NEW LAW TO SAVE MONEY

MONTGOMERY — An Alabama law that goes into effect today will allow for collaboration, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which matters are settled out of court.

The bill that became law applies to matters such as divorces, annulments, property distribution, child custody and child support. The bill was sponsored in the 2013 legislative session by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, and Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. Both are attorneys.

“It is designed to try to put it in a less controversial, adversarial position,” Black said. “And if it doesn’t work, you can still take it to court.”

Othni Latham, director of the Alabama Law Institute, which helped draft the bill, said it is ideal for people working in good faith to reach the best-possible resolution for themselves or their children. The process involves attorneys, but can include financial planners and counselors.

“The process only works if both parties agree on the front end that they will share more information quicker than they would in litigation,” Latham said.

The new, voluntary option will save the state’s court system money, Latham said, but how much will depend on how many people use the alternative. It could also save individuals money in lawyers’ courtroom fees.

Alabama was the eighth state to pass a collaborative law bill.

Three other laws go into effect today:

Senate Bill 18

Senate Bill 18 allows a specialized Breast Cancer Foundation of Alabama license plate for motorcycles. A portion of the tag fee will go to breast cancer research. Most specialized plates require an additional $50 annual fee.

House Bill 215

House Bill 215 also pertains to license plates and makes the following changes:

Allows for other specialized plates for motorcycles if there are at least 1,000 commitments for purchase before the plates are created.

The 1,000 commitments applies to cars and trucks, too. If a group seeking a specialty plate fails to reach that commitment, it must wait one year before applying again for a specialty tag.

Removes the 8,000-pound limit for trucks to be able to display specialty plates.

Changes the distribution of proceeds from the sale of National Guard license plates from the National Guard Historical Society to the National Guard Foundation.

Allows a retired volunteer firefighter from a department in another state to receive a firefighter license plate for a $23 fee.

Allows for a law enforcement memorial license plate honoring officers killed in the line of duty. Revenue from the sale of that tag will go to the State Law Enforcement Memorial and the general fund that supports state operations.

House Bill 119

House Bill 119 has to do with insurance companies in the state and their reinsurers. Companies can buy reinsurance to help cover some of their risk.

The new law sets up new standards the companies must meet, said Reyn Norman, general counsel for the Alabama Department of Insurance. The law won’t impact the average Alabamian, he said.

Mary Sell covers state government for The Decatur Daily. She can be reached at msell@decaturdaily.com.

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