On July 1, 2017, the Collaborative Law Process Act went into effect in the state of Florida. The legislation specifies that both divorcing spouses must voluntarily agree to the collaborative process, and that collaborative divorce cannot be used in cases of domestic violence unless the client requests it and their lawyer believes that their safety can be FULLY protected.
Collaborative divorce offers couples a private and efficient solution for ending their marriage in a peaceful manner. It is a structured process that allows couples to skip the courtroom and avoid a long, drawn out legal battle. The collaborative process is a client driven model where the separating spouses set the pace of the process instead of a judge or rules of procedure.
Typically, the collaborative divorce process will bring separating spouses to the negotiation table for a few meetings with their lawyers, as well as neutral financial and mental health experts. Both parties will sign an agreement to resolve outside of court, and agree that if the collaborative process breaks down their attorneys are precluded from representing them at trial.
A neutral financial expert will aid the couple in the valuation of their marital assets and assist them in reaching a fair distribution of assets, liabilities, and property. A neutral mental health expert will assist in creating parenting plans and safety plans for all involved. The mental health expert will also assist to ensure that neither side fans the flames of conflict during the process.
Once a settlement is reached between both parties, a joint petition will be filed stating that they have reached a resolution and are requesting the court dissolve their marriage. Only one party is required to attend a final hearing where the court will formally dissolve the marriage.
Benefits of collaborative divorce include
- Private – All information is kept confidential during negotiations unlike a court proceeding where all information is public record.
- Child-centered – The best interests of the children are protected by all the professionals.
- Client-controlled – The participants determine the pace of resolution and the outcome; instead of a stranger to the family.
- Cost-effective – It can be less expensive than litigation.
- Respectful – The professionals have all been trained to model and shape productive option building toward decisions that work for the entire family. Family relationships are preserved, not damaged.
- Team Approach – Instead of relying solely on a lawyer for all aspects of the divorce, a professional team is formed with expertise in financial, relationship and parenting issues.
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