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Florida Collaborative Divorce: A Flowchart

Many people come to my Tampa office because they heard collaborative divorce is private, respectful, conducive to co-parenting, and usually quicker than the traditional courtroom divorce.  But they do not quite understand logistically how the collaborative process works.

The first thing to understand is that each party is represented by his or her own attorney whose sole purpose is to help the parties reach a settlement.  The attorneys are contractually barred from engaging in costly, damaging contested court battles.  If parties want to fight one another in the court system, they must choose different litigation attorneys.

A neutral facilitator, who usually is licensed in a mental health profession, is involved in most collaborative cases.  The facilitator not only helps the parties (and attorneys) focus on the future rather than rehash the arguments of the past, but he or she also teaches the parties communication and dispute resolution techniques that will help them and their families long after the divorce is finalized.

A neutral financial professional is also oftentimes used to efficiently ensure financial transparency between the parties, to develop personally-tailored options for support and the division of assets and debts, and to help the clients budget to give them the best chance for financial security once their divorce is finalized.

Some folks are visual learners, and so my firm has created a flowchart that shows how a collaborative case might proceed.  Please understand that, depending on the facts of your case and the needs of your family, your collaborative divorce process may be customized differently:

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What Your Florida Divorce Lawyer May Not Be Telling You

The vast majority of divorce attorneys in Tampa Bay and around Florida are good, hardworking people with their clients’ best interests always at mind.  However, there is one divorce option that more and more financial and mental health professionals agree is the best way to handle a family law matter, and yet many attorneys will not tell their clients about it:  collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is a private form of dispute resolution where each spouse hires their own attorney only for the purposes of helping to negotiate a marital settlement agreement. Collaborative attorneys are contractually prohibited from going to trial or bringing any contested issues to be decided by a judge.

Trial Divorce = Big $$ for Attorneys

This is one reason why there are a lot of divorce trial lawyers who are against collaborative divorce:  attorneys make a lot of money billing time for trial-related activities such as depositions, interrogatories, witness preparation, exhibit analysis and selection, and trial itself.  Trial attorneys bill this time even though they know that 95% of all divorce cases end in settlement, even sometimes after trial but right before a judge issues a ruling.   Read more

Tampa Same Sex Divorce and Collaborative Practice

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

Same Sex Couple Seeks Divorce in Florida

I have recently been involved in a Tampa family law matter that has made a couple of headlines lately. I represent a client who married her wife in Massachusetts, they moved to Florida, and ultimately they decided that their same sex marriage was irretrievably broken. The women reached a full settlement on all their marital issues, and, as the media has reported, now they are asking the court to grant them a divorce.

Related: In a Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter that I am Gay?

Related: Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

What has gotten far less attention is the fact that the women reached a full settlement agreement and formed a united front using the private collaborative family law process.

Unlike the more familiar divorce proceedings where parties hire gunslinger lawyers and have their dirty laundry aired in public courthouses, these women each retained a collaboratively-trained attorney (Ellen Ware and myself) who are experienced in respectful and interest-based negotiations. We attorneys were hired specifically to focus on reaching an amicable settlement in private offices; we both agreed that we would not inflame the situation by “building a case” against the other party and bringing arguments between the clients into the public courtroom.

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What Can I Do To Reduce The Costs Of My Florida Divorce?

Going through divorce in Florida can be a very expensive proposition.  No matter which path you choose for your divorce, you are going to be spending money.  However, there are things you can do to reduce your costs.

1.  Agree to the Collaborative Family Law Process

The first thing you and your spouse can do is retain collaboratively-trained attorneys and agree to use the collaborative family law process.  In the collaborative process, you and your spouse each hire separate attorneys for the sole purpose of helping you reach a settlement.  Collaborative attorneys are prevented by contract from engaging in expensive contested courtroom proceedings.  Accordingly, they focus their attention – and your resources – on helping you and your spouse come to an agreement, rather than preparing for trial or playing litigation games.

