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Are Florida Divorce Courts Anti-Dad?

Over the past few years, there has been a movement to overhaul the alimony and child custody laws of Florida and other states.  This is because husbands and fathers have felt like they are under siege in the family law court system.  They have a glimmer of hope that, if only the laws were changed, then maybe they could get the respect and dignity that they deserve when entering a courtroom.

Map of Florida Circuit Courts

So this bring up a fundamental question:  Are Florida’s family law courts anti-father?

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Collaborative Law Process Act Protects Families’ Privacy

Last Friday, the Florida Senate passed its version of HB-967, the Collaborative Law Process Act, priming Florida to become the 14th state to pass a version of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act.

The bill, which was voted on in the Florida Senate by 39-0 after passing the Florida House last month by 117-0, is now enrolled and expected to be signed by the governor.  At the earliest, the Collaborative Law Process Act becomes binding on July 1, 2016.  However, it may take longer, as the bill itself states that it will not go into effect until 30 days after the Florida Supreme Court adopts Rules of Procedure and Rules of Professional Responsibility consistent with the bill.  It is my understanding that proposed rules have been provided or will be provided to the Supreme Court.

[Update: On March 24, 2016, Governor Scott Signed the Collaborative Law Process Act]

The Collaborative Law Process Act, which applies to divorce, paternity, and other family law matters, does several things:

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Collaborative Divorce Books

I recently wrote a blog post for the new website of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals on books about collaborative divorce books.  There are a lot of great books out there, including books geared towards people going through or thinking about divorce.  Below are the books I discussed:

thecollaborativewaytodivorceStuart G. Webb & Ronald D. Ousky, The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court (Plume 2007).

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Divorce Lawyer Client Review: A Complicated Divorce Goes Collaborative

Recently, I came across a very complicated divorce matter where two women had been battling in the court system for six years, even before the State of Florida recognized their marriage.  One of the women ended up firing her aggressive trial attorney and hiring me because I offered an alternative: collaborative divorce.  Once everyone agreed to stop fighting, we were able to reach an agreement within just a few months’ time.

That client, Pattie, recently wrote a touching review about my paralegal, Jennifer, and I at avvo.com.  You can find the review below.

As I am required to note by the Florida Bar, please understand that every case is different, and you may not receive the same or similar results.

The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover & Staff are amazing, professional caring people. Please know that I don’t mean for this review to be long or boring, my intent is to shed hope & shine light into your present life from my past experience and situation.

My situation was very complicated from the start being a same sex marriage which for years was not recognized in the State of Florida until January 2015 and two properties involved.

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Video: FACP Collaborative Divorce Roundtable

I recently got together with Dr. Jim Morris, a psychologist from Clearwater, and Ed Sachs, a certified public accountant based out of Miami, for a roundtable discussion on collaborative divorce.  Dr. Morris is co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path Through Divorce, and Mr. Sachs is Vice President of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“FACP”).

You can find the video of the roundtable discussion, recorded for the FACP, after the jump:

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Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals

Collaborative practice is a form of private dispute resolution where parties and their attorneys agree that they will focus all of their time, energy, and money on reaching an agreement.  Oftentimes, experts in the realm of accounting, finances, and relationships are brought in to help the parties.

Collaborative practice has mainly been used in the area of divorce and family law as an alternative to public courtroom fights.  What is less well known is that it is also being used in the civil law arena to resolve wills, trusts, and guardianship disputes, insurance and malpractice matters, and business dissolutions.

Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals

In recognition of the growing role of collaborative practice in civil areas, in 2015 the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida, a statewide umbrella group with over 450 members, changed its name to the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“FACP”).  The FACP also recently unveiled its newly redesigned website, which is accessible at http://www.collaborativepracticeflorida.com/.

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2016 Collaborative Law Process Act Making Progress in Florida Legislature

Senate Bill 972, the “Collaborative Law Process Act,” is making its way through the Florida Senate and will hopefully become law this summer.

[UPDATE 2: Governor Scott signed the Collaborative Law Process Act on 3/24/16]

[UPDATE: The Collaborative Law Process Act Passed the Florida Legislature on 3/4/16.  Learn more about it in the following Article: Collaborative Law Process Act Protects Families’ Privacy]

The Collaborative Law Process Act creates a legal framework for families to resolve disputes outside of court.  The bill specifies that family law matters under chapters 61 or 742 of the Florida Statutes may be resolved via the collaborative process.  These family law matters include the following:

  • Divorce;
  • Alimony and child support;
  • Marital property and debt distribution;
  • Child custody and visitation (also known as time-sharing and parental responsibility);
  • Parental relocation with a child;
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements; and
  • Paternity.

Families in Tampa Bay, Greater Sarasota, and throughout the state of Florida are already utilizing the collaborative process to resolve divorce and other matters privately and respectfully, but a big improvement with this bill is that there will be a statutory framework to ensure discussions had in the collaborative process can be enforced as confidential.   Read more

Family Diplomacy Proud Sponsor of WUSF / NPR

Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm is now a proud sponsor of WUSF, Tampa Bay’s local National Public Radio (“NPR”) partner.

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You may periodically hear on NPR that “Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm reminds you that divorce need not be destructive.  More information about collaborative divorce can be found at (813) 443-0615 or FamilyDiplomacy.com.”

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Next Generation Divorce Honors Hillsborough Judge Ashley Moody

As one of my last duties as president of Next Generation Divorce, I had the opportunity to induct Judge Ashley Moody of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit as an Honorary Member of the collaborative practice group at our December holiday party.  Judge Moody, based out of the Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, Florida, has been a strong supporter of the use of collaborative family law as a method to help families resolve issues related to divorce and other matters in a private, nonadversarial, and respectful setting.

Judge Moody’s induction into Next Generation Divorce was announced in the January 15th edition of the Florida Bar News:

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Video 3: Catherine Conner on Structuring A Collaborative Practice Group

In a series of videos for Cutting Edge Law taped in 2008, leading collaborative lawyer Catherine Conner discusses creating, building, and structuring a collaborative practice group.  Catherine Conner is one of the founders and a former president of the Collaborative Council of the Redwood Empire, a collaborative practice group out of California, and Catherine would go on to become president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

A collaborative practice group is a network of independent professionals dedicated to helping people resolve disputes outside of court via the collaborative process.  The collaborative process is a form of alternative dispute resolution where each party has an attorney, and the parties sign a written agreement that says that their attorneys will only be focused on resolving their dispute privately; the attorneys cannot be used by the parties to fight in court against one another.

Some collaborative practice groups only have attorneys as members, while other practice group are interdisciplinary and also include mental health professionals and financial professionals.  Some practice groups promote the use of the collaborative process in all sorts of civil matters such as employment law, contract disputes, business dissolution, medical malpractice, or other matters, while other practice groups focus on one area of the law, such as family law.

You can find Catherine’s video on structuring a collaborative practice group after the jump:

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