New Approach To Divorce
Most popular depictions of divorce do not give this process a good reputation. The spouses are routinely shown as vindictive and bent on making the divorce as difficult as possible with endless litigation, leaving children in the middle to be used as pawns. While this scenario can happen, it is by far the exception, and while most divorces will involve some level of dispute, each party realizes some amount of compromise and cooperation is necessary for the sake of everyone. However, this still presupposes that the parties will engage in traditional litigation that leaves a judge in control of much of the process. Today, other dispute resolution processes are available that give the spouses an opportunity to resolve their differences in a less combative atmosphere and with more flexibility in the outcome. Mediation is a popular choice as an alternative in court in divorce cases, and Florida officially added one method, as of July 1, that is even more focused on maintaining a civil relationship between the parties, known as the collaborative divorce process. A new law, which took five years to draft and pass, now regulates how this procedure should be handled going forward, though it has been in use by some attorneys and alternative dispute resolution associations for some time. A description of how collaborative divorce works, and some benefits offered by the new law, will be explored below.
What Is the Collaborative Process?
In sum, the collaborative divorce process is a voluntary, non-adversarial process designed to avoid litigation in favor of the parties working out their issues together. Both parties must commit to not seeking court intervention, memorialized in the participation agreement, and if either does so, the process is immediately terminated. Further, each party must agree to freely disclose all relevant information, even if not specifically requested. Each party retains specially-trained attorneys, assisted by mental health and financial professionals, to help the couple with formulating solutions on points of disagreement. An important caveat to note is representation by these attorneys is limited to the collaborative law proceeding, and new lawyers must be found if parties turn to litigation to settle their differences.
The goal of collaborative divorce is to minimize the financial and emotional impact of a divorce, though this process will not work for every couple, especially if they are too far apart on the terms of an acceptable settlement. Rather, this process is particularly attractive to spouses seeking to co-parent their children after divorce, since it allows the parties to craft solutions that meet the unique needs of their family. One additional important point to make about this procedure is that even though the parties are expected to work together, it is also expected each spouse will need to assert his/her interests into the conversation.
Benefits Offered by the New Law
Collaborative divorce can offer a lot of valuable benefits for parties that can work within the rules of this process, namely respective discourse and good faith cooperation. Some of the specific benefits this alternative offers include:
- less time and expense compared to traditional litigation;
- all information disclosed and discussed during sessions remain private, unlike a court case, which is a matter of public record;
- the parties determine how disagreements are resolved and the pace of the proceeding;
- family relationships can be preserved; and
- a team of experts on financial, relationship and parenting issues are available to help the parties learn new and healthier ways to interact that can help them beyond the divorce process.
Consult with a Florida Divorce Attorney
Collaborative divorce may appear to be an attractive option to litigation, but before investing in this process, it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure it has a decent chance of succeeding. Fort Lauderdale attorney Joyce A. Julian, P.A. is a former family court judge, and is in the unique position of having specialized knowledge about the litigation process, and when a judge is likely to make a fair and balanced decision. If you have questions about divorce that need answers, contact her office for free consultation.