On Thursday, June 5, 2014, a collaborative divorce bill, which would allow couples to resolve their divorces through legal counsel trained in collaborative methods instead of traditional in-court litigation, was passed by the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. According to the NJ Law Journal, key provisions of the bill, the Family Collaborative Law Act, S-1224, include: 

  • Both parties are required to provide “timely, full and candid disclosure” of relevant information, such as finances, without having to resort to the process of discovery.
  • Communications between the parties and their lawyers and/or other professionals would remain confidential.
  • If the parties do not reach an agreement, the collaborative lawyers must withdraw and the parties must retain new counsel which cannot be lawyers from the collaborative lawyers’ firms.
  • The collaborative process would cease if:
    • One party gives notice;
    • Either party files a document that initiates a court proceeding without first obtaining the permission of the other party;
    • Either party is subject to or obtains a TRO (temporary restraining order) or a final restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act;
    • Either party files a motion for emergent relief;
    • A party fails to provide the information needed to resolve the dispute;
    • The collaborative lawyer withdraws from the process.

The bill will now go to a full Senate vote. If passed,New Jersey will be the eighth state with legislation for the collaborative divorce process.