Collaborative Law – Another Option for Divorce in Pennsylvania

July 24, 2018
Julie B. Miller

Years of effort led by the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law community paid off on June 28, 2018, when Governor Wolf signed into law the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act.  The new law creates a uniform standard of procedure and practice in Pennsylvania for parties opting to proceed with collaborative divorces.  The purpose of the law is to make the legal process of collaborative divorce more uniform across Pennsylvania.

Collaborative Law is a method of dispute resolution which some divorcing parties opt to engage in, requiring both of them to sign a participation agreement to stay out of court.  The process  was created by Stuart Webb, a Minnesota attorney who sought a method that would permit divorcing parties to retain decision-making and control over the complex yet often emotional decisions regarding their divorce, including separation of assets, custody of their children and financial support.

The collaborative process provides a team approach to dispute resolution, where each spouse retains a collaboratively-trained attorney. Other professionals are selected by the team, including a neutral coach and/or a financial consultant.  Once the team is in place, the parties begin work, laying the foundation for their negotiation process.  Negotiations and agreements in Collaborative Law are formulated based on each of the parties’ goals and interests, which are identified early on in the meeting process, as well as the choices and options that the parties determine will suit their needs.

Since being trained in Collaborative Law and mediation nine years ago, I have had the opportunity to work with many couples choosing to separate and divorce using the collaborative model. It is an effective process for resolving all issues relating to the break-up of a marriage if both parties are vested in it and have an effective team in place from the beginning.

If you have questions regarding Collaborative Law or collaborative practice and whether this is a good alternative for you to consider as part of your divorce, it may be worth learning more about the process.  Over the years I have written a few Collaborative Law posts for our blog and linked to other resources.  Collaborative Law is not the right choice for everyone, but I have been fortunate to work with many clients who appreciated the process and the flexibility of the collaborative model.  When both parties want to retain more control over the process and wish to work collaboratively to resolve their differences, the process and the results achieved by using the collaborative model can be remarkable.

Julie Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Dickinson School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Collaborative Law, traditional Family Law, Municipal Law and Land Use & Zoning.