Florida Board Certified Marital & Family Lawyer

Collaborative Law, What's it all about?

I recently completed the collaborative law training offered by the Tampa Bay Collaborative Law Trainers. With this training, I can serve as a financial expert or as an attorney in collaborative law cases. Collaborative law is relatively new to Florida, but is a proven and effective way to resolve family law cases.

What is collaborative law?
The collaborative law process, in Florida, is a voluntary process, in which parties attempt to settle their legal matter without the expense, frustration, and delay often associated with litigation. Collaborative law is a form of alternative dispute resolution. The parties and their attorneys pledge to work cooperatively to reach a settlement of the parties’ case.

The process focuses on the interests of both clients and their families, and how to reach an agreement that best serves those interests. All information necessary to make knowledgeable decisions is voluntarily provided by the parties. After the necessary information is assembled and disseminated to the parties, the collaborative law participants (
i.e., parties, attorneys and experts) develop a range of potential options that best meets the needs and interests of the parties.

In cases that present complex issues, experts may be needed to assist in the gathering and organizing of information, and developing feasible settlement options. Commons types of experts retained include financial experts and mental health professionals. If experts are necessary, they are jointly retained by the parties and all information gathered and opinions formed by the experts are openly shared with the parties and their attorneys.

Once a range of potential options is generated and each party understands the options, the collaborative law participants discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. The parties then work cooperatively select an option that best meets both of their needs. If a settlement is reached, an agreement is written reflecting the settlement terms. The settlement agreement usually then presented to the Court for approval.

How does a collaborative law case begin?
To begin the collaborative law process, both parties must agree. In Florida, the Court cannot order parties to participate in the collaborative law process. Once the parties have agreed to participate in the collaborative law process, they and their attorneys must commit to the process by signing a Participation Agreement.

The Participation Agreement is a contract that describes the nature and scope of the process and requires that:
  • The parties voluntarily disclose all information and materials necessary for each party to make informed decisions about the matters presented by their case;
  • The parties agree to use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable settlement of their case;
  • Each party must be represented by an attorney, whose representation terminates upon if either party proceeds to seek Court resolution of any contested matter; and,
  • The parties agree to jointly retain mental health or financial professionals to help resolve issues, if necessary.

What are the benefits of the collaborative law process?
There are many advantages to using the collaborative law process to resolve a family law case, including:
  • The collaborative law process allows parties to resolve their case with the guidance of trained professionals without arguing positions before a Judge in a public forum.
  • The collaborative law process allows the parties to determine and control the outcome of their case, rather than have a result mandated by a Judge or Magistrate.
  • The collaborative law process allows the parties to consider resolutions that a Judge or Magistrate cannot. Thus, allowing the parties to develop a settlement uniquely tailored to the needs of their families.
  • The collaborative law process removes the threat of “going to Court”, reducing the parties’ anxiety and fear, allowing them to focus on finding amicable solutions.
  • The collaborative law process helps the parties learn to communicate constructively and cooperate to reach a common goal, laying the foundation for a heathy relationship in after the legal matter is concluded.
  • The collaborative law process is usually less expense than pursuing the traditional litigation route to resolve a family law case.