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Collaborative Divorce May Not Be Right For You

Collaborative Divorce is a form of private dispute resolution where you and your spouse agree to use your attorneys solely for the purpose of reaching an out-of-court agreement.  Collaborative Divorce is not for everyone.  Though Collaborative Divorce has worked for thousands of families around the world, it may not be the right process for you.

This article explores whether Collaborative Divorce may not be right for you.

You want your “Day in Court”

You may want your “Day in Court.”  You may feel that, if only you could get in front of a judge, he or she would, of course, see the heroism innate in your positions and the dastardly deeds committed by your spouse.

What most litigants do not realize is that it can take months, or even years, to get in front of a judge to make final decisions regarding your divorce.  And that time in front of a judge can be quite limited, meaning you will only be able to tell the judge a small part of your marital story.  And it is up to the judge to determine which parts are relevant.  Last year, I created the following video to demonstrate this dilemma:

In Collaborative Divorce, judges do not decide outcomes.  You and your spouse decide outcomes.  The only time you go in front of a judge is when you and your spouse have already reached an agreement.

So, if you want your “Day in Court,” Collaborative Divorce may not be right for you.

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Family Diplomacy Opens St. Petersburg Office

Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm proudly announces the opening of an office in the heart of Downtown St. Petersburg.  We do so on June 1, 2020, as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of our firm and the fifth anniversary of our dedication to resolve family disputes exclusively out of court.

Saint Petersburg Family Law Office

Our new office is located at 475 Central Avenue, Suite 205, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.  We are in the historic S.H. Kress & Co. Building, situated on the corner of Central Avenue and 5th Street South.  The Kress building was built in 1927, influenced by the Beaux-Arts movement, and served as a five and dime store until 1981.  The building is located within the Downtown St. Petersburg Historic District, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 1, 2001.

We also maintain our office in Downtown Tampa, located at 412 E. Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.

Additionally, we are accepting matters throughout Florida. Read more

Online Collaborative Divorce

You may be stuck in your house, but, with Online Collaborative Divorce, that does not mean that you have to be stuck in your marriage.

Online Collaborative Divorce brings together the best parts of consensual dispute resolution with technology that makes the process more convenient than ever.  And we can help you if at least one spouse (whether you or your partner) has lived in any part of Florida for the last 6 months.

The Basics of Collaborative Divorce

In 2017, the Florida Legislature passed the Collaborative Law Process Act.  In the Collaborative Law Process Act, the Legislature declared that “It is the policy of this state to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process. The collaborative law process is a unique nonadversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.”  Section 61.55, Florida Statutes.

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Avoiding a Nasty Divorce

Avoiding A Nasty Divorce in Tampa Bay

If things are not going well in your marriage, whatever the circumstances, you want to avoid a nasty divorce.  You have probably seen how recriminations, dirty court tactics, and endless fighting have ruined friends and family.  Heck, you may still be feeling the consequences of your parents’ nasty divorce.  And you are looking to spare yourself and your family the same trauma.

Fortunately, there are alternatives.  One growing alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

Working Together to Avoid a Nasty Divorce

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse work together – outside of the court system – to find resolutions that work for your family.  You and your spouse have separate lawyers for independent support, but the lawyers have one mission: find solutions.  Collaborative Lawyers are unlike traditional lawyers in that the law prohibits them from fighting in court.  This means that no time, energy, or money will be spent on frivolous lawsuits, opposition research, or damaging depositions.

Instead, Collaborative Lawyers encourage cooperation so you and your spouse can move on with your lives without harming your kids.  Further, Collaborative Lawyers provide you with the independent legal advice you need to feel comfortable that you are making informed decisions.

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Article: Collaborative Lawyer Discusses Holiday Custody Schedule

The Patch of West Hartford, Connecticut, recently ran an article where Susan Busby, a Collaborative Family Law attorney, discusses the difficult topic of custody during the holidays.  The article, titled “Collaborative Divorce: A Route to Happier Holidays,” urges families to learn about the Collaborative Process as way to keep children out of disputes between parents.  You can read an excerpt of the article below:

The holiday season is often stressful, and for those going through or having just gone through a divorce or separation, the season can induce even more stress, intensify negative emotions, and accentuate how much their lives have changed. But it is entirely possible to have a joyous and peaceful holiday season, even during a big change in family structure.

By choosing a collaborative divorce, separating parents can create the holiday plan together to determine best options for everyone, focus on the well-being of the children, develop new cheerful traditions, and lay the foundations for having a good working relationship post-divorce.

Connecticut Collabortative Divorce Group“By coming to an agreement collaboratively, both parents have input into the holiday schedule instead of having a judge telling parents what the holidays will look like,” said Susan Busby, an attorney with the Connecticut Collaborative Divorce Group (CCDG). CCDG is a Hartford-based group of professionals that aims to keep divorcing couples and their children out of court using a method of family conflict resolution called Collaborative Divorce. “In a Collaborative Divorce, the values and traditions of the parents and the children can be honored and not used as leverage between the parents to get something else, which can happen in traditionally litigated divorces. Working out the holiday plan together is better for the children and for parents. Then everyone can relax and enjoy the holidays.”

