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.
Member of Next Generation Divorce
So what is Next Generation Divorce?
Next Generation Divorce is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It promotes the use of collaborative practice as a better, more humane way to handle divorce.
What is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative practice is a private form of dispute resolution. Each client has his or her own attorney. The attorneys can only be used for purposes of reaching an out-of-court agreement. This means that no time, energy, or money is spent on opposition research, trying to tear down the other parent, or preparing for an expensive trial. If spouses are unable to reach an agreement in the collaborative process, they cannot use their collaborative attorneys to fight against each other in court. Fortunately, a study by the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals has shown that 90% of collaborative cases end in a full agreement between the clients.
Collaborative practice’s rate of success has much to do with the professionals involved. Collaborative cases involve neutral facilitators, with backgrounds in communication, childhood development, and family dynamics. This helps ensure that divorcing spouses stay focus on what is important to them (such as their children or financial security) rather than the arguments of the past.
Neutral financial professionals are also oftentimes retained. They serve as a repository of the spouses’ financial information. They ensure transparency so that they can make informed decisions about their financial futures. Think trust (or not) but verify. Further, they help develop options for support and the division of assets and debts that can take advantage of tax loopholes and ensure a firmer financial footing post-divorce.
Educating Tampa Bay’s Lawyers
Though collaborative practice has been around since 1990, it has only been accessible to families in Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota for the past few years. This is because, since 2011, Next Generation Divorce has made it its mission to educate attorneys and other professionals to offer collaborative services. This has not been easy, since the traditional, adversarial court system has been predominant for hundreds of years. Attorneys, especially, are reluctant to change.
Yet, at the same time, fighting on behalf of clients in court has burnt out more and more attorneys. It is draining to attack one parent on behalf of another parent to score courtroom points.
This may be why lawyers are attending Next Generation Divorce collaborative trainings in droves. Since 2011, Next Generation Divorce has held two-day Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Trainings that meet the standards of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Next Generation Divorce has held trainings in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakewood Ranch, and Palm Harbor. It has brought in internationally recognized trainers from California, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Georgia, Louisiana, Washington, Miami, and even right here in Tampa.
It is through Next Generation Divorce’s efforts that collaborative practice has become more accessible to more families. The international collaborative movement now regards Tampa Bay as one of the fastest growing collaborative communities.
The Meaning Behind Next Generation Divorce
Professionals founded the organization in 2009 under the name “Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.”
The leadership decided early on that it would be an open interdisciplinary organization, welcoming mental health and financial professionals. Though the prevailing thought in parts of the collaborative community at the time was that an attorney needed substantial court experience to be an effective collaborative attorney, Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay felt that courtroom experience oftentimes fostered negative habits that were detrimental to families, and so it welcomed new and young professionals among its membership of experienced family law professionals.
In December 2013, the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay officially changed its name to Next Generation Divorce. There were several meanings behind this name change:
- Divorce most affects children, the next generation. We wanted to offer an alternative to courtroom battles to protect Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota’s children.
- We are here to educate the next generation of attorneys and other family law professionals. The organization believes that family law professionals should learn about and offer collaborative services from the very beginning of their careers.
- Collaborative practice is an evolution in the divorce process. It is a next generation process that recognizes that divorce is not just a legal matter. It is also a financial and especially an emotional matter.
So there you have it. If you and your spouse can avoid divorce, you should. But if your marriage is truly irretrievably broken, do yourself and your spouse a favor, contact a member of Next Generation Divorce, and utilize the collaborative process.
Adam B. Cordover is a former president of Next Generation Divorce. He is co-chair of the Research Committee of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam trains other professionals to offer collaborative services with the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers. He also helps professionals transform their firms into peacemaking practice with the Peacemaking Practice Trainers.