Collaborative Law Rules at Florida Supreme Court

Collaborative Law Rules Oral Arguments at Florida Supreme Court

On February 9, 2017, the Honorable Laurel M. Lee, Circuit Court Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County and Chair of the Family Law Rules Committee of the Florida Bar Family Law Section, along with collaborative attorney Robert Merlin, Vice Chair of the Committee and a Board Member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, stood before the Florida Supreme Court (video) to argue in favor of the adoption of collaborative law rules of procedure and professional conduct.

In 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Collaborative Law Practice Act, but the Act does not go into effect until the Florida Supreme Court approves rules.  The Act creates a framework for collaborative family law, which is a private form of dispute resolution where attorneys focus solely on helping clients reach an out-of-court agreement.

Judge Lee explained to the Supreme Court Justices that the process is voluntary: “It is entirely a voluntary process by the litigants and families that choose to engage in the collaborative law process.  It can be terminated by either of the parties at any time.”

Judge Laurel Lee at Florida Supreme Court Arguing In Favor of Collaborative Law Rules

Judge Laurel Lee at Florida Supreme Court Arguing In Favor of Collaborative Law Rules

When asked if collaborative practice could help those with modest means, Judge Lee told the Supreme Court justices how she first came to learn about collaborative divorce:

“I first became aware of the collaborative process when a case came to my trial court in which all of the collaborative team – including the attorneys, the mental health professional, and the financial professional – had taken the case pro bono. I know in my circuit there is a group of collaborative professionals who take low cost or reduced fee cases so that parties do have access to this process even if they are not families of great financial means.”

Upon being asked by Justice Ricky Polston what effect collaborative practice has on mediation, Judge Lee replied, “They are not mutually exclusive.  Collaborative is a process that the parties can choose to engage in but does not preclude the use of any other alternative dispute resolution methods.  So [mediation] could certainly remain an option for litigants.”

Read more

Proposed Collaborative Divorce Professional Conduct Rule Published in Florida Bar News

In March of 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Collaborative Law Process Act (“CLPA”).  The CLPA, among other things, protects communications within the collaborative process so that participants can be more open in their discussions and can rest assured that proposals and comments made while trying to reach agreement cannot later be used against them.

However, the CLPA does not go into effect until after the Florida Supreme Court adopts Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules of Procedure.

Proposed rules have been approved by the Florida Board of Governors, and they have been published in the August 15, 2016 edition of the Florida Bar News for comment.  Once the comment period is over, the Florida Supreme Court will determine whether it will approve the rules.

You can find the proposed Rule of Professional Conduct (4-1.19) after the jump (the proposed Rule of Procedure is published in a separate post):

Read more

Proposed Collaborative Law Procedural Rule Published in Florida Bar News

In March of 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Collaborative Law Process Act (“CLPA”).  The CLPA, among other things, protects communications within the collaborative process so that participants can be more open in their discussions and can rest assured that proposals and comments made while trying to reach agreement cannot later be used against them.

However, the CLPA does not go into effect until after the Florida Supreme Court adopts Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules of Procedure.

Proposed rules have been approved by the Florida Board of Governors, and they have been published in the August 15, 2016 edition of the Florida Bar News for comment.  Once the comment period is over, the Florida Supreme Court will determine whether it will approve the rules.

You can find the proposed Family Law Rule of Procedure (12.475) after the jump (the Rule of Conduct is published in a separate post):

Read more

Florida Family Law: Mandatory Disclosure

When you file and serve a petition in a Florida family law case that involves financial issues such as child support, alimony, or the division of property in debts, a clock starts ticking.  Within 45 days of the initial pleadings being served on the respondent, each party is required to provide the other party with a whole host of financial documents and information.

This is what is known as Mandatory Disclosure, and it is governed by Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

The following are a list of documents that are required to be exchanged:

(1) A financial affidavit in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) if the party’s gross annual income is less than $50,000, or Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c) if the party’s gross annual income is equal to or more than $50,000, which requirement cannot be waived by the parties. The financial affidavits must also be filed with the court. A party may request, by using the Standard Family Law Interrogatories, or the court on its own motion may order, a party whose gross annual income is less than $50,000 to complete Florida Family Law Rules of
Procedure Form 12.902(c).

