NJ Divorce Attorney
Collaborative Divorce, based on the concept of collaborative law first introduced by Curtis Romanowski, helps parties effectively resolve conflicts in divorces, custody disputes, and other family law matters without resorting to litigation. By using cooperation-based negotiation and problem-solving strategies, the parties strive to avoid adversarial confrontations while working toward a mutually-acceptable solution to resolve their differences. When considering collaborative law, we recommend utilizing the approach within the framework and results-oriented philosophy of Progressive Divorce.
At Romanowski Law Offices, we pioneered the practice of Collaborative Divorce. If you are contemplating filing for divorce in New Jersey, we can assess whether your situation calls for an alternative dispute resolution (ADR). When you are ready to end your marriage, our attorneys can help you do so efficiently while remaining committed to ensuring that your interests are served.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse is represented by an attorney whose role is to help their client use non-adversarial methods and negotiation strategies to settle the issues involved in the divorce. The spouses and their lawyers go into the transactions with the understanding that they will dedicate themselves to the process and not escalate to contested divorce proceedings. The process begins before divorce papers get filed with the court so that the parties can focus their attention on reaching an agreement without also needing to follow the parallel track of preparing for trial.
As a result, Collaborative Divorce sets the stage for an effortful and open approach to addressing child custody, support, property division, and any other issues that may need to be resolved in connection with the dissolution of spouses’ marriage.
What are the Lawyers’ Roles in a Collaborative Divorce?
In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse’s attorney plays a crucial role that is unique from the typical adversarial advocate role played in tense boardroom negotiations and courtroom litigation. With a Collaborative Divorce, the attorneys are still very much advocates. However, they focus on compromise rather than winning their client’s case – since this “winning” often comes at the expense of numerous competing, and often more valuable, interests.
Rather than spending time in discovery and battling out technical issues through motions and briefs, participating attorneys sit in a room with their clients and facilitate discussions that are designed to lead to an amicable resolution. Similar to the role of a mediator, it is the lawyer’s job to help his or her client and their spouse use constructive dialogue to acknowledge and reconcile their differences. Collaborative Divorce lawyers still must represent the best interests of their clients; however, the approach to this representation is very different from traditional methods of dispute resolution.
What Happens at the End of a Collaborative Divorce?
Once the parties reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, their attorneys draft a legally-binding Matrimonial Settlement Agreement which then gets submitted to the local court. This settlement agreement will be part of a package which includes a Complaint for Divorce and a Final Judgment of Divorce. In most cases, the parties will appear in court for an Uncontested Hearing, though this is not always strictly necessary. Once the judge signs off on the Final Judgment of Divorce, your marriage will be legally dissolved according to the terms negotiated through the Collaborative Divorce process.
What if My Spouse and I Cannot Agree on all of the Issues?
If you and your spouse are unable to resolve any issues through the Collaborative Divorce process, it may make sense to turn to binding or non-binding arbitration to settle your differences. If the Collaborative Divorce process never gets off of the ground (which is unusual once the parties understand and commit to it), you may choose to arbitrate all of the aspects of your divorce. However, more commonly, couples resort to arbitration to address discrete issues, such as rights to specific marital assets, custody rights, and visitation. You and your spouse would both typically retain your current lawyers to represent you during the arbitration process.
However, if arbitration is not a viable solution, you and your spouse will need to go to court and let a judge resolve your differences. In this situation, both you and your spouse will be required to retain new legal counsel. This aspect of the Collaborative Divorce process – which is innovatively addressed through our recommended Progressive Divorce approach – may initially sound counterintuitive. However, when used properly, this “Recusal Pact” serves a valuable and important role in the collaborative framework. By incentivizing the spouses and their lawyers to work toward a comprehensive Matrimonial Settlement Agreement, the Recusal Pact helps ensure everyone’s unbiased commitment to the process.
Speak with Curtis Romanowski about Pursuing a Collaborative Divorce
For individuals considering filing for divorce in New Jersey, we strongly recommend exploring Collaborative Divorce as an option prior to getting the courts involved. At Romanowski Law Offices, we can help you consider your options and choose the path that is right for you. Call us at (732) 603-8585 or inquire online to learn more about the benefits.