The decision to separate with the intention of divorce is not a decision that people take lightly. It is the end of a significant chapter in each partner’s life and of a shared history. Sometimes, people want to end their marriage with a legal battle—to get some “justice” for wrongs that ended the relationship. Unfortunately, this often ends up being expensive and creating new resentments. Further, a prolonged legal fight never ends with either side feeling a healthy sense of closure needed to move forward.
Collaborative Law Defined
With the animosity, expense, and court time of a divorce fight in mind, there is a mechanism in place that allows divorcing couples an opportunity to end things amicably and by agreement. This is referred to as “collaborative law”. Collaborative law is authorized by the North Carolina General Statutes, which contains an entire article that describes the procedures and legal requisites to create a binding agreement.
The General Statutes define collaborative law as:
“A procedure in which a husband and wife who are separated and are seeking a divorce, or are contemplating separation and divorce, and their attorneys agree to use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their disputes arising from the marital relationship on an agreed basis.”
Collaborative law proceedings offer the following advantages to husbands and wives heading toward divorce:
- The collaborative law process can be initiated by a “collaborative law agreement” before or after a lawsuit is filed. If it is initiated prior to any civil lawsuit, then the parties must wait until the collaborative law process has completed to filing a civil lawsuit. If a lawsuit is already pending, then the court must suspend any legal actions until the parties have completed their attempt at a resolution through collaborative law.
- The process allows couples to largely bypass the expense and pain of a continued court intervention, hearings, and a trial. Instead, couples are encouraged to reach agreements between themselves through collaborative law, and only ask a judge to sign off on a finalized agreement as an order of the court.
- Attorneys who attempt to work on behalf of couples through collaborative law are prohibited from representing their client in future or pending litigation regarding the issues that they attempted to resolve. This encourages attorneys to focus and work their hardest to negotiate an agreement.
- The discussions and efforts made during the collaborative law process are confidential and cannot be used in future litigation. Specifically, “[a]ll statements, communications, and work product” created during the course of collaborative law efforts are inadmissible as evidence during a later lawsuit. This allows husbands and wives to work in good faith toward actually reaching an agreement, and disallows them from using these good faith efforts against each other in the future.
New Direction Family Law
If you find yourself at the end of your marriage, you should speak with an attorney. There are many moving parts to dividing property, and resolving child custody and spousal support issues. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys have spent years helping men and women resolve all of the issues that arise when a marriage ends. We are smart, caring, and dedicated to serving our clients’ needs and helping them move forward. Our team provides representation to clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online through our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law