In addition to the newly enacted alimony reform, Governor Chris Christie
signed a bill on October 10, 2014 which enacted into law the New Jersey
Family Collaborative Law Act. This Collaborative Law Act provides a method
for parties to resolve family law disputes without litigating the matter
in court. Rather than being confined by the rigid procedures of the Courts,
collaborative law provides a method of dispute resolution that can be
customized to the various personality and family dynamics. The process
involves joint (hence, collaborative) efforts of the parties' attorneys
and other professionals in providing services to the parties so that a
non-adversarial approach can be facilitated to reach a resolution. A wide
range of professional services can be utilized during the collaborative
process, including accountants, social workers, psychologists, therapists,
marriage counselors and others. Ultimately, the goal is to obtain a more
suitable outcome for the parties while reducing the stress and uncertainty
associated with litigation and court intervention.
The Family Law Collaborative Law Act requires both parties to provide full
disclosure of information and documentation so as to bypass the formal
discovery process. Subject to certain exceptions, communications made
by parties and participants during the collaborative law process is privileged,
or in other words, protected from disclosure.
The collaborative law process begins with the parties entering a written
participation agreement, which must set forth particular provisions in
accordance with the Act. The New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act allows
some latitude for parties to draft a participation agreement that tailor
the parameters of the collaborative process to suit their individual needs
and preferences. Generally, the collaborative law process is concluded
when the parties sign a settlement agreement (successful conclusion) or
when there is a termination of the process (unsuccessful conclusion).
There are several ways to terminate the process, but for purposes of this
blog, we will forgo the specifics. However, it is important to note that
a party can unilaterally terminate the process. The parties' participation
agreement can also provide additional methods of concluding the collaborative
law process, which is an example of how parties may tailor the process
to fit their specific needs.
To summarize, some key considerations for determining whether to engage
in the collaborative law process are as follows. Collaborative law is
an alternative to traditional litigation before a Judge who would otherwise
have the final say in your family matter. Depending on the family dynamic,
collaborative law may reduce the stress, emotional strain, time and cost
expended in resolving the dispute.
Call the law office of Jay Turnbach, Esq., LLC for a free consultation
to see if collaborative law may be right for you.