Do you need a collaborative divorce lawyer in Vero Beach, FL?

Susan Chesnutt

In 1990, veteran Minneapolis family attorney Stuart Webb sent a letter to Minnesota Supreme Court Justice A.M. “Sandy” Keith outlining his innovative idea – to allow couples to dissolve their marriages in a private and civilized way, outside of the judicial system.

Webb proposed that in this “collaborative” system, family law attorneys would use their negotiation and communication skills to help the parties resolve their differences outside of court. In 1992, some California professionals were working on a similar system when they learned about the system Webb had created, and the two concepts were merged the following year.

Thirty years later, collaborative divorce is being used throughout the U.S. and in 24 countries around the world. Florida passed the Collaborative Law Process Act in 2016, dramatically changing the face of divorce in the state.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce combines aspects of a traditional divorce and one obtained through mediation. Serving as an alternative to litigation in family law matters, collaborative divorce is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that aims to resolve a couple’s differences through settlement negotiations rather than litigation. The process is completely voluntary for both parties as well as for the attorneys, and should it break down, both attorneys are required to agree in advance that they will not represent their clients in contested litigation.

How the Collaborative Divorce Process Works

The process gives each party a greater degree of control over the divorce settlement, helps to minimize animosity, and aims to keep communication open between the couple once the divorce is settled.

Here is how the collaborative divorce process typically works:

  • Each party retains an attorney who is specially trained in the collaborative process.
  • There are no hearings or formal discovery requests – everything is done outside the judicial system.
  • The parties and their attorneys hold a series of two-hour joint meetings at regular intervals to work toward their goals.
  • To prepare for these meetings, each attorney holds a pre-meeting conference with their client to educate them regarding what will be discussed, and to strategize how each issue will be approached.
  • If the collaborative process is successful and a settlement is reached, the parties sign an agreement that specifies their rights and responsibilities. A judge must review and adopt the agreement

In a collaborative divorce, a team of professionals help the parties resolve their differences, although they are not bound by what the experts tell them. These professionals typically include:

  • Attorneys. Unlike traditional litigation, the attorneys are not adversarial, and instead work as a team to help both clients identify and resolve their issues.
  • Mental health professionals/facilitators. A neutral facilitator is used to help the parties come to terms with the emotional aspects of the transition of their relationship. Then children are involved, they help parents resolve parenting and timesharing issues to become effective co-parents.
  • Neutral financial professionals. If complex financial issues are involved or the parties do not have an equal knowledge of their finances, a certified public accountant or a financial planner might be brought into the process to help the parties decide how to divide their marital assets and liabilities and resolve child support and alimony issues.
  • Other experts. If necessary, the parties may utilize the services of other neutral professionals, including property appraisers, educational placement experts, and estate planning attorneys to obtain information that will expedite their negotiations.

While using a team of professionals to settle a divorce is a different way to practice law for most attorneys, there is evidence of a dramatic reduction in post-judgement litigation when a collaborative divorce process is utilized.

Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce

When a divorcing couple is able to sit down together and reach an agreement outside of a courtroom the benefits are substantial:

  • A collaborative divorce is an open process that requires complete transparency on the part of both parties. To encourage honesty and truthfulness, all communications that take place during the negotiations are kept confidential.
  • The pace toward an amicable settlement is determined by the parties, not the court system.
  • The collaborative process is cost effective. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average divorce costs between $15,000 and $30,000, while the fee for a collaborative divorce is around $7,500.
  • All professionals involved are committed to facilitating a respectful process that benefits an entire family, not just one party.
  • When a couple is able to divorce collaboratively, family relationships are more likely to be preserved, not harmed.

According to the Florida Collaborative Law Process Act, “the collaborative law process is a unique non-adversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.”

Contact an Experienced Florida Collaborative Divorce Attorney Today

For many Florida families, there is a healthier way to resolve their differences than traditional litigation. To learn more about the collaborative divorce process in Vero Beach and whether it might be a superior alternative to litigation for your family, contact the Chesnutt Law Firm online or call 772-492-3330 today.