Collaborative Law Rules at Florida Supreme Court

Collaborative Divorce Attorneys Held To A Higher Standard

Collaborative divorce attorneys have traditionally gone through specialized training that teaches them cutting edge methods in peaceful and private dispute resolution.  As part of this training, we have taken to heart the Florida Supreme Court’s call to provide families facing matrimonial disputes with “therapeutic  justice,” which the Court described as follows:

Collaborative Divorce AttorneysTherapeutic justice is a process that attempts to address the family’s interrelated legal and nonlegal problems to produce a result that improves the family’s functioning. The process should empower families through skills development, assist them to resolve their own disputes, provide access to appropriate services, and offer a variety of dispute resolution forums where the family can resolve problems without additional emotional trauma.

In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 522 (Fla. 2001).

Just this past weekend, on July 1, 2017, Rule 4-1.19 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar went into effect.  The Rule, concerning the Collaborative Law Process in Family Law, holds collaborative divorce attorneys to a higher standard than divorce lawyers who do not offer collaborative services.  But for those of us who have been practicing this form of therapeutic justice, we have already been meeting these standards up until now on a voluntary basis.

Higher Standards for Collaborative Divorce Attorneys

Unlike traditional divorce lawyers, Rule 4-1.19 requires collaborative attorneys to do the following:

  • Explain to clients that they have choices (such as litigation, mediation, and collaborative law) in how to divorce;

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Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Need Help With A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage?

Are you and your spouse in agreement on how to divide your assets and debts?  Do you not have any minor or dependent children in common?  Are you both willing to attend a final hearing for dissolution of marriage together?  Then you and your spouse may qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.

Simplified Dissolution of MarriageAdvantages of a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Florida has created a special type of divorce procedure with the hope of simplifying the process.  In most actions for dissolution of marriage, court rules require you to exchange what is known as “mandatory disclosure.”  These are financial and other documents with sensitive and private information.  So, in most divorces, you would exchange several years’ worth of tax returns, along with checking and savings account statements, credit card statements, and summary plan descriptions for retirement accounts.

In Simplified Dissolution of Marriage proceedings, you are not expected to exchange these documents unless specifically requested to by one of the spouses.

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Video: Financial Planner Recommends Collaborative Divorce

Resolving Disputes Respectfully

Collaborative Practice

For quite some time, attorneys and mental health professionals have been striving to let the public know that there is a better way to dissolve a marriage:  collaborative divorce.  Parents do not need to put their children through the horrors of a courtroom custody battle.  They can enter into the collaborative process and make decisions in a non-adversarial, private environment where they have the support they need.

Now financial planners are also extolling the benefits of the collaborative process.  In the short video below, Justin Reckers, a Certified Financial Planner and CEO of Wellspring Divorce Advisors discusses the collaborative divorce process.

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Tampa Courts Crack Down on Frivolous Litigation

On June 5, 2017, the Honorable Ronald N. Ficarrotta, Chief Judge of the Thirteenth Circuit in and for Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa), entered an administrative order seeking to sanction and crack down on frivolous litigation.

Frivolous Litigation

Litigation is how divorce has traditionally been handled.  In litigation, husbands are pitted against wives.  Mothers are pitted against fathers.  Further, each makes arguments to make him or herself look good and the other look bad.  As you can imagine, this way of handling divorce can get out of hand, and children are usually stuck in the middle.

New Administrative Order on Frivolous Litigation

Here is what the administrative order says about frivolous litigation:

Access to Florida state courts is a right enjoyed by all persons under Article V, section 21 of the Florida Constitution, regardless of legal representation. When a person abuses his or her right to access to the courts however, the courts have an obligation to balance the litigant’s right of access and the need of the courts to prevent repetitious and frivolous filings.

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SB 590: New Florida Law on Child Support and Parenting Plans

On June 15, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 590 (“SB 590”) into law.  SB 590 directs the Department of Revenue to provide parents with a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan in Title IV-D child support cases.  The bill also authorizes the Department of Revenue to establish agreed-upon parenting plans.  Further, SB 590 waives court costs for families in a Title IV-D case who cannot agree on a parenting plan and are asking the courts to establish a plan.

