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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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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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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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Do You Need A Divorce Second Opinion?

As the New Year is upon us, many people are reflecting upon the past year and determining what changes need to be made for the coming year.  If you have been going through a tough, litigious divorce in Florida in 2015, perhaps it is time to reassess your divorce strategy and divorce process.

According to the traditional family law model, divorce is a zero-sum game where each party hires attack dog lawyers. The lawyers not only show their client in a positive light but also tear the other party down.  Traditional divorce lawyers engage in damaging opposition research, through depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents and things, and requests for admissions.  Of course, the other attorney defends against opposition research with objections, motions for protective orders, and discovery requests in response.

Traditional divorce lawyers then set public hearings on motions to compel, motions for contempt, and motions for attorneys’ fees and costs.  Even after these motions are heard, parties may still be years away from a final trial.

Does this sound familiar?  Are you unhappy about the path that your divorce has taken?  If so, you may want to consider getting a second opinion on your divorce.

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Top 10 Family Diplomacy Blog Posts of 2015

This year marked the fifth anniversary of this firm, and also the evolution from a general family law practice as The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., to an exclusively out-of-court practice as Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm.  We refocused on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services, and we adopted a new website, FamilyDiplomacy.com, which contained our new blog.

Below you will find the ten most viewed blog posts of the year on FamilyDiplomacy.com:

Number 10

A Low Profile Divorce for High Profile People

We see it in the news and magazines all of the time.  Publicly available divorce documents accuse a celebrity of secretly supporting a child born out of wedlock.  Sports figures’ assets and judgment become public spectacles.  Politicians and their spouses lob accusations at each other for all to see.  Businessmen’s private details and dirty laundry end up as front page stories.

Fortunately, your divorce does not need to be in the public eye…

Number 9

Video: Stu Webb’s Collaborative Divorce & Jazz

Now, as it turns out, Stu Webb is not only the founder of collaborative divorce, but he is also an avid fan of Jazz. You can find a short video he helped create comparing collaborative divorce to jazz…

Number 8

Tampa Collaborative Divorce Consultation

Since I opened my law practice, I have received phone calls from potential clients asking if they could bring their spouse to the divorce consultation. Their purpose was to go to a lawyer together, hear the same information, and demonstrate that they are not trying to hire a “pitbull lawyer” or engage in dirty trial tactics. They simply wanted to dissolve their marriage, and they did not want to fight in order to make the divorce happen…

Number 7

Do You Really Need An “Aggressive” Divorce Lawyer?

If you are considering divorce, whether here in Florida or elsewhere, and you are doing online research about family law attorneys, you will come across many firms that describe their attorneys as “aggressive” and “ready to fight for you.”

You will not find that type of language on Family Diplomacy’s website, as we believe that spouses should not be pitted against one another…

Number 6

UFC: Comparing Unified Family Courts with Ultimate Fighting Championship

The range of techniques that are displayed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship are absolutely breathtaking. From jabs to takedowns to flying armbars, each fighter attacks and counterattacks and does whatever he or she can to get the upper hand over the opponent. Similarly, in the Unified Family Courts, opposing attorneys and opposing parties engage in a variety of tactics in an attempt to build up one side and tear down the other…

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Pauline Tesler on Stu Webb (from 1999)

Stu Webb is known as the father of collaborative family law, a non-adversarial process where the spouses’ attorneys agree to focus solely on out-of-court dispute resolution.  Pauline Tesler is oftentimes thought of as the mother of collaborative divorce, emphasizing the benefits of an interdisciplinary team and spearheading the creation of institutions, such as the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”), to help more families.

Back in 1999, Pauline wrote an article in the very first edition of the Collaborative Quarterly (requires IACP membership & password to access), a publication of the IACP (then known as the American Institute of Collaborative Professionals) about Stu Webb and the origins of collaborative law.

You can find excerpts from that article below:

Stuart Webb, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had been practicing family law in the “usual way” for more than twenty years when, like many of us, he became interested during the late 1980’s in mediation and alternative dispute resolution….

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Collaborative Training for Family Law Staff

When a potential client calls your firm, who is the first person with whom she speaks?  When a potential clients arrives at your office, who is the first person that he sees?  If you are a collaboratively-trained attorney, mental health professional, financial professional, or mediator, there is a good chance that your staff is the first voice that a potential client hears, the first face that a potential client sees.

How is that staff member representing you?  Is that first interaction being used as an opportunity to familiarize the client with the term “collaborative practice?”

Joryn Jenkins

Those first interactions are but one of the many different skills that a friend and mentor of mine, Joryn Jenkins, will discuss in her unique collaborative training geared towards professional staff.

The training will take place in Tampa, Florida, on January 22, and it will also be streamed live for professional staff that is outside of the area.

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Video: Collaborative Practice in Brazil

Collaborative divorce is a relatively new concept in Tampa.  It is counterintuitive to think that attorneys would promote a concept that keeps divorcing spouses out of court.  Further, who would think that attorneys would be willing to take a step back, and allow (i) mental health professionals to take the lead in emotional divorce discussions and (ii) financial professionals to be the point people on the division of assets and debts and other support topics.

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And, yet, that is what collaborative lawyers do.

Collaborative practice is growing around the world, including in Brazil.  Below is a video in Portuguese that discusses collaborative divorce in Brazil:

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Video: Stu Webb’s Collaborative Divorce & Jazz

Stu Webb is an attorney from Minnesota who one day decided that he no longer wanted to be involved in the destruction of divorce court, and so he created collaborative divorce.  Collaborative divorce is a private process where spouses become teammates rather than opposing parties, and attorneys focus on problem-solving rather than fighting.

Oftentimes accountants, psychologists, financial planners, therapists, and others are used to make sure that not just the legal needs, but also the emotional and financial needs of the spouses are met.

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Collaborative Divorce has become more common here in Tampa Bay as families and attorneys realize that the court system should be seen as a forum of last resort, rather than first resort, to resolve personal issues.

Now, as it turns out, Stu Webb is not only the founder of collaborative divorce, but he is also an avid fan of Jazz.  You can find a short video he helped create comparing collaborative divorce to jazz after the jump.

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Radio: Can Therapy Save A Marriage?

I recently attended the 16th Annual Forum of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and I had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by Gary Direnfeld, a social worker and collaborative professional in Ontario, Canada.  He was an excellent speaker and was discussing cutting edge ideas on helping families.

Gary was recently on a radio program to discuss an age-old question: Can therapy help save a marriage?

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