A divorce can be an especially stressful and emotional time, even if it’s an amicable parting of ways. When it’s not amicable, the stress and emotions can increase tenfold. Fighting in court leads to fighting outside of court and, eventually, it will affect all aspects of your life.
What if there was another way, though? What if you could get a divorce without all of the fighting? Without having to appear in court? Without the debilitating stress?
As of July 1, the Collaborative Law Process Act (CLPA) has gone into effect here in Florida, offering a “a new alternative to litigation for family matters in Florida – the Collaborative Process.”
Let’s delve into what the Collaborative Process is and how a couple might benefit from this process as opposed to litigation.
Understanding the Collaborative Process
The Collaborative Process provides a way of “resolving a couple’s differences in a family matter through voluntary settlement negotiations rather than litigating in court.” So instead of fighting it out in court where one party tends to win while the other loses, you will take part in negotiations that aim to problem solve.
What exactly does this entail, though?
Well, just like a typical divorce, you and your spouse will each hire your own lawyer. In this case, though, they will both have been specially trained in the collaborative process and mediation.
You will first meet with your lawyer privately so you can discuss what you want to get out of the divorce. Go through all the pertinent issues that may arise such as division of property, child support, alimony, and so on, and let your attorney know your limits for each situation. Remember, you will have to compromise on certain things, so think about your bottom line.
Both you and your spouse – along with both attorneys – will also have to sign a Participation Agreement that says you are committed to the collaborative process and won’t go to court.
Once you’ve met with your lawyer, the two of you will meet with your spouse and their lawyer to start negotiations. You will most likely continue to meet on a regular basis until you’ve agreed upon and settled every divorce issue.
Mental health professionals are brought in to keep both spouses on track to resolve their differences instead of attacking each other. A neutral financial expert can be used to settle the couples’ finances, and if the couple can’t seem to agree on anything, a licensed mediator can be brought in to help the negotiations along.
If, however, the negotiations aren’t going anywhere, and the couple decides they must go to court, both attorneys will have to withdraw from the case as per the Participation Agreement. This condition gives the attorneys an incentive to settle the divorce using the collaborative process.
If everything goes according to plan and the terms of the divorce have been settled and agreed upon, your divorce will be final without ever having to step into a courtroom.
Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce
A collaborative divorce not only provides couples with an alternative divorce process but it also provides them with a number of benefits, including:
- Privacy. When you participate in a court proceeding, the information becomes public record. That means that anyone can access it. A collaborative divorce, on the other hand, offers you privacy and confidentiality.
- Client control. A collaborative divorce puts you and your spouse in control of the process and final decisions, whereas a judge is in control when you end up going to court.
- Cost-effectiveness. The collaborative process overall tends to be less expensive than litigation. Litigation costs can also be unpredictable depending on how often you go to court during and after the divorce proceedings.
- Time. Going to court means you have to work around the crowded court schedule, which can cause numerous delays. You’re in charge of the timetable in the collaborative process, which means the divorce most likely won’t take as long.
- Respect. The lawyers and other members of your collaborative team have all been trained to model respect to help you and your spouse preserve family relationships instead of damaging them. You commit to having respectful negotiations during a collaborative divorce, whereas a court situation ends up being adversarial.
If you’re thinking about divorce or are in the process of getting divorced, a collaborative divorce might be a better option for you and your spouse instead of going to court. Reach out to an experienced Florida family lawyer to discuss your situation and see if the collaborative process can help.