For the past several years, there has been an increase in the use of “collaborative” methods when dealing with family law matters, now officially reflected in the Collaborative Law Process Act. Florida is now the 14th state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass such a law. As this area of dispute resolution becomes more popular, it will be helpful to understand the collaborative divorce process, its benefits, and potential downfalls.
What is collaborative divorce?
The underlying theory behind the collaborative divorce process is that it is generally better for parents to resolve their disputes between themselves informally rather than leaving it to a Judge, who will be a stranger to the parties and may only hear a few hours of testimony before making decisions that will have lasting effects on both parties and their children.
In Florida, the collaborative divorce process works by creating a safe environment in which each party can freely express their feelings and positions. Legally, this has been established through the creation of a statutory privilege which prevents, except in certain limited circumstances, communications and negotiations during the collaborative divorce process from ever being used against each other in court [See 2016 Fla. Laws, ch. 2016-93, §§ 6-7, creating Fla. Stat. §§ 61.57-61.58; see also HB 967].
The most important aspect of the collaborative divorce process is having two parties who can keep an open mind and are able to effectively communicate with each other. Both parties must enter the process and be willing to accept the recommendations and proposals of the various professionals that will be assisting them with the divorce.
What does the collaborative divorce process entail?
The collaborative divorce process will typically bring together a set of qualified professionals to discuss and resolve all issues that generally arise in divorce proceedings, including those related to minor children, and the distribution of finances and personal property. These outside professionals could include the following:
(1) Financial Planner
In order to assist with the allocation of the marital estate, including marital assets or liabilities, it is likely a professional from the financial sector, such as a financial planner, investment advisor, or a similar finance professional will be involved. In using such a professional, the parties will receive professionally-driven advice about the best ways to divide, distribute, or otherwise dispose of financial accounts, including bank, investment, and/or retirement accounts.
(2) Child Psychologist
Going through the divorce process is hard enough on the adults, but many times the effects on the children are even greater. To try and address some of the issues that can come along with parents splitting up, the use of a child psychologist or counselor may be necessary to ensure your children are receiving the care and attention they need. The mental health professional assists the children, one parent, both parents, or the entire family to ensure a smooth transition for the family into separate units by recommending the best ways for moving forward, including possibly therapy or individual and/or family counseling sessions.
(3) Parenting Coordinator
A parenting coordinator may be utilized to negotiate and establish a parenting plan, which will detail all aspects of how to co-parent post-divorce. This may include issues related to decision-making or establishing a timesharing or contact schedule.
(4) Real Estate Broker
If there is real property at issue in your divorce, then it may be necessary to involve a real estate professional in your collaborative divorce process. This may include someone who can appraise property and/or list and then sell marital properties.
Why would you use a collaborative divorce process?
One of the main benefits of the collaborative divorce process is being able to control the outcome through measured negotiations. By working with some of the aforementioned professionals, and your attorney, you will be assured that a thorough review of the issues has been conducted, and that you are receiving advice from qualified professionals in their areas of expertise. By bringing these additional professionals into the process, there will be greater attention paid to the specific needs of your family. Lastly, another benefit of the collaborative divorce process would be avoidance of protracted and extended litigation,
What should you know before starting a collaborative divorce?
While it’s important to keep a long-term perspective, you should understand that, in the collaborative divorce process, engaging the services of the outside professionals referenced above can be costly. However, the costs of the collaborative divorce process may end up being nominal if your case does not resolve and you are forced to litigate the case.
It must be understood, however, that if your case is not resolved through the collaborative divorce process, then you will have to start from the beginning of standard divorce proceedings. Remember, due to the privilege that exists during the collaborative divorce process, nothing said or done during the collaborative divorce process can be used by either party in the Court case, as stated at deanhineslawyer.com.
If you have questions about the collaborative divorce process in Florida, it’s important to speak with an experienced family law attorney before moving forward.
Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS. P.A. and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing at firstname.lastname@example.org.