I have recently been involved in a Tampa family law matter that has made a couple of headlines lately. I represent a client who married her wife in Massachusetts, they moved to Florida, and ultimately they decided that their same sex marriage was irretrievably broken. The women reached a full settlement on all their marital issues, and, as the media has reported, now they are asking the court to grant them a divorce.
What has gotten far less attention is the fact that the women reached a full settlement agreement and formed a united front using the private collaborative family law process.
Unlike the more familiar divorce proceedings where parties hire gunslinger lawyers and have their dirty laundry aired in public courthouses, these women each retained a collaboratively-trained attorney (Ellen Ware and myself) who are experienced in respectful and interest-based negotiations. We attorneys were hired specifically to focus on reaching an amicable settlement in private offices; we both agreed that we would not inflame the situation by “building a case” against the other party and bringing arguments between the clients into the public courtroom.
The clients’ dignity was preserved with the help of Linda Peterman, a neutral collaborative facilitator and licensed mental health professional. Linda served as a communication coach and helped the parties handle the emotional aspects of divorce. Financial transparency was ensured and settlement options were personally-tailored by John Sullivan, a specially-trained neutral financial professional.
The collaborative process is now being used by families of all stripes who want to preserve their personal and financial privacy and integrity. Florida clients who utilize the collaborative process focus on restructuring their family in as constructive of a manner as possible rather than attempt to “win” and thus ensure that their spouse “loses.” Most judges will tell you that when parties come in front of them to decide issues such as child custody or division of assets, it is usually the children and both parties who end up as the losers.
So now that the women have reached a full settlement through the collaborative process and formed a united front, the only question before the Hillsborough Court is whether, under Florida law, the Court has the authority to grant a divorce to a same sex married couple. We will all have to stay tuned to find out the answer.
If you have questions on how the collaborative process can help your family handle a divorce or other matter, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a group of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families resolve divorce and other issues privately and respectfully. Next Generation Divorce is a collaborative practice group with professionals covering Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee counties.