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Tag Archive for: Hillsborough County
As a family law attorney who specializes in Collaborative Divorce and Family Law, I can confirm what research shows: Collaborative Divorce tends to be successful.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce is a private, non-adversarial form of dispute resolution where you and your spouse retain separate, specially trained lawyers who focus solely on helping you reach agreements that work for your family. Oftentimes, you will have the help of a Neutral Collaborative Facilitator who specializes in family dynamics, childhood development, and communication to help keep the process moving forward. You will also usually retain a Neutral Financial Professional who brings efficiency to the process and can help give both of you the information and tools you need to feel comfortable with whatever agreement you reach.
If a Collaborative Divorce does not result in an agreement, or you or your spouse wish to discontinue the process, then it Terminates. This means that both attorneys and all professionals must withdraw from your matter (in other words, they are “Disqualified”), and you can move on with successor litigation lawyers, if you wish.
As I mentioned earlier, Collaborative Divorce tends to be successful, and it is relatively rare for the process to Terminate. A study by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) found that 86% of cases ended in a full agreement, with an additional 2% ending in reconciliation between the spouses. Research by the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals has found similar results. In my personal practice, 90+% of my Collaborative matters have ended in a full agreement between the spouses. Of course, we cannot guarantee that your Collaborative Divorce will be successful; however, chances are that it will be.
Who Is Disqualified if a Collaborative Divorce Terminates
There has been some questions in our local community as to who is Disqualified if a Collaborative Divorce Terminates. I recently wrote an article for The LAWYER Magazine, a publication of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, on the topic. You can find an excerpt below:
Divorce is not just a legal challenge. It is also usually a financial challenge.
Unlike the traditional courtroom divorce, interdisciplinary collaborative divorce prepares clients to budget for the future and anticipate post-divorce life so that the challenges can be met.
Brian Pope of Divorce Financial Solutions is one of the premiere neutral financial professionals in the 12th Circuit of Florida (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties). Brian has an MBA and is designated as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. In fact, several years ago Brian and I worked together to bring Next Generation Divorce – Florida’s largest practice group of independent collaborative attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals – into Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
You can find a brief interview of Brian and a discussion of his work in the collaborative process in the following video (after the jump):
The vast majority of divorce attorneys in Tampa Bay and around Florida are good, hardworking people with their clients’ best interests always at mind. However, there is one divorce option that more and more financial and mental health professionals agree is the best way to handle a family law matter, and yet many attorneys will not tell their clients about it: collaborative divorce.
Collaborative divorce is a private form of dispute resolution where each spouse hires their own attorney only for the purposes of helping to negotiate a marital settlement agreement. Collaborative attorneys are contractually prohibited from going to trial or bringing any contested issues to be decided by a judge.
Trial Divorce = Big $$ for Attorneys
This is one reason why there are a lot of divorce trial lawyers who are against collaborative divorce: attorneys make a lot of money billing time for trial-related activities such as depositions, interrogatories, witness preparation, exhibit analysis and selection, and trial itself. Trial attorneys bill this time even though they know that 95% of all divorce cases end in settlement, even sometimes after trial but right before a judge issues a ruling. Read more
In each Florida family law case (such as divorce or paternity) that involves the custody of a child, Florida law requires that a parenting plan be established. One of the most important elements of a parenting plan is the child custody schedule, now known as a “time-sharing” schedule.
Family Law Tip: You should never let a judge decide your child’s time-sharing schedule. A judge does not know your family dynamics and bases such decisions on very limited information, and usually the judge is seeing parents, especially divorcing parents, at the worst time in their lives. Instead, you and your co-parent should use a private form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative family law.
As I tell clients who come to my Tampa office, there are many different types of time-sharing schedules. Below are some samples provided by the 12th Judicial Circuit (which includes Sarasota and Manatee Counties). The parent who is listed in a box is the one whom the child will be staying with overnight:
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST WAS WRITTEN IN 2014 AND THE RATES BELOW DO NOT REFLECT OUR CURRENT RATES
What is limited scope representation?
Limited scope representation (also known as unbundled legal services) is a cost-effective method of obtaining an attorney’s help on specific tasks and not paying for services you do not want or need.
What limited services are you offering?
Once full settlement on all family law issues has been reached via mediation, financial affidavits have been completed and exchanged, and a settlement agreement and parenting plan (if applicable) have been executed, I am offering to review family law documents for legal sufficiency, e-file the documents through an attorney-only portal, schedule an expedited uncontested final hearing, and appear at the uncontested final hearing. These are the only services included in the price quoted below.
What services are not included in this limited scope representation?
I will not be providing the following services (this is not an exhaustive list): drafting or revising documents, requesting or preparing financial and other discovery and disclosure, providing advice as to the “fairness” of agreements, discussing possible or likely results if you were to ask a judge to decide your dispute, providing other legal advice, or appearing at contested hearings or rehearings.
Why would we want this limited scope representation?
There are many reasons why a spouse would want to hire an attorney for the limited scope representation described above, but the main reasons are (i) to finalize a divorce sooner rather than later and (ii) to have the peace of mind of having an attorney appear at the final hearing in front of a judge.
Can you represent both parties?
Going through divorce in Florida can be a very expensive proposition. No matter which path you choose for your divorce, you are going to be spending money. However, there are things you can do to reduce your costs.
1. Agree to the Collaborative Family Law Process
The first thing you and your spouse can do is retain collaboratively-trained attorneys and agree to use the collaborative family law process. In the collaborative process, you and your spouse each hire separate attorneys for the sole purpose of helping you reach a settlement. Collaborative attorneys are prevented by contract from engaging in expensive contested courtroom proceedings. Accordingly, they focus their attention – and your resources – on helping you and your spouse come to an agreement, rather than preparing for trial or playing litigation games.
When prospective divorce clients call in my Tampa office and ask whether both spouses can attend a consultation, they are often relieved to learn that I am willing to meet with both spouses. I did not always have this policy. In fact, most Florida divorce attorneys refuse to allow both parties to attend a consultation together.
There is a strict prohibition against an attorney representing both parties to a divorce, and most lawyers want to avoid even the appearance of representing both spouses.
And I, like other attorneys, cannot represent both spouses. But what I can do is invite divorcing spouses into my office and discuss with them the available process options. Of course, I will talk with them about traditional litigation, which is the court battle that often comes to mind when people think about divorce. I will bring up mediation, which is a great form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to come to an agreement, but which leaves open the door for their mediation attorneys to engage in detrimental litigation if a full settlement is not reached.
And I will talk about collaborative divorce, which is a voluntary, private process in which the parties and their attorneys agree from the very beginning that they do not want to engage in nasty, public court fights. In fact, the spouses, who each will have their own individual attorney, sign a participation agreement that states that their attorneys must withdraw if the parties cannot come to an agreement. Collaborative divorce has a success rate of nearly 90%, so this withdrawal clause hardly ever comes into play, but it allows clients to be open in negotiations without worrying that their spouse’s attorney is keeping an ear open for opposition research to use in trial later on.
If you are involved in a support matter involving the Florida Department of Revenue, then your case will be heard by a Child Support Hearing Officer, rather than a judge. But what are the powers of the Hearing Officer?
Hillsborough County Chief Judge Manuel Menendez, Jr., recently updated procedures for cases involving Child Support Hearing Officers, and 13th Judicial Circuit Administrative Order S-2014-002 designates to them the following powers:
A. Hear contested income deduction orders and recommend entry of appropriate orders in accordance with section 61.1301, Florida Statutes;
Jeff Stidham posted the following Tampa adoption story on the website of Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit:
Three weeks before their fifth anniversary, Ali and Tonya Muhammad began preparing for a new arrival: a baby boy destined to become one of their own. They welcomed young Marcus on Nov. 5, 2010, three days after his birth. Their anniversary.
And so began a two-year journey toward adoption that concluded Nov. 16 on National Adoption Day, when Marcus, now called Sameer, became part of a “forever family.”
TAMPA - 3839 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33609
SAINT PETERSBURG - 475 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
SARASOTA - 3277 Fruitville Road, Suite F2, Sarasota, FL 34237
- LGBTQ+ Friendly Family Law Firm in Florida August 22, 2023
- Short Video: Can A Divorce Be Collaborative? August 17, 2023
- Virtual Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce Training September 2023 August 13, 2023
- Florida Alimony Reform 2023: What is is and what does it mean? August 10, 2023
- Tampa Family Law Review: “I Could Not Have Been Happier” August 3, 2023