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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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Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay Elects New Executive Board

The Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay has elected its executive board, and below are the new officers:

  • President: Christine Hearn
  • Vice President: Adam B. Cordover
  • Secretary: Lara Davis
  • Treasurer: Marie-Eve Girard
  • Marketing: David Harper
  • Membership: Jim Spicer
  • Programs: Bob Evans
  • State/Local Liason: Joryn Jenkins
  • Training: Derek Lucas

The Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay is a group of attorneys, mental health professionals, mediators, and financial professionals dedicated to the practice of a less destructive form of family law.

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Video: A Former Family Law Judge’s Perspective

Judge Michael Porter, a former family law judge, discusses topics ranging from Judge Judy, to emotional versus legal family issues, to alternative forms of dispute resolution (such as collaborative practice and mediation) in the following video:

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Collaborative Family Law Training Coming to Tampa in 2013

As more potential clients are learning of the benefits of the collaborative family law model as an alternative to the traditional antagonistic courtroom divorce process, demand for training has risen among practitioners.

The Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay is responding to this demand, and it is co-sponsoring, along with the Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group, training in Tampa for family law attorneys, licensed mental health professionals, and licensed financial professionals.

A basic two-day collaborative course will be held on March 21 to 22, 2013, and an advanced course will take place on March 23, 2013.  You can find a save the date flyer at the following link:

SAVE THE DATE Collaborative Training 2013

Registration forms will be sent out soon.

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Tampa Bay Business Journal Article Discusses Collaborative Divorce In Hillsborough County

The Tampa Bay Business Journal recently published an article (subscription required) on the new collaborative divorce administrative order that went into effect for Hillsborough County.  I was honored to be interviewed for the article, which included some of the following quotes:

“‘It’s pretty new in the Tampa area,’ said Adam Cordover, a family law practitioner and Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay board member. ‘The courts are so backed up, the judge(s) are on board with an alternative to contested divorces.’

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PRESS RELEASE: Tampa’s Chief Judge Signs Administrative Order on Collaborative Divorce

“They call it Collaborative Divorce.  It’s apparently all the rage right now.”  Jason Bateman’s character spoke these lines in the 2007 hit Juno, and now the practice has come to Tampa.

On July 31, 2012, Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, Jr., of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida signed an administrative order regulating collaborative family law practice in Hillsborough County.  The administrative order is just the fourth such order in the State of Florida.  The other circuits regulated by a collaborative family law administrative order are the Ninth Circuit (Orlando and Osceola Counties), the Eleventh Circuit (Miami-Dade County), and the Eighteenth Circuit (Brevard County).

According to Attorney Adam B. Cordover, “Hillsborough County’s collaborative law administrative order will bring more public awareness and certainty to this new and revolutionary form of family law practice.” Adam is a member of the task force that drafted and proposed the order and is also on the Executive Board of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay, which promotes collaborative practice for divorce and all other types of family law matters.

Collaborative practice (which is variously referred to as collaborative divorce, collaborative law, collaborative model, or collaborative process) is a relatively new form of alternative dispute resolution which takes divorce and other family law cases out of the public courtroom and into a private office.

Each party hires a collaboratively trained attorney and agrees from the very beginning to resolve personal and financial disputes without having a judge decide the outcome.

A neutral facilitator (who is often a trained mediator, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional) is brought on board to ensure that discussions focus on the future of the family unit rather than the arguments of the past.  Additionally, the facilitator will ensure that discussions center around the interests of the parties (for example, “our child should go to a good school”) rather than on positions of the parties (for example, “our child must go to this particular school, or else…”).

A neutral accountant or other financial advisor may be brought on board when there are homes, businesses, mutual funds, or other assets that need to be divided.  The financial advisor will also come up with creative solutions for debt division, child support, and ongoing needs of the spouses.

According to financial professional David Harper, CPA, ABV, PFS, CFF, CBA, “Studies show that financial disputes are consistently the number one reason for divorce.  The collaborative divorce process promotes the honest exchange of all pertinent financial information so that each spouse has a comprehensive understanding of the financial aspects involved.  Because of this, the collaborative process often results in a settlement involving less money, less time, and less of an emotional toll on the spouses and their children than the traditional litigation process.”  Harper is an Executive Board member of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and devotes nearly his entire practice to providing sound financial advice to families in the midst of divorce.

Collaborative practice has been gaining steam as a more sensible approach to divorce, and even celebrities are catching on.  Famous individuals who have utilized the collaborative process include Madonna, Robin Williams, and Cameron Crowe.

One of the lynchpins of collaborative practice is that, if the parties are unable to settle their differences and insist on going to court, their attorneys must withdraw, and new counsel may be retained.  Attorney Beth Reineke believes “This means divorcing parties are more committed to the settlement process and less likely to choose litigation if the road gets bumpy during negotiations.”  Reineke is a board certified emeritus family lawyer who has chosen not to litigate.  As president of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay, she either mediates with couples pre-suit or collaborates with the clients she represents.

More information on collaborative family law practice can be obtained from the Collaborative Divorce Institute’s website at http://www.CollaborativeDivorceTampaBay.com.

Chief Judge of Hillsborough County Endorses Collaborative Model in Administrative Order

Tampa’s Chief Judge Manuel Menendez has signed Administrative Order S-2012-041 endorsing the collaborative model of alternative dispute resolution for divorce and other family law cases in Hillsborough County.  From the administrative order:

The Florida Supreme Court recognized that family cases needed “a system that provided nonadversarial alternatives and flexibility of alternatives; a system that preserved rather than destroyed family relationships;…and a system that facilitated the process chosen by the parties.”  In re Report of the Family Law Steering Committee, 749 So. 2d 518, 523 (Fla. 2001).

The Florida Supreme Court’s acceptance of recommendations for a model family court is consistent with the principles of the collaborative practice model because the collaborative process empowers parties to make their own decisions guided and assisted by counsel in a setting outside of court.  The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit supports the philosophy that the interdisciplinary collaborative model may be a suitable alternative to full scale adversarial litigation in family law cases if the parties agree to such a model.

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