The Collaborative Law Process is a team approach a couple chooses to resolve their family law matters confidentially and in private. The collaborative team consists of the couple, a collaboratively trained attorney for each person, a neutral facilitator, and a neutral financial professional. The team explores the couple’s goals and interests and options for achieving them through informed decisions that the couple, rather than a judge, makes.
Collaborative divorce, 1 of 4 ways to get divorced, is a way clients may voluntarily handle all issues (dissolving the marriage, dividing property, providing for the family’s financial support, and agreeing on children), outside of court, using a specially trained professional team. The collaborative team is: each client, a lawyer for each client, a neutral facilitator and a neutral financial professional. The team helps the couple understand what matters most to them and create solutions that will work for the whole family after the divorce.
Collaborative divorce gives spouses, supported by their committed collaborative team, power to discover long-term solutions to financial and family issues.
Collaborative law’s commitment to shared experts, full disclosure, and keeping cases out of court promotes respect. This respectful relationship between spouses spares them costly, slow, & bitter divorces in which inflicting pain on each other & exerting power often replace common sense, constructive behavior.
The collaborative team is committed to the process and to working toward settlement of the issues. A creative energy evolves as the team works together and process moves forward.
To agree on issues that meet each party’s needs and the interests, the team uses problem-solving known as “interest-based negotiation.”
All negotiations occur in informal meetings in a safe environment conducive to collaboration. The professionals model behavior for the clients. Threats, positioning, aggression, intimidation, and hostility aren’t permitted in the collaborative process.
If the matters aren’t resolved, both attorneys must withdraw and cannot participate in litigation for their clients.
The clients will be heard in the collaborative process, in their own voices. The team openly identifies each client’s specific needs and interests and their mutual goals. When each client shares perceptions, the team can discuss issues deeply, confidential, and constructively in collaborative conferences.
In a Collaborative Divorce, each party selects a collaboratively-trained attorney. The Collaborative Team consists of the parties, their attorneys, a neutral facilitator typically with a strong mental health background, and a neutral financial professional.
They all sign a Participation Agreement. This Agreement requires that they agree to work together as a team to resolve the issues. The parties openly exchange information.
In the Collaborative Process the parties pledge not to litigate in court.: no hearings, no depositions, no court motions.
The parties and the Collaborative Team meet in multiple, agenda-driven sessions. Together they identify the parties’ common & individual goals & interests. Assisted by the professionals, the couple creates an agreement fair to them without depleting the family’s resources, as often happens in drawn out litigation battles.
The Collaborative Process helps you consider the family’s future needs and goals while keeping your children a priority as you move forward respectfully, with dignity, and constructively.
Agreements you reach in the Collaborative Process and how you arrived at them reflect your priorities and needs, so are more likely to last than agreements reached in other ways or than modifiable obligations a court might impose.
After the matter concludes, if you later need help with parenting issues or financial obligations under your collaborative agreement, which changed circumstances may cause a need to adjust, your Collaborative professional team who knows you and your family can help you reenter the Collaborative Process.
The team’s commitment to work towards positive, creative solutions, knowing the professionals must withdraw if the couple’s issues are not resolved, makes Collaborative Practice special and unique.
Collaborative Practice uniquely allows couples to achieve creative, flexible, private settlement of family law matters without heated litigation.
Most clients who have used the collaborative process successfully reached agreement. Clients successfully resolving their issues rave about how well collaborative works. They’re not drained emotionally and financially; they’ve emerged respectful towards each other; they’ve kept painful and sensitive details & financial records out of publicly accessible court records; they’ve kept their children protected from tug-of-war, negative jockeying.
The Collaborative Process begins with both parties’ identifying and stating their interests and goals they’d like the team to work towards achieving.
Collaborative divorce helps you control and know most of your divorce costs and expenses from the beginning. Your professionals work closely with you to lessen emotions that could drag matters out and increase costs, delay, time away from productive activity.
In collaborative law, the process begins with the clients and each lawyer signing a binding agreement (known as a “participation agreement”) that bars those lawyers from participating in contested court proceedings on behalf of those clients. Without this bar, known as a disqualification clause, no matter how cordial, cooperative, or well-intended the lawyers and parties may be, the matter is not a “collaborative” law case. “Collaborative law” is a defined model for dispute resolution, the essential element of which is that the lawyers are disqualified contractually from ever representing those clients against one another in court proceedings.
No. Collaborative Divorce begins with the clients and each lawyer signing a binding agreement (known as a “participation agreement”) that bars those lawyers from participating in contested court proceedings on behalf of those clients. Without this disqualification clause, no matter how cordial, nice, friendly, cooperative, or well-intended the lawyers and parties may be, the matter is not a “Collaborative” matter.
