Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act

Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act, section 61.56, Florida Statutes, took effect July 1, 2017.  On May 18, 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted a new Florida Family Law Rule 12.745 and Rule 4-1.19, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.

The Florida Collaborative Law Process Act and accompanying rules create a uniform system for a collaborative law process in Florida family law cases.  The collaborative process encourages, “the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.”

The Supreme Court noted a goal of the collaborative process is to preserve the working relationship between parties to a family law dispute.

Under the newly approved rules, prospective lawyer team members must get their clients’ informed consent to the collaborative process.  The lawyer and client must discuss and the lawyer must advise the client about:

(1) the material benefits and risks of using the collaborative law process to resolve a family law matter;

(2) the nature and scope of the matter to be resolved through the collaborative law process;

(3) alternatives to the collaborative law process;

(4) that participation in the collaborative law process is voluntary and any client may unilaterally terminate the collaborative law process for any reason;

(5) that the collaborative law process will terminate if any participating client initiates a proceeding or seeks court intervention in a pending proceeding related to the collaborative law matter after the clients have signed the collaborative law agreement;

(6) limitations on the lawyer’s participation in subsequent proceedings imposed by family law court rules on the collaborative law process; and

(7) fees and costs the client can reasonably expect to incur in the collaborative law process, including the fees of the lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals.

The new Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745 provides, in the collaborative process, clients will make timely, full, candid and informal disclosure of information related to the collaborative matter without formal discovery. Clients will promptly update previously disclosed information that has materially changed.

Read the Supreme Court of Florida’s opinion adopting the new rules at In Re Amendments to Rule Regulating Florida Bar 4-1.19, 218 So. 3d 440 (Fla. May 18, 2017) and amended January 4, 2019, effective March 5, 2019 at In Re Amendments to Rule Regulating Florida Bar – Biennial Petition, Case No. SC18-1683 (Fla. January 4, 2019)

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