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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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Video: Ron Ousky on Hiring A Family-Focused Divorce Lawyer

When determining which attorney to hire for your divorce, you may be tempted to believe that your best option is to hire an overly-aggressive lawyer.  But is that truly going to benefit you and your family?  Do you want to make your spouse “the enemy” and make your children collateral damage?  Well, there is another option.  Instead, you can hire a family-focused divorce lawyer.

In the video below, Minnesota collaborative attorney Ron Ousky, former president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, discusses, among other things, why you should consider hiring a family-focused divorce lawyer.

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Tampa Courts Crack Down on Frivolous Litigation

On June 5, 2017, the Honorable Ronald N. Ficarrotta, Chief Judge of the Thirteenth Circuit in and for Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa), entered an administrative order seeking to sanction and crack down on frivolous litigation.

Frivolous Litigation

Litigation is how divorce has traditionally been handled.  In litigation, husbands are pitted against wives.  Mothers are pitted against fathers.  Further, each makes arguments to make him or herself look good and the other look bad.  As you can imagine, this way of handling divorce can get out of hand, and children are usually stuck in the middle.

New Administrative Order on Frivolous Litigation

Here is what the administrative order says about frivolous litigation:

Access to Florida state courts is a right enjoyed by all persons under Article V, section 21 of the Florida Constitution, regardless of legal representation. When a person abuses his or her right to access to the courts however, the courts have an obligation to balance the litigant’s right of access and the need of the courts to prevent repetitious and frivolous filings.

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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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Divorce Lessons Learned

Every attorney learns lessons from the divorce cases with which they are involved.  Some attorneys learn lessons that have unintentional, destructive consequences for the family of the client whom they serve.  Other attorneys learn lessons that contribute to a peaceful resolution of disputes.

Divorce Attorneys Learn All Types of Lessons from Their Cases

Attorney Nancy Retsinas on Divorce Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned in Divorce Cases

After 25 years of practice, Washington collaborative divorce attorney Nancy Retsinas shares lessons that she has learned along the way:

  • Many roads lead to resolution — collaboration, mediation, even plain-old cooperation. The courtroom should be the road of last resort.
  • Listen to gain understanding. Only by actively listening — without preconceptions or judgments — am I able to truly understand my client’s needs.
  • Don’t ask for — but also don’t be afraid of — conflict. Everything is figure-out-able.
  • Build rapport. Understanding all perspectives in a dispute results in better, more durable agreements — and almost always keeps people out of court.
  • It is not only possible, [but] it is imperative to treat all people respectfully — especially those you disagree with.
  • The Law” rarely solves “The Problem.”
  • Plan for peacemaking and be prepared for a few the bumps in the road before getting there.
  • Be future-focused. Encourage clients to look forward and not dwell on past hurts or resentments. It’s the only way to true resolution.
  • Clients seek clear legal guidance focused on their underlying interests. Legal advice given in a vacuum is rarely helpful.
  • Honesty above all else.

Lessons for You

The main lessons for spouses to take away from Nancy’s list is that court is rarely the answer for divorcing families.  Rather, respect and cooperation provide spouses the best opportunity to (i) move on with their lives as quickly as possible, (ii) protect their children along the way, and (iii) spend the least amount of money in the divorce process.

If you have questions about collaborative divorce or how we can help you move forward, schedule a meeting with Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.


Adam B. Cordover focuses exclusively on out-of-court dispute resolution with a focus on collaborative divorce, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services.  Adam is a co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on collaborative law.

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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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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What Is Co-Mediation?

Many people who are getting divorced want to reach an agreement with their spouse, but they need some help to do so.  Though non-adversarial options such as collaborative practice allow those who need more support to each have their own attorney to provide them advice, not everyone wants to be represented by an attorney.

For those people, co-mediation may be a perfect option.  And Family Diplomacy is proud to be one of the leading firms in Tampa Bay to offer co-mediation services.

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Client Review: Keeping It Real In Divorce

I recently was reviewed by a former client on the Facebook Page for Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm.  The client discusses the need to determine whether the style of an attorney you may use in your divorce is focused on encouraging fighting and earning the billable hour or encouraging collaboration and focusing on your family.

FLORIDA BAR NOTICE:  Each case is different, and you may not retain the same or similar results.

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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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