Creates ‘NJ Family Collaborative Law Act’
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to permit an alternative process for conflict resolution in divorce cases, which would allow the divorcing parties to hire legal counsel trained in collaborative practices to resolve their case in an amicable and cost-effective manner, was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The stark reality is that half of marriages will end in a divorce. The process of separating a life built together is a painful and stressful one, which often involves children,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “People should have a choice as to the legal process they use to end a marriage and resolve the legal and familial issues they are facing. This will provide adults who have decided to part ways with a cost-effective option for dissolving the marriage and will give children a safe and neutral environment to discuss the changes that are taking place in their life without feeling pressure to choose sides.”
The ‘NJ Family Collaborative Law Act’ (S-1224) would authorize the use of a collaborative law process as an alternative to the judicial resolution of family law disputes. This is a voluntary process in which clients and their lawyers agree that the lawyers will represent the clients solely for purposes of settlement, and that the clients will hire new counsel if the case does not settle. Like mediation, it promotes problem-solving and permits solutions not possible in litigation or arbitration.
“The decision to end a marriage is difficult enough. The legal process must not add more burdens to families working to reshape their lives,” said Senator Weinberg. “By creating a non-adversarial environment for divorcing couples, we will help families resolve conflicts amicably and in a way that is less costly and less time-consuming than the traditional court process.”
The bill is modeled after recommendations issued in a July 2013 report of the New Jersey Law Revision Commission (“NJLRC”) on the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act. A number of states have made this option available, including Utah, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Ohio, Alabama, and WashingtonState, as well as the District of Columbia, and six other states have legislation pending to establish this alternative. In Florida, local judges have been working with collaborative professionals to create local rules and administrative orders endorsing and regulating collaborative law.
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.