New Jersey has a reputation for being progressive in the development of statutory and case law with respect of family, divorce and custody matters. On September 19, 2014, New Jersey became the ninth state to enact a Collaborative Family Law Act.(NJCFLA). Passage of the NJCFLA reinforces general awareness that there are improved methods to resolve disputes rather than escalating acrimony via litigation, which can be financially and emotionally detrimental. The NJCFLA sets standards and unifies the concept of Collaborative Law already practiced in our state. Litigators who are interested in clients’ best interests recommend and attempt to utilize alternate dispute resolution techniques, when applicable to clients’ situations. New Jersey had already joined the national and international movement of Collaborative Law, which has been practiced in our state for years. The Collaborative Law method exists in 42 states and D.C. as well as 24 countries.
Courts and attorneys have employed various alternate dispute resolution techniques for years, beginning with the concept of negotiating and settling issues with an agreement reached between the parties, with the help and guidance of their attorneys. To assist in such an undertaking, the Early Settlement Panel [consisting of experienced volunteer attorneys) was developed and implemented in all counties. Eventually, counties offered complementary custody mediation. Then, mandatory economic mediation was introduced and these procedures were implemented within the framework of the litigation process. Most parties in litigation realize, at some point, that alternate dispute resolution [ADR] is superior to proceeding to a costly and emotionally draining trial. ADR techniques have evolved in many cultures and in the court systems; the collaborative divorce method operates completely outside of the litigation system until the final resolutions of issues results in an uncontested divorce.
Mediation can be pursued prior to or independent of litigation. However, not all couples are able to participate in mediation without ongoing assistance. It’s best for each party to have an attorney for legal advice. In Collaborative divorce, each party has an attorney, trained in mediation, trained in mediation as well who supports each client in positive manner that benefits both parties and their children.
For those considering divorce, it is important to know that members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey have been training for years in the collaborative method and are committed to its principles toward moderating the destructive aspects of divorce and creating a more constructive experience for divorcing couples and their families. Our collaborative divorce professionals have access to experts, as needed, who tailor the process to a couple’s, or family’s, specific situation and needs such as custody determinations, tax issues, evaluation tasks and legal issues.
Sharon Clancy, Esquire