“Collaborative” is a defined model for dispute resolution, an essential element of which is that the lawyers contractually are disqualified from ever representing those clients against one another in court proceedings.
The Collaborative Process is for anyone who wants to decide on their own, rather than leave to a judge, how they will resolve their family matters.
Most times, you and your spouse’s or partner’s lives will continue to interact after you part, especially if you have children.
The Collaborative Process allows you to resolve your family law matters while putting your family’s emotional and financial health and continued, long-term financial security first. Judges can’t know the complete details of your family. Even if judges had time, resources, patience, and will to know your family’s complete story, Florida law and rules of evidence and procedure limit the information they can receive and decisions they can make.
But the Collaborative Process liberates parties: knowing their family’s details and what is important to them, they can create powerful, lasting solutions.
People choose Collaborative when:
- They want to build long term parenting plans for their children that adapt flexibly to their growth and developmental stages;
- They want to avoid the confrontation, time, stress, pain, and expense that come with litigation;
- They want to keep sensitive financial & personal information confidential; and
- They want to decide how their family moves forward, not leave decisions to a judge.
The Collaborative Process is for families–married and unmarried, traditional, blended, and LGBTQ – who want to move forward positively and efficiently.
The advantages of the Collaborative Process are:
The couple and their professional team set the pace and resolve issues outside of court;
The couple controls the tempo;
Each person’s interests and the family’s needs are heard, considered, and valued;
Collaborative allows for flexible solutions and agreements a judge couldn’t otherwise order;
A neutral facilitator helps the couple and team work through emotions and, for couples with children, tailor parenting plans to their specific family needs;
A single neutral financial expert guides the couple towards understanding the current financial situation and what is possible and practical;
The attorneys are legal guides and work towards creative, flexible, and long-lasting solutions rather than being confrontational, positional, or ego-driven;
Collaborative emphasizes the future;
Collaborative helps the couple to communicate respectfully and constructively, rather than through blaming and arguing;
Collaborative provides privacy on delicate family issues;
Collaborative gives the clients more control over their future than if they left their future to a judge to decide;
Collaborative is often more efficient and less costly than litigation.
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Click the Directory link to find a Collaborative Professional.
You can start with talking to a specially trained collaborative attorney, neutral facilitator (mental health professional), financial neutral, or allied professional. All can talk with you about how the Collaborative Process works and what your next steps could be.
A Collaborative team combines professionals you choose to work with you to resolve your family law matter. The team can be just the couple and each person’s Collaborative attorney, but people find great benefit in including on the team a neutral facilitator team “captain,” skilled in group dynamics and managing emotions, and facilitating process, neutral financial professionals or other collaboratively-trained professionals.
In Collaborative, each professional can focus on issues relevant to their expertise. Rather than having professionals struggle to address an issue outside their specialty, the best specialist works with the clients on issues within their specialty. This focus keeps the process moving along efficiently, avoids duplication of professional effort, and helps to control costs.
The Collaborative Process is not a bargain resolution. The cheapest divorces happen when the parties sort out their issues on their own and look to lawyers to draft the agreement and handle final paperwork. These “kitchen table” deals don’t always result from equal, transparent, and complete information or from a level bargaining position.
Retaining the services of two family or divorce attorneys and two neutral professionals for a collaborative professional team means an up front outlay. At each collaborative team meeting, the team looks at professional fees so the clients know exactly how much they’re spending.
The majority of collaborative matters reach full resolution. Concluding the process with respect intact and with tools for the clients to move forward for the children’s and whole family’s welfare has great nonmonetary value.
Experience in Central Florida, throughout Florida, and across the United States suggests that the Collaborative Process can cost less than if the clients had litigated disputed matters to trial.
The cost depends on your family, each client’s availability and cooperative effort, and time required to resolve your issues.
In the Collaborative Process, instead of using competing experts, the spouses or partners select financial experts as neutrals. The neutral financial experts educate and assist in gathering information, analyzing financial documents, and seeking alternatives.
Mental health professionals are coaches and communication specialists and, where children are involved, spouses or partners may agree on a mental health professional to provide a voice for the child.
In a Collaborative Divorce, you allocate your funds so that each professional is paid to do what he or she is best qualified to do. This is efficient and cost-effective.
In a litigation battle, by contrast, parties’ warriors may magnify even petty disputes over discovery, kids, money, accounts, and property. Their “barracuda,” “bulldog,” “aggressive” lawyers may concentrate energy at their hourly rates at writing nasty emails, demanding and poring through documents, attending futile mediations , and preparing for and participating in depositions and court hearings. If the case doesn’t settle at the final mediation, an expensive trial may take place many months after the initial papers were filed.
