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Money Talk 1010 AM: Introducing Collaborative Divorce

I recently had the opportunity to appear on the Let’s Talk Law radio program along with Licensed Mental Health Counselor Linda Peterman.  We were introducing collaborative divorce to the Tampa Bay listeners of Money Talk 1010 AM and had a great conversation with host Roxanne Wilder.

Collaborative divorce is a private form of dispute resolution where each spouse retains an attorney.  The attorneys only focus on negotiating an agreement, and they are contractually barred from engaging in contested court proceedings.  All negotiations are had in a private conference room rather than the public courthouse.

A neutral facilitator, who generally is licensed in a field of mental health, oftentimes helps the spouses focus on what is most important (such as the welfare of the children) rather than the arguments of the past.  A neutral financial professional, who has either a financial planning or accounting background, is frequently retained to efficiently ensure full financial transparency and aid the spouses to make the transition from married life to financially independent single life.

You can listen to the radio program, which was sponsored by Next Generation Divorce and aired on September 4, 2015 immediately after the Dave Ramsey Show, after the jump.

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Collaborative Divorce in Israel: The Peaceful Divorce

While Collaborative Divorce began in the United States in 1990 when Minnesota family law attorney Stu Webb declared that he would no longer take any new litigated cases, it has spread throughout the world to provide spouses with a private, respectful method to separate.

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One such place that it has spread is Israel, where a practice group named “L’Hitgaresh B’Shalom” based out of Tel Aviv is teaching Israelis how they can constructively restructure their families.  L’Hitgaresh B’Shalom roughly translates as “The Peaceful Divorce,” “To Divorce in Peace,” or “Divorcing Peacefully.”  In a region that is oftentimes in the midst of physical battles, it is amazing that there are professionals who are attempting to insulate families from the destruction of court battles.

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Video: Don’t Make Your Divorce A Declaration of War

Collaborative professionals around the country and, indeed, around the world are getting the word out that there is a better alternative to traditional divorce court battles: Collaborative Divorce.

In the video below, New Jersey attorney Linda Piff has a great short video that provides a brief overview of the collaborative process.

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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, and family issues should be resolved via the collaborative process in private offices rather than public courtrooms.  And yet, we concede that our approach may not be for everyone.

So, when should you look elsewhere for an “aggressive” divorce lawyer?

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Research: Collaborative Divorce By The Numbers (2010)

A few years ago, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals released the results of a survey of 933 collaborative divorce and family law cases.  Collaborative divorce is a process by which parties, instead of going to court to litigate, agree to a private framework that lends itself to developing more creative options for financial, child custody, and other family issues.  In Florida, oftentimes a neutral facilitator/communication coach and a neutral financial professional are engaged to facilitate and lend their expertise to the process.

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The survey was conducted from October  2006 through July 2010, and these results were compiled in the Spring 2012 edition of The Collaborative Review: The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP Research Regarding Collaborative Practice (Basic Findings)” by Linda Wray, J.D.):

  • 58% of husbands and 59% of wives were between 40 and 54 years old;
  • Over three-quarters of all clients had a 4-year college education or higher;

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Polyamorous “Divorce” in Tampa Bay

More and more people in the Tampa Bay area and beyond are finding themselves in relationships that do not quite fit the traditional mold.  Many are in long-term romantic relationships with more than one partner, where the other partners are also in romantic relationships with each other.

These relationships are oftentimes referred to as “polyamorous,” or love involving more than 2 people.  Polyamory is not about sex, just as traditional marriage is not about sex, but about the relationship between the partners.

And just as many traditional marriages end in separation, polyamorous relationships can also end in separation.  The problem is that the laws and the court system are not built with polyamorists in mind.

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Video: What is Collaborative Divorce? by Cypress Collaborative

Collaborative divorce starts out with a pledge by both spouses: We will not fight one another in court. Each spouse hires his and her own attorney, and the two attorneys and two clients sign a participation agreement formalizing the pledge not to fight one another. The attorneys are then barred from filing any contested legal pleadings or appearing in any contested hearings on behalf of the clients.

In the most common collaborative divorce model that we use in Tampa Bay, a neutral facilitator, who generally has a mental health background, is retained to help the clients focus on the future and the issues (such as parenting) that are most important to them rather than the arguments of the past. Additionally, a financial professional is retained to cost-effectively ensure that each has retained sufficient financial disclosure (i.e., trust but verify) and to help them development financial options that are tailored to their family.

Cypress collaborative, a group of experienced collaborative professionals in Washington State, have put together a fantastic video that further explains the collaborative process. You can see the video after the jump.

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Podcast: Linda Solomon Discusses September St. Petersburg Collaborative Training

Recently, Linda Solomon, a Licensed Professional Counselor, appeared on the Divorce Without Destruction podcast to talk about the unique introductory collaborative training that she and the Lone Star Trainers are putting together for both civil law and family law professionals.  The training will take place September 11-12, 2015, at the beautiful St. Petersburg Yacht club in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and mediators can learn more and sign up here.

For those who don’t know, Linda Solomon is one of the founders of the Neutral Facilitator model of collaborative practice that is most commonly used here in Florida.

You can listen to the podcast after the jump.

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Top 5 Reasons to Choose Collaborative Divorce

Divorce is difficult, but not all divorces are created equally.  Here in Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota, more and more people are choosing to resolve their family law issues via the collaborative process.  Collaborative divorce is a method of dispute resolution where the spouses agree from the beginning that they are each going to retain attorneys who will work as settlement specialists and who will not engage in court battles.

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Video: Linda Solomon And The Neutral Facilitator Collaborative Divorce Model

Collaborative divorce has one simple requirement: The spouses must each retain attorneys who focus solely on helping them reach an agreement on all issues.  The collaborative attorneys are private problem-solving specialists, and they cannot be used in contested court hearings.  This requirement creates a safe, non-adversarial environment so that each spouse knows that the other spouse’s attorney is not attempting to gather information to use against him or her later in court.  It also ensures that resources are directed towards helping the clients reach an agreement rather than wasted in opposition research or dirty trial tactics.

There are many different models of collaborative divorce that are used throughout the world.  The model that is most frequently used here in Florida involves one neutral facilitator, who generally has a mental health background, and one neutral financial professional.  This model was created in Texas by, among others, Linda Solomon, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

You can learn more about Linda Solomon and the beginning of this model in the video below from Cutting Edge Law:

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