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Is the Uniform Collaborative Law Act on California’s Radar Screen?

December 16, 2011

image Arvind Balaraman/freedigitalphotos.net

By Frederick J. Glassman, Esq. This article was originally published in Collaborative Practice California’s December 2011 newsletter.

By way of background for those of you who have not followed the history of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA), it is well, alive and growing throughout the United States. After passage of the UCLA by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), formerly known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, on July 15, 2009, recommendations for enhancement of the UCLA were entertained by the ULC. Thereafter, in mid-2010 the ULC amended the UCLA with three (3) revisions; namely, as follows:

  1. Drafted court rules that mirror the statute, thereby giving states the explicit discretion to adopt the amended Act, or adopt court rules, or a combination thereof;
  2. Provided states with the express option of limiting application of the Rules/Act to matters arising under the family laws of a state or expanding to application in all civil matters; and
  3. Made it possible for the court, in proceeding(s) already underway, to retain discretion to grant a stay of such proceeding (and related calendaring matters) in lieu of the stay being automatically granted as a matter of law.

Now the Act is formally referred to as the Uniform Collaborative Law Rules/Act (UCLR/A) and the full and complete version can be found at www.nccusl.org.

Although not mandatory, it is customary for the ULC to present its approved acts to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates for endorsement. After submitting the UCLR/A (through Resolution 110B) to the House of Delegates on August 8, 2011, notwithstanding support from the Family Law Section and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the ABA, the ABA House of Delegates failed to endorse the UCLR/A. Opposition came primarily from the Litigation Section of the ABA. According to the ULC, the ABA missed a golden opportunity to assert its leadership with respect to a new and evolving form of dispute resolution. The ULC recalled that back in the 1990s, the ABA House of Delegates also failed to endorse the then growing practice of mediation. According to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), the ABA continues to suffer from declining membership while the collaborative community is growing at an astounding pace (in excess of 4500 members, with 320 practice groups nationwide and 36 practice groups in California). Bottom line: neither the ULC nor the IACP is discouraged by the ABA action and will work, side by side, with those states seeking enactment of the UCLR/A.

Here is the tally thus far. Utah, Nevada and Texas have already adopted the UCLR/A (for family law in Texas and for all civil matters in Nevada and Utah). In 2011, Alabama, Hawaii, Massachusetts and District of Columbia have introduced pending legislation. New Jersey is expected to introduce legislation in 2012. Other states, including Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, are considering introducing legislation in the near future.

So, where does California stand on the radar screen at this stage? CPCal has taken the laboring oar for considering prospective legislation. Our task force will consult with state lobbyists for strategic planning. One of the considerations will be whether the recommended comprehensive statute should encompass all civil matters or be limited to family law matters (follow up to existing California Family Code 2013 and the local county rules in Contra Costa, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo and Sonoma). The timetable calls for obtaining input from the community of interested focus groups, including the protective organizations on domestic violence and various Bar associations throughout the state, in order to build a coalition of support from such stakeholders.

A partial list of such anticipated organizations can be found from the signatories in support of the Declaration of Public Health Crisis promulgated by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, California Chapter, as of August 1, 2010.

The present goal is aimed toward introducing legislation to adopt the UCLR/A by the end of 2012.

Frederick J. Glassman is a co-founder and senior partner of Mayer & Glassman Law Corporation, assisting clients throughout Southern California in the full scope of family law matters, including divorce and pre-marital agreements. Fred focuses his practice on consensual methods of dispute resolution, rather than litigation, to settle family law disputes. http://www.mglawcorp.com/

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