will testify that they reached the Agreement, feel that it is fair and equitable and they ask the Court to incorporate the Agreement into their Judgment of Divorce.

Why should I consider collaborative law?

Collaborative law offers divorcing parties and their lawyers a structured, non-adversarial alternative to reaching a settlement. The New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups offers collaboratively trained professionals who will work with a couple towards the resolution of their issues without court involvement. By choosing one of our practice group members you are assured of having a collaboratively trained professional.

What is the difference between collaborative law and mediation?

In mediation, there is one “neutral” professional who helps the disputing parties try to reach an agreement. The mediator cannot give either party legal advice or dictate a decision. The parties may or may not have attorneys and the attorneys may or may not be present at the mediation sessions. If there are no attorneys involved, the parties may not have ongoing professional advice regarding their legal rights and settlement options. In the collaborative process the parties each have an attorney. New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups can offer an attorneys or other professionals who have engaged in collaborative training to provide the couple with the specific skills as a result of this training to foster a collaborative setting. Each party has an attorney that guides them through the process while the neutral financial professional and divorce coach or coaches support them in the identification and resolution of issues.

What happens if one side or the other is dishonest in some way, or misuses the collaborative law process to take advantage of the other party?

This cannot be completely prevented in any process. The collaborative process helps guard against it. The collaborative agreement requires a lawyer to withdraw if his or her client is being dishonest or participating in the process in bad faith. It is in the best interest of all parties to remain honest and allow the process to work.In the event information is withheld or the party acts in bad faith that failure to be candid may affect the durability and enforcement of an ultimate agreement between the parties.

What happens if a party wants to leave the process and litigate?

The spouses sign a written pledge to resolve their differences within the collaborative process. They agree not to present any issue to court for resolution. If an agreement cannot be reached, collaborative attorneys or other professionals in this process will strive to find ways to move forward to facilitate a settlement. However, if one or both wishes to discontinue the collaborative process they have agreed that their attorneys are legally obligated to withdraw from representing them. Both parties have an incentive to resolve their matter collaboratively in order to avoid hiring new attorneys and pursuing a traditional divorce through the court system – adding time and expense for the divorce.

How does the practice of collaborative law affect attorney’s fees?

Representation and fee agreements between attorney and client are not directly affected by the participation agreement. Generally, however, many of the most costly aspects of litigation (such as depositions, multiple expert witnesses and lengthy waiting times at the courthouse and hearings) are avoided in the collaborative process.

Does the collaborative process work if I choose an attorney who has not been “collaboratively trained?

Any attorney who is willing to sign a Participation Agreement can represent a party in a collaborative process. There is a specific collaborative training that has been undertaken by all of the members of our practice groups. While all of the practitioners are educated in the principles of collaborative practice which go beyond the signing of a participation agreement. Having two attorneys who sign a participation agreement but do not approach the process in the same manner may affect the outcome of the process.

Why Should I Use Collaborative Family Law?

Non-Adversarial. It creates a cooperative environment where communication can be open. It provides a setting where the divorcing parties can work with each other to meet their children’s needs regardless of their ages. Collaborative law helps set a tone for open communication and reduced conflict in the future.

Respectful. Collaborative law does not eliminate the pain of divorce. It helps the parties manage it more productively and positively. The goal is to focus on problem solving rather than blame placing and guide families to that end.

Balanced. Collaborative law promotes teamwork towards a common resolution. Parties address formerly irreconcilable differences together instead of as adversaries. Each of the lawyers support a spouse. The spouses work together as a team and, in doing so, they retain control of the process.

Confidential. Painful marital and parental issues stay within the private collaborative law process instead of being aired in the courtroom. The parties have more privacy and experience less stress during an already emotionally taxed time in their lives.

Productive. Meetings are scheduled by the parties and the professionals without waiting for court generated dates. A couple can spend less time away from work and away from their children. Managing the meetings appropriately can help to reduce the overall costs of the process. The parties work with a neutral professional as opposed to hired experts in a court proceeding.

Customized. Because spouses shape their agreement together, both are more likely to respect its terms and conditions. Where children are involved, a creative resolution diminishes the parental conflict the traditional courtroom-centered system generates and helps protect children from the anguish of divided loyalties.

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