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Divorce: What Happens to My Small Business?

You have worked hard to build your small business in Tampa Bay or Greater Sarasota.  Your dreams and future are intertwined with your company.  But, now, you are facing divorce, and you are worried about how this will affect your small business.  You know there are quite a few issues that you will have to deal with.  Child custody, division of property and debts, and child and spousal support all need to be addressed.

Small Business and Collaborative Divorce

Small Business & Collaborative Divorce

But what happens to your small business?

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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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Financial Advisers Learn About Collaborative Divorce

Financial advisers are tasked with protecting their clients’ wealth.  And financial advisers want to help clients going through divorce make smart decisions and preserve their assets.  On December 8, 2016, the professionals and staff of the Sabal Trust Company in St. Petersburg, Florida, learned how collaborative divorce can safeguard their clients’ wealth, time, and privacy.

Discussing Collaborative Divorce

Sarah Hoerber, Tanya O’Connor, and Adam B. Cordover at Sabal Trust Company

Sabal Trust is the largest employee-owned trust company in Florida, and its Principals and staff are invested in creating a strategic approach to its clients financial security and growth. That is why they invited Family Diplomacy managing attorney Adam B. Cordover along with forensic accountant Sarah Hoerber and Brandon attorney Tanya O’Connor to discuss collaborative divorce.

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Video: Tampa Real Estate Agent Discusses Collaborative Divorce

Tampa real estate agent Rande Friedman was recently interviewed on the topic of collaborative divorce.  Rande, of White Glove House, has lived in the Tampa Bay area for the past 30 years, and he has been in the real estate industry for around ten years.

Rande is also a member of Next Generation Divorce, one of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice groups with professionals helping families in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.  Rande became involved in Next Generation Divorce after he helped a family who used the collaborative process in their divorce.  Rande found them in a better state of mind to agree upon their real estate needs and move on with their lives compared to clients who had litigated their divorce.

You can find a video and partial transcript of Rande Friedman discussing his experience with families transitioning via collaborative divorce after the jump:

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Protecting Your Tampa Bay Business With A Prenuptial Agreement

Under Florida divorce law, businesses are subject to equitable distribution.  This essentially means that it can be considered a marital asset that is divided as part of the resolution of all divorce-related issues.

Small-business owners, who have shed blood, sweat, and tears for their endeavor, find it surprising and frightening that a business might be divided in divorce.  Further, this can be disruptive to the spouse of the small business owner; if the business begins failing due to protracted fighting or litigation, the spouse’s ability to receive alimony or child support is greatly reduced.

Protecting Your Small Business

One way to protect a business from the fallout of divorce is to enter into a prenuptial agreement or, if you are already married, into a postnuptial agreement.

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Collaborative Divorce and Small Businesses

Divorce is one of life’s most difficult tests.  The stress that the traditional adversarial litigation divorce can have on employees cost business owners countless dollars every year.  Further, a private business is seen by Florida law as a potential marital asset, to be divided in divorce just like 401(k)’s, jewelry, or furniture.  When a business is put in the spotlight of a traditional courtroom divorce, Florida’s sunshine laws dictate that the remains of the business can be picked apart in detail by competitors sifting through a public court file.

Small Business & Collaborative Divorce Graphic

Collaborative family law (also known as collaborative divorce), by contrast, is non-adversarial.  The spouses’ attorneys are not seen as “opposing counsel,” but rather as teammates.  The clients themselves are not seen as “opposing parties,” but rather as co-parents or simply people looking to transition to the next stage of their lives.

Collaborative attorneys can only help the spouses reach an out-of-court settlement, so no time, money, or energy is spent on opposition research, dirty litigation tactics, or preparing for a costly trial.  This greatly reduces the stress on spouses and mitigates productivity losses.

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Divorce Without Lawyers – A Mediation Option in Tampa Bay

If you are going through divorce, you should have a lawyer.  Divorce is one of life’s traumatic moments, and it is smart to have a steady hand to advise you during uncertain times.

However, you don’t need to have a lawyer to get divorced.

Florida Supreme Court Mediator

You have the option of going through pro se mediation (mediation without legal representation).

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2016 Collaborative Law Process Act Making Progress in Florida Legislature

Senate Bill 972, the “Collaborative Law Process Act,” is making its way through the Florida Senate and will hopefully become law this summer.

[UPDATE 2: Governor Scott signed the Collaborative Law Process Act on 3/24/16]

[UPDATE: The Collaborative Law Process Act Passed the Florida Legislature on 3/4/16.  Learn more about it in the following Article: Collaborative Law Process Act Protects Families’ Privacy]

The Collaborative Law Process Act creates a legal framework for families to resolve disputes outside of court.  The bill specifies that family law matters under chapters 61 or 742 of the Florida Statutes may be resolved via the collaborative process.  These family law matters include the following:

  • Divorce;
  • Alimony and child support;
  • Marital property and debt distribution;
  • Child custody and visitation (also known as time-sharing and parental responsibility);
  • Parental relocation with a child;
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements; and
  • Paternity.

Families in Tampa Bay, Greater Sarasota, and throughout the state of Florida are already utilizing the collaborative process to resolve divorce and other matters privately and respectfully, but a big improvement with this bill is that there will be a statutory framework to ensure discussions had in the collaborative process can be enforced as confidential.   Read more

Florida Collaborative Divorce: A Flowchart

Many people come to my Tampa office because they heard collaborative divorce is private, respectful, conducive to co-parenting, and usually quicker than the traditional courtroom divorce.  But they do not quite understand logistically how the collaborative process works.

The first thing to understand is that each party is represented by his or her own attorney whose sole purpose is to help the parties reach a settlement.  The attorneys are contractually barred from engaging in costly, damaging contested court battles.  If parties want to fight one another in the court system, they must choose different litigation attorneys.

A neutral facilitator, who usually is licensed in a mental health profession, is involved in most collaborative cases.  The facilitator not only helps the parties (and attorneys) focus on the future rather than rehash the arguments of the past, but he or she also teaches the parties communication and dispute resolution techniques that will help them and their families long after the divorce is finalized.

A neutral financial professional is also oftentimes used to efficiently ensure financial transparency between the parties, to develop personally-tailored options for support and the division of assets and debts, and to help the clients budget to give them the best chance for financial security once their divorce is finalized.

Some folks are visual learners, and so my firm has created a flowchart that shows how a collaborative case might proceed.  Please understand that, depending on the facts of your case and the needs of your family, your collaborative divorce process may be customized differently:

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Florida Family Law: Mandatory Disclosure

When you file and serve a petition in a Florida family law case that involves financial issues such as child support, alimony, or the division of property in debts, a clock starts ticking.  Within 45 days of the initial pleadings being served on the respondent, each party is required to provide the other party with a whole host of financial documents and information.

This is what is known as Mandatory Disclosure, and it is governed by Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

The following are a list of documents that are required to be exchanged:

(1) A financial affidavit in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) if the party’s gross annual income is less than $50,000, or Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c) if the party’s gross annual income is equal to or more than $50,000, which requirement cannot be waived by the parties. The financial affidavits must also be filed with the court. A party may request, by using the Standard Family Law Interrogatories, or the court on its own motion may order, a party whose gross annual income is less than $50,000 to complete Florida Family Law Rules of
Procedure Form 12.902(c).

(2) All federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns filed by the party or on the party’s behalf for the past 3 years.

(3) IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year, if the income tax return for that year has not been prepared. Read more