The Tampa Bay Times recently published an article on collaborative divorce. The article quotes four local collaborative professionals (attorneys Ingrid Hooglander, Tanya O’Conner, and Mark Moon, and psychologist Rachel Moskowitz), all of whom are members of Next Generation Divorce, an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to educating the public about a healthier way to resolve their family disputes.
The article also interviews State Senator Tom Lee of Brandon, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 642, the Collaborative Law Practice Act. Though collaborative law is already being practiced as a private way to resolve divorces and other family law issues in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, the bill provides a legal framework for the process and adds protections to the privacy of communications during settlement talks.
Below is an excerpt:
Lee champions the bill in part because divorce proceedings have created a backlog of cases that is consuming judicial resources. But he also worries about the toll that protracted battles can have on families.
“These cases have significant societal costs, as family law cases are often acrimonial,” Lee wrote in an email. “It is often impossible to shelter the litigants and their dependent children from the dramatic psychological and economic consequences of protracted litigation.”
Lawyers and family professionals across the United States are embracing the alternative approach by forming groups such as Next Generation Divorce, a team that recently partnered in Brandon to resolve marriage dissolutions without litigation. They say they hope to help families avoid courtrooms and return respect, dignity, and privacy to the divorce process.
In the collaborative process, spouses resolve issues related to their divorce in private conference rooms rather than in public courtrooms. Each spouse retains their own collaborative attorney, who spends all of his or her time and resources on helping the parties achieve an agreement, and who is contractually prohibited from wasting any time or money preparing for a bitter trial.
A neutral collaborative facilitator, who is usually a licensed mental health professional, is generally retained to help the parties focus on the future and what is most important to them (such as their children) rather than on the arguments of the past. A neutral financial professional is oftentimes retained to cut down the costs of gathering and disclosing financial information and developing options for support as well as division of property and debts.
If you have questions about how collaborative divorce differs from traditional divorce and its pros and cons, schedule a consultation with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, Florida’s largest collaborative practice group. Adam is also on the Executive Board of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida and a graduate of the inaugural Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.