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Typical Steps in a Collaborative Divorce

Divorce is tough.  Your marriage is falling apart and the foundation upon which you thought you could depend is no longer there.  Rather than fling yourself into the chaotic and adversarial divorce court system, you have alternatives.  One structured alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse retain separate attorneys to guide you along the way.  Unlike litigation lawyers, these attorneys’ only purpose is to help you reach an agreement as amicably and efficiently as possible.  In fact, the process prohibits Collaborative Attorneys from engaging in contested court proceedings.  Because of this, you do not have to worry about motion practice, depositions, or dirty trial tactics.  You can just focus on reaching a resolution that is best for your future.

Here in Tampa Bay, a neutral Collaborative Facilitator usually aids you.  The Facilitator has a specialty in communications, family dynamics, and childhood development.  When you and your spouse seem to get stuck in the arguments of the past, the Facilitator will help get things back on track and focused on the future.  Further, if you have children, the Facilitator will help you craft a parenting plan tailored to your children’s specific needs.

To ensure transparency, you may retain a neutral Financial Professional.  The Financial Professional helps you and/or your spouse understand the extent of your estate.  He or she will then help you develop options for best dividing it.  He or she can also help you develop budgets so you know that you will have a financially sustainable future after divorce.

Every Collaborative Divorce is Different

Every Collaborative Divorce is different.  However, as a trainer, many of my students (who are lawyers, financial professionals, mental health professionals, mediators, and others) find it helpful to have a step-by-step guide to Collaborative Divorce.  This is meant only as a sample.  The more Collaborative Cases I am involved with, the more they deviate from this guide; in truth, just as there is no “typical” family, there is no “typical” Collaborative Divorce.

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Collaborative Family Law: The 4 D’s of Resolution

Collaborative Divorce, also know as Collaborative Family Law, Collaborative Practice, and the Collaborative Process, is a structured form of dispute resolution where you and your spouse/partner can reach agreements privately and amicably.

J. David Harper, who is a forensic accountant and Collaborative Financial Neutral in Tampa Bay, refers to the structure of Collaborative Divorce as the “Four D’s.”  Harper writes in his article, Traits and Skills of a Highly Financial Neutral, published in Mosten & Cordover, eds., Building A Successful Collaborative Family Law Practice (ABA 2018), the following:

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Explanation of Collaborative Process

Explanation of Collaborative Process Consent Form

When you come into my office to learn about collaborative divorce, I want to make sure that you understand the process.  Yes, collaborative divorce helps families day in and day out, but there are potential negatives that you need to know, as well.  Further, Rule 4-1.19 of the Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct requires me to help ensure you have informed consent before entering the collaborative process.

Accordingly, I will sit down with you to discuss all aspects of collaborative practice.  At the end, I will provide you with an Explanation of Collaborative Process Consent Form to sign.  I have designed this form, but it is based on one created by Robert J. Merlin, an attorney in South Florida who was the point person for the adoption of Rule 4-1.19 by the Florida Supreme Court.

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Sample Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement

If you are considering or going through divorce, there are two terms you should become familiar with:  collaborative divorce and collaborative divorce participation agreement.

Collaborative divorce is a form of private dispute resolution where you, your spouse, and your attorneys agree from the beginning that they will not fight in court.  You agree that you do not want to subject yourselves, your children, your business, and your friends and family to an adversarial, hostile, and public court system.  You just want to move on to your better future in the least painful way possible.

Though there are statutes and rules that interact with the collaborative divorce process, it is mainly governed by a contract, known as a collaborative divorce participation agreement.  This is an agreement that you and your spouse sign.  Because the collaborative divorce process is very different than the traditional divorce process, it is important that you have a complete understanding of your collaborative divorce participation agreement and walk through the agreement thoroughly with your attorney.

Below is a sample collaborative divorce participation agreement that I often use in my cases here in Tampa Bay.  Keep in mind that there are a lot of variations of this agreement, and different communities use different participation agreements.  In fact, I use different participation agreements depending on the circumstances of the family and what type of resolution they are trying to reach (i.e., divorce, post-divorce, prenuptial agreement, or postnuptial agreement).

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Introductory Collaborative Training

Has Your Divorce Lawyer Completed an Introductory Collaborative Training?

If you are in the market for a divorce lawyer, you should know that not all divorce lawyers are the same.  Some specialize in fighting in court, while others focus on resolving disputes outside of court.  One way to help determine which strategy your divorce lawyer focuses on is to find out whether he or she has completed an Introductory Collaborative Practice Training.

What is An Introductory Collaborative Practice Training?

An Introductory Collaborative Practice Training is one of the first steps a lawyer or other professional takes before offering collaborative divorce services.  Collaborative divorce is a process where the spouses agree that they will not use their attorneys to fight in court; rather the attorneys and any other professionals will focus solely on helping the family resolve their disputes and move on to their better future.

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