Our family law and divorce attorneys here at Woodruff Family Law Group in Greensboro have experience in resolving difficult family law issues through collaborative law. Collaborative law requires an agreement with your spouse to fairly negotiate a marital dissolution agreement out of Court. In addition, each side's lawyer will agree not to represent that party in Court. Collaborative agreements work best when the spouses have relatively equal bargaining power and knowledge of the assets. Collaborative Law is covered under North Carolina General Statutes § 50-70.
Defined in N.C.G.S. §50-71, collaborative law is “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. The procedure shall include an agreement by the parties to attempt to resolve their disputes without having to resort to judicial intervention, except to have the court approve the settlement agreement and sign the orders required by law to effectuate the agreement of the parties as the court deems appropriate. The procedure shall also include an agreement where the parties’ attorneys agree not to serve as litigation counsel, except to ask the court to approve the settlement agreement.”
Essentially, collaborative law is a process by which all of the parties and their attorneys agree to negotiate, outside of court, a settlement of all the marital disputes. If they are unable to reach an agreed upon settlement of all of the issues, the attorneys who participated in the settlement process are unable to represent the parties in court, as noted in the agreement. If the parties are successful in reaching a negotiated agreement settling all of the issues, this is called a collaborative law agreement.
There are several requirements in order for a collaborative law agreement to be legally enforceable. According to N.C.G.S. §50-72, “a collaborative law agreement must be in writing, signed by all the parties to the agreement and their attorneys, and must include provisions for the withdrawal of all attorneys involved in the collaborative law procedure if the collaborative law procedure does not result in settlement of the dispute.” Therefore, the agreement must be signed, in writing, and note that the attorneys who represented the parties during the settlement process cannot represent them in court if all of the issues are not settled.
To sum it up, collaborative law is an alternate dispute resolution mechanism that allows the parties to agree that their case will be handled out of Court. Arbitration can also be utilized if negotiation fails so the time you have invested with your attorney will not be lost in the unfortunate event that your case does not settle. We are committed to Collaborative Law, with arbitration as a back-up, when it is in the best interest of our client. If you desire to learn more about Collaborative Law, please make an appointment.