Tennessee Supreme Court Considering Rule regarding Collaborative Family Law

The Tennessee Supreme Court released for review and comment a proposed new rule governing collaborative practice in family-law matters.

The new rule is proposed by the Tennessee Bar Association, which studied the growing method of dispute resolution known as collaborative practice or collaborative divorce.

The petition describes collaborative practice as one where

Collaborative attorneys are hired pursuant to limited scope representation agreements whereby they represent clients for the purpose of assisting them reach a marital dissolution agreement, a parenting plan where necessary, and filing necessary documents to determine an uncontested resolution of the dispute. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement with their collaborative counsel, they obtain new counsel to prepare for litigation.

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Typically, parties meet with each other and their attorneys in a series of joint sessions where they discuss their individual needs and goals for the divorce and for their postdivorce lives. With counsel, the parties develop and evaluate various options for maximizing their respective interests. . . .

Efficiency is promoted when parties jointly engage other neutral professionals, particularly neutral financial professionals who assist parties in gathering a complete profile of the parties’ assets and liabilities and preparing anticipated future budgets. The financial neutral works with both parties to develop and assess financial options. It is less expensive for one financial neutral (usually at a lower hourly rate) to gather all relevant financial information from the parties than for each attorney to mine the same financial data from their respective clients.

Among other things, the proposed rule defines the “collaborative family-law process,” lists the requirements for a collaborative family-law participation agreement, and discusses the considerations that determine whether a collaborative approach is appropriate for a particular party.

It also addresses the nature and limits of the privilege against disclosure of communications in collaborative cases. Importantly, the proposed rule formalizes the protection of communications with neutral experts, who are often engaged by the parties as part of the collaborative process.

The Tennessee Supreme Court wants to hear from you about the proposed rule. Written comments must reference docket number ADM2017-01195 and may be emailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov.

K.O.’s Comment: Collaborative practice continues to grow in popularity, particularly in family law. The proposed rule is a reflection of that.

If you are interested in learning more about collaborative divorce or obtaining training in collaborative practice, contact one of the three collaborative practice groups in Tennessee:

You can also learn more about collaborative practice through the leading professional organization, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

In Re: Petition to Adopt a New Rule of the Tennessee Supreme Court concerning the Practice of Collaborative Family Law (Tennessee Supreme Court, August 22, 2017).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family-Law Attorney.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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