Filling Out Florida Divorce Forms

If you have ever tried filling out Florida divorce forms on your own, you know how difficult it can be.  Just the titles are confusing:  Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Financial Affidavit, Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit.

And yet, you may not be able to afford a full-service lawyer to help you out.  Fortunately, you do have an option.

Unbundled Legal Services

Most people going through divorce do not know about the option of unbundled legal services.  This is an option where you can retain an attorney on an a la cart basis to help you with discreet tasks.  For example, you may need help answering a petition, ghost-writing a letter, or figuring out how child support guidelines work.  Lawyers who provide unbundled legal services will oftentimes require a much-reduced upfront retainer and may hold a credit card number on file to charge on a pay-as-you-go basis.

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Video: How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

Collaborative divorce seems great in theory, but many people don’t quite understand how it works.  This great video from the Crouch Group and Rhett Creative provides a fantastic explanation of how Collaborative Divorce works.


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What is Marital Mediation?

Mediation has been around for a while to help people privately resolve disputes.  Generally, it has been associated with helping parties resolve legal issues, such as divorce, paternity, or even contracts or business disputes.  But mediation can also be used to resolve every day disputes.  In fact, the purpose of marital mediation is to help strengthen marriages.

Marital mediation is a concept promoted by New York psychologist Ken Neumann and Boston family attorney John Fiske.  In marital mediation here in Tampa Bay, you sit down with neutral co-mediators.  One is trained as an attorney, and the other who is trained as a therapist.  However, they will not be providing therapy or giving legal advice.  Rather, the co-mediators help you identify the issues that are causing problems in your marriage and help you reach agreements.

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Typical Steps in a Collaborative Divorce

Divorce is tough.  Your marriage is falling apart and the foundation upon which you thought you could depend is no longer there.  Rather than fling yourself into the chaotic and adversarial divorce court system, you have alternatives.  One structured alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse retain separate attorneys to guide you along the way.  Unlike litigation lawyers, these attorneys’ only purpose is to help you reach an agreement as amicably and efficiently as possible.  In fact, the process prohibits Collaborative Attorneys from engaging in contested court proceedings.  Because of this, you do not have to worry about motion practice, depositions, or dirty trial tactics.  You can just focus on reaching a resolution that is best for your future.

Here in Tampa Bay, a neutral Collaborative Facilitator usually aids you.  The Facilitator has a specialty in communications, family dynamics, and childhood development.  When you and your spouse seem to get stuck in the arguments of the past, the Facilitator will help get things back on track and focused on the future.  Further, if you have children, the Facilitator will help you craft a parenting plan tailored to your children’s specific needs.

To ensure transparency, you may retain a neutral Financial Professional.  The Financial Professional helps you and/or your spouse understand the extent of your estate.  He or she will then help you develop options for best dividing it.  He or she can also help you develop budgets so you know that you will have a financially sustainable future after divorce.

Every Collaborative Divorce is Different

Every Collaborative Divorce is different.  However, as a trainer, many of my students (who are lawyers, financial professionals, mental health professionals, mediators, and others) find it helpful to have a step-by-step guide to Collaborative Divorce.  This is meant only as a sample.  The more Collaborative Cases I am involved with, the more they deviate from this guide; in truth, just as there is no “typical” family, there is no “typical” Collaborative Divorce.

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The Trauma of Hurricanes and Divorce

If you are going through divorce, you may have noticed that you are feeling and acting differently.  You may have trouble sleeping, or your appetite might have changed.  Perhaps the things that normally bring you joy, such as hanging out with friends, now just create anxiety or anger.  Maybe you are having difficulty thinking clearly, and you are just paralyzed to make a decision.

If so, this is normal.  You are going through divorce.  You are going through a trauma.

As we are in the midst of another potential trauma, hurricane threats, perhaps now is a good time to explore how trauma affects us.

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Collaborative Family Law: The 4 D’s of Resolution

Collaborative Divorce, also know as Collaborative Family Law, Collaborative Practice, and the Collaborative Process, is a structured form of dispute resolution where you and your spouse/partner can reach agreements privately and amicably.

J. David Harper, who is a forensic accountant and Collaborative Financial Neutral in Tampa Bay, refers to the structure of Collaborative Divorce as the “Four D’s.”  Harper writes in his article, Traits and Skills of a Highly Financial Neutral, published in Mosten & Cordover, eds., Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice (ABA 2018), the following:

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Transgender Family Law Tampa Bay

The question of which attorney to choose is a very personal one.  You want someone who will offer a warm, welcoming environment and who understands the unique legal and societal challenges that transgender family law matters often entail.  You want someone who has been on the forefront of LGBTQ family law rights and will be there for you.  We would be honored to represent you.

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Collaborative Lawyer Review

We at Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm, are grateful for the opportunity to help our clients through difficult times.   One such client, from a collaborative family law matter, was kind enough to leave a review on Avvo.com.

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IACP Video: Why Choose Collaborative Practice?

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is the premier organization urging families to resolve divorce and other family law matters in a better way.  Collaborative Divorce, also known as Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Law, and the Collaborative Process, is a structured method of private dispute resolution that keeps families out of court.

The short video below, produced by the IACP, explains why families facing divorce should consider Collaborative Practice.

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Explanation of Collaborative Process

Explanation of Collaborative Process Consent Form

When you come into my office to learn about collaborative divorce, I want to make sure that you understand the process.  Yes, collaborative divorce helps families day in and day out, but there are potential negatives that you need to know, as well.  Further, Rule 4-1.19 of the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct requires me to help ensure you have informed consent before entering the collaborative process.

Accordingly, I will sit down with you to discuss all aspects of collaborative practice.  At the end, I will provide you with an Explanation of Collaborative Process Consent Form to sign.  I have designed this form, but it is based on one created by Robert J. Merlin, an attorney in South Florida who was the point person for the adoption of Rule 4-1.19 by the Florida Supreme Court.

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