Recently, Forrest “Woody” Mosten shared notes from a 1996 meeting he had with fellow innovative family law professionals. In attendance at the meeting were Stu Webb (who created the concept of collaborative family law), Woody, Jody Mosten, Bill Howe, Ed Sherman, Cheryl Woodard, Susan Cameron, Ed Cameron, Carol Farr, Peggy Williams, Hillis Williams, and Lowell Halverson.
COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW IN FLORIDA. No matter how you look at it, divorce and family law matters are difficult to go through. Expectations of stability are shattered,
mistrust grows, and bills pile up. And then the litigation begins. Attorneys file and serve petitions, counterpetitions, requests to produce, and motions to compel. Each party hires dueling mental health experts to convince a judge that he or she should have more time with the children. Privacy is eliminated as each party’s life is probed and publicly questioned so that one side may gain a tactical advantage.
But there is a different way. A more civilized way. And it is called Collaborative Family Law (also known as Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Practice).
We are a Collaborative law firm dedicated to helping people resolve personal disputes without destroying their families. We encourage the use of the Collaborative Family Law model in divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, post-judgment, prenuptial, and most other family law cases. Further, Adam B. Cordover is an internationally-recognized leader in Collaborative Practice, a trainer who teaches other professionals how to help families Collaboratively, and author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Collaborative Law.
You may be considering using the collaborative process to divorce in a more private, amicable way, but you may wonder: “What if my spouse is hiding assets? Can we use the collaborative process? Will it work if there are hidden assets?”
In the video below, California attorney Pauline Tesler, a founder of interdisciplinary collaborative practice and the first president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, addresses hidden assets:
Divorce is not only stressful and life changing for you, but also for your children. As a parent, you want your children to come out of your divorce as unscathed as possible. How do you ensure that happens?
You are likely more emotional and busier than ever during your divorce process. However, now is the time to stay connected with your children. Spend special time with them doing activities that they enjoy. Check in with their teachers, coaches, and friends to make sure that they are doing okay.
Is divorce on your horizon? If so, are you fearing entering a public adversarial system where husband is pitted against wife, and mother is pitted against father? Fortunately, there are alternatives. One alternative is the collaborative divorce process, where you and your spouse sign a participation agreement that states, among other things, that your attorneys can only be used to help you reach an agreement outside of court. This means that none of you or your attorneys’ time, energy, or billable time goes towards opposition research, motion practice, or costly trial preparation.
The collaborative participation agreement spells out the rules of the collaborative process. Below you will find a sample participation agreement that I oftentimes use in my cases here in Florida. Please note that different professionals and different communities use different participation agreements. Further, the same professional may have different participation agreements depending on the type of matter or the complexity of the matter.
As I have had the fortune to model my participation agreement based on the work of others, I welcome other professionals to modify and adapt the collaborative participation agreement below as their own:
In 2010, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) released the results of a 4 year study on Collaborative Practice. The results were based on information gathered from collaborative professionals who filled out a survey at the end of their case. The IACP Research Committee collected 933 surveys from throughout the United States and Canada, 97% of which were for divorce cases.
Remarkably, the IACP found that 86% of collaborative cases ended in a full resolution of all issues, while an additional 2% ended in reconciliation between the clients. Of those cases that terminated prior to a full agreement, 14% included a partial agreement between the clients, narrowing the issues that needed to be addressed.
In the aftermath of this research project, the IACP offered grants to local and statewide practice groups so that they could begin gathering data. The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP), an organization of over 500 independent collaborative professionals throughout the state of Florida, applied for IACP’s Gay Cox grant (named after a pioneer of the Collaborative Law Movement and proponent of research on the topic, who passed in 2013). The IACP approved the FACP’s grant request.
The results below are based on 101 responses, collected between December 16, 2013, and January 31, 2018. The authors note that data collection is ongoing, and encourage all professionals to complete and submit one survey at the end of each collaborative case. Surveys can be accessed and submitted via the member-only portal of the FACP website (http://collaborativepracticeflorida.com). For questions on the survey or accessing the members-only portal, professionals are encouraged to contact the authors.
There are a lot of great books out there on collaborative divorce. Some, like Forrest S. Mosten’s Collaborative Divorce Handbook: Helping Families without Going to Court and Pauline Tesler’s Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce without Litigation, are geared towards divorce professionals. Others, like Stu Webb and Ron Ousky’s The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court and Joryn Jenkin’s War or Peace: Avoid the Destruction of Divorce, are geared towards families considering divorce.
A new offering is helpful for both professionals and families. Enter Dr. Jeremy S. Gaies’ A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce.
Dr. Gaies is a psychologist and collaborative facilitator/coach in Tampa, Florida. Full disclosure: He also teaches attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and mediators how to offer families collaborative services through the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers, a group in which I am also a trainer.
There has been a growing recognition over the past few decades that courtroom divorce, an adversarial process that pits husband against wife, is a dreadful and harmful method to resolve family disputes. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court, like many other judicial bodies, declared that family matters needed “a system that provided nonadversarial alternatives and flexibility of alternatives; a system that preserved rather than destroyed family relationships;…and a system that facilitated the process chosen by the parties.” In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 794 So. 2d 518, 523 (Fla. 2001).
Two alternatives that have developed to fill this space are mediation and collaborative divorce. As collaborative divorce is a relatively new option, and there exists much confusion – even among experienced family law practitioners – about the differences between these two methods of dispute resolution, this article looks to compare and contrast mediation and collaborative divorce.
Event versus Process
Mediation is generally a one-time meeting where the parties come together, along with a mediator, to attempt to settle disputes. In Florida, the parties’ attorneys are also in the room, though other jurisdictions exclude attorneys. The mediator is a neutral actor who does not have the power to force the parties into any type of settlement, but can only encourage them to reach an agreement. A mediation conference will generally last from 3 to 8 hours or more. If the parties cannot reach an agreement in that meeting, then they tend to go to court, usually multiple times.
Collaborative divorce as a form of out-of-court dispute resolution has been around since 1990, but it did not just magically appear. Minnesota family law attorney Stu Webb decided he was fed up with the traditional adversarial court system. And he decided to do something about it.
In the video below, Henry Yampolsky of the Living Peace Institute interviews collaborative divorce founder Stu Webb:
Running a small business is tough enough. Running a small business while your marriage is falling apart can be crushing. But you don’t need to go through a traditional court battle if divorce is on the horizon. Your business does not need to be a casualty. There is an alternative. There is collaborative divorce.
Small Business & Privacy
Collaborative divorce is a form of out-of-court dispute resolution that values privacy. This means that your client lists, inventory details, and other trade secrets remain safely away from public court records. In fact, here in Florida, the Collaborative Law Process Act and accompanying rules safeguard most communications had within a collaborative divorce. Courts now have authority to sanction a party who reveals a collaborative law communication.
- Manafort’s Daughter Changed Her Name, And So Can You! March 8, 2019
- Podcast: In-Depth Interview on Collaborative Divorce February 28, 2019
- Is There A Better Way To Divorce? February 11, 2019
- Video: Bounds of Advocacy and Collaborative Divorce October 22, 2018
- Jewish Press Spotlights Cordover October 16, 2018