Litigated cases may burn through thousands of dollars and end with the parties unhappy with the system and judge’s rulings and wondering exactly who “won” what. After trial, there can be appeals by unhappy parties. If they convince an appellate court to reverse the trial judge, the appellate court may send the case back to the trial judge for more work.
“Parenting plan” means a document that governs the relationship between the parents on decisions regarding the minor child and that contains a schedule for the parents and child.
Issues about the minor child a parenting plan may cover include the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. When a judge creates a parenting plan, the judge must consider all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors.
A parenting plan must be:
1. Developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by a court; or
2. Established by the court, with or without a court-ordered parenting plan recommendation by a qualified professional, if the parents cannot agree to a plan or the parents have agreed to a plan the court doesn’t approve.
A collaboratively reached Parenting Plan reflects an agreement by parents for how to make important decisions about their children, how to communicate about their children, the schedule for regular and holiday time with the children, and how to resolve any future disputes regarding the children.
In the Collaborative Process, neutral collaborative facilitators have professional education and experience about child development to work closely with parents in writing their parenting plans.
In Florida, unless there are exceptional circumstances, both parents may have a close, meaningful relationship with their children. Unless there are exceptional circumstances when sharing decision making would hurt the children, both parents are entitled to “shared parental responsibility” to participate in major decisions that affect them. Children have different developmental stages and evolving needs for parental involvement.
In the Collaborative Process, a neutral mental health facilitator may guide two loving parents to direct their love positively to serve their children’s best interest and well-being, rather than to misdirect it to fuel positional bargaining that hurts them.
The Collaborative Process and mediation may appear to be similar, but they are different approaches to settling disputes short of trial.
In family mediation, a neutral third party helps you and your spouse or partner (with or without lawyers present) negotiate a settlement. The mediator can’t give legal advice or advocate for one person and not the other.
Mediation is usually much shorter than the Collaborative Process. Rather than parties & their professionals creatively, jointly focused on solutions, in mediation, they typically continue positional bargaining, from separate corners of the ring known as caucus rooms. They may make high and low offers, do horse trading, and assert rigid legal positions about what they’re entitled to under the law, rather than be open to solutions to best achieve their family’s goals.
Even if mediation succeeds, positional bargaining can leave both parties feeling they have “lost.” Divorce mediation is often one step in a litigated, adversarial, process.
In the Collaborative Process, the parties sign an agreement that aligns the interests of everyone and focuses on working hard to find the best solutions for each party’s goals and needs.
Collaborative matters can often be more direct and efficient than litigated matters. From the start, participants in collaborative focus on problem-solving instead of blaming and complaining. Full disclosure and open communications assure the team covers all issues timely. You can what you need to say and hear your spouse directly without your message being “spun” by an intermediary to advance a position.
Settling issues out of court means no waiting for time on a judge’s calendar for a trial.
Statewide surveys show that the Collaborative matters generally take less time than litigated cases, especially in counties where getting into courts quickly is difficult.
The majority of Collaborative matters are resolved. Some less-complex matters resolve early on and take a few meetings; others take longer and require more work. The average Collaborative matter requires 4 to 5 meetings. Each matter is unique and depends on the parties’ personalities, cooperation, issues, finances, availability of information, health, and the family’s functioning.
In addition to the training and education each Collaborative practitioner must have under professional licensing and certification requirements that apply to the practitioner’s profession, each member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida completes a basic, 2-day interdisciplinary training and ongoing continuing education requirements specific to the Collaborative Process.
In 1990, Minnesota litigator Stuart Webb conceived an alternative to the traditional court-based litigation called “Collaborative Law.” In 2017, Florida became one of 18 United States to enact by law or rules a uniform collaborative law process. Since 1990, the collaborative law movement has grown and spread internationally.
Collaborative divorce lets you and your partner, helped by your Collaborative Team in a safe and confidential process, come to agreements about your finances and parenting. Instead of turning decisions profoundly affecting your family over to your attorney or the courts, you retain control of your family’s future.
In the Collaborative Process, parties believe they serve their family’s best interests by committing not to litigate.
In traditional divorce, parties fight to “win” legal positions, often at great cost and pain to each other and their family. In litigation, even in “no-fault” divorce states like Florida, parties focus on the past and on blaming each other.
Judges, who don’t know you or your family, must follow limits that Florida family law and rules of evidence impose, even if they wanted to reach beyond those limits. Florida law tells judges they can’t look ahead and order “prospective” (future looking) solutions – instead, judges must rule on a snapshot of the family’s facts leading to trial. Judges can only rule on “relevant” evidence the parties present that the judge understands and thinks is persuasive.
