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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.”

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Woody Mosten and Peacemaking Practice Trainers

Video: Woody Mosten Addresses Association for Conflict Resolution

Forrest (Woody) Mosten has been on the cutting edge of the law since the 1970s.  He has been a pioneer in the fields of unbundled legal services, mediation, and collaborative practice, and he has also authored the following books on these topics (you can order them here):

  • The Complete Guide to Mediation: The Cutting-Edge Approach to Family Law Practice (2d Edition, ABA, 2015) (with Elizabeth Scully)
  • Collaborative Divorce Handbook: Effectively Helping Divorcing Families Without Going to Court (Jossey-Bass, 2009)
  • The Mediation Career Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2001)
  • Unbundling Legal Services (ABA, 2000)

In 2011, Woody keynoted at the Association of Conflict Resolution.  You can find the video from part of the speech below:

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Gary Direnfeld on Sole Custody

Video: Do You Really Need “Sole Custody?”

In my Tampa office, parents come to me all of the time and say they want “sole custody.”  Maybe they are having an argument with the other parent.  Maybe they just don’t get along.  So parents figure that the solution is to be the only one to have decision making authority over their child.

In the video below, social worker Gary Direnfeld challenges the assumptions behind requests for sole custody.

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Video: Hiring A Collaborative Divorce Lawyer

In Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota, you have a lot of choices when determining who should be your divorce lawyer.  You may have already figured out that your best, least destructive path is via collaborative practice, where you and your spouse work together to ensure your kids and finances survive the divorce.  But how do you choose which attorney to hire to represent you in a collaborative divorce?

The video below, from Reel Lawyers, discusses the importance of hiring an attorney who specializes in collaborative practice.

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quickie divorce

A Quicker Way To Divorce – Quickie Divorce

One of the most painful aspects of the traditional divorce process is that it seems to drag on forever. Clients are hauled through case management conferences, temporary relief hearings, depositions, motion hearings, pre-trial conferences, and, finally, oftentimes years later, trial.

But this does not need to be the way you go through one of the toughest times of your life.  There is a quicker way to divorce.

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Collaborative Divorce Training Review: “Amazing!”

Fifty plus attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and students successfully completed a two-day Introductory Collaborative Family Law Training at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  The training was led by Family Diplomacy managing attorney Adam B. Cordover along with psychologist Jeremy Gaies and accountants Kristin DiMeo and David Harper, all of the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers.

Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers

Adam B. Cordover, Jeremy Gaies, Kristin DiMeo, and Enid Miller Ponn Demonstrate a Collaborative Divorce Team Prep Meeting

The purpose of the training is to educate members of various professions on how they can help families go through divorce privately, efficiently, and as peacefully as possible.

“Excellent!  Well organized, informative, funny, and thorough!  You kept our attention during some very dry ‘legal-ease,’ and are all great team players,” praised Professor Randy Heller, the organizer of the training.

Adam B. Cordover alongside David Harper going over a fact pattern at a collaborative divorce training.

“You are amazing!” proclaimed Nancy Brodzki, president of the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida, the main sponsors of the training.  When asked what other topics she was interested in attending, Nancy responded, “Any collaborative training you offer.”

“Adam is extremely knowledgeable, well-spoken, and a huge asset to the collaborative divorce program,” said attendee and attorney Honit Simon.  “Adam did well in combining practice with theory,” commented another attendee, mental health student Solomon Udo.

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Upcoming Books Help Lawyers Avoid Divorce Wars

Tampa Bay divorce attorney Adam B. Cordover was recently cited in a news article from University of California – Los Angeles’ School of Law.  The article discusses books that teach lawyers to help families resolve divorce and other disputes privately and peacefully.  You can find the article below:

Three new books by UCLA School of Law faculty shine a light on non-traditional forms of practice in order to create greater access to legal services and to help lawyers master alternatives to litigation.

Forrest Mosten

Adjunct Professor Forrest Mosten ’72, a member of the UCLA Law faculty since 2002, and Lecturer Elizabeth Scully are co-authors of The Complete Guide to Mediation and The Family Lawyer’s Guide to Unbundled Legal Services. Mosten also is co-author, with Florida practitioner Adam Cordover, of a third book, Building A Successful Collaborative Practice, to which Scully is contributing a chapter. All three books are published by the American Bar Association. The Complete Guide to Mediation came out in 2015; the other two are slated for publication in 2017.

“We believe that lawyers should be more than gladiators,” said Mosten. “They can be healers and teachers, and their offices can be classrooms of client education. That’s a theme that runs through all of these books and my UCLA courses.”

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Bird Custody: What Happens To Our Pet In Divorce?

When a couple has children, and they are getting divorced, they set up a child custody schedule to determine where their children will sleep at night.  But what happens when spouses have a bird?  Will a Tampa Bay divorce judge set up a “bird custody” schedule?

Bird Custody

Bird Custody

No, a judge will not create a bird custody schedule, but a couple can agree to such a schedule through a private form of dispute resolution such as collaborative divorce.

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Financial Advisers Learn About Collaborative Divorce

Financial advisers are tasked with protecting their clients’ wealth.  And financial advisers want to help clients going through divorce make smart decisions and preserve their assets.  On December 8, 2016, the professionals and staff of the Sabal Trust Company in St. Petersburg, Florida, learned how collaborative divorce can safeguard their clients’ wealth, time, and privacy.

Discussing Collaborative Divorce

Sarah Hoerber, Tanya O’Connor, and Adam B. Cordover at Sabal Trust Company

Sabal Trust is the largest employee-owned trust company in Florida, and its Principals and staff are invested in creating a strategic approach to its clients financial security and growth. That is why they invited Family Diplomacy managing attorney Adam B. Cordover along with forensic accountant Sarah Hoerber and Brandon attorney Tanya O’Connor to discuss collaborative divorce.

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Florida State University Business Law Student Interviews a Collaborative Lawyer

Anthony Mazzola

BUL 3310 – 0002

November 23rd, 2016

For this assignment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Cordover. Mr. Cordover practices in Family Law and works for a company named Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm. During the interview, I received a lot of great insight on a new field of law that I have never heard of before, and overall had a great, memorable experience. I mostly used the sample interview questions for this assignment, but I also added a few of my own as I listened to his responses.

-Why did you become an attorney?

“I became an attorney because I like to figure things out. I was always good with puzzles and it seemed like the law was encoded and used all of these complicated terms. I wanted to get to know what all these terms meant and how to decode these terms. Going through law school and becoming a lawyer has helped me out on that.” This response was really interesting to me because most of the time the answer to this question is to help better society or help people out, which is also true for Mr. Cordover as mentioned later, but the idea of law being like a complicated puzzle was a very interesting point to me.

-What type of law do you practice?

“I practice collaborative family law. What that means is that I help families who are going through divorce and other family law matters outside of court. I am not a divorce trial attorney. I practice exclusively out of court dispute resolution.“

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