Experienced Collaborative Law Attorneys in NJ and NY

Collaborative law is a dispute resolution approach in which the parties are represented by separate counsel who are specifically chosen because of their commitment to represent their clients in reaching a settlement without resorting to any form of litigation or court adjudication. This approach of legal services removes the disputed matter from the court room setting and treats the process as a joint problem to be solved rather than a fight to win and destroy.

The essence of “Collaborative Law” is the shared belief of the participants that it is in the best interests of parties to commit themselves to resolving their differences with minimal conflict and no litigation. They seek to adopt a conflict resolution process that does not rely on a Court imposed resolution. The process does rely, however, on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity and professionalism geared toward the future well-being of the parties.


Focus on Your Needs

The collaborative approach is both pragmatic and grounded in its focus on the needs of the parties. In the traditional competitive approach, where the parties objectives or strategies collide, it is assumed that the only way to move past is to employ the power of a litigator. In the face of opposition, a litigator looks to the power of the process rather than the impact that process will have on the daily lives of the clients and their children. This power-based, competitive approach nurtures continued resistance as the participants have little or no reason to view the other side as anything but a threat and something to fear.

In contrast, the collaborative process focuses on the needs of the parties. Initially, those needs fall into two categories: process needs and outcome needs. The process needs are determined by accepting the party in the emotional state in which they enter the process. A good process begins by accepting the participants as who he or she is at the outset. The outcome needs describe the desired goals and objectives of the party which will allow the person to feel the issues are resolved.

A Commitment to Peace

As part of the collaborative law method, both parties retain separate attorneys whose job it is to help them settle the dispute. No one may go to court. Often parties in the Collaborative law process sign a contractual agreement which include the following terms:

Disclosure of Documents

Each party agrees to honestly and openly disclose all documents and information relating to the issues. Neither spouse may take advantage of a miscalculation or an inadvertent mistake. Instead, such errors are identified and corrected.

Insulating Children

As part of the process all participants agree to insulate the children from the proceeding and to act in such a way as to minimize the impact of the divorce on them.

Sharing Experts

The parties agree to implement outside experts where necessary and desired in a cooperative fashion.(e.g. real estate appraisers, business appraisers, parenting consultants, vocational evaluators, or accountants)

No Court

Neither party may seek or threaten court action to resolve disputes. If the parties go to court, the attorneys must withdraw and the process begins anew in the court system.

Addressing the Emotional Issues, not just the Legal ones

One of the biggest differences in the Collaborative Law process is that it recognizes that legal system cannot always address emotional issues that exist. How often have you heard stories of divorcing parties spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to argue about pets or furniture that has limited monetary value? Generally, the parties in such cases are not arguing about dogs, cats or furniture. Instead, they are reacting to psychological pains they are experiencing. The court process ignores these emotional issues. The collaborative law process specifically addresses these issues with the support and guidance of collaborative lawyers working together, instead of against each other to help the family move on while addressing the needs of relevant parties.

Financial professionals may also be used to help define values of assets. In the litigious court process often an expert from each party performs an appraisal resulting in a duplicate service at a greater cost with increased distrust. This often results in an expensive war of experts at trial where each expert testifies regarding their different valuations. In the collaborative process, the parties choose a neutral appraiser, unassociated with either party. With a trust relationship established, the parties agree on some division of cost and to be bound by the appraised value.

Most Cases Settle

Statistics state that over 98% of all divorce cases are resolved without a trial. In the Court system the resolution often comes more than a year after the divorce commenced and after many hurtful events along the way. Doesn’t it make more sense to seek that resolution before it burns bridges and missiles are launched in a courtroom?

Collaborative law will not work in every case. After all, it takes two to tango, and it takes two willing participants to effectively use the collaborative law process. However, where collaborative law has been used, even if reluctantly, there have been more rapid settlements at a fraction of the normal cost associated with divorce.

Schedule an Appointment Today

For further information or to schedule an appointment, contact the Berner Law & Mediation Group.