A Collaborative team can help you and your spouse be your best, to reach agreements thoughtfully. Rather than pitting you as combatants in competing camps out to hurt each other, you and your collaborative team work together openly and creatively.
Collaborative Divorce abandons the myth that a Judge can solve problems better than the divorcing parties themselves—who have the most at risk and the most to lose. The destructive impact of a contested divorce in court is avoided.
In the Collaborative Process, rigid property division rules or unspoken rules of thumb don’t limit your solutions. After your matter concludes, your family’s needs and circumstances may evolve. Your collaborative team may anticipate changes and help you plan and agree on handling them in ways judges, forced to look at a snapshot of your life, cannot.
Traditional litigation often disrupts everyone involved. It often drains their emotional energy, depletes their time and money, and pulls their focus away from life’s more pleasant things. Litigation causes rigid positions, destroys parties’ relationships with each other, and imposes “solutions” that aren’t ideal for your family. Conflict that litigation makes worse can have far-reaching consequences not just for you, but also for your children. Emotional and psychological costs may outweigh the financial cost of “winning” on a legal position.
Collaborative attorneys don’t dig up “the other side’s” flaws, but work together as a team to explore positive, creative, flexible solutions.
In collaborative, a trained neutral facilitator promotes open communication. A neutral financial professional helps the team explore, develop, quantify, and see the practical current and future implications of financial arrangements.
Collaborating parties agree not to go to court if their family law matter is proceeding collaboratively. If your case has started, and you and your spouse or partner agrees, you may file a notice to the court you’ve signed an agreement to resolve your issues through the Collaborative Process, and pending litigation will be suspended.
Florida’s collaborative family law rules allow an exception for emergencies – to protect the health, safety, welfare, or interest of a party or a family or household member – or for the parties to present an interim or final collaborative agreement to the judge.
Once parties sign a collaborative agreement resolving their issues, one attorney typically notifies the court of that. The matter proceeds to final hearing. In some counties, parties may submit final paperwork electronically by efiling and dispense with a final hearing. If the judge, after reviewing any agreements regarding the children (such as the parenting plan and agreed child support), finds them to be in the children’s best interests, approves them and enters a final judgment of dissolution of marriage or paternity.
Yes. If a case has started, your collaborative attorneys may notify the court you’ve signed a collaborative participation agreement to resolve your issues through the collaborative process. The notice requests the judge press pause and stay the pending case.
A court in which a proceeding is stayed may require the parties and collaborative lawyers to provide a status report on the collaborative law process and the proceeding.
When couples part, strong feelings about the relationship and ineffective communication are normal. But each person committing to the Collaborative Process agrees it’s better to resolve issues without an expensive, painful court battle. The Collaborative Process helps you stay focused on moving ahead and communicating effectively and efficiently, so you resolve issues.
The guiding principles of the Collaborative Process are respect, dignity, openness and fairness. This respectful tone encourages you to show compassion, understanding, and cooperation. Collaborative professionals are trained in interest-based negotiation, helping keep discussions productive. The Collaborative Process tries to build a settlement on areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement.
Each client agrees to be open and transparent and to provide all important information about children, income, expenses, property, and debts. There are no depositions, subpoenas, interrogatories, or formal document production requests.
A neutral financial professional helps gather this important financial information and request information to fill in gaps. The neutral financial professional identifies premarital and marital assets and debts; deals with income, including assumptions about future income; works on expenses, budgets, and cash flow; helps explore and build options; considers and tries to arrive at values sufficient for workable solutions without spending for appraisals, formal valuations if not needed; encourages working together; and focuses on solutions.
The Collaborative Process allows the team to get verifiable information for each client to have comfort about decisions.
The professional team still reviews documents to determine if they make sense, appear to be missing important information, or conflict with other facts. In the Collaborative Process, as in litigation, a spouse or partner may not entirely trust the other, but may verify statements about things that don’t add up or feel right.
Dishonesty violates the clients’ collaborative participation agreement. If a client intentionally withholds information or misuses the process, and, in discussion with the collaborative team, doesn’t cure the violations, the Collaborative Process terminates.
A neutral facilitator with mental health training helps parents heal wounds so they can make good decisions as parents together.
The parents are ending their marriage or partnership, but their relationships and obligations as parents will continue as their children grow, thrive, become adults, triumph, fall in love, endure heartache, experience joy, have their own children, and remember the model their parents demonstrated for resolving issues maturely, civilly, respectfully, honestly, and with dignity.