There may soon be another option for divorce in New Jersey. The State Assembly unanimously approved A-1477, a bill that allows collaborative divorce-a voluntary process similar to mediation that doesn’t require a court proceeding. A Senate version, S-1224, is awaiting a floor vote.
Known as the Family Collaborative Law Act, its advantages are many. First, it would help reduce the tremendous backlog in family courts. Secondly, it would reduce the costs of litigation. Collaboration also goes a long way in preserving a positive respectful relationship with the couple, and could even increase client satisfaction with the result.
How it works is as follows:
· Each side provides “timely, full and candid disclosure” of relevant information such as finances.
· Each side may retain an attorney of his or her choosing. Communications between client and attorney remain confidential.
· Clients may also consult other professionals confidentially, such as therapists, psychiatrists or financial planners.
· If the process turns from collaborative to adversarial at any time, then it is stopped. Attorneys must withdraw and clients must pursue another method with new counsel.
New Jersey is following the example of eight other states and the District of Columbia that allow collaborative divorce. The states include Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Washington. At Cooper Levenson, we believe the Family Collaborative Law Act will be a beneficial alternative for many of our clients, and fully support its approval.