(2) All federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns filed by the party or on the party’s behalf for the past 3 years.

(3) IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year, if the income tax return for that year has not been prepared. Read more

Consequences of Not Paying Florida Child Support

If a court orders you to pay child support, I have two words for you: Pay It.  Child support is taken so seriously by the Florida and federal government that it is one of the few types of debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, and it can be enforced against you no matter which state in this country you live in or move to.

The Florida Statutes and Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure provide several consequences of not paying support.

Read more

Florida Divorce, Financial Affidavits, and Privacy

In almost any Florida family law matter that involves financial issues, such as child support, alimony, division of property and debt, or attorney’s fees, parties are required to exchange and file Florida Family Law Financial Affidavits.  Financial Affidavits outline each party’s source(s) of income, as well as expenses, assets, and liabilities.

And, when they are filed, they become part of the public record, accessible by anyone.

Most people, for any number reasons, do not want their financial profile to become public.  And yet, when people go through the traditional litigated divorce, that’s exactly what happens.

But it does not need to be that way.

Read more

Mandatory Disclosure in Florida Family Law Cases

The Florida Supreme Court provides the following commentary on Mandatory Disclosure in Florida family law cases:

Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, requires each party in a dissolution of marriage to exchange certain information and documents, and file a Family Law Financial Affidavit, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) or (c). Failure to make this required disclosure within the time required by the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure may allow the court to dismiss the case or to refuse to consider the pleadings of the party failing to comply. This requirement also must be met in other family law cases, except adoptions, simplified dissolutions of marriage, enforcement proceedings, contempt proceedings, and proceedings for injunctions for domestic or repeat violence. The Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932, lists the documents that must be given to the other party. For more information see rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, and the instructions to the Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932.

Read more

Florida Divorce – Time to Respond to a Petition

It is important for every person who is served with a Florida petition for dissolution of marriage to respond to the petition in a timely manner.

The petition, which sets out what a person wants a judge to do (such as dissolve the marriage, rule on custody, order child support, and divide marital property and debt), is generally personally served by a sheriff’s deputy or other authorized process server.  Once served, the respondent has 20 days to provide an answer to the petition and agree or disagree with the petitioner’s requests and allegations.

Read more

Tampa Bay Clerks of the Court Slow to Implement e-Filing

You may have heard of the term “paperless office,” where documents are stored on networks and hard drives rather than in physical drawers and filing cabinets.  The advantages of the paperless office over traditional means of storing documents include the following: money is saved on paper and postage; space is saved from bulky file cabinets; trees are saved from being cut down; and time is saved by quick transmittal of documents via e-mail.  This usually also translates to savings for the customer or client.

Well, the Florida Courts have set their sights on a paperless court system.  This starts out with e-filing (the filing of documents via the internet rather than dropping off paper copies).  e-Filing began through Florida’s e-Filing Portal in January 2012, and the clerks of the Court have set a goal to have all counties accepting e-filing for their civil (non-criminal) divisions through the Portal by July 1, 2012.

Many counties have been quick to implement e-filing through the Portal.  In fact, according to a presentation provided at the February 1, 2012, e-Filing Authority Board Meeting, 41 counties now accept at least some filing electronically through the portal.  Polk County is included in these counties, though it does not yet accept e-filing for family law cases.

Read more

What is a General Magistrate?

If you have a family law case in Florida, your matter may be referred to a general magistrate under Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.490.  But what is a general magistrate?

A general magistrate is simply an attorney appointed by the Court with the power to (i) conduct a hearing and (ii) make a recommendation to the judge on how a particular pleading or issue should be ruled on.  General magistrates keep the keep the family law system moving by taking some of the load off of the judges’ busy schedules.  In Hillsborough County, general magistrates are most commonly utilized in post-judgment cases (e.g., modification of a child support or alimony order).

If you have questions regarding a post-judgment or other family law matter and you are seeking to retain an attorney in Tampa Bay, you can schedule a consultation by calling The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.