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Principles and Guidelines for the
Practice of Collaborative Family Law

 

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1. INTRODUCTION

1.01 The essence of "Collaborative Family Law" is the shared belief of the participants that it is in the best interests of parties and their families in typical family law matters to commit themselves to avoiding litigation. We seek to adopt a conflict resolution process that does not rely on a court imposed solution. The process does rely, however, on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity and professionalism geared toward the future well being of the parties and their children.

1.02 One of our major goals in adopting the Collaborative Family Law process is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social and emotional consequences of protracted litigation to the participants and their families. We commit ourselves to the Collaborative Law process and agree to seek a better way to resolve our differences justly and equitably.

 

2. NO COURT OR OTHER INTERVENTION

2.01 By electing to treat their family law matter as a Collaborative Family Law case, the parties and their attorneys are committing themselves to settling the case without court intervention. The parties agree to give complete, full, honest and open disclosure of all information, whether requested or not, and to engage in informal discussions and conferences for the purpose of reaching a settlement of all issues. All attorneys, accountants, therapists, appraisers and other consultants retained by the parties will likewise be directed to work in a cooperative effort to resolve issues without resort to litigation or any other external decision making process.

 

3. LIMITATIONS OF COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW PROCESS

3.01 In electing the Collaborative Family Law process, we understand there is no guaranty of success. We further understand we cannot eliminate concerns about the disharmony, distrust and irreconcilable differences which have led to the current conflict. While we all are intent on striving to reach a cooperative and open solution, actual performance may fall short.

3.02 Even though we have adopted the Collaborative Family Law process, the parties are still expected to protect their respective interests and not to allow themselves to lapse into a false sense of security in the assumptions and expectations each hold about the other. The parties may continue to act in their own best interests, and not in the other party's interests, in areas which are outside the dispute, such as in changing estate plans and future financial and other activities to the extent that such activities do not violate the duties of the spouses to each other or to the community estate.

 

4. PARTICIPATION WITH INTEGRITY

4.01 As participants in the Collaborative Family Law process, we are concerned about protecting the privacy, respect and dignity of all involved, including parties, attorneys and consultants. Each participant shall uphold a high standard of integrity, and specifically shall not take advantage of inconsistencies and others' miscalculations, but shall disclose them and seek to have them corrected.

 

5. EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS

5.01 In selecting outside help, the parties shall retain joint experts and consultants who shall be instructed to follow the spirit and direction of these Principles and Guidelines and to collaborate with the parties and counsel per the terms of the Stipulation and Order.

5.02 In resolving issues about sharing the enjoyment and responsibility of the parties' minor children, the parties, attorneys and therapists shall make every reasonable effort to reach amicable solutions that promote the best interests of the children. The parties agree to act quickly to mediate and resolve all differences related to the children in a manner that will promote a caring, loving and involved relationship between the children and both parents.

 

6. NEGOTIATION IN GOOD FAITH

6.01 The parties understand that the process, even with full and honest disclosure, will involve vigorous good faith negotiation. Each party will be expected to take reasoned positions in all disputes and, where such positions differ, each party will be encouraged to compromise where necessary to reach a settlement of all issues. Although all parties should be informed by their attorneys and consultants about the litigation process and the result it may attain, neither a party nor an attorney may use threats of going to court as a way of forcing settlement.

 

7. ABUSE OF COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

7.01 Collaborative counsel are encouraged to withdraw from a case as soon as possible, if they learn that their client has withheld or misrepresented information or otherwise acted so as to undermine or take unfair advantage of the Collaborative Family Law process. Such actions may include, but are not limited to, the secret disposition of community, quasi-community or separate property in violation of the Automatic Restraining Orders, failure to disclose the existence or the true nature of assets and/or obligations, on?going emotional or physical abuse of the minor children of the parties, or withholding a secret plan or intention to flee the jurisdiction of the court with their children contrary to an agreement or existing court order.

7.02 All understand that the ultimate sanction against attorneys who abuse the Collaborative Family Law process, or condone or encourage such abuse by their clients, is the diminution of that attorney's reputation in the legal community, including the Family Law Judiciary.

 

8. DISQUALIFICATION BY COURT INTERVENTION

8.01 The parties have signed the Stipulation and Order for Collaborative Family Law proceeding, they and their attorneys, experts and consultants shall be bound by its specific terms and provisions. The parties understand that their attorneys represent them only with regard to the Collaborative Family Law proceeding and that while the attorney is an advisor, confidant, counselor and negotiator, he or she will not be permitted to provide any services after the termination of this proceeding. The attorneys will not appear in court, nor accompany the client to court in person, nor be named as an attorney on any document filed with the court other than a mutual stipulation or agreement of the parties.

8.02 In the event that either party files any document invoking the court's authority to conduct hearings or to make orders without the written consent of the parties (for example, an Order to Show Cause or a Notice of Motion) that act shall have the immediate effect of terminating the Collaborative Family Law proceeding and the attorneys will be disqualified from the provision of further representation or of further services of any kind to their clients. Except upon mutual written agreement of the parties to the contrary, in such event all experts and consultants will be disqualified as witnesses and their work product will be inadmissible as evidence in the case after it ceases to be a Collaborative Law case. All aspects of this proceeding shall be confidential and not subject to use in any proceeding of any kind at any time after the termination of the collaborative proceeding.

 

9. WITHDRAWAL OF ATTORNEY

9.01 An attorney who deems it appropriate to withdraw from the case for any reason, shall to do so immediately upon making that determination by a written Notice of Withdrawal to the court , to both parties and to the remaining attorney. This may be done without terminating the status of the case as a Collaborative Family Law case.

9.02 The party whose attorneys withdraws may continue in the Collaborative Family Law process by retaining a new attorney who shall agree in writing to be bound by the Stipulation and Order and by these Principles and Guidelines.

 

10. ELECTION TO TERMINATION COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

10.01 If a party decides that the Collaborative Family Law process is no longer appropriate, and elects to terminate the status of the matter as a Collaborative Family Law case, he or she shall do so immediately with written notice of their Termination Election to the court, to the other party and to the attorneys.

10.02 The termination of status will also occur automatically in the event a party deems it necessary to proceed to court in an emergency to protect their property, them self or their children. This process is also outlined in the stipulation and order.

 

11. SELECTION OF NEW ATTORNEYS, EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS; ADDITIONAL FEES

11.01 Once the status of the case as a Collaborative Family Law matter is terminated, it will be necessary for the parties to retain new attorneys, experts and other consultants.

11.02 The parties understand that in retaining new attorneys in the event of the termination of the status of the case as a Collaborative Family Law matter, each party will incur a additional attorney fees in an amount equal to or exceeding that paid to his or her current attorney and that the same will be true regarding new experts and other consultants.

 

12. PLEDGE

12.01 All parties and attorneys hereby pledge to comply with and to promote the spirit and written word of this document.