Collaborative law is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation. The voluntary process is initiated when the couple signs a contract (called the “participation agreement”), binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family related litigation.
The collaborative process can be used to facilitate a broad range of other family issues, including disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. The traditional method of drawing up pre-marital contracts is oppositional, and many couples prefer to begin their married life on a better footing where documents are drawn up consensually and together.
The primary global collaborative organisation is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), which was founded in the late 1990s by a group of northern California lawyers, psychotherapists, and financial planners. IACP has more than 5,000 members and there are more than 325 practice groups of collaborative practitioners worldwide.
The American Bar Association (“ABA”), the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“IAML”) all have Collaborative Law committees.
In the United States, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was adopted in 2009 by the Uniform Law Commission, and thereby became available to the individual States to enact as law. In 2010, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was amended to add several options and renamed the Uniform Collaborative Law Rules and Act. As of June 2013, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was enacted into law in the states of Utah, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Ohio, the District of Columbia, and Washington State, and passed by the Alabama Legislature but awaiting the Governor’s signature, and was pending enactment in several additional U.S. states. In Texas, Houston-based family lawyer Harry Tindall has been instrumental in securing passage of the UCLA by the Texas Legislature.
The Overview to the Act provides a comprehensive and reliable history of the emergence of collaborative law in the United States