The article “To Disclose or not to Disclose? That is the Question in Collaborative Law,” co-authored by Andrew Schepard, the Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law and Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law, has been published online in the Family Court Review.
“Collaborative Law (CL) is a dispute resolution process increasingly used in family law and divorce designed to encourage problem solving negotiations by parties represented by counsel. Many states have adapted legislation to authorize and facilitate CL and thousands of lawyers have been trained in the CL process. CL lawyers and participants sign a Participation Agreement in which they agree that the lawyers will be disqualified if the CL process terminates without settlement. They also promise full and voluntary disclosure of information. The extent of the obligation of disclosure is, however, unclear. Through analysis of an extended hypothetical divorce settlement negotiation, this article advocates that CL lawyers and clients should assume an obligation to disclose material facts without a request from the other side. Traditional legal ethics, based on an adversarial framework, requires only disclosure of information when requested by another party. In addition, in traditional legal ethics, a lawyer cannot disclose information obtained in the course of the lawyer‐client relationship without the client’s consent even if material to the negotiation. Some authority regulating CL, however, suggests that CL participants and counsel should disclose material information without a specific request even if a client does not want the information disclosed. In that situation, the CL lawyer should encourage the client to disclose the information but if the client refuses to do so, withdraw from the representation. This Article reviews the arguments for and against an obligation of affirmative disclosure in CL. It suggests that affirmative disclosure obligations should be the subject of discussion between CL participants and lawyers and that CL Participation Agreements should be drafted to establish a clear obligation. Finally, this article identifies key areas for further discussion and research on CL disclosure obligations.”
The full text can be viewed online.
The Center for Children, Families and the Law sponsors an Interdisciplinary Center for Separating and Divorcing Families with goals similar to those of the University of Denver Center.