COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW IN FLORIDA. No matter how you look at it, divorce and family law matters are difficult to go through. Expectations of stability are shattered,

mistrust grows, and bills pile up. And then the litigation begins. Attorneys file and serve petitions, counterpetitions, requests to produce, and motions to compel. Each party hires dueling mental health experts to convince a judge that he or she should have more time with the children. Privacy is eliminated as each party’s life is probed and publicly questioned so that one side may gain a tactical advantage.

But there is a different way. A more civilized way. And it is called Collaborative Family Law (also known as Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Practice).

We are a Collaborative law firm dedicated to helping people resolve personal disputes without destroying their families. We encourage the use of the Collaborative Family Law model in divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, post-judgment, prenuptial, and most other family law cases.  Further, Adam B. Cordover is an internationally-recognized leader in Collaborative Practice, a trainer who teaches other professionals how to help families Collaboratively, and author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Collaborative Law.

“Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice” Now Available

Today, the American Bar Association releases “Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice,” edited by Forrest (Woody) Mosten and Adam B. Cordover.  The book includes experts from around the field in collaborative practice and out-of-court dispute resolution.

Below is a list of the chapters and contributing authors:

Foreword: Nancy Cameron

Prologue: Making Collaborative and Non-Court Practice Your Day Job – Forrest S. Mosten & Adam B. Cordover
Chapter 1: Lawyers as Peacemakers. Really?!? Yes, Really. – David Hoffman
Chapter 2: How Collaborative Practice Will Improve Your Profitability – Robert Merlin
Chapter 3: Redefining Your Practice Signature and Creating a Profitable Peacemaking Practice – Kevin Scudder
Chapter 4: How Many Hats Can You Wear? Assessing If You Can Be a Collaborative Professional and Still Litigate – Carl Michael Rossi
Chapter 5: Being A Client Leader: The Art of Gaining New Collaborative Clients – Rich Grof
Chapter 6: Effectively Marketing Your Collaborative Practice – Gary Direnfeld
Chapter 7: Creating Collaborative Office Space – Zanita Zacks-Gabriel
Chapter 8: Integrating Technology into Your Collaborative Practice – Brian Galbraith
Chapter 9: Getting Buy-In for a Collaborative Approach from the Other Spouse and Attorney – Enid Miller Ponn
Chapter 10: The First Client Meeting: Gateway to a Collaborative Case – Bev Churchill

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Preparing for Your Collaborative Divorce Team Meetings

You have wisely chosen to engage in the collaborative process rather than a more traditional, adversarial process. You—and your spouse—are to be congratulated for choosing a more peaceful path.

One of the cornerstones of the collaborative approach is the use of team meetings.  These are the working meetings that include you, your spouse, both attorneys, and any neutral professionals that you have engaged. These meetings are very different from traditional settlement conferences. This handout is designed to help you prepare for your collaborative team meetings.

Laying the Foundation

Collaborative practice is a structured process.  We follow a roadmap that has helped thousands of families to resolve their disputes.  It can be summed up as the “4 D’s of Resolution:”

  • Decide to Enter the Collaborative Process
  • Disclose All Relevant Information
  • Develop Options that Meet Interests
  • Determine the Best Options for Your Family

Many people decide to enter the collaborative process, but then want to skip right past disclosure and option development. They mistakenly believe that jumping immediately into proposal/counterproposal will save time and money.  However, in our experience, skipping the intermediate steps actually ends up costing more time and money because perspectives get entrenched, emotions spike, and the whole process gets derailed.  Further, either or both spouses may not yet know what is in the marital pot.  As a result, they may leave assets on the table or fail to address an asset or debt.  In either case, that may cause a dispute down the line.

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What is a Collaborative Facilitator?

If you are looking at your divorce options (from traditional divorce to collaborative divorce to mediation), you may have come across the term “Collaborative Facilitator.”  What is a Collaborative Facilitator?

A Collaborative Facilitator is a neutral professional in a collaborative divorce.  He or she is oftentimes utilized as a team leader and communication specialist within the collaborative family law process.  He or she generally has a background in family dynamics, childhood development, and/or  conflict management.  A Collaborative Facilitator will have credentials and a license.  These will be in the area of marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, social work, psychology,  or psychiatry.  However, the Collaborative Facilitator is not engaging in therapy as part of the collaborative process.

Author, psychologist, and collaborative trainer Jeremy S. Gaies, in A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce, discusses the role of the Collaborative Facilitator (which he describes as “coach,” using the nomenclature of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals) in the following excerpt:

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1996: Woody Mosten on the Future of Family Law

On September 6-7, 1996, the Creative Lawyers Meeting convened.  The meeting was attended by Lowell Halverson; Stu Webb (founder of collaborative practice); Forrest (Woody) Mosten (founder of Unbundled Legal Services and author of various books on mediation and collaborative practice); Jody Mosten; Bill Howe; Ed Sherman; Cheryl Woodard; Susan Cameron; Ed Cameron; Carol Farr; Peggy Williams; and Hillis Williams.

