An option for parties in North Carolina, in lieu of family law litigation, is Collaborative Law. A true Collaborative Law proceeding requires, among other things, a formal contract among the parties and attorneys by which all attorneys must withdraw from representation if settlement is not reached and litigation is required. The contract will also provide for full and complete disclosure of all relevant documents and facts and for all statements, communications, and work-product to be inadmissible in subsequent litigation.
Collaborative Law can be a scary proposition at first; it requires a commitment to be fully transparent, a willingness to engage in 4-way meetings, an ability to listen empathetically to the opposing party and one’s own client, and a desire and drive to participate in interest-based negotiations. However, the benefits are plentiful. Parties and attorneys are able to resolve disputes with as little conflict as possible. With apologies for using a term Gwyneth Paltrow popularized(?), it can be a cathartic “conscious uncoupling” that can result in beneficial future co-parenting and an absence of bitterness and contempt resulting from contentious litigation. It can also significantly reduce the practitioner’s work-related stress and anxiety.
In North Carolina, Collaborative Law has been approved and adopted by the legislature, and is set forth in N.C.G.S. 50-70 et seq. Pioneered by Stu Webb, a family law attorney in Minnesota, Collaborative Law is generally used in family law, but can also be utilized in other civil proceedings, although N.C.G.S. 50-70 et seq. deal only with family law cases.
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