Does North Carolina recognize and authorize Collaborative Law?

Yes. The State Legislature adopted Article 4, Collaborative Law Proceedings (§ 50-70 to § 50-89), in 2003 establishing collaborative law procedures in North Carolina.  As defined in NCGS § 50-71:

Collaborative law is a procedure in which a husband and wife who are separated and are seeking a divorce, or are contemplating separation and divorce, and their attorneys agree to use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their disputes arising from the marital relationship on an agreed basis.

 

The fact that collaborative law is recognized by statute is notable for a couple of reasons.

Tolling Time Periods

Under § 50-73, “a validly executed collaborative law agreement shall toll all legal time periods applicable to legal rights and issues under law between the parties for the amount of time the collaborative law agreement remains in effect.” Regardless of whether a court action has been initiated, it is as if time stands still with regard to the legal process while the collaborative process is active. Statutes of limitation, filing deadlines, discovery deadlines, scheduling deadlines, and the like are all paused while the parties pursue a collaborative solution. The parties are able to take as much time as necessary to reach a comprehensive, long-lasting agreement without the risk of forfeiting any court remedies.

Privileged and Inadmissible Evidence

Under § 50-77, “All statements, communications, and work product made or arising from a collaborative law procedure are confidential and are inadmissible in any court proceeding.” The collaborative process is intended to encourage and promote openness and a sharing of information that will lead to a long term resolution of the marital issues. Therefore, statements and other communications made during the collaborative process can not be used later in court against a party. This statute also bars entry of any communications or work product of an attorney or third-party expert during the collaborative process.