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Collaborative Divorce Video: A True Life Story Part 1

Like Tampa, California has seen a need for a divorce process that does not pit spouses against one another in courtroom battles.  To that end, Collaborative Practice California has produced the following video which follows an actual divorcing couple through the process of collaborative family law:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8qlrg7pe7E

Part 2 of the video to be posted within the coming days.

Like California, Tampa Bay has a group of attorneys, facilitators/coaches, accountants, and financial planners who are trained in the interdisciplinary collaborative process:

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Tampa Divorce: Adversarial versus Collaborative

If you are getting divorced in Tampa Bay, you have two main options:  Enter the adversarial system or utilize the collaborative process.  How is adversarial divorce different from collaborative divorce?

The term “adversarial” is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “pertaining to or characterized by antagonism and conflict.”

Anyone who has gone through the traditional divorce litigation process can probably relate and understand why the Florida court system is known as an adversarial system.  A Husband and Wife are forced to face off as adversaries, with each often trying to prove the other a bad parent with poor morals and terrible financial habits, to boot.  They are treated as opposing parties with dueling experts and contrary interests.  Their personal lives are poked and prodded and laid bare in a public forum as they get judged by, well, a judge.  Mediation may be utilized, but litigation attorneys always maintain the threat to do battle in court.

Contrast this to collaborative divorce, a form of dispute resolution offered in Tampa Bay.  A Husband and Wife are treated not as adversaries, but as members of a team who, along with their collaborative attorneys and other professionals, are simply looking for options to settle differences.  A facilitator ensures that communication remains productive and that the spouses focus on their common interests, such as their children.  Often times, a neutral financial professional will help the spouses learn how to maximize the benefit of their assets while minimizing the impact of debt.

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Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

The unfortunate truth is that current Florida law is not conducive to recognizing the relationships that develop in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.  However, there are steps that Florida and Tampa Bay LGBT parents can take to boost the recognition of their parental rights.

Adoption

If LGBT parents are committed to raising a child together and recognizing each parent’s rights, I highly recommend that partners consider adopting each other’s children.  This helps form an unbreakable legal bond between the children and each partner.  Though the law is not completely settled in this area, the judges in Hillsborough County (including Tampa) are granting adoptions by LGBT partners.  What’s more, an adoption attorney located in Hillsborough County (such as myself) can help Florida parents come before Hillsborough County judges no matter where in Florida the parents live.

Co-Parenting Agreements

Co-parenting agreements can be great evidence that LGBT partners intend to parent children together.  It can boost the argument that “psychological parenting,” or the formation of a parent-like relationship between a child and a non-legal parent, has occurred and make it or more likely that parental rights will be recognized by Florida’s legal system.

Hyphenated or Unified Last Names

A hyphenated or unified last name can go a long way in demonstrating to the Florida legal system that partners intended to raise children together.  For example, if partner 1 is named Jones, and partner 2 is named Smith, it would be helpful to have all partners and children’s last names hyphenated or unified, so that everyone has a last name of Jones-Smith, Smith-Jones, Smones, Jith, etc.  Florida has laws to aid in legal name changes.

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Tampa Prenuptial Agreements: Collaborative-Style

Potential clients come into my Tampa office all the time to learn about prenuptial agreements, how they can protect interests, and how they can provide for a more certain future.

For all these clients, I suggest that they utilize the collaborative method when developing a prenuptial agreement with their future spouse.

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Tampa Bay Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Goes Collaborative

On May 10, Collaborative Divorce Attorney Adam B. Cordover spoke to the membership of the Tampa Bay Association for Marriage and Family Therapy on “Collaborative Family Law:  Offering a Healthier Alternative to Tampa’s Families.”

The presentation was part of a continuing education seminar on Alternatives to Divorce Litigation.

Much of the presentation centered around the principles of collaborative family law:

  1. A pledge not to litigate;
  2. Full disclosure of relevant information by the parties; and
  3. Customized results that take into account the highest priorities of both spouses and their children.

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Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce In A Weekend

I recently came across an article by Sandra Young and Brian Garvey, collaborative divorce lawyers in Illinois, who offer what they refer to as a “Divorce Weekend.”  This is a fascinating model of collaborative divorce which offers the option of a quick settlement, and there is no reason why a weekend collaborative divorce cannot take place here in Tampa Bay.

