Heymann & Fletcher

One state has legislated collaborative divorce process

Many New Jersey readers are aware of collaboration and the benefits of a kinder, less contentious means of ending a marriage. Even so, collaborative divorce remains an approach that lies outside of the norm, which is shaped by parties who face off against one another and who often end up turning to the courts to determine the terms of their divorce. One state has taken a very strong approach to encouraging couples to settle their divorce differences through collaboration by enacting a law that requires at least an attempt at the collaborative process.

Known as the Collaborative Law Process Act, the law has only been in effect for a few weeks. It requires spouses to try to work through the details of their divorce on their own, outside of court. It should be noted that "on their own" does not mean absent legal counsel. In the vast majority of collaborative divorces, both parties retain their own attorneys who advise clients on their best interests and help guide the process to resolution. The difference is that the shared approach of everyone involved is to reach an agreement outside of court, and without gearing up for battle.

Litigating divorces places a huge burden on courts across the nation. Divorces clog up court dockets, place stress on facilities and staffing, and often require couples to wait lengthy periods before they are able to complete their divorce. In the end, the parties walk away with a binding decision made by a judge who has little-to-no knowledge of the individuals involved or their particular set of needs. It is not uncommon for both spouses to feel that they did not walk away from the marriage with a fair outcome, whether that involves child custody, property division or other matters.

Most states have not passed legislation that requires an attempt at collaboration. In New Jersey, spouses can choose how they would like to move through their divorce. Collaboration is one option among many, but it is a path that deserves careful consideration, as the potential benefits are many.

Source: legalscoops.com, "Will New Florida Law Usher in Kinder, Gentler Divorces?", Jacob Maslow, July 3, 2017

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