Collaborative Law and Public Human Services Agencies.

Author:Pollack, Daniel
Position::Legal notes
 
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Collaborative law is a nonadversarial alternative for resolving disputes and conflicts that emerge in divorce and other family law matters. By negotiating mutually acceptable out-of-court agreements, the parties often save time and money and endure less family stress. Incorporating the skills of other professionals, in addition to collaboratively trained attorneys, such as financial advisors, asset evaluators, child and family psychologists, and social workers, divorcing couples can arrive at solutions that are acceptable to everyone. Of course, a collaborative law approach may not be right in all situations.

Collaborative law relocates the focus from adversarial, combative litigation to a needs and interest approach where each party's retained counsel, along with the entire team who are specifically trained in collaborative law, supports a settlement. The focus is to commit to settlement from the onset, though clients do not permanently abandon their right to litigation.

According to the Global Collaborative Law Council, as of January 2017, there were 16 jurisdictions that had enacted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act statute, adopted court rules, or a combination thereof. How can public human services agencies in these states best interface with collaborative attorneys to benefit their mutual clients? Michigan attorney Meredith Dahlen observes, "For some public human service agencies the collaborative process feels like a natural extension of mediation, now used by many states in child protection cases. When child protective services (CPS) is involved in a matter, the school of thought used to be that there was no place for alternative dispute resolution processes. We know now, though, that when CPS or foster care workers can come together with families, attorneys, and other specialists, the parents and caregivers may be empowered and have the necessary tools to develop solutions that will stick. These agreements can not only further the best interest of the children involved, but may be adhered to by those who are part of the decision-making process. Utilizing these types of processes can lead to faster reunification and slower returns to the agency's or court's attention. Utilizing the collaborative process in these types of matters gives professionals another valuable tool to use in order to come together in a trusting, more transparent environment, where all interests can be heard and addressed."

Public human services agency employees...

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