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Video: Tampa Collaborative Law Streamlined Protocols Training Overview

Attorneys, psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, accountants, financial advisers, and mediators interested in being trained to offer cost-effective collaborative practice services to family law and other clients will have the opportunity March 20-22, 2014, in Tampa, Florida.  Next Generation Divorce and the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are sponsoring a 3-day basic and advanced training in the Streamlined Protocols of Collaborative Law.

Vicki Carpel-Miller, one of the collaborative trainers, provides an overview of the streamlined protocols training in the video below (after the jump):

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St. Petersburg and Clearwater Bar Associations Hold CLE on Collaborative Divorce

The urge for a more humane way to practice divorce law has hit Pinellas County.  The days of pitting husband versus wife, mother versus father in an adversarial courtroom divorce have both attorneys and clients pining for a private, healthier alternative to deal with family law issues.

And so the Saint Petersburg Bar Association and Clearwater Bar Association have invited Adam B. Cordover, Esq., John L. Sullivan, IV, CDFA, and James B. Morris, Jr., Ph.D., to discuss the interdisciplinary collaborative divorce model at their annual Family Law Update.  The 2014 Family Law Update is approved for 4.0 general continuing legal education hours and 3.5 hours for purposes of Marital and Family Law certification.

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Collaborative Divorce Comes To Sarasota & Manatee Counties

From Brian Pope, MBA, CDFA, and Cindy Barry, Esq.:

I am extremely pleased to announce that there is a new group in town!  The “Next Generation Divorce” group for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has been formed as an expansion of “Next Generation Divorce” of Tampa Bay.

Next Generation Divorce

As the President of the Twelfth Judicial branch of the Next Generation Divorce group (Cindy Barry, not me), it is my sincere pleasure to extend an invitation to the bench and Bar of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit to attend a free presentation on collaborative law on February 6, 2014, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  in the Palm Room at the Sarabay Country Club located at 7011 Willow Street, Sarasota, Florida, 34243.  There will be a variety of complimentary Hors d’Ouerves and a cash bar available for libations.

Our guest speaker is the President of the Tampa Bay area “Next Generation Divorce”, Mr. Adam Cordover, Esq.   He will be sharing the successes of the collaborative law practices in the greater Tampa Bay area and answering questions on how to incorporate collaborative law into your practice.   Of course, there will be a social hour immediately following the presentation.

It is an exciting time as “Next Generation Divorce” is an active and professional group of Attorneys, Mental Health Professionals and Financial Professionals that have been collaboratively trained to help remove court cases from the traditional Court system.  You can visit our website at www.nextgenerationdivorce.com.

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How to Avoid a Nasty Divorce Battle in Tampa Bay

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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Ask for a Collaborative Divorce Attorney

If you are considering a divorce, ask your attorney whether he or she has received interdisciplinary collaborative training and offers the collaborative divorce option.  Why?

A collaborative divorce attorney will focus on helping you and your family rather than hurting your spouse.  He or she is committed to productive and respectful negotiations for a mutually beneficial outcome rather than conducting an all out war in the courtroom.

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Video: Ellie Izzo Discusses Collaborative Divorce Streamlined Protocols

On March 20-22, 2014, the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are teaming up to sponsor a Basic & Advanced training for attorneys, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, accountants, financial advisors, and mediators.

The training will provide professionals tools to help their clients go through a private, respectful collaborative divorce process, and to do so in a cost-effective way which creates a budget and roadmap for the process and helps clients move through difficult emotional roadblocks.

Interested professionals can find a registration form at the following link: http://collaborativedivorcetampabay.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/March-2014-CDITB-TBCDG-Streamlined-Protocols-Training-Registration-Form.pdf

Dr. Ellie Izzo, one of the trainers coming to Tampa, discusses the Streamlined Protocols at the following link (from a previous training):

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