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New Law Gives Divorcing Spouses More Options in Florida

Ever since July 2017, Floridians have had an additional new option for how to proceed through the often trying process of divorce. In 2016, the Florida legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, a bill known as the Collaborative Law Process Act. Following the governor’s signing the law, the Florida Supreme Court created court rules for the implementation of the new alternative. This law, which went into effect on July 1, 2017, creates a new alternative to the adversarial process for divorcing spouses:  the collaborative process. For advice about all of your divorce options and what makes the most sense for you, talk to an experienced Florida divorce attorney.

The collaborative process originally was the brainchild of a Minnesota attorney who desired to give divorcing spouses an option for resolving the issues necessary to complete a divorce in a manner that was more private and more compassionate than the traditional litigation model. Many experienced family law professionals have expressed concern that, for some couples, the litigation process, by its very nature, motivates spouses to want to “defeat” their exes. By seeking to remove that adversarial element, collaborative divorce is designed to motivate spouses to work together with each other, rather than in opposition to each other.

While the collaborative process is a form of alternative dispute resolution, it is, as one author in the Florida Bar Journal put it, “an alternative dispute resolution process unlike any other ADR process in a number of ways.” Each spouse retains his or her own legal counsel. While the law does not require retaining an attorney who is trained in collaborative divorce, having a fully collaborative process-trained attorney handle your divorce has its advantages.

In a litigated divorce, there are several procedural steps. There is the exchange of various documents. There may be depositions. There may be multiple hearings before the judge. In the collaborative process, all of that is stripped away. There is no discovery and no hearings; everything is done outside the courtroom. The only way that the process goes before the judge is for one of two reasons. If the spouses resolve all of their issues, a marital settlement agreement will be written up, and the judge will be asked to approve it. If the spouses cannot reach a full resolution through collaboration, the litigation process will take over, and there will be a hearing (or hearings) before the judge.

One substantial benefit of the collaborative process is privacy. If a couple chooses the collaborative process, only the spouses and their attorneys will know what is discussed in those meetings (except in cases in which extraordinary events like credible threats of violence happen). It is possible to use the collaborative process and have the final results (as stated in the marital settlement agreement) be the only part made public.

It is important to keep in mind that the new option of collaborative divorce is not mandatory; you can simply choose to use the litigation process to resolve your case. You can also choose to attempt the collaborative process and then discontinue the collaborative process and have the court resolve your case through litigation.

For some couples, having a greater degree of involvement by the judge may be a helpful thing. For many, though, the collaborative process offers a better and healthier way. As you contemplate your options in divorce, it helps to have an attorney who is knowledgeable in all of the options available. Miami divorce attorney Sara Saba is a skilled advocate regardless of the option you select. She has been providing strong and dependable representation for her family law clients for more than 13 years, and she is also a trained collaborative process attorney. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

What Is ‘Donative Intent’ and How Can Proof of It Help You Achieve a Successful Outcome in Your Florida Divorce Case?, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2018

Options and Challenges When Business Co-Owners Go Through a Divorce in Florida, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 9, 2018


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