Most Florida divorces involve more than a little stress. Members of the Florida bar, aware of this fact, have long sought ways to minimize the stress and anxiety faced by both parties to a divorce. One of the major alternatives to a traditional divorce is collaboration.
The basics of a collaborative divorce
In a collaborative divorce, the parties choose attorneys who are willing to agree to forego a trial even if the parties cannot agree to settle their differences through negotiation. The parties then retain a neutral financial planning expert and a neutral family counselor (or mental health counselor). This “collaborative team” then works together to identify and resolve the issues in the divorce.
The basic issues
In virtually every divorce, the parties must resolve the following differences: division of assets, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal maintenance (also known as “alimony”). While the issues may bear similar names, the financial situation of the family and other factors such as ethnic and religious backgrounds, will bear heavily on how the divorcing spouses choose to resolve their disputes.
The mechanics of a collaborative divorce
Once the team has signed a collaborative divorce agreement, which contains the mutual agreements of the team to forego a courtroom trial, the team meets together to identify issues and explore possible solutions.
The team does not have the power to force the divorcing parties to accept any particular solution; instead, they have the power to suggest potential solutions to the parties.
If one party rejects a suggestion, the team may modify the proposal or focus on an entirely new attempt to solve the issue. The team will work through each issue by proposing compromise solutions. No proposal is binding on either party unless it is accepted by both parties.
If the parties reach an agreement, it is presented to the judge for approval. The judge will issue a final judgment and decree that dissolves the marriage and orders the relief embodied in the negotiated settlement. If the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement, they must retain new attorneys and proceed to trial.
Despite the fact that some collaborations fail to resolve all issues in a divorce, most knowledgeable divorce attorneys recommend either mediation or collaboration as a useful alternative to a full-scale court room trial.