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Collaborative Law Rules at Florida Supreme Court

Collaborative Law Rules Approved by Florida Supreme Court

On May 18, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court published an opinion approving collaborative law rules.  The collaborative law rules are the last step necessary before Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act goes into effect.

The opinion approves Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19 and Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745.

Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.19

Florida Bar Rule 4-1.19 is a rule of professional conduct.  It creates certain obligations of attorneys representing clients within the collaborative process.  Among other things, the rule requires collaborative lawyers to do the following when contemplating collaborative practice with a client:

  • Provide sufficient information about the benefits and risks of the collaborative process;
  • Explain alternatives to the collaborative process, including litigation and mediation;

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Face-to-Face Mediation

I have noticed lately that there is a trend among divorce mediators in Tampa Bay: keep spouses separate from one another.  This is known as “caucus”-style mediation, where the spouses are kept in separate rooms from the very beginning of mediation, and the mediator travels back and forth between the rooms relaying information and offers.

There is a good reason why many great mediators prefer caucus-style mediation.  As divorce is a highly-emotional process, spouses can set each other off when they are facing one another, and negotiations can descend into argument and cease being productive.

I can see where caucus-style mediation may be appropriate for some families, but it is not my preferred method.

acordover_logoRather, when I act as the neutral mediator, I prefer to practice face-to-face mediation.

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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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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.

Almost all Tampa Bay divorce lawyers refuse such a request to meet both spouses.  In fact, for the first few years, I also would not meet with both parties.  The reason was simple: the Florida Bar has found time and again that it is unethical for an attorney to represent both spouses to a divorce because there is an insurmountable conflict of interest.  Further, attorneys do not want to even give the impression that they are representing both spouses, so they avoid meeting with both spouses.

But now, I encourage both spouses to come to a divorce consultation.  In fact, I charge half my normal consultation fee, because I believe that one of the best ways to ensure that a marriage ends amicably is for both parties to start the divorce process together.

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Money Talk 1010 AM: Cost Savings of Collaborative Divorce Compared to Trial Divorce

I recently was at the St. Petersburg studios of Money Talk 1010 AM with fellow attorney Joryn Jenkins to discuss, among other things, how a collaborative divorce tends to make more financial sense then going through the traditional courthouse divorce.  The discussion was facilitated by Let’s Talk Law’s Roxanne Wilder and sponsored by Next Generation Divorce.

The radio program begins around the 5:30 mark after the jump below.

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UFC: Comparing Unified Family Courts with Ultimate Fighting Championship

I am a huge fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, usually referred to by its initials, UFC.  This comes as a big surprise to those getting to know me, because in my professional life I am dedicated to helping Tampa Bay families peacefully resolve their differences via the collaborative law process.  But there is something about the techniques, the artistry, the competition, the drama of a good fight that keeps drawing me to watch the sport.

And yet, I am not a big fan of another UFC, the Unified Family Courts, at least not as a means to resolve family disputes.  Beginning in 1991, a series of Florida Supreme Court opinions set out to create separate court division for families going through divorce, coordinate actions among the judges, and resolve family law issues in a fair, timely, efficient, and cost-effective method.  Though we have incredible and dedicated judges, clerks, and court staff who try their very best, it is still a very flawed system for helping families move on with their lives.

This post looks to compare these two UFCs.

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Keiba Shaw Media Statement on Tampa Same Sex Divorce Appeal

On May 29, 2015, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal released its opinion in the matter of Shaw v. Shaw.  It determined that Florida should give full faith and credit to a same-sex marriage entered into under the laws of Massachusetts, and that Florida courts have the authority to dissolve the marriage.

This has been a long, tough road, but this is truly a great day for equality.

Keiba Shaw has authorized the release of the following statement:

An uncontested divorce between a man and a woman in Florida can be resolved in as little as a month. That’s just four weeks to dissolve a negative situation that both parties agree needs to end. It doesn’t matter how long they were married or WHERE they were married.

My [soon-to-be] former spouse and I used a next generation process, collaborative divorce, that was designed to resolve conflicts in a manner that was private, non-litigated, peaceful, and respectful. We reached a full agreement on all issues in two meetings that were one week apart.

And yet, because my former spouse and I are both women, my divorce has taken more than a year to be granted and has unnecessarily disrupted my life and that of my family members. The legal complexities have limited my options and the resulting financial burden has made it harder to take care of my family the way I envisioned.

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Research Findings on Collaborative Divorce from England and Wales

In June 2014, United Kingdom researchers Anne Barlow, Rosemary Hunter, Janet Smithson, and Jan Ewing published a research paper titled Mapping Paths to Family Justice.  The paper was based on research sponsored by the University of Exeter, the University of Kent, and the Economic & Research Council and which compared various forms of private dispute resolution for divorce, including collaborative practice.

As collaborative divorce is relatively new in England and Wales, there were comparatively few respondents for the research, so it may not be representative of all collaborative cases.  Nonetheless, it may be helpful for Florida families and collaborative practitioners to review the results.

The study reviews three types of private forms of family dispute resolution.  One type, solicitor negotiation, isn’t exactly utilized in Florida as we do not have do not have a distinction between solicitors and barristers, we just have attorneys.  Either way, below are the definitions used for each process that was analyzed:

  1. Solicitor negotiation – Solicitors engage in a process of correspondence and discussion to broker a solution on behalf of their clients without going to court.
  2. Mediation – Both parties attempt to resolve issues relating to their separation with the assistance of a professional family mediator.
  3. Collaborative law – Each party is represented by their own lawyer, negotiations are conducted face to face in four-way meetings between the parties and their lawyers, with all parties agreeing not to go to court.

Below are some of the main findings and recommendations on divorces that used the collaborative law process:

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Tampa Bay Times Article on 2015 Florida Collaborative Divorce Bill

The Tampa Bay Times recently published an article on collaborative divorce.  The article quotes four local collaborative professionals (attorneys Ingrid Hooglander, Tanya O’Conner, and Mark Moon, and psychologist Rachel Moskowitz), all of whom are members of Next Generation Divorce, an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to educating the public about a healthier way to resolve their family disputes.

The article also interviews State Senator Tom Lee of Brandon, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 642, the Collaborative Law Practice Act.  Though collaborative law is already being practiced as a private way to resolve divorces and other family law issues in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, the bill provides a legal framework for the process and adds protections to the privacy of communications during settlement talks.

Below is an excerpt:

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