Posts

A Former Judge’s Take on the Family Court System

As a Florida family law attorney, I tell clients all the time that – for the sake of their children, finances, and sanity – it is best if divorcing spouses are able to reach an agreement on their own, without leaving important decisions that will affect the rest of their lives up to a judge.  I have found that interdisciplinary collaborative practice is the best way for families to reach a resolution, though other options (such as mediation and direct negotiations) are also almost always better than the court system.

Sue Cochrane, who served as a family law judge in Minnesota, also believes that the current family court system is broken.  Below are excerpts of an article she penned for The Collaborative Review (Winter 2014 / Volume 15, Issue 1):

After eighteen years on the family bench I am sensitive to the needs of the thousands who still show up [to court] due to lack of funds or awareness of other options.  Having Collaborative practitioners and others from diverse disciplines working side-by side with those of us from the courts was, in my opinion, a monumental advancement.

***

The law is well-known for being logical and dispassionate.  Courts are where intellect and linear, analytic thinking prevails.  In the admirable pursuit of truth and justice, the courts can inadvertently deny the humanity of the people it is supposed to serve and even of the judges and staff who work there.

Read more

Podcast: Comparing Collaborative Divorce and Mediation

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Garin Vick in Tampa, Florida, where we recorded an interview for his podcast show, Divorce without Destruction.  We discussed the similarities and differences between collaborative divorce and mediation.

We talked about how both are forms of private dispute resolution that are better than duking it out in court.  We also discussed how the structure and the process of collaborative divorce and mediation differ, and what it means for families going through or considering divorce.

Read more

Florida Collaborative Divorce: A Flowchart

Many people come to my Tampa office because they heard collaborative divorce is private, respectful, conducive to co-parenting, and usually quicker than the traditional courtroom divorce.  But they do not quite understand logistically how the collaborative process works.

The first thing to understand is that each party is represented by his or her own attorney whose sole purpose is to help the parties reach a settlement.  The attorneys are contractually barred from engaging in costly, damaging contested court battles.  If parties want to fight one another in the court system, they must choose different litigation attorneys.

A neutral facilitator, who usually is licensed in a mental health profession, is involved in most collaborative cases.  The facilitator not only helps the parties (and attorneys) focus on the future rather than rehash the arguments of the past, but he or she also teaches the parties communication and dispute resolution techniques that will help them and their families long after the divorce is finalized.

A neutral financial professional is also oftentimes used to efficiently ensure financial transparency between the parties, to develop personally-tailored options for support and the division of assets and debts, and to help the clients budget to give them the best chance for financial security once their divorce is finalized.

Some folks are visual learners, and so my firm has created a flowchart that shows how a collaborative case might proceed.  Please understand that, depending on the facts of your case and the needs of your family, your collaborative divorce process may be customized differently:

Read more

New Collaborative Divorce Brochure from the IACP

CP LOGOThe International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families work through divorce and other issues privately and respectfully, recently put out a new electronic brochure that explains the collaborative divorce process.  To view the brochure, click on the link below, then click on the bottom right hand-corner of the brochure and drag to the left to flip through the pages:

http://collaborativepractice.com/media/41538/e_brochure_ENGLISH.swf

You can also find out about collaborative practice in the Greater Tampa Bay and Sarasota areas by going to the website of Next Generation Divorce, a local network of caring collaborative professionals.

Read more

What Your Florida Divorce Lawyer May Not Be Telling You

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

Who Started Collaborative Divorce?

Ever since my first basic collaborative divorce training in Tampa in 2011, I have been enthusiastically offering the collaborative process to my clients as a better way to handle family law matters.  I have also tried to become a student of the process, reading every book I can get my hands on that discusses collaborative divorce.

Right now I am reading The Collaborative Way to Divorce: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court.  This book is written by Stu Webb, the founder of collaborative divorce, along with Ron Ousky, one of the early leaders of collaborative practitioners.

In the introduction of the book, Stu discusses how he came up with the collaborative method:

In 1989, I had been a divorce lawyer for about eighteen years – and was getting pretty sick of it.  I saw what the adversarial court battles that were the focus of divorce were doing to my clients, and I knew the resulting negativity was having an effect on me, too.

In traditional litigation two lawyers (or teams of lawyers) hash out the divorce in a court of law.  The actual parties to the divorce – the husband and wife – have almost no direct contact with each other, and what little interaction they have is usually bitter and unproductive.  Tension, fear, anger, and recrimination prevail.  This traditional process makes it almost impossible for the parties to have anything remotely resembling a healthy relationship after the divorce, even when there are children involved.

Read more

St. Petersburg and Clearwater Bar Associations Hold CLE on Collaborative Divorce

The urge for a more humane way to practice divorce law has hit Pinellas County.  The days of pitting husband versus wife, mother versus father in an adversarial courtroom divorce have both attorneys and clients pining for a private, healthier alternative to deal with family law issues.

And so the Saint Petersburg Bar Association and Clearwater Bar Association have invited Adam B. Cordover, Esq., John L. Sullivan, IV, CDFA, and James B. Morris, Jr., Ph.D., to discuss the interdisciplinary collaborative divorce model at their annual Family Law Update.  The 2014 Family Law Update is approved for 4.0 general continuing legal education hours and 3.5 hours for purposes of Marital and Family Law certification.

Read more

A Really Quick Divorce Option in Florida

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a form of collaborative family law being offered as a “Weekend Divorce.”  Here is more:

Breaking up is hard to do—even when both husband and wife are ready to bring their marriage to an end. As a result, divorce can often be financially devastating and time consuming.

Against that backdrop, attorneys Sandra Young and Brian Garvey have developed an innovative antidote that is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere: “The Weekend Divorce.”

A centerpiece of their streamlined approach is booking a hotel conference room for two days and negotiating every detail of the divorce agreement and signing all documents by the time the couple leaves on Sunday.

***

Collaborative Divorce (aka Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice) is a “no-court-client-centered” dispute resolution process that separating spouses can use with the help of specially trained and licensed legal, mental health and financial professionals.

*** Read more

Private Child Custody Proceedings: Florida Collaborative Practice

When people are seeking to gain child custody rights in Florida – whether through divorce, paternity, establishment of parenting plan, grandparent custody, or other proceedings – the first step they usually take is file a petition with the Clerk of the Court.

Generally speaking, this is a mistake.

By filing a petition, they are entering into the public court system which pits mother against father.  This is an adversarial system which oftentimes leads parties to engage in emotionally and financially draining court battles, and all dirty laundry gets examined and aired.

But there is another way, a private way of determining parental responsibility and child time-sharing schedules.  It is called collaborative practice, also known as collaborative family law.

Read more

Video: Ellie Izzo Discusses Collaborative Divorce Streamlined Protocols

On March 20-22, 2014, the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group are teaming up to sponsor a Basic & Advanced training for attorneys, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, accountants, financial advisors, and mediators.

The training will provide professionals tools to help their clients go through a private, respectful collaborative divorce process, and to do so in a cost-effective way which creates a budget and roadmap for the process and helps clients move through difficult emotional roadblocks.

Interested professionals can find a registration form at the following link: http://collaborativedivorcetampabay.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/March-2014-CDITB-TBCDG-Streamlined-Protocols-Training-Registration-Form.pdf

Dr. Ellie Izzo, one of the trainers coming to Tampa, discusses the Streamlined Protocols at the following link (from a previous training):

Read more