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Collaborative Divorce in Tampa Bay

What Is Next Generation Divorce?

If you have done internet searches for collaborative divorce in Tampa Bay or Greater Sarasota, you have likely come across the website for Next Generation Divorce (you can find the link here).  Next Generation Divorce has many members who are family law attorneys, but it is not a law firm.  It has members who are psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers, but it is not a therapy-related organization.  And it has members who are financial planners and C.P.A.’s, but it is not a financial planning or accounting firm.

Next Generation Divorce

Member of Next Generation Divorce

So what is Next Generation Divorce?

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Video: Separating Together

A collaborative practice group out of North Carolina called Separating Together has put together an excellent video that emphasizes that divorce is not only a legal process, but it is also an emotional, logistical, and financial process.

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You can see the video below:

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Radio Commercial: A Next Generation Divorce

Lately, as a member of Next Generation Divorce, one of the nation’s largest collaborative practice groups, I have had the opportunity to appear on Money Talk 1010’s Let’s Talk Law program.  Those programs will be on the web shortly.

In the meantime, you can find a 60 second commercial on Next Generation Divorce and the collaborative process below.

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International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Educational Forum

I am president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Florida’s largest collaborative practice group.  Next Generation Divorce is composed of over 130 members who are attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families resolve divorce and family law issues privately and respectfully, through the collaborative process.  Next Generation Divorce’s practitioners cover the Greater Tampa Bay area, with offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.

Forumhighlights WebMembers of Next Generation Divorce are also required to register with an umbrella organization, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”).  The IACP has over 5,000 members of various disciplines working in at least 27 different countries.  And, every year, the IACP puts together a massive conference, the Forum, which helps collaborative professionals refine their skills and learn advance topics in collaborative practice.

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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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Podcast: Forrest “Woody” Mosten on Building a Collaborative Practice

Forrest “Woody” Mosten, an internationally renowned collaborative professional and mediator and author of the Collaborative Divorce Handbook, The Complete Guide to Mediation, and Unbundling Legal Services, was recently in Tampa to put on a workshop sponsored by Next Generation Divorce.

During a lunch break at the workshop, Woody spoke with Dr. Garin Vick for his podcast show, Divorce Without Destruction.  Woody and Garin discussed how attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals could build a full-time peacemaking practice.  Again, this was recorded during a lunch break of a two-day conference, so the audio is not the greatest, but Woody offers great advice for divorce professionals who want to help their clients via collaborative practice and other non-litigation methods.

This podcast may be of interest not only to professionals, but also to divorcing spouses to get a glimpse of the passion that collaborative professionals tend to have for helping their clients:

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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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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

Who Started Collaborative Divorce?

Ever since my first basic collaborative divorce training in Tampa in 2011, I have been enthusiastically offering the collaborative process to my clients as a better way to handle family law matters.  I have also tried to become a student of the process, reading every book I can get my hands on that discusses collaborative divorce.

Right now I am reading The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court.  This book is written by Stu Webb, the founder of collaborative divorce, along with Ron Ousky, one of the early leaders of collaborative practitioners.

In the introduction of the book, Stu discusses how he came up with the collaborative method:

In 1989, I had been a divorce lawyer for about eighteen years – and was getting pretty sick of it.  I saw what the adversarial court battles that were the focus of divorce were doing to my clients, and I knew the resulting negativity was having an effect on me, too.

In traditional litigation two lawyers (or teams of lawyers) hash out the divorce in a court of law.  The actual parties to the divorce – the husband and wife – have almost no direct contact with each other, and what little interaction they have is usually bitter and unproductive.  Tension, fear, anger, and recrimination prevail.  This traditional process makes it almost impossible for the parties to have anything remotely resembling a healthy relationship after the divorce, even when there are children involved.

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Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

I have recently been involved in a Tampa family law matter that has made a couple of headlines lately. I represent a client who married her wife in Massachusetts, they moved to Florida, and ultimately they decided that their same sex marriage was irretrievably broken. The women reached a full settlement on all their marital issues, and, as the media has reported, now they are asking the court to grant them a divorce.

Related: In a Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter that I am Gay?

Related: Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

What has gotten far less attention is the fact that the women reached a full settlement agreement and formed a united front using the private collaborative family law process.

Unlike the more familiar divorce proceedings where parties hire gunslinger lawyers and have their dirty laundry aired in public courthouses, these women each retained a collaboratively-trained attorney (Ellen Ware and myself) who are experienced in respectful and interest-based negotiations. We attorneys were hired specifically to focus on reaching an amicable settlement in private offices; we both agreed that we would not inflame the situation by “building a case” against the other party and bringing arguments between the clients into the public courtroom.

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