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Bar News - May 21, 2014


Court News: NH Judges Learn More about Collaborative Law in Family Cases

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A session on collaborative law in divorce and other family law cases drew the attention of judges, masters and referees as part of a daylong judicial training at the Trial Court Center last month.

Attorneys Lisa Forberg and Kimberly Weibrecht, both of the Weibrecht and Reis firm in Dover and members of the board for the Collaborative Law Alliance of NH (CLANH), gave a one-hour presentation to about 35 judicial officers and then answered their questions.

Collaborative law involves a team approach to settling a case outside of court. The team typically consists of lawyers for both parties, a coach/facilitator and a neutral financial expert. The parties agree to full disclosure and not to use the same attorneys if discussions fail and the case ends up in litigation. Unlike with mediation, both parties are advised and counseled by their attorneys throughout the case.

“By keeping the case out of court, the time and resources of the judiciary system are conserved, but most importantly, the privacy of the clients is protected, and the negative impact on children and on their own financial resources is greatly reduced, in contrast to heavily litigated cases,” Weibrecht and Forberg said in a statement about the judicial training.

Forberg, in a recent interview, said many of the judges had some familiarity with collaborative law but were interested to know the details about how it works.

The judicial training coincided with an intentional push this year by the CLANH board to raise awareness about the practice of collaborative law, both among members of the public and the legal profession.

“It’s been really very slow to take hold,” Forberg said. “I felt like this was the year to really start integrating what we’re doing a little more with the bench and bar.”

Forberg said collaborative law attorneys would like judges to mention collaborative law to divorcing couples in court. The judges were wary about encouraging parties to fire their lawyers, Forberg said, but said they would make parties aware of the informational brochures on collaborative law that are now available in court clerks’ offices throughout the state.

New Hampshire has been slower to embrace collaborative law than other states have been. The cost of the process, which varies depending on the issues and assets involved in the case, has been one source of concern. Forberg said the CLANH board estimates the process costs about $10,000 per party, but it can be more if there is a business to appraise or other considerations that complicate a case.

There is no official certification in collaborative law, but attorneys are required to take a two-day training course before they can market themselves as collaborative law attorneys. There is no requirement to join CLANH, but many do. The alliance currently has 110 members, and 85 New Hampshire attorneys have been trained in the process. The next training is scheduled for June 6-7 in Manchester.

For more information about CLANH, visit the organization’s website at: collaborativelawnh.org.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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