|Alternative Dispute Resolution|
Collaborative law (also called collaborative practice, divorce, or family law) is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation. The voluntary process is initiated when the couple signs a contract (called the "participation agreement"), binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer's right to represent either one in any future family related litigation.
The collaborative process can be used to facilitate a broad range of other family issues, including disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. The traditional method of drawing up pre-marital contracts is oppositional, and many couples prefer to begin their married life on a better footing where documents are drawn up consensually and together.
Collaborative law processes also have the added benefit of being cost efficient for the involved parties. As the necessary tasks in the collaborative model are assigned to specialist professionals without duplication of effort, the cost saving are realized.
The history of the Collaborative Law process is disputed, except for the undisputed fact that it originated in the Midwestern United States. Although some credit Minnesota lawyer, Stu Webb alone, New Jersey divorce lawyer, Curtis J. Romanowski first introduced the concept in 1988 as "Collaborative Dispute Resolution (CDR)." At the time, Romanowski was based in Kansas City, Missouri, and was providing consulting services in Alternate Dispute Resolution to clients throughout the United States. Stu Webb's model of the process that he started calling "Collaborative Law" in 1990 was based upon the use of a "disqualification agreement," where, in the event the collaborative process failed, both attorneys would have to recuse themselves from further case involvement. Webb's approach also involved the retention of joint experts where indicated. This was the essence of Webb's approach.
Romanowski, who had a background including organizational development and trial advocacy, introduced CDR as a team approach to dispute resolution. The approach also included a "recusal pact," at least initially. The application was geared toward labor and domestic relations disputes. Shortly after introducing the model in 1988, Romanowski changed his terminology and began calling his concept "Collaborative Law," owing primarily to the confusion the abbreviation "CDR" was causing with "Complimentary Dispute Resolution."
Stu Webb has consistently defended the recusal pact as essential to the Collaborative Law model. Romanowski, on the other hand, rejected the idea of entering into a recusal pact ab initio, thereby signaling his break from what had grown to be the mainstream movement. In 1998, Romanowski introduced "Progressive Divorce(R)," which broke down his earlier model into four incremental phases.
At the heart of the Progressive Divorce(R) model was the rejection of the recusal pact until later in the process, only when settlement is imminent. Another key feature is the sparing of ancillary settlement team personnel until such time as the process stage requires it, if at all, maintaining that entering into a recusal pact and establishing a full-blown settlement team are not to be undertaken lightly, and certainly not committed to in the early stages of the process. It is speculated that Romanowski's name has not been as quickly associated with the founding of Collaborative Law since, although he independently developed the concept at about the same time as Stu Webb, he quickly became a leading critic of the model he originally created, believing it to be cumbersome, deceptively costly and largely academic, if not inherently coercive ().
Ever since its inception in 1988, the Collaborative Law movement has spread rapidly to most of the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia., More than 22,000 lawyers have been trained in Collaborative Law worldwide and more than 1,250 lawyers have completed their training in England and Wales where Collaborative Law was launched in 2003.
The growth of the collaborative process in England and Wales has been encouraged by both the judiciary and the family lawyers organisation, Resolution. In an address to London family lawyers in October 2009, the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore became the first member of the Supreme Court to publicly endorse Collaborative Law and called for its extension to other areas. Previously, in October 2008 the Hon. Mr Justice Coleridge, a High Court Judge of the Family Division, had promised that collaborative agreements would be fast tracked in the High Court of England and Wales. On 29 November 2011, speaking at a reception hosted by the group, Collaborative Family Law, Supreme Court Justice Lord Wilson of Culworth reaffirmed his commitment to Collaborative Law and other Family Dispute Resolution Services whilst criticising the Government's plans to cut legal aid, which he called a "false economy".
The primary global collaborative organisation is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), which was founded in the late 1990s by a group of northern California lawyers, psychotherapists, and financial planners. IACP has more than 5,000 members and there are more than 325 practice groups of collaborative practitioners worldwide.
The American Bar Association ("ABA"), the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers ("IAML") all have Collaborative Law committees.
IACP is an interdisciplinary organisation whose members include lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists. National Collaborative organisations have been established in many jurisdictions,including Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, Kenya, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, and Uganda, as well as the United States. There is an active on-line collaborative community on Be-fulfilled.org.
In England and Wales, Resolution, has assumed responsibility for the training and accreditation of all collaborative professionals. Almost one-third of all English family lawyers have now completed their collaborative training. In the Republic of Ireland regional collaborative law associations have been set up in cities such as Galway, Cork, and Dublin. In France the AFPDC was created in 2009 to develop and implement collaborative practice in France.
A number of states in the United States have their own individual organizations for collaborative law practitioners, including the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida, Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota, the Collaborative Law Institute of North Carolina, the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council, and the Washington DC Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Uniform Collaborative Law Act
In the United States, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was adopted in 2009 by the Uniform Law Commission, and thereby became available to the individual States to enact as law. In 2010, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was amended to add several options and renamed the Uniform Collaborative Law Rules and Act. As of June 2013, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was enacted into law in the states of Utah, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Ohio, the District of Columbia, and Washington State, and passed by the Alabama Legislature but awaiting the Governor's signature, and was pending enactment in several additional U.S. states. In Texas, Houston-based family lawyer Harry Tindall has been instrumental in securing passage of the UCLA by the Texas Legislature.
The Overview to the Act provides a comprehensive and reliable history of the emergence of collaborative law in the United States.
As some states, like Florida, have yet to pass the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, local judges have been teaming up with collaborative professionals and creating local rules and administrative orders endorsing and regulating collaborative law.
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- John Lande, Possibilities for Collaborative Law: Ethics and Practice of Lawyer Disqualification and Process Control in a New Model of Lawyering, 64 OHIO ST. L. J. 1315, 1328-29
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- Curtis J. Romanowski, Progressive Divorce: A 4-Phases Outcome-Driven Approach to Nonlitigated Dispute Resolution, MATRIMONIAL STRATEGIST, July 2002, at 4-5
- See also John Lande, Principles of Policymaking about Collaborative Law and Other ADR Processes, 22 OHIO STATE J. ON DISP. RESOL. 619 (2007)).
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