You want a divorce, are thinking of divorce, or your spouse has asked for a divorce. Now what?
Since most people don’t deal with divorce every day or more than once or twice during a lifetime, it can be a mystery that produces fear and anxiety.
I can help ease your anxiety and fear by answering your questions about how collaborative divorce works, why I think it is the best divorce-alternative in the world, and why it might be good for you.
Ready? Let’s go…
So, you can see that it is not that complicated and involves very few steps. Of course, the above infographic does not contain each and every detail of the process. Rather, it provides an overview of the process and clearly shows its simplicity.
So, let’s break it down and keep it simple.
The very first step is for you and your spouse to hire your own collaborative divorce attorneys. BE WARNED!!! Not every divorce lawyer has been collaboratively trained, so they might not offer it to you as an alternative.
Without going into the painstaking details, I will simply share with you that every Florida Family Law Attorney is required by Florida Statute to discuss collaborative divorce with you. If they don’t, you should be wary of that attorney because they are not giving you full disclosure about ALL of the divorce alternatives available to you and your family.
DANGER!!! Not every Florida Family Law Attorney has been collaboratively trained. If you select an attorney to represent you in a collaborative divorce who has not received the basic training necessary to understand the process, you will likely be at a disadvantage and may wind up paying more than you should because your attorney will probably have to spend extra time on your case trying to figure out what to do and what not to do.
Your collaborative attorneys will select the rest of your Collaborative Professional Team consisting of a Neutral Facilitator who is most often a Mental Health Professional, and a Financial Neutral who may or may not be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Once your Professional Team is selected, you, your spouse, and your Professional Team will all sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement agreeing to use the Collaborative Process, avoid litigation, and be honest and transparent regarding your family’s finances, goals, interests, and issues.
Your Collaborative Professional Team will discuss your family and work to schedule your first Full-Team Collaborative meeting.
Your first Full-Team Collaborative meeting is the first opportunity for all of you to come together in a relaxed, private, safe setting, to discuss the collaborative process, the agenda, and the goals. This will be your first opportunity to talk about what is most important to you, which may be your children or your financial security and stability in the future.
STEPS 3 through 5:
Your collaborative process will likely involve more than one Full-Team meeting. On average, collaborative cases appear to be resolving completely somewhere between 3 and 5 meetings and in 12 months or less for 93% of all collaborative divorces in Florida.
The number of Full-Team meetings you may need will depend upon how complex your issues are and how willing each of you is willing to compromise, generate options, and make decisions.
Your initial documents that must be filed with the Court will be prepared for you. This will also include sending all of the required documents and agreements to the Judge assigned to your case for his or her review.
In many cases, the Judge assigned to your case will review your documents and enter your Final Judgment within a week or so. Some counties in Central Florida are faster than others.
Once your Final Judgment is entered by the Court, you and your spouse are officially divorced. So now, it is up to you to implement the agreements you and your spouse negotiated. This may include a Parenting Plan for your children, the sale of a home, the transfer of a business or other asset, the payment of spousal support and/or child support. Your agreement might include other things as well.
That’s all there is to it!
Pretty simple ‘eh!
IS IT THE BEST DIVORCE ALTERNATIVE FOR YOU?
For most families, I and many other Family Law Attorneys believe it is. Why?
There are quite a few reasons. Here are some of them:
- Your divorce is private.
- Your divorce happens on your schedule and is not held back by a clogged court calendar.
- You keep the power to decide what is best for you and your family, instead of turning all of your decisions over to a Judge who does not know you or your family.
- It can cost a lot less than the typical battle-it-out-in-Court divorce.
- You don’t need to hire two financial experts, two child experts, two vocational experts, or other experts. You each share the benefit of using one expert for the benefit of both of you, and you already have two experts as part of your collaborative team.
- You avoid the ugly, aggressive tactics many traditional trial attorneys use in a courtroom divorce.
- You have the best chance to minimize harm to your children from a nasty, long divorce through the courts.
If you and your spouse can agree to be open, honest, and transparent, and communicate during your divorce in a civil, respectful way, and you want to minimize the harm to your children from a hotly contested, emotional, litigated divorce, then collaborative divorce is likely your best option.
A.J. Grossman III, J.D., LL.M., Esq. is an experienced, Florida divorce attorney, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and Dispute Resolution Specialist with the law firm of Compass Law in Orlando, Florida. He is the only practicing Florida Family Law Attorney with a Master of Laws Degree in Dispute Resolution from The Straus Institute at the Pepperdine University School of Law, the #1 Dispute Resolution program in the United States. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals and is a past Board Member for the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida.