When a marriage has ended, there are several ways in which couples may resolve issues relating to divorce, including through the courts, mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce. The last of these is a relatively new approach that allows the parties to be represented by counsel while cooperating in good faith to reach a settlement outside the courts. At Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, our New Jersey family law lawyers can represent people in Westfield, Summit, and other New Jersey communities who are going through the collaborative divorce process.Pursuing Resolution through Collaborative Divorce
The New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act allows divorcing spouses the option of settling their disputes in a non-adversarial manner, without court intervention, and with each represented by separate counsel. At the outset, the parties are required to sign an agreement that affirms their intent to resolve such issues through the collaborative process, describes the scope and nature of the issues to be resolved, identifies the parties’ respective lawyers, and agrees to confidentiality of the communications involved, among other provisions.
The parties and their respective counsel will then meet outside court to resolve their issues, which may include property division, child custody and visitation rights, spousal support, and more. Often, the parties agree to enlist the participation of professionals (when needed), such as financial planners and accountants, clinical social workers, psychologists and licensed counselors, or family therapists. These professionals are neutral experts bound by confidentiality rules regarding the information disclosed to them during the collaborative divorce meetings.
Any signed settlement resulting from the collaborative divorce process is legally binding and enforceable in a court of law. The process concludes when the parties sign a settlement agreement resolving their dispute, or it may be terminated upon several events identified by statute. Some common examples of when the process will terminate include when:
- A party gives notice to the other party of termination;
- A party initiates a court proceeding related to the family law dispute;
- Either party obtains a restraining order against the other;
- A party discharges his or her lawyer, or the lawyer ceases representation; or
- A party fails to provide information necessary to resolve the dispute.
If litigation ensues in court thereafter, both parties would need to retain new counsel should they proceed. It is important to note than any communication provided by a party or non-party participant during the collaborative divorce proceedings is privileged. Therefore, it is not subject to discovery or admissible as evidence if the matter moves to court.Consult a New Jersey Lawyer to Protect Your Interests during Dissolution Proceedings
Many couples find that collaborative divorce is a less expensive, more private, and more amicable way to resolve disputes, without unnecessary court involvement. Discussing your situation with a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorney can be beneficial in deciding whether the collaborative process is right for you. At Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, we can advise clients in complex matters involving child custody, alimony, asset distribution, and more. We maintain offices in Westfield, Summit, and Red Bank, from which we can serve residents of Hudson, Bergen, Essex, Somerset, Warren, and Passaic Counties. Call our office at (908) 233-6800 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.