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.

Pictures: Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals 2017 Conference

In June 2017, the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals held its fifth annual conference right here in Tampa.  The theme of the conference was “Get In On The Act,” in celebration of the recent passage of the Collaborative Law Process Act.

Over 200 attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and others attended the conference to delve into introductory, intermediate, and advanced topics in collaborative practice.  There were also quite a few attendees from outside of Florida, from areas as far away as Erie, Pennsylvania and Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

Family Diplomacy managing attorney Adam B. Cordover presented for two of the workshops at the conference:

  • Collaborative Unscripted: The Role of Creativity in the Process (with Kristin DiMeo, CPA; Jeremy Gaies, Psy.D.; David Harper, CPA; and Barbara Kelly, Ph.D.); and
  • The Cost of Collaboration: Efficiency vs. Cutting Corners (with Brian Galbraith, LL.B., LL.M.; and Melissa Sulkowski, M.A., LPC)

You can find pictures of the conference below:

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Video: Collaborative Professionals Discuss New Collaborative Law & Rules

In the video below, from the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals, attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals discuss the new collaborative divorce statutes and rules:

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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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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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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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