Title IV-D Cases

Title IV-D of the Social Security Act requires each state to set up an administrative mechanism for establishing and enforcing child support orders.  Florida tasks the Department of Revenue with these administrative duties.

The Department of Revenue oftentimes steps in to establish child support when a parent seeks welfare or other government benefits.  The idea is that it is the duty of both parents to financially support a child.  Further, a parent should utilize child support from the other parent before the government provides state benefits.

The Department of Revenue may also administratively enforce a child support order created by the courts.

SB 590 Standard Parenting Time Plans

Prior to SB 590, the Department of Revenue did not have authority to establish parenting plans.  However, when the law goes into effect, the Department will be required in most cases to send a proposed Standard Parenting Time Plan to the parents.

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Video: Collaborative Divorce Explained

Are you looking for a way to divorce without war?  Collaborative divorce is a peaceful and private alternative to the traditional divorce court battles that tear apart families and bank accounts.

Collaborative divorce is recognized by therapists, accountants, and lawyers here in Tampa Bay as a more humane way to move on with your life.  This brief video explains in simple terms the collaborative divorce process:

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Collaborative Law Rules at Florida Supreme Court

Collaborative Law Rules Approved by Florida Supreme Court

On May 18, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court published an opinion approving collaborative law rules.  The collaborative law rules are the last step necessary before Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act goes into effect.

The opinion approves Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19 and Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745.

Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19

Florida Bar Rule 4-1.19 is a rule of professional conduct.  It creates certain obligations of attorneys representing clients within the collaborative process.  Among other things, the rule requires collaborative lawyers to do the following when contemplating collaborative practice with a client:

  • Provide sufficient information about the benefits and risks of the collaborative process;
  • Explain alternatives to the collaborative process, including litigation and mediation;

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Collaborative Divorce in Tampa Bay

What Is Next Generation Divorce?

If you have done internet searches for collaborative divorce in Tampa Bay or Greater Sarasota, you have likely come across the website for Next Generation Divorce (you can find the link here).  Next Generation Divorce has many members who are family law attorneys, but it is not a law firm.  It has members who are psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers, but it is not a therapy-related organization.  And it has members who are financial planners and C.P.A.’s, but it is not a financial planning or accounting firm.

Next Generation Divorce

Member of Next Generation Divorce

So what is Next Generation Divorce?

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Statewide Collaborative Conference in Tampa June 2017

The 5th Annual Conference of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“FACP”) will take place in Tampa June 9-10th.  The conference is an opportunity meet like-minded professionals from throughout the state, learn cutting edge practices, gain tips for marketing and initial consultations, and learn about the impact of the Collaborative Law Process Act (Part III of Chapter 61, Florida Statutes).

FACP logo horizonatal with Tagline

Additionally, if you are a neutral and serious about improving your skills, there is a pre-conference advanced training on “Leading Clients Through Option-Building” lead by internationally renowned trainers.  This advanced training will take place on June 8.

You can learn more about the conference and register at the following link:  http://www.collaborativepracticeflorida.com/event/5th-annual-florida-academy-collaborative-professionals-conference-tampa/ 

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Collaborative Divorce: Maintaining A Safe Environment

As a collaborative lawyer, it is my obligation to provide a safe environment for my client, the family, and the collaborative team.  This obligation is not only to provide physical safety, but also the safety of the principles of collaborative practice.

Collaborative Divorce Texas (formerly known as the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas), a leading organization in the field of collaborative practice, created Protocols of Practice for Collaborative Lawyers.  Below you will find the Comment to Section 5.06: Safe Environment.

The collaborative lawyer acknowledges that a safe environment necessarily involves the following principles:

1.       Refraining from insistence on acceptance of conditions precedent to entering into the collaborative law process.

2.       Encouraging creative problem-solving and discouraging positional bargaining.

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