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How Florida’s New Collaborative Divorce Law Affects the Divorce Process

While depictions of divorce on TV as bitter, drawn out struggles planned to punish the other spouse as much as possible are not entirely without real-life comparisons, most divorce cases are much more civil and involve less drama. This does not mean, however, there are not a lot of emotions expressed and felt by both parties. Typical divorce cases are adversarial by nature because of the legal process that places parties on opposite sides of important issues like child custody and property division. While the parties always have the option of drafting their own divorce settlement privately or working out differences in mediation, a new Florida law creates a collaborative divorce process that gives couples another approach to dissolving their marriage. The collaborative law process is a non-adversarial method of resolving legal matters. A recent article in the South Florida Business Journal discusses the advantages collaborative divorce offers to spouses that own a business today due to the confidentiality of the proceedings and a greater likelihood of preserving a working relationship going forward. While litigation is necessary when the parties cannot agree on important issues or there is a history of manipulation or abuse, this new option for divorcing couples in Florida may be worth consideration if keeping amicable relationship is a big priority.

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law, while most often used in the family law area, is a process of resolving disputes that can be followed in any legal matter. This process seeks to introduce a non-adversarial approach to resolving differences through negotiation procedures instead of the oppositional method used in standard court cases. Each party retains their own lawyer trained in the collaborative process, and the attorneys help the parties, sometimes with the assistance of a mediator, to come to an agreement to resolve their legal issues. This process is entirely voluntary, and any party can withdraw at his/her discretion. The parties, in conjunction with their attorneys, evaluate the viability of this process at the first meeting by assessing whether the position of each party is close enough to allow negotiation to work. If, however, the parties decide to file suit in court, the collaborative law attorneys may not represent the parties in this matter. The stipulation about not using the same attorneys to litigate the issue court and the guidelines that will govern how the parties will work together are laid out in the collaborative law participation agreement. In addition to attorneys and mediators, the parties in this process often use the services of a financial professional, such as an accountant, and a mental health professional to help the parties evaluate things like assets and liabilities and how best to handle child custody and parenting time.

New Florida Collaborative Divorce Statute

Florida’s new Collaborative Law Process Act will take effect on July 1. The law specifically applies to resolution of family law issues such as divorce, property division, child support, alimony, and child custody. The statute mainly deals with the termination of the collaborative law process and the confidentiality of the proceedings. Generally, the process concludes if the parties reach an agreement, a party provides their participation in the process is over, or a party files documents with a court requesting it decide some aspect of the matter currently at issue. In addition, the records related to the collaborative law process will be confidential and not subject to discovery in a court case or admitted in a trial, excluding some exceptions related to criminal activity and professional malpractice.

Speak to Family Law Attorney

Family law issues, especially, tend to take larger emotional tolls on the parties due to the personal nature of the issues. By working with an experienced family law attorney, it is possible to streamline the process and protect your rights and interests of your family. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. helps clients deal with the legal system so they are not alone and can do the same for you. Contact the office to schedule a free consultation.

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