The New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act was enacted on September 10, 2014 and the Rules of Court were amended to require that all Family Court litigants be informed of this method of complementary dispute resolution alternatives, in addition to mediation and arbitration as previously had been required. Certifications to this effect signed by counsel and litigant must be attached to a Complaint for Divorce and any responsive pleading or it will not be accepted for filing. Rule 5:4-2(h).
This relatively new method of alternate dispute resolution requires that the parties and their attorneys enter into a participation agreement where they pledge not to file anything with the Court, but instead work together to achieve settlement by assembling a team of professionals, all of whom – including counsel – are collaboratively trained. The collaborative team can vary from case to case, and can consist of simply the parties and their attorneys.
The first step usually is a four-way conference of the parties and their attorneys to identify needs, goals and objectives, and what (if any) other collaborative professionals may be necessary to achieve them. They can be financial professionals, mental health professionals, and even real estate and mortgage banking professionals. This method allows the parties to work at their own pace, without having to worry about arbitrary Court deadlines or delays. It can be a kinder, gentler process, but it can work in even the most highly contested situations.
If settlement is achieved, the attorneys file the necessary Court paperwork to finalize the divorce. If not, the parties have “fallen out” of the process and must begin again with new attorneys. The attorneys who worked collaboratively on the case are prohibited from representing their clients in contested Court proceedings. Conclusion of collaborative cases is governed by provisions in the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act.
Ms. Copeland is collaboratively trained, and has concluded several such cases successfully. She has also taken over cases which have “fallen out” of the process. She welcomes collaborative cases of all kinds.