What is a Florida ‘Collaborative Divorce?’
The process of ending a marriage can be emotionally difficult for everyone involved. In addition, many divorces are extremely acrimonious and contentious, with some couples finding it very difficult to communicate with one another. There are many issues related to a marriage that must be sorted out in a divorce, including the division of marital assets and debts, child custody arrangement, child support, and maintenance (alimony). These issues can affect important aspects of both spouses’ lives, so there is naturally a desire to act in one’s own self-interest with regard to how they are resolved. While a court can and will decide these issues for a divorcing couple, in many cases it is better for them to work out an arrangement with one another. By doing so, both parties can voice and address their particular desires, and take some of the uncertainty out of the divorce process.
Collaborative Divorce May Provide Benefits to Many Couples
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new development in family law that is intended to facilitate out-of-court agreements between divorcing couples. In a collaborative divorce, both parties and their attorneys sign an agreement agreeing to resolve all issues related to a divorce without the intervention of the court. If negotiations fail, both attorneys are required to withdraw and are unable to represent either party in court. As a result, divorcing couples have a vested interest in coming to an agreement as they risk having to start over with new attorneys and having wasted a significant investment in legal fees.
In order to help couples come to a mutually agreeable settlement, the collaborative divorce process encourages communication. One of the major advantages of a collaborative divorce is that the divorcing couple jointly retains various professionals in order to help them resolve their differences. This is much different than the adversarial model that occurs in court, in which each side retains their own “experts” that argue one position or another, depending on who is paying. Among the types of professionals that collaborative divorce can involve are those who:
- Evaluate a couple’s financial situation;
- Provide advice regarding parenting and custody issues;
- Valuate any closely held businesses that may be at issue; and
- Appraise any commercial or residential real estate owned by the couple.
If successful, a collaborative divorce can save divorcing couples a significant amount of money and ensure that each party’s needs are addressed and satisfied to the fullest extent possible. In order to start the collaborative divorce process, each party should:
- Meet with an attorney who practices in Florida family law and is familiar with the collaborative divorce process. Among the things that you should discuss with your potential attorney are your financial situation, whether or not there are any children involved, whether there is a history of marital misconduct, and any other legal concerns you may have.
- Encourage his or her partner to seek out legal representation. It is probably best to restrain from referring a particular attorney or law firm, but you can direct your spouse to the Florida Bar Association website that can help him or her find an experienced Florida family law attorney who is familiar with the collaborative divorce process.
- Start the collaborative divorce process through an attorneys. Your lawyer or your spouse’s lawyer will draw up an agreement that all of you will sign promising to negotiate in good faith and try and stay out of court. The collaborative divorce process should be transparent and each party will be able to openly communicate his or her wishes regarding the disposition of the various issues related to the divorce. By using the collaborative divorce method, couples have much more control about how these matters are decided than they would in a courtroom.
Contact an Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Anyone seeking a divorce or need help with any other family law issue should not hesitate to call All Family Law Group in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge.