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Collaborative Divorce: An Unbundled Legal Service

Traditionally, divorce has been an adversarial process, with lawyers making arguments in front of a judge about what his or her client should get.  And yet, you are probably not looking to get in a prolonged battle with your spouse; rather, you are likely looking to move on with your life and ensure your kids do not get caught in the middle.  This is why I specialize in Collaborative Divorce, which unbundles divorce negotiations from the adversarial court process.  In effect, I am a resolution specialist.

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Video: How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

Have you heard of Collaborative Divorce?  If you are considering dissolving your marriage, it is an option to take control of your future and keep your private life outside of the public courtroom.

But how does Collaborative Divorce work?

In the video below from CBS Pittsburg, Collaborative Professionals Paula Hopkins and Marlene Boas explain the Collaborative Process.

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Protecting Your Reputation During Divorce

You have worked hard for your reputation.  The last thing that you need is for your personal details to become fodder for colleagues, competitors, or the public.  But is there a more private way to go through divorce and protect your reputation?

There is.  And it is called Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce: The Basics

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse have separate lawyers.  The lawyers are there solely for the purpose of helping you reach an out-of-court agreement.  The lawyers cannot be used for fighting in court or engaging in media battles between you and your spouse.

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A Collaborative Divorce?

When you think of divorce, you probably think of court battles.  War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer may come to mind.  Just the thought of your entire life being scrutinized and laid bare in a public courtroom is probably enough to send shivers down your spine.

But you may have heard of an alternative: “Collaborative Divorce.”  What exactly is it, and can divorce even be “Collaborative?”

Collaborative Divorce: A Simple Idea

Collaborative Divorce starts with a simple idea:  your family doesn’t belong in court.  You are likely not looking to make an enemy out of your spouse; you probably just want to move on with your life without harming your children (if any).

And so in Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse have your own separate, independent attorneys to counsel each of you.  But the attorneys are there solely for the purpose of helping you reach an out-of-court agreement.  Your Collaborative Lawyers are prohibited from fighting in court on your behalves.  This means that no time, money, or energy is spent on you and your spouse trying to tear one another apart for the purposes of preparing for trial.

Your attorneys’ jobs are to help you find a resolution that works for your family.

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What Is Simplified Dissolution of Marriage?

Are you a spouse in Florida who is simply looking for a divorce?  Do you not have any minor children in common with your spouse?  Do you both agree that there are no alimony or child support issues to deal with?  Are all of your marital assets and debts already divided?

If so, you may be eligible for Florida’s Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.

Basics of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is meant to be a quick and easy way to divorce.  It is authorized by Rule 12.105 of the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.  Most people going through divorce do not qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.  If you and your spouse meet the following criteria, then you may qualify:

  • You and your spouse do not have any minor or dependent children in common;
  • Neither your nor your spouse are pregnant;
  • Either you or your spouse has resided in Florida for at least six months prior to filing for divorce (only one spouse is required to have been a resident of Florida);
  • Both of you agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot be fixed (by, for example, having the judge order you to attend marital counseling);
  • Neither you nor your spouse are seeking alimony;
  • By agreement, you have already divided all assets and debts, or you agree that there are no assets and debts to divide;
  • Both you and your spouse are willing to waive your right to trial and appeal; and
  • Both you and your spouse are willing and able to appear together at the final hearing.

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Divorce Privacy

When you are going through divorce – a time of great hurt and vulnerability – the last thing you want is to have your pain on public display.  And yet that is exactly what happens if you and your spouse chose to go through the traditional divorce court process.  You have no divorce privacy.

It would not be uncommon for you and your spouse to file allegations against each other in the public court record questioning each other’s parenting skills.  You often have to publicly display in response to written questions any personal belonging you have valued at $100 or more.  Under cross-examination, you may have to justify, in a courtroom available to anyone who wants to watch, your grocery bill, haircut/beauty parlor expenditures, donation to religious organizations and/or charities,  and medicinal needs.

Fortunately, there are processes that allow divorce privacy.  One such process is Collaborative Divorce.

Collaborative Divorce Privacy

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse have separate, independent lawyers.  The lawyers are there solely for the purpose of helping you, privately, reach an out-of-court agreement.  The law prohibits your Collaborative Lawyers from engaging in contested public court hearings.

All negotiations are had in private conference rooms (or secure videoconferencing platforms).  Generally, nothing is filed with the court until you and your spouse have reached a full resolution of all issues.  And, even then, the type and amount of information that does get filed can be greatly minimized.

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Does Your Divorce Lawyer Meet IACP Minimum Standards for Collaborative Practitioners?

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has established Minimum Standards for Collaborative Practitioners, most recently revised in October 2014.  When you consider hiring a divorce attorney, and you are exploring the option of Collaborative Divorce, ask your potential attorney whether he or she meets each of the following Minimum Standards:

1. General Requirements:

1.1 The Collaborative practitioner is a member in good standing of: IACP; and a local Collaborative Practice group.
1.2 The Collaborative practitioner accepts the IACP Mission Statement.
1.3 The Collaborative practitioner diligently strives to practice in a manner consistent with the IACP Ethical Standards for Collaborative practitioners.
1.4 The trainings referred to in 2.2, 3.3 and 4.3 must be trainings that meet the IACP Minimum Standards for trainings delivered by trainers who meet the IACP Minimum Standards for Collaborative Trainers.

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Lawyer Review: A+

We at Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm work hard to help clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  We recognize that divorce is tough, and that in many ways it can feel like a death.  The death of a relationship.

We are here for our clients to guide and counsel them.  We reassure them that they will get through it, and we advise them as they are making tough choices each step of the way.

We have been fortunate that many of our clients, surprised at how different we are from other law firms, want to spread the word that there is a better way than traditional divorce court battles.  One such review, below, was recently posted to Google for our St. Petersburg office.

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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