General Guidelines for Collaborative Family Law Negotiations

These guidelines are intended to establish a framework for collaborative family law negotiations undertaken by members of the New Jersey Collaborative Law Group. In order to provide some predictability to the collaborative negotiations, it is anticipated that these guidelines will be followed in most cases. These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive.

Before the First Meeting of the Divorcing Couple and their Lawyers

1.    Each lawyer will discuss with their client:

  • the collaborative process;
  • their goals and interests and that generally comprehensive settlement proposals will be developed through the process;
  • the participation agreement;
  • general rules of behaviour during the collaborative process including during meetings.

2.    The lawyers will discuss:

  • the form of the participation agreement to be presented to the clients;
  • the time, place and planning for the first meeting;
  • important and urgent issues as presented by their clients.

3.    Preliminary efforts to gather financial information may begin.
4.    There shall be active positive communication between parties throughout the process. The lawyers shall demonstrate and model respectful constructive behaviour throughout the process.

At the First Meeting of the Divorcing Couple and their Lawyers

1.    The participation agreement will be reviewed, finalized and signed by both clients and lawyers.
2.    The group will determine how to document meetings and follow-up tasks.
3.    Clients will share information as to their respective goals, priorities and expectations.
4.    All parties shall endeavour to communicate with each other constructively and respectfully. The lawyers shall demonstrate effective communication skills with both clients and each other.
5.    Any urgent or immediate issues will be identified and options for resolution canvassed; if possible, solutions to these immediate issues will be negotiated.
6.    Requirements for financial disclosure will be established together with a timetable.
7.    If appropriate, the need for jointly retaining outside experts will be addressed.
8.    The agenda and date of the next meeting(s) will be arranged.

After each Meeting of the Divorcing Couple and their Lawyers

The lawyers will communicate with one another as necessary to discuss the dynamics of the meeting and provide constructive feed-back to each other. This may constitute training for the lawyers and not be billable time to the clients.

The Second and Subsequent Meetings of the Divorcing Couple and their Lawyers

1.    When it is appropriate to do so, options for resolution of the various issues will be generated and the merits of the options will be considered in light of the goals and priorities of each of the parties.
2.    Schedules for the children and summaries of property, income and reasonable expenses may be prepared jointly at meetings in an effort to narrow areas of disagreement and generate options for their resolution.
3.    The lawyers will continue to be advisors to their clients while the clients take on the responsibility for negotiations.
4.    Generally, any negotiations regarding both procedural and substantive issues between the lawyers in the absence of the clients will be governed by agreement between the parties.

The Agreement

The final agreement may be drafted by the parties and the lawyers working together; ideally at a meeting scheduled for this purpose.

At the End of the Case

The lawyers will discuss the case with one another to highlight what each learned through the collaborative process.

Source: New Jersey Collaborative Law Group