Collaborative Law

Collaborative Family Law is a legal process that enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work together along with their attorneys to amicably reach a settlement without turning their decision-making over to a judge or enduring the trauma and expense of litigation. When needed, the collaborative team may also include financial advisors and mental health professionals who can assist in guiding the parties to an amicable resolution to their divorce matter.

The Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) became available to individual states for enactment in 2009 when it was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission. The UCLA provides uniformity among states and establishes uniformity in core procedures and consumer protection. It represents necessary comprehensive statutory framework guaranteeing the benefits of the collaborative process and provides clear rules about the mechanics of the practice help for both attorneys and client. New Jersey became the 11th state to enact a Family Collaborative Law Act when Governor Chris Christie signed it into law on September 10, 2014.

How can Smedley & Lis help you?
Mary Cay Trace and Tom Jenkins, of counsel for Smedley & Lis, both collaboratively trained attorneys and founding members of the South Jersey Collaborative Divorce Professionals (SJCDP), believe that for those individuals who choose to end their marriage amicably and under their own control collaborative resolution should be explored prior to taking the action of litigation. To help those couples who make the decision to proceed with collaborative resolution, they co-founded the South Jersey Collaborative Law Group (SJCLG) in 2010. SJCLG is not a law firm. It is a team of professionals specializing in various fields of expertise who have received special training to help them take a holistic view of the family’s needs.

The information below*is for reference only and presented to provide only a basic overview of the collaborative process. Please contact an attorney at Smedley & Lis to discuss more fully the advantages of the collaborative process and to determine if it is right for your situation.

*Source: South Jersey Collaborative Divorce Professionals – a group of collaboratively trained attorneys, financial advisors and mental health professionals co-founded by Mary Cay Trace and Tom Jenkins in 2010.

How does it work?
Each party retains a separate, specially-trained attorneys whose purpose is to represent his or her client so as to assist in resolving issues fairly and equitably without either going to court or threatening to do so. All participants agree to work together respectfully, honestly and in good faith to try and bring about goals that meet the legitimate needs of both clients and their families.

How are collaborative proceedings different from conventional divorce proceedings?

  • Unlike conventional divorce proceedings, collaborative proceedings do not involve the court system or judges and does not involve court or judges until such time as an agreement has been reached and then only in the form of an uncontested divorce.
  • Neither party is served with divorce papers pending the collaborative process.
  • Collaborative practice is a non-adversarial approach and the parties and their attorney pledge, in writing, not to go to court or threaten court proceedings.
  • All parties negotiate in good faith and work together to achieve mutual settlements outside of the courts. The court only becomes involved once a mutually acceptable written resolution of all issues is submitted as a final decree.

Why is Collaborative Law effective?

  • Collaborative attorneys encourage a good-faith, problem-solving approach to further the goals of each party.
  • While understanding the attorney represents his or her client, both attorneys view themselves as partners, not adversaries, in a problem-solving process.
  • Collaborative Law offers the potential for creative problem solving with both attorneys pulling in the same direction to solve the same list of problems.

When should I talk with a collaborative attorney?
Any person approaching divorce should talk with a collaborative attorney as early as possible to review all options. The earlier this is done the more chances there is for the other spouse to agree to see settlement as the aim.

Is Collaborative Law the best choice for me?
Collaborative Law is worth considering if some or all of the following are true for you:

  • You want a civilized, rational resolution of the issues.
  • You would like to keep open the possibility of a viable working relationship with your ex-spouse in the future.
  • You and your ex-spouse will be raising the children together and want the best working relationship possible.
  • You want to protect your children from the harm associated with litigation between parents.
  • You have ethical or spiritual beliefs that place high value on taking personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity.
  • You value control and autonomous decision making and don’t want to hand over decisions to a judge.
  • You recognize the restricted and often unpredictable range of outcomes that can come about with a conventional divorce and want a more creative and individualized range of choice for resolving the issues for your particular situation.

Only attorneys trained for the Collaborative process can represent the parties in this process.  If the parties are willing to approach their divorce with this process, the two should coordinate their search for attorneys, seeking out attorneys who are collaboratively trained.

Decisions regarding the best approach for your particular situation should always be made with professional advice. The attorneys at Smedley & Lis can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision.