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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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Florida Alimony Reform: Supportive Relationships

As Senate Bill 718 dealing with alimony reform and child custody reform has passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and seems likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog will attempt to explain how various aspects of the bill may impact Florida and Tampa Bay family law cases.

If signed, most changes (including changes to Florida’s supportive relationship laws) will go into effect July 1, 2013.

Currently, Florida law permits a person who has been ordered to pay alimony (called an “obligor”) to seek a modification or termination of his or her alimony order if he or she can prove that the spouse receiving alimony (called the “obligee”) is in a supportive relationship.  As the law stands now, even if the obligor can prove that the obligee is in a supportive relationship, a judge has the option, but is not required, to modify an alimony order.

The language of Senate Bill 718 changes the supportive relationship statute as follows (new language is underlined while deleted language is stricken):

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Florida Child Custody Reform 2013

There has been a lot of press lately about efforts to reform Florida’s alimony laws.  As discussed on this blog, Senate Bill 718 (which primarily deals with alimony reform) passed the Florida House by a wide margin (85 Yeas versus 31 Nays) and, since it had also passed the Florida Senate, will be going to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.

Update: Governor Scott Vetoes Senate Bill 718

One area that may be even more significant, but has not received as much coverage, is language in Senate Bill 718 that reforms Florida’s child custody laws.  Currently, there is no presumption in favor of or against any child custody schedule, including a 50/50 split custody (known as equal time-sharing).  Senate Bill 718, however, adds language to section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes that seems to make a strong presumption in favor of equal time-sharing.

The text of the child custody provisions of Senate Bill 718 is reproduced below (deleted language is stricken while new language is underlined):

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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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T. Boone Pickens: Collaborative Divorce Process Saved Me Millions

Collaborative divorce is a process that leverages the unique skills and talents of attorneys, financial professionals, and mental health professionals to keep private family matters out of the public arena of the courthouse, and famed billionaire T. Boone Pickens is a fan.  The following is an excerpt from the Dallas Business Journal:

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is clearly a man who knows a good deal when he sees one.

That’s why he used a collaborative divorce approach in his recent parting of ways from his fourth wife, Madeleine.

Pickens told a room full of lawyers about his experience Friday during a lunchtime panel in Dallas.

The State Bar of Texas didn’t let me into the room for his talk, saying it was a paid, private event, but I was able to grab a couple of comments from Pickens on the way out of the Hotel Palomar.

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