Klunk Bill to Codify Collaborative Law Vetted in Subcommittee
HARRISBURG – The House Subcommittee on Family Law received testimony Wednesday on legislation by Rep. Kate Klunk (R-Hanover) to create a uniform standard of practice for collaborative law in Pennsylvania, which would speed up the legal process and reduce the financial and emotional toll placed upon those involved in some court proceedings.

“Collaborative law is already successfully practiced by hundreds of attorneys in the state, but there is no set uniform framework to dictate the process,” Klunk said. “This process alleviates the strain felt by the court system, as well as the strain felt by those involved in litigation.”

Klunk’s legislation, House Bill 1644, would codify the collaborative law process.

Collaborative law is a voluntary alternative dispute resolution process for parties that seek to have their legal matters resolved outside the courtroom. Parties enter into collaborative law agreements voluntarily and it cannot be court ordered. One of the hallmarks of collaborative law is that parties are individually represented every step of the way by separate counsel dedicated not only to their respective clients’ interests, but also to resolving the dispute without resorting to litigation. Additionally, parties agree that, should they fail to negotiate a resolution, they will each be required to retain new counsel for any subsequent litigation.

Cases in which collaborative law is used include family law, business law and estate distribution. The process would be particularly useful in emotionally charged proceedings such as divorce and custody disputes.

“At the end of the day, it’s the child who is affected the most by divorce and custody disputes. Children love both parents and should not be placed in a position where they have to choose,” Klunk said. “Collaborative law particularly benefits children as divorce proceedings are expedited and handled in a manor respectful of the two parties and children.”

The subcommittee, on which Klunk serves, received testimony from Zanita Zacks-Gabriel, chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Collaborative Law Committee, and Dave Miller, a past chair of the committee.

The pair of attorneys told members that the collaborative law process can be completed in a matter of two to eight months, compared to two to five years when a case is litigated, greatly decreasing costs and the emotional toll participants endure. Additionally, when collaborative law is used to settle divorce proceedings, there’s a 93 percent success rate. Of the remaining 7 percent, 5 percent of cases ended because the couples decided to remain married and the other 2 percent were resolved through traditional litigation.

“Collaborative law affords families the opportunity to settle disputes, whether it be divorce or estate distribution, gracefully and with dignity,” Klunk said. “There’s no need for costly and time-consuming litigation.”

Klunk’s bill will next be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee before it can be considered by the full House.

Representative Kate A. Klunk
169th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Greg Gross
RepKlunk.com / Facebook.com/RepKlunk

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