This is how the model works:

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Tampa Collaborative Divorce: A More Child-Friendly Divorce

The fact is that divorce is difficult.  Emotions are raw, family life is uprooted, and life becomes strained.

And children are caught in the middle.

Attorneys in Tampa Bay litigated cases are often obligated to not only focus on showing their clients in the most positive light but also shining the spotlight on the opposing parties’ parental flaws. This further frays relationships with consequences to the children.

But there is an alternative.  Collaborative divorce is a process where the clients agree not to air their dirty laundry in the court system but instead to negotiate respectfully in private offices of attorneys and other professionals.  A neutral facilitator, who usually is a licensed mental health professional, is utilized to ensure that the clients focus on the future and on what is most important:  the children.

I recently found a Chicago Tribune article which discusses collaborative divorce and it’s focus on children:

If you’ve gone through a divorce, you know how challenging it can be to keep your emotions in check. Add children to the mix and the damage can be devastating. But experts say more divorcing couples are seeing the benefits of putting down the boxing gloves and placing their children’s needs first.

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Tampa Collaborative Divorce: What About the Cost?

I recently wrote an article for the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay where I relayed a question often asked by those not familiar with the collaborative process:  Is collaborative divorce only for rich people?

Below is an excerpt:

According to a four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative cases make less than $100,000.

Though the collaborative model will not be the cheapest model in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to cost less than traditional trial practice for several reasons.

First, one of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters is child custody.  Attorneys in traditional litigated cases tend to draft questions to be answered under oath, set depositions, conduct research to not only put their client in the best possible light but to put the opposing party in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial.  The attorneys’ fees for each of these actions add up quite quickly.  On the other hand, all of these costs can be greatly reduced in a collaborative case with the inclusion of facilitators, who are generally trained mental health professionals, as they are able to cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the parties (and attorneys) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.

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Tampa Collaborative Divorce: Cordover Presenter at Training

Tampa Judge Catherine Catlin and Attorney Adam B. Cordover discuss Hillsborough County's Collaborative Family Practice Administrative Order. Photo courtesy of Joryn Jenkins.

Tampa Judge Catherine Catlin and Attorney Adam B. Cordover discuss Hillsborough County’s Collaborative Family Practice Administrative Order. Photo courtesy of Joryn Jenkins.

On March 22, 2013, Tampa Bay attorney Adam B. Cordover led a discussion, along with Tampa Family Law Associate Administrative Judge Catherine M. Catlin, on Hillsborough County’s Collaborative Family Practice Law Administrative Order.  The panel took place at the 2013 Interdisciplinary Family Collaborative Practice Training, co-sponsored by the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group.  Over 70 attorneys, mediators, financial professionals, and mental health professionals from throughout Florida and as far away as Pennsylvania and Texas were in attendance.

Collaborative family law is a process that takes private issues such as divorce and child custody out of the public courtroom and into secure and confidential offices of professionals.  Once a collaborative participation agreement is signed, attorneys dedicate themselves solely to achieving an agreement acceptable to both parties rather than preparing for court battles.  The Collaborative facilitator helps the parties focus on the future of the family and children rather than the demons of the past, while a financial professional develops personalized options for the division of assets and debts and the family’s financial security.

The administrative order ensured that the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County encouraged and recognized the use of the collaborative process and permitted divorce and family law cases that had already been filed in the court system to convert to collaborative cases.

If you have questions on how a Tampa Bay collaborative process can help your family law matter, schedule a consultation with a Florida collaborative attorney by calling The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover serves as Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  Adam served on the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order.

Can a Filed Tampa Divorce Case Become Collaborative?

Collaborative divorce is becoming more well-known and more popular in Florida, and for good reason.  Discussions regarding custody schedules and division of assets take place in the private offices of collaborative facilitators, attorneys, or financial professionals rather than being battled in the public courtroom.   Issues are resolved using the expertise of accountants or financial planners and creativity of trained facilitators rather than the rigid dictates of the law.  Tackling the issues inherent in divorce is seen as a team effort rather than a fight to the finish.

Obviously, a case can (and should) become collaborative from the very beginning.  The parties and professionals sign a participation agreement where they commit to resolving their family law issues through the process, and they agree not to involve the court system until a full settlement is reached.

But, if a Florida divorce or other family law case has already been filed, can it later become collaborative?

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