Collaborative Family Law in Michigan
Michigan’s Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA), MCL 691.1331 et seq., was passed June 11, 2014, and went into effect December 8, 2014. Michigan was the 10th state to pass the UCLA.
The UCLA states "collaborative matter" means a dispute, transaction, claim, problem, or issue for resolution, including a dispute, claim, or issue in a proceeding, that is described in a collaborative law participation agreement.
It must also arise under the family or domestic relations law of this state, including any of the following:
(i) Marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, and property distribution.
(ii) Child custody, visitation, and parenting time.
(iii) Alimony, maintenance, and child support.
(vi) Premarital, marital, and postmarital agreements.
Typically the collaborative process is completed before filing the complaint. However, the UCLA allows for parties and attorneys to switch to a collaborative divorce while in litigation. It is rare that the lawyers represent the clients if the matter goes to court before the conclusion of the collaborative process. MCL 691.1337. If, during the collaborative process, the parties fail to reach agreement and either party wishes to have matters resolved in court, the collaborative attorneys and other members of the team are typically disqualified from further representation, MCL 691.1339. The disqualification provision applies whether the collaborative process is commenced before or after the litigation has been filed.
The UCLA, as stated above, allows litigants to proceed with a collaborative process, but only if they so choose. It is completely voluntary.
MCL 691.1335. The law also provides for a party to have the absolute right to terminate the process. Id. MCL 691.1335 defines what actions terminate the process. In addition, the act gives the process confidentiality and privilege. There is also a requirement for the attorney to be aware of evidence of domestic violence and, if discovered, to act accordingly.
Many clients are seeking alternative ways to obtain a resolution to family law disputes.
Traditionally Court litigation is time consuming, expensive and adversarial, which often is counter-productive to fostering good relationships between the parties and/or children going forward. The collaborative process can help the parties achieve their respective goals without the need for lengthy litigation.