Collaborative Divorce

Unlike some states, Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state, which means a spouse must show that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." Because no other proof is required, obtaining a divorce is relatively simple. The process, however, is typically not simple, and so determining in advance how to divorce can save time, frustration, and money. Collaborative divorce is a newer method that some spouses use to get divorced. Although it has been around since the mid-nineties, it is still a method on the rise in popularity.

Collaborative divorce is what it sounds like—a way to get divorced in a more collaborative and less combative way without a court's intervention. Collaborative divorce is far more effective for couples who want to divorce amicably and peacefully and avoid the high costs and lengthy battles in a courtroom. Collaborative divorce can almost, or entirely, avoid time spent in a courtroom.

The collaborative process can address issues typically found in divorce, including:

  • Separating marital and separate property
  • Dividing assets and debts (vehicles, family home, loans)
  • Spousal maintenance (alimony)
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Child support

Florida Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Pursuing a divorce can be a stressful process. Nevertheless, an experienced and dedicated family attorney can help walk you through every step of the process and make it as harmless as possible. If you are navigating a collaborative divorce in Fort Lauderdale, reach out to Bacchus Law Firm. Nisha Bacchus is a skilled collaborative divorce attorney that has extensive experience in all family law matters and is dedicated to protecting clients' interests both in and out of court.

Call (954) 500-5555 to secure an initial consultation with Bacchus Law Firm today. We accept cases throughout the Greater Miami-metropolitan area in cities like West Palm Beach, LaBelle, Miami, and East Naples, Florida.


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Collaborative Divorce in Florida

To participate in the process, each spouse must have an attorney represent them. Not every family law and divorce attorney is trained in collaborative divorce, so it is essential to search for the right attorney as soon as possible.

Under Florida Law, a collaborative divorce begins once spouses enter a collaborative law participation agreement. Although the agreement can initially feel like a formality, it is a roadmap for future collaborative discussions between spouses and drives the relationship between spouses and their attorneys. The agreement will outline the remaining issues to be addressed, describe the parties' intent to forgo courtroom litigation, and explain what happens if the collaborative process fails.

If spouses cannot resolve their issues and choose to litigate in court, the attorneys who represented them in collaborative divorce cannot represent them in a courtroom divorce proceeding. Spouses begin the collaborative process knowing this, providing a high incentive to work together and resolve all issues. Although attorneys cannot serve in both collaborative and litigation roles for spouses, attorneys still advocate for their client's interests just as they would in a courtroom setting.

During the process, spouses meet with their attorneys individually to address their goals and desired outcomes for divorce. Spouses and attorneys will also meet as a group of four over what is likely to be several meetings. At these meetings, spouses will have the time they need to address all issues listed in their collaborative divorce agreement. 


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Benefits And Drawbacks Of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce has many benefits that are not typically found in courtroom litigation. They include:

Low-Stress Environment

Possibly its most significant benefit, collaborative divorce allows spouses to communicate outside a courtroom and in a more comfortable and casual meeting space. This relaxed environment facilitates honest and open communication that usually leaves spouses less stressed during and after divorce.

Confidentiality

Courtroom hearings are nearly always open to the public, and a record of everything spoken in hearings is kept. Collaborative divorce negotiations are confidential, so spouses can keep their personal concerns and other essential details private.  

Reduced Cost

Costly trial preparation is avoided, and attorneys are paid for a shorter period. If financial, childcare, or other experts are required, spouses typically share those costs rather than hiring separate experts.

Faster Process

Courtroom litigation often lasts more than a year, whereas collaborative divorce can last a few months and have fewer collaborative meetings.

Maintain Relationships

Collaborative divorce can reinforce healthy communication patterns, provide a more positive foundation for co-parenting, and facilitate an amicable ending to the relationship.

Voluntary

Because the process is optional, either spouse can back out or temporarily pause the process at any time.

Mutual Decisions

In courtroom divorces, judges ultimately decide a family's future. In collaborative divorce, spouses who work together and mutually make decisions about their futures are far more likely to feel empowered and more secure about making compromises.

To be clear, collaborative divorce does not mean that spouses and their attorneys will get along at all times and that there are no conflicts. Instead, it's expected that spouses will have a few or even several issues where they conflict, and negotiations can have disagreements and frustrations.

Although there are many benefits, collaborative divorce can have a few drawbacks that should be considered before starting the process.

It's Not For High-Conflict Spouses

Spouses with moderate to severe communication challenges are very unlikely to succeed in using collaborative divorce. Additionally, spouses with domestic violence protection orders can be prohibited from collaborative divorce and may be required to use the court system to resolve their disputes.

Cost And Time Of Unresolved Disputes

Any unresolved disputes will require court intervention. If this happens, the spouses must hire new attorneys and start from the beginning. This can significantly increase the cost and time to hire new attorneys and proceed to litigation.

High Incentive To Resolve Disputes

This could be a benefit or a drawback, depending on the perspective. Because of the cost and time associated with unresolved disputes, spouses are highly incentivized to agree on all remaining issues. Spouses who can no longer communicate effectively or struggle to agree can feel pressure to resolve matters just to avoid the other drawbacks.

People who are interested in collaborative divorce but unsure whether the process is right for them should speak to an attorney trained in the process. Trained attorneys can review every case's facts, identify problem areas, and consider solutions for all areas in dispute.


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Is Collaborative Divorce The Same As Mediation?

Collaborative divorce and mediation have many similarities, but they are different. Both provide spouses with an informal and confidential environment to resolve any disputes in a divorce. They also provide a more affordable alternative to traditional courtroom litigation, and outcomes are the result of negotiations and compromises. Like collaborative divorce, spouses can attempt mediation and arrive at a partial, complete, or no resolution. However, it is much more difficult to walk away from collaborative divorce than it is with mediation. If mediation fails, spouses can easily return to the courtroom and request that a judge resolve their disputes. Attorneys who assist clients in mediation are allowed to assist them in courtroom proceedings, whereas collaborative divorce attorneys cannot represent their clients in courtroom litigation. If mediation fails, spouses do not need to start over, unlike in collaborative divorce.

Mediation can be part of a divorce proceeding that has already started in court, or it can occur before either party has filed for divorce. For example, judges can sometimes require spouses to attempt mediation before going to trial over their divorce issues. With collaborative divorce, litigation in court by either party is not an option. The only time spouses might need to appear in a courtroom is to read their agreements to a judge.

Finally, mediation requires a mediator, a person trained in family mediation and Florida law. Some mediators are also attorneys. Mediators are neutral and cannot represent or provide legal advice to either spouse. They provide suggestions and can help parties navigate highly charged topics, such as parenting time schedules, child support, alimony, the marital home, and other property distribution. Because divorces often have many disputed issues, some mediators specialize in particular areas, such as financial and property allocation or issues about children.


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Additional Resources

Collaborative Law Process Act – The Florida Legislature website provides definitions and laws guiding attorneys and individuals obtaining a divorce through a collaborative process.

Florida Family Courts – The Florida Court system's family court website provides families with resources for divorce, child support, self-help, and required forms.


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Florida Collaborative Divorce Lawyer | Broward County, FL

If you have questions about the collaborative divorce process, do not hesitate to contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Bacchus Law Firm. We have years of experience helping clients through the often-complex process of divorce. Our legal team is trained in the collaborative process and can speak confidentially about your case.

Call (954) 500-5555 to schedule a free consultation with Bacchus Law Firm today. Bacchus Law Firm serves clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, LaBelle, or East Naples, Florida. 


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