STATISTICALLY SPEAKING — DIVORCES THAT ARE RESOLVED BY AGREEMENT EARLY ON LEAD TO MORE HARMONEOUS POST DIVORCE RELATIONSHIPS. OBLIGATIONS REACHED THROUGH AGREEMENTS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE HONORED WITHOUT FURTHER LITIGATION THAN ARE OBLIGATIONS IMPOSED UPON A FORMER SPOUSE AFTER CONTESTED LITAGATION.
Making the decision to end a marriage is never easy. The divorce process can be incredibly complex, confusing and stressful. This is particularly so when spouses disagree on many of the issues they must face. While most spouses do not agree on all issues involved, it is often the case that they do agree on many of the most important issues. Potential general issues facing divorcing couples include:
1. Timesharing or child custody and visitation
2. Equitable Distribution or the division of assets and liabilities (debts)
4. Child Support potentially including the basic monthly money obligation, daycare expenses, health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, and life insurance
5. Attorney’s fees.
Couples who do agree on the general framework for resolving their case and who are willing to deal with each other on an honest and good faith basis do have an alternative to traditional contested litigation. The alternative process is known as Collaborative Divorce.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a legal process in which a couple, with the assistance of professionals, negotiates a mutually acceptable agreement. Some of the professionals are jointly retained and thus work for both parties with the goal of reaching a fair and equitable settlement. This method removes the traditional “fight to win” setting so familiar to divorce courts and implements a “troubleshoot and problem solve to settle” negotiation process.
When a couple uses this process, they are choosing to use negotiations and mediation to settle their divorce. The goal is to reach a negotiated settlement that both spouses sign either at the start of the divorce action or soon thereafter. The agreement will thereafter be incorporated into an uncontested divorce court order.
The typical Collaborative divorce model involves each spouse separately hiring their own separate attorney who is specially trained in the Collaborative process. Then typically 2, but potentially more, mutual joint professionals are retained. These joint professionals include a specially trained facilitator and a specially trained family law accountant. The 6 person (4 professionals and 2 spouses) team then prepares for and attends common meetings wherein good faith negotiations take place. If needed, other professionals can be included in the process such as appraisers, realtors, child custody specialists, financial planners, and the like, depending upon the situation.
Here are some characteristics of a typical collaborative family law or divorce case:
- Both parties hire their own separate attorneys who only represent their client
- All other hired experts are neutrals who are retained by both parties and who have no allegiance, and will show no favoritism, toward either party
- A neutral professional is chosen to lead the process who has experience in doing so
- Other neutral professionals may be hired as needed including CPA’s, mental health experts, appraisers, financial advisors and the like
- Both spouses agree to make a full disclosure of all relevant facts about their case including full financial disclosure
- If the case does not settle (but most do) then both attorneys and other neutrals must withdraw from the case and they cannot thereafter be involved in the case. This removes much of any incentive that any attorney or client may have to give up on the process and begin contested litigation
What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Most would agree that the most significant benefit of collaborative divorce is that it eases the stress and uncertainty that can often accompany the divorce process. Because both parties are committed to negotiation, collaborative divorce will – more often than not – lead to an end result that is benefits both parties.
Collaborative divorce also allows a couple to establish a course of action in the event of any post-settlement disputes. This process also encourages both parties to keep the exchange of information free, informal, open and honest, as both are invested in a mutually beneficial result.
What If Collaborative Divorce Fails?
In situations where both parties have difficulties reaching a mutual agreement, a licensed family law mediator may be brought into the process. These professionals are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to divorce law procedures, and can provide the strategic insight and skills necessary to guide a couple through to a mutually acceptable agreement.
Collaborative divorce is also unique in the sense that both spouses, and their attorneys, sign an agreement indicating that they will not continue the case should it progress to litigation in court. This eliminates any incentive for any legal professional to reach an unreasonable deal for the spouse they are representing. That’s why compromise is strongly incentivized in this type of divorce proceeding. In a situation where a couple is unable to reach a divorce agreement, both attorneys must withdraw from the case before it can be brought before a judge. Neither attorney, nor the spouses involved, want to see a collaborative case end, or for contested litigation to resume.
Collaborative Divorce Attorneys in Tampa, Florida
If you or someone you love is currently considering divorce, or have discussed a collaborative approach to divorce with your spouse, it is in your best interest to seek the guidance of an attorney as soon as possible. Only an attorney specializing in divorce – specifically the collaborative approach – can provide the sound guidance you need to successfully navigate the divorce process.
In Tampa, Florida and the surrounding communities, the legal team at Anton Legal Group provides legal support to couples making the difficult decision to divorce, including those who are looking to take a collaborative approach. This area of law is a key focus area for our firm and our founder, David Anton, is one of the founding members of the Tampa Bay area collaborative law organization, Next Generation Divorce Group (NGD).
To discuss the process with one of our Tampa collaborative divorce attorneys, contact Anton Legal Group today at (813) 443-5249.