Last Friday marked a watershed moment for Washington alternative dispute resolution (ADR). On that day, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) was signed into law. By a stroke of the pen, Collaborative Law became a dispute resolution process that is sanctioned by Washington statute. The UCLA becomes effective on July 28 and will be part of Title 7, alongside mediation and arbitration.
|Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs the Uniform Collaborative Law Act into law on May 3, 2013.|
The UCLA promises to be a huge benefit for people seeking the benefit of Collaborative Law, currently mostly couples who are getting divorced. Among other things, the UCLA:
- Defines Collaborative Law as requiring a Participation Agreement, in which each party is represented by a lawyer who is hired exclusively to help parties reach agreement. Lawyers are disqualified from representing parties in any disputed matter. The statutory definition helps ensure that those who choose Collaborative Law will actually get the benefits of the process.
- Provides for testimonial privileges and confidentiality, to ensure that proceedings are properly protected.
- If a court proceeding has been filed, mandates a stay if a notice is provided to the court.
- Imposes various requirements on Collaborative Lawyers to ensure the appropriateness of the process for clients.
Collaborative Law has been practiced in Washington the last decade, and has proved to be a highly effective process for parties who wish to resolve significant disputes without going to court. By eliminating the "tug of war" of court, everyone can devote 100% of their efforts working towards solutions. Although most lawyers who focus on Collaborative Law work in the arena of divorce, the UCLA applies to all civil disputes.