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.
Let’s face it. Divorce is a very trying process. The person to whom you said “I do” now says “I won’t,” and your life is turned upside down. But you don’t need to make the experience more traumatic by going through a nasty court-based divorce.
It is becoming the opinion of more attorneys and mental health professionals that the best way to go through divorce is via the collaborative process. Collaborative divorce is a private way of resolving disputes. Each spouse hires their own attorney who commits to treating both spouses with respect and dignity. The husband’s attorney advises the husband, and the wife’s attorney advises the wife, but they try to develop options that restructures the family in the least destructive manner possible. Further, the attorneys are contractually barred from bringing contested issues in front of a judge, so they will not be conducting opposition research or take other tactics which tend to tear families apart.
When people come to my office for the first time to discuss their Tampa Bay divorce, they are often nervous because they want to end their marriage, but they don’t want to have the knock-down, drag-out court battles that they frequently hear about in the news. They simply want to resolve their family disputes as quickly, privately, and respectfully as possible, while also ensuring that they do not get the raw end of the deal.
And so many of these spouses are pleasantly surprised when I let them know that there is an option which fits all of these criteria: collaborative divorce.
The first and most important defining feature of collaborative divorce is that the parties each have their own attorney, and everyone agrees that they will not let a judge decide disputed issues. In fact, the attorneys are contractually barred from filing any contested motions or bringing matters that have not yet been agreed upon before a judge. This means that the parties and their attorneys will not be trying to tear each other down in a public forum and say things that cannot go unsaid. Rather, they meet in private offices on the parties’ schedules and agree that all discussion held in the meetings will be confidential until a comprehensive settlement is reached.
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