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Pre-Order Cordover Mosten ABA Book Now!

Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice by Forrest S. Mosten and Adam B. Cordover  is now available for pre-order on the American Bar Association website.  The book brings together experts in the field of collaborative practice to help professionals learn to make a living while helping families restructure in a better way.

Reviews have already started coming in:

I personally believe Woody Mosten and Adam Cordover have done the Collaborative Practice Community a tremendous service by bringing together this group of respected Collaborative Practitioners to share their experience and expertise. They gathered these voices to speak to the Collaborative Practice and peacemaking world, in an attempt to answer the call of the Community for more Collaborative cases and for a way to stop going to court forever. For those who want to devote their life and practice to changing how families resolve their disputes and to help them move forward in peace, this is the book for you.

Christopher M. Farish, Collaborative Lawyer

Dallas, Texas

President of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

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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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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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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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Video: Betty Discusses Her Collaborative Divorce

Choosing how you go through divorce can be a harrowing experience.  Sometimes it is helpful to hear how others have chosen to divorce.  In the video below, from the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Betty discusses her collaborative divorce:

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Mediation Compared to Collaborative Divorce

There has been a growing recognition over the past few decades that courtroom divorce, an adversarial process that pits husband against wife, is a dreadful and harmful method to resolve family disputes.  As a result, the Florida Supreme Court, like many other judicial bodies, declared that family matters needed “a system that provided nonadversarial alternatives and flexibility of alternatives; a system that preserved rather than destroyed family relationships;…and a system that facilitated the process chosen by the parties.”  In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 523 (Fla. 2001).

Two alternatives that have developed to fill this space are mediation and collaborative divorce.  As collaborative divorce is a relatively new option, and there exists much confusion – even among experienced family law practitioners – about the differences between these two methods of dispute resolution, this article looks to compare and contrast mediation and collaborative divorce.

Event versus Process

Mediation is generally a one-time meeting where the parties come together, along with a mediator, to attempt to settle disputes.  In Florida, the parties’ attorneys are also in the room, though other jurisdictions exclude attorneys.  The mediator is a neutral actor who does not have the power to force the parties into any type of settlement, but can only encourage them to reach an agreement.  A mediation conference will generally last from 3 to 8 hours or more.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement in that meeting, then they tend to go to court, usually multiple times.

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Video: Collaborative Divorce Founder Stu Webb

Collaborative divorce as a form of out-of-court dispute resolution has been around since 1990, but it did not just magically appear.  Minnesota family law attorney Stu Webb decided he was fed up with the traditional adversarial court system.  And he decided to do something about it.

In the video below, Henry Yampolsky of the Living Peace Institute interviews collaborative divorce founder Stu Webb:

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Divorce Need Not Destroy Your Small Business

Running a small business is tough enough.  Running a small business while your marriage is falling apart can be crushing.  But you don’t need to go through a traditional court battle if divorce is on the horizon.  Your business does not need to be a casualty.  There is an alternative.  There is collaborative divorce.

Small Business & Privacy

Collaborative divorce is a form of out-of-court dispute resolution that values privacy.  This means that your client lists, inventory details, and other trade secrets remain safely away from public court records.  In fact, here in Florida, the Collaborative Law Process Act and accompanying rules safeguard most communications had within a collaborative divorce.  Courts now have authority to sanction a party who reveals a collaborative law communication.

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Collaborative Divorce Is Not Right For You If…

Collaborative divorce is not for everyone.  Sure, most families going through divorce would benefit from the private, secure, and non-adversarial nature of the collaborative process.  However, it may not be right for you if certain things are important to you.

Collaborative divorce is not right for you if…

You are seeking revenge

If you are seeking revenge, collaborative divorce is not right for you.  The collaborative process will not satisfy your need to see your spouse suffer.  This is because, at the beginning of the case, everyone signs a collaborative participation agreement in which the spouses agree to engage in good faith discussions to reach a resolution.  Each spouse has his or her own attorney, and the attorneys are there solely to help the clients reach an agreement.  The attorneys cannot be used for opposition research, lengthy motion practice, or accusatory litigation.

Picture for representational purposeHowever, the attorneys are also there to safeguard the process.  If an attorney believes that his or her client is no longer acting in good faith, or is only attempting to damage the other spouse, the attorney may have the right to terminate the process.  This shuts down behavior meant to harass the other spouse.  If the attorney believes his or her client can put the need for revenge aside, the collaborative process may continue.  If not, the collaborative attorney has a duty to ensure that the process is not being used as a tool for vengeance.

Further, the collaborative process generally involves a neutral facilitator, with a background in communication, childhood development, and family and power dynamics.  The facilitator helps keep conversations productive and forward-focused rather than centered on past grievances.  The facilitator is also there to address power imbalances and shortcut vengeful actions and communications.

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How Often Do Collaborative Divorces Terminate?

Good, you have decided that if you are going to divorce, you are going to do it collaboratively.  This means that you and your spouse will each have your own attorneys, but the attorneys are not there to fight.  You hire the attorneys to help reach an out-of-court agreement so you can move on with your lives.

But you may also know that either spouse at any time can decide they no longer want to participate in the collaborative divorce, causing it to terminate.  All professionals are automatically fired.  The spouses then proceed as “opposing parties” in the traditional divorce court route.

The possibility of losing your attorney is a scary notion.  So, you may be wondering to yourself, how often do collaborative divorces terminate?

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