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Collaborative Law

The Collaborative Process

The Collaborative Process

The collaborative process is a proven methodology for parties to resolve their conflict both in the area family law, pre-and post marital agreements, estate and trust litigation and commercial and business litigation.

A well-established collaborative turning in our Tampa Bay area often refers to his collaborative work as family diplomacy. This terminology is significant has many times individuals failed to understand the damage that the legal process and the fallout from contentious litigation can bring to families. In addition to the financial cost, which can be crippling, high conflict litigation brings great emotional stress upon the party who is participating in those around him or her.

The litigation model by its very definition requires that one side will win and the other side will lose. I often explain the clients that unlike a sporting event, we do not have tights the judge must find that one side is better than the other.

The collaborative model unlike the litigation model avoids completely the concept of a winner and a loser. Instead, the collaborative path focuses on resolving conflict and reaching harmony. The guiding principles in the collaborative process are transparency, confidentiality and the parties own interest. That is significant is moving forward in life the relationship between you and your fellow coparents or former business partner can be preserved to at least be marked with civility and in some cases true friendship. This is very important in cases where you will be working with your fellow coparent to reassure children during the period of minority.

The collaborative process unlike the litigation model is established or formed in a series of meetings. These meetings are held in an environment which promotes trust and comfort and more importantly guided by a facilitator who is licensed in both mental health and has collaborative principal training.

You are represented by an attorney and instead of each side fighting to claim victory at the expense of the other, the legal counsel work together to find a agreement which both parties needs are met and fulfilled. This process because it is held outside the courtroom can allow the parties to define very creative solutions and concepts which best meets the needs of their family unit and in particular the children.

Once an agreement is reached, the parties create a collaborative written agreement and that agreement is presented in a confidential way to the family law judge or other sitting judge the case who will then find that the matter is resolved so enter appropriate orders.

A common question is how long does the collaborative process take each family pathway will be different, on average the team may be involved over 4 to 6 meetings to reach resolution. Some families may be shorter and some families may be longer but as you are the parties guiding the process in a team environment the entire family unit decides the best path moving forward.

The collaborative process for many families reduces the expense of family law legal services. Under the collaborative process, the parties can agree to use one financial neutral person to assess and complete the required financial documentation. The ability of the parties to use common experts for both sides saves the party financial expense as in a litigation model each party has to hire their own expert or experts.

The commitment of the collaborative professionals to avoid litigation is so strong that under the collaborative process, if you and the other party are unable to resolve your matter collaboratively then the collaborative attorneys can no longer represent you in a litigation model case. This ethical rule is significant as with the parties having an agreement as to all collaborative professionals not participating in a litigation model, all involved are honoring the principle that there will not be a winner or a loser when handling a legal matter under collaborative principles.

For many attorneys who are trained in the litigation model it is hard to fully understand the collaborative process. However, just because the parties elect to use collaborative process at the onset does not mean that they cannot later use a litigation model. In the alternative, many families that use a litigation model can later decide to try the collaborative approach.

If you are considering filing for a dissolution of marriage, post judgment action or engaging in other litigated conflict, it is very important that you consider all options available to resolve your dispute. For many, the collaborative process is a very successful way to move forward in their lives without engaging in soul sucking litigation. However, for some families the litigation model is a secession for means to resolve their issues. Not all litigation models are financially crippling or emotionally challenging, but some can be. The better informed you are as to your options available will allow you to make the best decision for your family or matter.

Florida law has created several ways for parties to resolve issues which may arise under family law.

Particularly in areas of dissolution of marriage or other areas of child custody disputes for premarital or postmarital agreements, Florida law has created a litigation track and a collaborative lost track and which parties may resolve disputes and help reorganize and reshape their family units.

Litigation track

Most people are familiar with the traditional litigation track for families who file for divorce, child custody or other family law issues.

In a litigation track, one party files a petition asking the court to either dissolve their marriage, modify a parenting plan or modify child support. The other party isn’t served using a process server the petition allowed a period of time to respond.

These petitions are filed in the public records and many times contain hurtful statements. The party was served then files a responsive pleading and answers the petition. A discovery process and follows each party is deposed and information is acquired and then the matter eventually is heard before a Circuit Court judge in the family division to resolve the issues.

For many people this process run smoothly and efficiently and without much conflict. However for others, the conflict is high and of litigation in the court system can be a great source of emotional and financial stress upon the party.

In contrast to litigation model, the collaborative model works an entire focus is to keep you and the other party out of the court system. Working with a collaboratively trained attorney and a qualified mental health facilitator, a team approach is undertaken to resolve the issues present. The process is confidential, transparent and guided by your interest in the matter and what is the most important to you.

Many families find the collaborative process is particularly effective when resolving issues involving children as the facilitator with his or her license mental health background is able to provide a valuable piece to the process and help reduce the conflict between the parties.

The most important thing you can do when considering filing a petition for dissolution or other family law action is to become educated about the two tracks available so the best approach can be matched to your family. I often share with my clients that it is much like wearing a high heel first a flat slipper. It is a matter of determining which shoe fits your foot best. Certainly selecting a shooter where is nowhere near the level of seriousness which is involved with family law cases, but it is good to know that under Florida law US a person seeking to reorganize your family have many options available as to the best way to do that.