Although the Collaborative Divorce process has been in existence for a number of years in New Jersey and even since the 1990s in other states, the passage of the Collaborative Law Act on September 10, 2014 has brought this Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism to the forefront. This method of divorce allows the parties to participate in a process that utilizes a team approach and cooperative techniques to reach a settlement outside of the court system.
At its core, Collaborative Divorce is an agreement by the parties to resolve their matter outside of the court system. The collaborative process employs a client-focused circle of communication and a team approach to problem solving. The collaborative team can consist of not only collaboratively-trained attorneys but also financial neutrals, child specialists, divorce coaches, financial advisors, real estate appraisers, and mortgage bankers – all of whom are working towards a resolution. The team of professionals needed for a particular matter is established based on the specific issues and needs of the family.
There are various benefits to participating in a collaborative divorce process rather than the traditional litigation approach. First, the process is confidential because there are no public filings or hearings other than the final uncontested hearing. As a result, the parties can be encouraged to be open with each other and can protect their children’s feelings and interests better and keep their financial circumstances confidential. Second, the process can be less costly than litigation as the time spent on the matter occurs primarily in face-to-face meetings. Third, the timing of the process is entirely within the control of the parties. Fourth, the process allows for creative and finely tailored agreements since the parties have a more prominent voice in the process. Fifth, the collaborative process sets the tone for the couple to learn to communicate effectively post-divorce.
If the collaborative process is terminated by either party for any reason, all of the professionals involved in the case are not permitted to participate in a subsequent litigation. This preserves the confidentiality of the process and the ability of the parties to feel confident that positions taken in the collaborative context will not be used against them in a litigation. Collaborative Divorce is not right for every case, but it can extremely beneficial in the right circumstances.