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Exploring the Collaborative Law Process as a Path to Resolution

Exploring the Collaborative Law Process as a Path to Resolution

May 30, 2023 Kristin H. Ruth

Parties unfamiliar with the legal system shudder at the thought of seeing their life in its most personal context, displayed on a witness stand before a judge and a courtroom full of peering spectators.

The angst is overwhelming, not to mention the risk of losing the most important assets of your life, derailing the familiarity of your children’s lives by placing those important decisions in the hands of a judge who sees only a “snapshot” of your life. Why not let you and your spouse make the decisions as you navigate together your future and the future of your family?

What is the Collaborative Law Process?

Collaborative Law is a voluntary legal process involving trained lawyers skilled in problem-solving techniques who will assist parties deciding to separate and end their marriage. The process involves exploring and discussing solutions to specific marital and parental issues while working together in a less invasive and benign environment. The goal is to maintain a friendly atmosphere, using like-minded attorney advocates, mental health professionals, and financial professionals, if necessary, to reach a fair and palatable resolution on all issues.

The Collaborative Law Process Act Agreement

If you choose the collaborative law process, both parties must be willing to retain lawyers that practice family law but who will agree NOT to participate in litigation. Parties will sign a written agreement when they retain a collaborative lawyer stating that not only will they not litigate in court but will be terminated from the retainer fee agreement if either party chooses to proceed with the litigation process. If either party decides to litigate, different lawyers must be retained. Buying into the process is key to a successful outcome as it is no longer a “win-lose” concept but a “win-win” for both if they can emerge from the process, maintaining a cordial relationship.

Benefits of the Collaborative Law Process

There are significant benefits to choosing not to litigate. Most importantly, I believe that the parties, their children, and other family members avoid the drama of a court battle.

Testimony in family court can be deliberate, strategic, stressful, and hurtful. Each court hearing is recorded, leaving the evidence (good or bad) memorialized in some form or fashion. There is no way to “rewind” what is said or heard in a court hearing.

The collaborative law process is often more cost-effective if both parties are committed to being honest, transparent, and willing to negotiate in good faith. The attorneys facilitate the discussions, advise and advocate for their clients while maintaining a productive and professional decorum. If decorum is maintained, the process will be fluid and effective.

Detriments of the Collaborative Law Process

The nature of separation and divorce is generally contentious because parties are moving in different directions due to a lack of trust and commitment. Depending on the circumstances, newly discovered information or the lack of good-faith negotiations may render the collaborative process untenable. If this happens, the parties must start the process completely over again with new attorneys and retainer fees, as the initial collaborative agreement prohibits the current attorneys from litigation.

For the collaborative process to be successful, it takes a steadfast commitment from both parties that genuinely agree on the fundamentals of honest and fair negotiations. In addition, both parties must be committed to finding a resolution without court intervention. Therefore, collaborative law is not for every separated couple, as some parties cannot trust the other party or are entirely opposed to the other parties’ opinions on specific issues.

Is Collaborative Divorce Process Law Right For You?

This article is primarily an introduction to the collaborative law process. The process is highly recognized in North Carolina and has become an alternative for couples who want to avoid litigation. If you are interested in an alternative to litigation, familiarize yourself with the process, discuss the same with your attorney, and you can choose the appropriate path to resolution.

Work with reliable collaborative attorneys

At Smith Debnam law firm, our collaborative professionals provide expert legal advice to those undergoing a collaborative divorce. We will assist with the settlement process, court processes, and more. Contact us today to learn more about our legal services.

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