During this meeting, Woody discussed his view of the future of family law.  Below is a transcript of the notes describing Woody’s vision, lightly edited for clarity:

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1996: Stu Webb’s View of Collaborative Law

Recently, Forrest “Woody” Mosten shared notes from a 1996 meeting he had with fellow innovative family law professionals.  In attendance at the meeting were Stu Webb (who created the concept of collaborative family law), Woody, Jody Mosten, Bill Howe, Ed Sherman, Cheryl Woodard, Susan Cameron, Ed Cameron, Carol Farr, Peggy Williams, Hillis Williams, and Lowell Halverson.

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Video: Pauline Tesler on Collaborative Divorce and Hidden Assets

 

You may be considering using the collaborative process to divorce in a more private, amicable way, but you may wonder: “What if my spouse is hiding assets?  Can we use the collaborative process? Will it work if there are hidden assets?”

Pauline Tesler & Hidden AssetsIn the video below, California attorney Pauline Tesler, a founder of interdisciplinary collaborative practice and the first president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, addresses hidden assets:

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How Do I Know If My Kids Are OK During My Divorce?

Divorce is not only stressful and life changing for you, but also for your children. As a parent, you want your children to come out of your divorce as unscathed as possible. How do you ensure that happens?

You are likely more emotional and busier than ever during your divorce process.  However, now is the time to stay connected with your children. Spend special time with them doing activities that they enjoy. Check in with their teachers, coaches, and friends to make sure that they are doing okay.

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Next Generation Divorce

Sample Collaborative Participation Agreement

Is divorce on your horizon?  If so, are you fearing entering a public adversarial system where husband is pitted against wife, and mother is pitted against father?  Fortunately, there are alternatives.  One alternative is the collaborative divorce process, where you and your spouse sign a participation agreement that states, among other things, that your attorneys can only be used to help you reach an agreement outside of court.  This means that none of you or your attorneys’ time, energy, or billable time goes towards opposition research, motion practice, or costly trial preparation.

The collaborative participation agreement spells out the rules of the collaborative process.  Below you will find a sample participation agreement that I oftentimes use in my cases here in Florida.  Please note that different professionals and different communities use different participation agreements.  Further, the same professional may have different participation agreements depending on the type of matter or the complexity of the matter.

As I have had the fortune to model my participation agreement based on the work of others, I welcome other professionals to modify and adapt the collaborative participation agreement below as their own:

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Statistics on Collaborative Divorce in Florida (1/31/2018 Update)

In 2010, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) released the results of a 4 year study on Collaborative Practice.  The results were based on information gathered from collaborative professionals who filled out a survey at the end of their case.  The IACP Research Committee collected 933 surveys from throughout the United States and Canada, 97% of which were for divorce cases.

Remarkably, the IACP found that 86% of collaborative cases ended in a full resolution of all issues, while an additional 2% ended in reconciliation between the clients.  Of those cases that terminated prior to a full agreement, 14% included a partial agreement between the clients, narrowing the issues that needed to be addressed.

In the aftermath of this research project, the IACP offered grants to local and statewide practice groups so that they could begin gathering data.  The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP), an organization of over 500 independent collaborative professionals throughout the state of Florida, applied for IACP’s Gay Cox grant (named after a pioneer of the Collaborative Law Movement and proponent of research on the topic, who passed in 2013).  The IACP approved the FACP’s grant request.

The results below are based on 101 responses, collected between December 16, 2013, and January 31, 2018.  The authors note that data collection is ongoing, and encourage all professionals to complete and submit one survey at the end of each collaborative case.  Surveys can be accessed and submitted via the member-only portal of the FACP website (http://collaborativepracticeflorida.com).  For questions on the survey or accessing the members-only portal, professionals are encouraged to contact the authors.

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Review: A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce

There are a lot of great books out there on collaborative divorce.  Some, like Forrest S. Mosten’s Collaborative Divorce Handbook: Helping Families without Going to Court and Pauline Tesler’s Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce without Litigation, are geared towards divorce professionals.  Others, like Stu Webb and Ron Ousky’s The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court and Joryn Jenkin’s War or Peace: Avoid the Destruction of Divorce, are geared towards families considering divorce.

A new offering is helpful for both professionals and families.  Enter Dr. Jeremy S. Gaies’ A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce.

Dr. Gaies is a psychologist and collaborative facilitator/coach in Tampa, Florida.  Full disclosure: He also teaches attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and mediators how to offer families collaborative services through the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers, a group in which I am also a trainer.

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