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Video: Manatee/Sarasota Financial Professional Discusses Collaborative Divorce

Divorce is not just a legal challenge.  It is also usually a financial challenge.

Unlike the traditional courtroom divorce, interdisciplinary collaborative divorce prepares clients to budget for the future and anticipate post-divorce life so that the challenges can be met.

Brian Pope of Divorce Financial Solutions is one of the premiere neutral financial professionals in the 12th Circuit of Florida (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties).  Brian has an MBA and is designated as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. In fact, several years ago Brian and I worked together to bring Next Generation Divorce – Florida’s largest practice group of independent collaborative attorneys,  mental health professionals, and financial professionals – into Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

You can find a brief interview of Brian and a discussion of his work in the collaborative process in the following video (after the jump):

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What Your Florida Divorce Lawyer May Not Be Telling You

The vast majority of divorce attorneys in Tampa Bay and around Florida are good, hardworking people with their clients’ best interests always at mind.  However, there is one divorce option that more and more financial and mental health professionals agree is the best way to handle a family law matter, and yet many attorneys will not tell their clients about it:  collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is a private form of dispute resolution where each spouse hires their own attorney only for the purposes of helping to negotiate a marital settlement agreement. Collaborative attorneys are contractually prohibited from going to trial or bringing any contested issues to be decided by a judge.

Trial Divorce = Big $$ for Attorneys

This is one reason why there are a lot of divorce trial lawyers who are against collaborative divorce:  attorneys make a lot of money billing time for trial-related activities such as depositions, interrogatories, witness preparation, exhibit analysis and selection, and trial itself.  Trial attorneys bill this time even though they know that 95% of all divorce cases end in settlement, even sometimes after trial but right before a judge issues a ruling.   Read more

Sample Florida Child Custody Schedules

In each Florida family law case (such as divorce or paternity) that involves the custody of a child, Florida law requires that a parenting plan be established.  One of the most important elements of a parenting plan is the child custody schedule, now known as a “time-sharing” schedule.

Family Law Tip:  You should never let a judge decide your child’s time-sharing schedule.  A judge does not know your family dynamics and bases such decisions on very limited information, and usually the judge is seeing parents, especially divorcing parents, at the worst time in their lives.  Instead, you and your co-parent should use a private form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative family law.

As I tell clients who come to my Tampa office, there are many different types of time-sharing schedules.  Below are some samples provided by the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Sarasota and Manatee Counties).  The parent who is listed in a box is the one whom the child will be staying with overnight:

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What Can I Do To Reduce The Costs Of My Florida Divorce?

Going through divorce in Florida can be a very expensive proposition.  No matter which path you choose for your divorce, you are going to be spending money.  However, there are things you can do to reduce your costs.

1.  Agree to the Collaborative Family Law Process

The first thing you and your spouse can do is retain collaboratively-trained attorneys and agree to use the collaborative family law process.  In the collaborative process, you and your spouse each hire separate attorneys for the sole purpose of helping you reach a settlement.  Collaborative attorneys are prevented by contract from engaging in expensive contested courtroom proceedings.  Accordingly, they focus their attention – and your resources – on helping you and your spouse come to an agreement, rather than preparing for trial or playing litigation games.

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Collaborative Divorce Consultation: I Will Meet With Both Spouses

When prospective divorce clients call in my Tampa office and ask whether both spouses can attend a consultation, they are often relieved to learn that I am willing to meet with both spouses.  I did not always have this policy.  In fact, most Florida divorce attorneys refuse to allow both parties to attend a consultation together.

There is a strict prohibition against an attorney representing both parties to a divorce, and most lawyers want to avoid even the appearance of representing both spouses.

And I, like other attorneys, cannot represent both spouses.  But what I can do is invite divorcing spouses into my office and discuss with them the available process options.  Of course, I will talk with them about traditional litigation, which is the court battle that often comes to mind when people think about divorce.  I will bring up mediation, which is a great form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to come to an agreement, but which leaves open the door for their mediation attorneys to engage in detrimental litigation if a full settlement is not reached.

And I will talk about collaborative divorce, which is a voluntary, private process in which the parties and their attorneys agree from the very beginning that they do not want to engage in nasty, public court fights.  In fact, the spouses, who each will have their own individual attorney, sign a participation agreement that states that their attorneys must withdraw if the parties cannot come to an agreement.  Collaborative divorce has a success rate of nearly 90%, so this withdrawal clause hardly ever comes into play, but it allows clients to be open in negotiations without worrying that their spouse’s attorney is keeping an ear open for opposition research to use in trial later on.

