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Video: Hiring A Collaborative Divorce Lawyer

In Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota, you have a lot of choices when determining who should be your divorce lawyer.  You may have already figured out that your best, least destructive path is via collaborative practice, where you and your spouse work together to ensure your kids and finances survive the divorce.  But how do you choose which attorney to hire to represent you in a collaborative divorce?

The video below, from Reel Lawyers, discusses the importance of hiring an attorney who specializes in collaborative practice.

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Top 5 Reasons to Choose Collaborative Divorce

Divorce is difficult, but not all divorces are created equally.  Here in Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota, more and more people are choosing to resolve their family law issues via the collaborative process.  Collaborative divorce is a method of dispute resolution where the spouses agree from the beginning that they are each going to retain attorneys who will work as settlement specialists and who will not engage in court battles.

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Video: General’s Daughter Discusses Her Peaceful Divorce

Cynthia Schwarzkopf, daughter of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr, discusses how she and her husband utilized the collaborative family law process to dissolve her marriage in a video released by the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group.

You can see the video below the jump:

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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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What Are Florida Standard Family Law Interrogatories?

There are times when a Florida judge orders – or an opposing counsel requests – a person to answer standard family law interrogatories.  So what are standard family law interrogatories?

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Tampa Divorce: Adversarial versus Collaborative

If you are getting divorced in Tampa Bay, you have two main options:  Enter the adversarial system or utilize the collaborative process.  How is adversarial divorce different from collaborative divorce?

The term “adversarial” is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “pertaining to or characterized by antagonism and conflict.”

Anyone who has gone through the traditional divorce litigation process can probably relate and understand why the Florida court system is known as an adversarial system.  A Husband and Wife are forced to face off as adversaries, with each often trying to prove the other a bad parent with poor morals and terrible financial habits, to boot.  They are treated as opposing parties with dueling experts and contrary interests.  Their personal lives are poked and prodded and laid bare in a public forum as they get judged by, well, a judge.  Mediation may be utilized, but litigation attorneys always maintain the threat to do battle in court.

Contrast this to collaborative divorce, a form of dispute resolution offered in Tampa Bay.  A Husband and Wife are treated not as adversaries, but as members of a team who, along with their collaborative attorneys and other professionals, are simply looking for options to settle differences.  A facilitator ensures that communication remains productive and that the spouses focus on their common interests, such as their children.  Often times, a neutral financial professional will help the spouses learn how to maximize the benefit of their assets while minimizing the impact of debt.

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Florida Divorce – What If I Deny That My Marriage Is Irretrievably Broken?

In the 1970’s, Florida followed the trend of other states by adopting “no fault divorce.”  Prior to this, parties needed to allege a reason for a divorce, such as infidelity, domestic violence, or impotence.  Once Florida become a no fault state, all that needed to be alleged was that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

But what if one party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken?  Florida Statutes section 61.052(2)(b) addresses this possibility:

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Tampa Court Publishes Requirements for Divorce

In an effort to make the process for divorce clearer to litigants in Hillsborough County, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit has published the following Requirements for Dissolution of Marriage:

1.  PROOF OF RESIDENCY. 6 months prior to filing Petition. May be proved by drivers license, voter I.D., Affidavit of Corroborating Witness; or testimony of witness. Section 61.052(2), Fla. Stat.

2.  U.C.C.J.E.A. If any minor child or children born as a result of the marriage. Section 61.501 -61.542, Fla. Stat. (2002)

3.  FINANCIAL AFFIDAVITS for each spouse, Rule 12.285(d)(1), Family Law Rules. (This requirement may not be waived if there are financial issues.) Under $50K/Yr. – Over $50K/Yr.

4.  COMPLETED CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES WORKSHEET, if there are minor children. Family Law Rules Form 12.902(e).

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Florida Support Unconnected With Divorce

Section 61.09 of the Florida Statutes allows a spouse to request alimony (also referred to as “separate maintenance” or “spousal support”) and/or child support without asking for divorce.

There are various reasons why a spouse may file a case for support without asking for a divorce:

  • Florida does not recognize the status of “legal separation,” so this process allows a spouse to have a trial period apart without having to make a decision regarding divorce;
  • A party may not want a divorce because of religious beliefs;
  • A spouse may not want to go through a divorce while his or her children are still under the age of 18 or living in the home; or
  • A person may not have met the six month residency requirement to file for divorce (Florida requires that at least one party to a divorce reside in the state for at least six months prior to the filing of divorce; a proceeding for support unconnected to divorce has no such residency requirement).

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Florida Divorce – Time to Respond to a Petition

It is important for every person who is served with a Florida petition for dissolution of marriage to respond to the petition in a timely manner.

The petition, which sets out what a person wants a judge to do (such as dissolve the marriage, rule on custody, order child support, and divide marital property and debt), is generally personally served by a sheriff’s deputy or other authorized process server.  Once served, the respondent has 20 days to provide an answer to the petition and agree or disagree with the petitioner’s requests and allegations.

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