What is Collaborative Divorce? Why do people choose it? How much does it cost? How long does it take? Read answers below to these and other FAQs in Florida Collaborative Divorce. If you have other questions, please contact Sampson Collaborative Law or a collaborative professional in your area!
A Florida collaborative family matter is a dispute, a transaction, a claim, a problem, or an issue for resolution. The matter is described in a collaborative law participation agreement and arises under chapter 61 or chapter 742, Florida Statutes. Collaborative family law matters include marriage, divorce, marital property distribution; child custody, visitation, parenting plans, and parenting time; alimony and child support; relocation with a child; paternity; and premarital (prenuptials), marital, and postmarital agreements.
Collaborative Divorce is an option you can choose to resolve your divorce without fighting in court. Each spouse has an attorney. You and your spouse sign a collaborative law participation agreement. Each commits in writing to full disclosure, honest communication, confidentiality, and to engage in no litigation during the process.
In a Collaborative Divorce, the clients and each lawyer sign a binding collaborative participation agreement. Under this agreement, the lawyers can’t participate in contested court proceedings on behalf of those clients. That means everyone focuses on resolving the matter. No one has an eye on the litigation door. This disqualification commitment makes Collaborative Divorce different from mediation or litigation. Collaborative practice uniquely allows couples to achieve creative, flexible, private settlement of family law matters without fighting in court. Most couples who choose Collaborative Divorce reach agreement. They’re not drained emotionally and financially. At the end of the process, they still respect each other. Further, in Collaborative Divorce, they keep painful and sensitive details and financial records out of public court records.
People who choose Collaborative Divorce want to decide how they’ll resolve their family matters. Many couples’ lives stay connected after they part. That’s especially so when they have minor children together. More specifically, people choose Collaborative Divorce when they want to build for their kids long-term parenting plans flexible to accommodate their development; avoid confrontation, time, stress, pain, and expense litigation can cause; keep sensitive financial, business, and personal information confidential; and decide how their family moves forward, not leave decisions to a judge who’s a stranger.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce are many. First, you and your professional team set the pace and commit to resolve issues respectfully, out of court. Second, the Collaborative Process values each person’s interests and the family’s needs. Third, you can achieve flexible solutions by contractual commitments. Without such contracts, a judge couldn’t order some things on which you might agree. Fourth, a neutral facilitator helps you work through emotions and tailor parenting plans to your family’s needs. Fifth, a neutral financial expert guides you about your current financial situation and explores what’s possible and practical. Sixth, collaborative attorneys don’t wage war, but are legal guides who work towards creative, flexible, and long-lasting solutions. Seventh, your Collaborative Divorce team and you stay focused on the present and future, rather than on past slights, wrongs, and pain. Eighth, you keep delicate family issues private, rather than airing them out in court. Ninth, regarding cost, you can move through Collaborative Divorce efficiently and spend less time and money than you’d spend fighting.
The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP) statistics from surveyed Florida collaborative professionals showed 30% of collaborative cases in Florida cost $12,500 or less per person ($25,000 or less total to the couple); 53% of collaborative cases in Florida cost $20,000 or less per person ($40,000 or less total to the couple); 68.8% of collaborative cases in Florida cost $25,000 or less per person ($50,000 or less total to the couple); 18.1 % of collaborative cases in Florida cost between $25,000 and $50,000 per person (between $50,000 – $100,000 total to the couple). Retaining attorneys and neutral professionals for a collaborative team means a cash outlay up front. For couples with reduced means, collaborative professionals may offer pro bono or low bono programs. Intangibles money can’t measure may include maintaining respect for each other and improving your ability to communicate with each other. In contrast, in litigation, you may hope the judge punishes your spouse and rewards you. As a result, aggressive “barracuda” or “bulldog” lawyers may magnify even petty disputes. They may spend time and your money fighting over discovery, kids, money, accounts, and property. Before trial, lawyers may prepare for and participate in depositions and court hearings. If the case doesn’t settle at mediation and goes to trial, trial may not happen until many months later. The losing spouse (or both parties) may appeal. If the appellate court finds the trial judge was wrong, the case may go back on remand to the trial judge for even more work to fix the problems. For a chart comparing tasks typically done in litigation but that don’t take place in Collaborative Divorce, read Sampson Collaborative Law’s cost of collaborative v. litigation comparison chart.
The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP) statistics from surveyed Florida collaborative professionals showed: 92% of collaborative cases in FL completed with full agreement; 95% of collaborative cases in FL completed within 1 year; 84% of collaborative cases in FL completed in less than 9 months. Full disclosure and open communications assure that you cover all issues timely. Settling issues out of court means no waiting for time on a judge’s calendar for a trial. How fast your Collaborative Divorce goes depends on, among other things, your personality, your spouse’s personality, cooperation, the issues, availability of information, each person’s health, and the family’s functioning.
Collaborative Divorce is voluntary, so both spouses must agree. A judge can’t force your spouse to collaborate. If your spouse doesn’t want to agree to Collaborative Divorce, try finding out why. Is your spouse uncertain about the process? If so, it may help for your spouse to get more information from a collaboratively trained professional with no stake in the divorce and who won’t charge to spend a few minutes explaining the process. Is your spouse skeptical or afraid? If so, materials from the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals or the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals may help allay fears. And, even if a case begins by filing a petition for divorce, your spouse and you may agree to put the court case on hold while you try Collaborative Divorce.
In Collaborative Divorce, you, your lawyer advising you, and your collaborative team stay creatively, jointly focused on solutions from the beginning. If the Collaborative Divorce lawyers and focused, team efforts result in no signed agreement, they can’t stay on as the litigation lawyers. They have no economic stake in litigation if settlement efforts fall short. Collaborative Divorce lawyers direct all energy on achieving a resolution that meets your spouse’s and your goals. In contrast, in mediation, a neutral third party helps you and your spouse (with or without lawyers present) negotiate a settlement, but can’t give legal advice. Mediation usually takes less time than Collaborative Divorce. Positional bargaining typically continues in mediation, often from separate caucus rooms. You and your spouse, speaking through your lawyers, horse trade and assert positions, rather than explore solutions that might best achieve your family’s goals. Once the mediation session ends you, your spouse, and the lawyers may forge ahead in the lawsuit. Unlike in Collaborative Divorce, there’s no disqualification requirement in mediation if the case doesn’t settle. So, if mediation fails, your lawyers know they may resume billing for further fighting, moving the dispute to trial, and trying your case.