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Collaborative Divorce Comes To Sarasota & Manatee Counties

From Brian Pope, MBA, CDFA, and Cindy Barry, Esq.:

I am extremely pleased to announce that there is a new group in town!  The “Next Generation Divorce” group for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has been formed as an expansion of “Next Generation Divorce” of Tampa Bay.

Next Generation Divorce

As the President of the Twelfth Judicial branch of the Next Generation Divorce group (Cindy Barry, not me), it is my sincere pleasure to extend an invitation to the bench and Bar of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit to attend a free presentation on collaborative law on February 6, 2014, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  in the Palm Room at the Sarabay Country Club located at 7011 Willow Street, Sarasota, Florida, 34243.  There will be a variety of complimentary Hors d’Ouerves and a cash bar available for libations.

Our guest speaker is the President of the Tampa Bay area “Next Generation Divorce”, Mr. Adam Cordover, Esq.   He will be sharing the successes of the collaborative law practices in the greater Tampa Bay area and answering questions on how to incorporate collaborative law into your practice.   Of course, there will be a social hour immediately following the presentation.

It is an exciting time as “Next Generation Divorce” is an active and professional group of Attorneys, Mental Health Professionals and Financial Professionals that have been collaboratively trained to help remove court cases from the traditional Court system.  You can visit our website at www.nextgenerationdivorce.com.

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Family Law Courtroom Etiquette in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties

It’s always good to make a good impression when going into a Florida Family Law Court, and one of the best ways to make a good impression is to follow proper etiquette.  Fortunately, the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has published its Rules of Etiquette for Family Law cases in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties:

1. Be aware that the judges, general magistrates, hearing officers, or any other court personnel cannot give you legal advice. You may only obtain legal advice from an attorney. You may obtain general information from the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s website at www.jud12.flcourts.org.

2. Arrive at least twenty (20) minutes before your hearing is scheduled to begin. There are unpredictable times when legal emergencies pressure the court to begin as early as possible. You should know that a judge may also dismiss your case if you are not present at the scheduled time.

3. All persons appearing before the court must dress in an appropriate manner. Shorts, hats, flip-flops, jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, and tank tops are not suitable for the courtroom.

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Tampa Bay Clerks of Court Return to Regular Service Hours

Thanks to a 7% increase in the budget for Florida clerks of the court, Tampa area clerks will increase their hours beginning October 1, 2012.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, the seven percent increase restores the amount that was cut from the statewide clerk budget in the spring, when office hour were reduced.

These extended office hours will allow Tampa Bay clerks to tackle the current backlog and hopefully help family law cases to be processed faster.

The local clerks’ new office hours (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays) are listed below:

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Tampa Bay Clerks of the Court Slow to Implement e-Filing

You may have heard of the term “paperless office,” where documents are stored on networks and hard drives rather than in physical drawers and filing cabinets.  The advantages of the paperless office over traditional means of storing documents include the following: money is saved on paper and postage; space is saved from bulky file cabinets; trees are saved from being cut down; and time is saved by quick transmittal of documents via e-mail.  This usually also translates to savings for the customer or client.

Well, the Florida Courts have set their sights on a paperless court system.  This starts out with e-filing (the filing of documents via the internet rather than dropping off paper copies).  e-Filing began through Florida’s e-Filing Portal in January 2012, and the clerks of the Court have set a goal to have all counties accepting e-filing for their civil (non-criminal) divisions through the Portal by July 1, 2012.

Many counties have been quick to implement e-filing through the Portal.  In fact, according to a presentation provided at the February 1, 2012, e-Filing Authority Board Meeting, 41 counties now accept at least some filing electronically through the portal.  Polk County is included in these counties, though it does not yet accept e-filing for family law cases.

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Hillsborough County Intends to Implement e-Filing by March 2012

Members of the Florida Bar have long been making the case for e-filing, or the ability to file documents through the internet rather than filing a physical copy with the clerk of the court.  E-filing holds the promise of reducing the time and costs associated with interacting with the clerk.  The Florida Supreme Court authorized e-filing through the Florida Court’s e-filing portal, which became active for some counties on January 1, 2011.

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