A new law was passed in Michigan over the summer of 2014 and it took effect on December 8, 2014. It is the Uniform Collaborative Law Act or UCLA. This Uniform Act has passed in Utah, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Ohio, Alabama, Washington, Washington, D.C. and Michigan.
This new law gives recognition by the legal community to the practice of Collaborative Divorce in Michigan. The Collaborative Divorce Process has been in Michigan since 2004, but the practice itself goes back to 1990 and was founded in Minnesota by a lawyer named Stu Webb.
Stu's idea was for lawyers to work at assisting divorcing couples with settlement without the threat of court. This idea is the foundation of the Collaborative Participation Agreement and the UCLA which requires the Collaborative attorneys to withdraw and never represent the clients in any litigation should they be unable to reach settlement. This idea creates a safety net or a protective container around the couple by eliminating the uncertainty and adversarial nature from their negotiations. This principle creates incentive for both the lawyers and clients. The clients work hard in their negotiations because they don't want to start over with new litigation lawyers in an uncertain process where third parties make all of the decisions for them. The lawyers don't want to lose clients, so they work hard to overcome impasse and find creative solutions to problems.
On a parallel track with Stu Webb in Minnesota was a group of California mental health professionals and lawyers assisting people through divorce by implementing an interdisciplinary approach to handle the legal, emotional and financial aspects of divorce. This eventually led to the formation and founding of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, ("IACP") which now boasts interdisciplinary professional members from twenty-four countries around the world. Members are lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals working together as a team to get people through all of the aspects of a divorce without destroying either spouse and by restructuring their family unit for productive co-parenting in the future.
Those of us professionals who practice Collaborative Divorce in Michigan are excited about the passage of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act and are working to spread the word about this innovative process for getting a divorce. We see this as a revolutionary way to protect children of divorce and their parents now and in the future.