At The Yeatts Law Firm we are committed to exploring fresh approaches to resolving issues facing Alabama families. One of those approaches is through collaborative divorce. Alabama has recently become the eighth state to adopt the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA). The UCLA provides parties to a divorce, or other family related conflict, the legal framework for resolving their disputes outside of court in a voluntary, private and amicable way. The underlying goal of the collaborative divorce process is to encourage parties (and their lawyers) to engage in problem solving and to set aside the adversarial techniques that are traditionally utilized in divorce proceedings.

A distinctive feature of the collaborative divorce process is that the lawyers agree to represent their respective clients only for the purpose of negotiating a voluntary settlement. In fact, at the outset of the process, parties and their lawyers are required to sign a disqualification provision. This provision requires the attorneys to withdraw from the matter if the dispute cannot be resolved using the collaborative approach and the parties wish to resort to litigation. The disqualification provision encourages the attorneys and the parties to engage in good faith, interest based negotiation.

Another distinctive feature of the collaborative divorce process is that the parties agree to an honest exchange of information. Unlike traditional litigation where there are disincentives to exchange information, the collaborative process recognizes that if issues are openly discussed then an agreement is more likely to be reached. Along with the protections afforded by the disqualification provision, the UCLA provides evidentiary protections that ensure that a party will not be able to use the confidential information obtained during the collaborative process to their advantage if the matter ultimately resulted in litigation or trial.

With a settlement first mentality, the collaborative process allows parties to focus their energy and resources towards reaching an amicable solution. Parties and their attorneys are encouraged to bring in collaboratively trained professionals including financial professionals, psychologists, counselors and even child specialists to assist them in resolving the conflict. Instead of being isolated from the process, the parties become engaged, part of the team and can help shape the outcome of the dispute. If negotiations are successful, the only time the court becomes involved is when the finalized agreement is ratified by a judge.

Ultimately what the collaborative process accomplishes is a forward-thinking approach to the resolution of family and domestic disputes. By focusing on settlement at the outset, parties are able to avoid the blame-game, open lines of communication and improve their ability to work together in the future. For more information regarding the collaborative process, contact The Yeatts Law Firm.

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