Divorce is one of life’s most difficult tests. The stress that the traditional adversarial litigation divorce can have on employees cost business owners countless dollars every year. Further, a private business is seen by Florida law as a potential marital asset, to be divided in divorce just like 401(k)’s, jewelry, or furniture. When a business is put in the spotlight of a traditional courtroom divorce, Florida’s sunshine laws dictate that the remains of the business can be picked apart in detail by competitors sifting through a public court file.
Collaborative family law (also known as collaborative divorce), by contrast, is non-adversarial. The spouses’ attorneys are not seen as “opposing counsel,” but rather as teammates. The clients themselves are not seen as “opposing parties,” but rather as co-parents or simply people looking to transition to the next stage of their lives.
Collaborative attorneys can only help the spouses reach an out-of-court settlement, so no time, money, or energy is spent on opposition research, dirty litigation tactics, or preparing for a costly trial. This greatly reduces the stress on spouses and mitigates productivity losses.
A neutral facilitator, who generally has a license in therapeutic services, is usually engaged to help the spouses reduce costs to focus on the what is most important to them (i.e., their children or their financial futures) rather than the arguments of the past.
A neutral financial professional is also oftentimes utilized to help ensure the parties can make informed decisions (think trust, but verify) and assist the spouses to budget and figure out creative ways that assets may divided to minimize the impact on a private business. Further, any business valuations in collaborative divorce are done by a neutral person rather than the spouses having to both hire competing valuation experts at double the costs as is the norm in litigation.
Discussions are had in private and are confidential, and so business owners can have protections against sensitive company information being made public. And, once the newly signed Collaborative Law Process Act goes into effect, discussions had during the collaborative process will be protected by a statutory privilege.
If you are a small business owner who is going through divorce, or advising employees going through divorce, the collaborative family law process just make sense.
Adam B. Cordover is a founding member of Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers and teaches attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals how to offer collaborative family law services. He is co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Building a Collaborative Law Practice, and a former president of Next Generation Divorce, Florida’s largest collaborative practice group.