Collaborative Law is designed to create a legally-binding divorce agreement outside the courtroom. North Carolina State law requires that both parties participating in a Collaborative Divorce agree not to go to court, and both attorneys agree to withdraw from representation should either divorcing spouse decide to sue the other.
In Collaborative Law, divorcing spouses benefit from the combined expertise of professionals from different disciplines. For example, child development experts can help inform custody and visitation arrangements while financial planners can create a financial plan for an optimal joint asset allocation.
“Collaborative divorce is a method of divorcing that encourages cooperation instead of confrontation. In this way, couples can divorce with dignity and ensure respect, integrity, and kindness in the process.”
~Mark Springfield, of Springfield Collaborative Divorce, Raleigh, NC
As in a traditional divorce, each spouse is represented by a lawyer during the collaborative divorce process. However, the spouses and their attorneys agree they will not file a contested lawsuit and that they will voluntarily disclose all relevant information. They further agree they will communicate in a respectful and constructive manner as they work together toward resolution of all identified legal concerns. Because they have access to the expertise of their own legal counsel, each spouse can be confident their interests are protected and they are fully informed of their rights as they negotiate important financial, property, and custody matters. The collaborative nature of the process also allows spouses to consider their shared interests, which may include preserving a co-parenting relationship that focuses on the well-being of their children. In some instances, spouses may choose to consult together with a financial expert, a child specialist or other professional and use that information in crafting their agreement.
“The collaborative conferences provide a private space where a variety of options can be considered before finalizing a settlement agreement resolving all issues,” says Weber. “With the formation of this group, clients may access a range of excellent regional attorneys as they pursue this alternative no-court approach.” While collaborative law is most commonly used in the family law setting, it can be an effective process for settling all types of legal disputes.
The WNC Collaborative Law Group
Divorces are not known for civility and open communication, but members of the newly-formed nonprofit WNC Collaborative Law Group would like to change that. Theresa M. Weber, a Hendersonville lawyer, recently brought 15 other local lawyers together to create a network of professionals who can meet a growing demand for an alternative to the traditionally adversarial divorce process. Lawyers with offices in Asheville (Barbara A. Davis, Denise A. Lockett, Sarah W. Olson, and Heidi Stewart), Brevard (Richard B. Daniel and Barbara A. Lubin), Hendersonville (Judi B. Hafner, Jason R. Hayes, Elisa L. Jarrin, Douglas H. Pearson, Christopher A.Reed, James Taylor, and Ms. Weber), and Rutherfordton (Brian W. King, Frank McFarland, and Allyson Shroyer) comprise the founding members of the regional group and have each been trained in collaborative law in accordance with the standards set by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals.