Collaborative Divorce in Sarasota, Florida
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is when both clients retain separate lawyers whose only job is to help the clients settle their disputes. The process involves open communication between the clients and their respective lawyers. All participants agree to work together in a collaborative manner. They also agree to be respectful and honest and to participate in good faith to try to reach an agreement, which meets both clients’ interests. If the case does not settle in the collaborative process, the lawyers must withdraw and cannot participate in court proceedings. This agreement that the lawyers will not go to court requires the lawyers and the clients to look at the resolution process in a different way.
Florida Statutes Support Collaborative Divorce
Florida has adopted a law called the Collaborative Law Act. The purpose/mission statement of Florida’s collaborative divorce statutes is: ” . . . to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process. The collaborative law process is a unique nonadversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.” Section 61.55, Florida Statues.
The Attorney’s Role
In traditional divorce litigation your attorney “rides two horses” The first horse is moving in the direction of settling the case. The second horse is moving towards getting your case ready for trial. These two directions quickly become incompatible. Pushing hard towards trial can make settlement less likely, and focusing on settlement takes time and resources away from preparing for trial. In a collaborative divorce the collaborative attorneys can never be the trial (litigation) attorneys, so the problem of “riding two horses” is eliminated. Instead, your collaborative attorney’s sole focus is to help you negotiate a fair resolution.
Some clients are reluctant to try collaborative law because they have a misconception about the attorney’s role. Specifically, some clients are concerned that their collaborative attorney will not be a strong advocate for them. To be clear: your collaborative attorney is your advocate. The collaborative process is not everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya. There are real and serious problems that need to be addressed in every divorce case. Your collaborative attorney will be your advocate in articulating and addressing those problems. However, rather focusing on litigation, your collaborative attorney will to work creatively and cooperatively with the collaborative team to help you reach a result that is fair and works for everyone.
Collaborative Divorce vs. Litigation
|Who Controls the Process||You and your spouse control the process and make the final decisions||Judge controls the process and makes the final decisions|
|Degree of Adversity||You and your spouse pledge mutual respect and openness||Court process is based on an adversarial system|
|Timetable||Costs are manageable, usually less expensive than litigation; Team model is financial efficient in use of experts||Judge sets the timetable; crowded court schedule often results in delays|
|Use of Experts||Jointly retained specialists provide information and guidance helping you and your spouse develop informed, mutually beneficial solutions||Separate experts are hired to support the litigants' positions, often at great expense to each|
|Involvement of Lawyers||Your lawyers work towards a mutually created settlement||Lawyers fight to "win." But who wins when a the couples assets are used to engage in expensive litigation|
|Privacy||The process, discussion and negotiation details are kept private||Dispute becomes a matter of public record.|
|Facilitation of Communciation||Collaborative team, including a mental health professional, will assist you and your spouse communicate during the process and provide skills for communicating after the divorce.||No process designed to facilitate communications|
|Voluntary vs. Mandatory||The collaborative process is voluntary||Absent agreement, the litigation process is mandatory|
|Lines of Communication||You and your spouse communicate directly with the assistance of members of your team||You and your spouse negotiate through your lawyers|
|Court involvement||The collaborative process is conducted outside of court||Litigation is a court based model|
Other Resources to Explore
I am a member of Next Generation Divorce (NGD) which is a group of family law attorneys and other professionals in the Sarasota, Manatee, and Tampa areas that are committed to the collaborative law process. NGD has a great website that will provide you with additional information about collaborative divorce.