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What is Collaborative Divorce, and is it the Right Path for You?

The collaborative divorce process enables couples who have decided to divorce, separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other family professionals in order to avoid the cost, stress and uncertain outcome of a contested divorce.  It also allows the parties to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the immediate threat of litigation. This voluntary process begins when each party signs a contract or agreement binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation.

Here are the top five reasons any Florida couple considering a divorce should at least consider a collaborative divorce:

Privacy of the Parties

Parties to a collaborative divorce avoid the necessity of disclosing information that is private, potentially embarrassing or harmful from a personal or professional standpoint.  Collaborative divorce discussions involve confidential discussions in private conference rooms.  Also, in a contested divorce, both parties are required to engage in thorough financial disclosures and much of that information will then be a matter of record in the court case.  A collaborative divorce minimizes this intrusion.

Respect for the Family

Court litigation is driven by conflict.  It necessarily involves family v. family, and often requires one parent to prove they are the better parent, or that one spouse should get more property or funds than the other.  Collaborative divorce, by contrast, is a team-based method of conflict resolution where the team focuses on the problem rather than on attacking one another.  The attorneys seek to establish mutual respect for the parties by focusing on solutions instead of costly attack strategies.

Financial Efficiency

The vast majority of cases settle without a trial, and many settle before a petition for dissolution of marriage is even filed.  And even though most divorces settle, the vast majority of the cost is associated with preparing for trial, conducting depositions, legal research, other discovery techniques, as well as preparing for and attending court hearings before a final trial.

In collaborative divorce, the attorneys are prohibited from participating in any contested court proceeding, and they focus all of their energy, time, and resources on settlement, helping the parties reach an agreement.  If a settlement is not reached during the collaborative process, the collaborative attorneys withdraw and the spouses will be forced to retain trial counsel.  Therefore, the attorneys are encouraged to find common ground and resolve the problems, rather than rush to court.

Interdisciplinary Approach

The collaborative process acknowledges that divorce is not only a legal process; it is also an emotional process for all of the parties, and a financial burden.  Collaborative cases therefore involve a neutral facilitator, such as a family counselor, and/or a neutral financial professional.

The neutral facilitators help clients cut through the emotion and focus on what is most important to them (such as their children and long-term financial goals) rather than focus on positions that are a product of anger or confusion.  A financial professional can help the parties find better financial options by, for example, figuring tax advantages associated with one course over another, and help ensure there is financial disclosure to both parties and informed discussions.

Creative Solutions

When a judge makes a ruling, he or she is bound by certain parameters established by the law and rules of evidence.  The judge will often make that decision after hearing a couple of hours of information at trial.  In a collaborative divorce, the parties can agree to virtually anything so long as it does not violate the public policy of Florida.  Therefore, the parties are able to be creative and more flexible in reaching solutions concerning parenting plans, property settlements and support obligations.

Not every case is appropriate for collaborative divorce.  The process is voluntarily and requires the parties to be reasonable in assessing their options to move forward, and an open dialogue.  Not every party to a divorce is willing to cooperate with a collaborative process.  Furthermore, reasonable people can disagree about a proposed settlement proposal.  Therefore, even if the parties are willing and reasonable, it may be that the parties simply disagree about what is best for their children, or disagree about their ultimate rights if the case proceeds to court.  Where this is the case, a collaborative divorce is probably not appropriate.  However, where common ground can be found and there is a mutual respect for the parties rights and responsibilities, there is little or no doubt that a collaborative or uncontested divorce will best serve the parties’ interests in the separation process.

If you would like to discuss your rights in a dissolution case or have any questions about the collaborative divorce process, please contact us at (850) 837-3662.

 

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