Going through a divorce is often a difficult and trying time in one’s life, and although the situation varies immensely person to person and family to family, part of this is characterized by the adversarial process itself. This year, a new Florida statute went into effect which offers an alternative to the traditional adversarial approach. The Collaborative Law Process Act, sections 61.55 – 61.58, Florida Statutes, formalizes a process which has been in practice in the state for many years. According to section 61.55, the “purpose” section of the act, “[i]t is the policy of this state to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process. The collaborative law process is a unique nonadversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.”
The collaborative model is an entirely voluntary process intended to facilitate a resolution to a divorce or family law matter without the need for court intervention or adversarial proceedings. The collaborative process begins only when both parties choose to enter into a collaborative law participation agreement, and it is concluded only when the matter is settled (either in full or in part), or when the process is terminated by one or both parties. There are a variety of ways in which the process can be terminated, but each amounts to one party either affirmatively ending the process or taking action evidencing the intent to do so, such as the filing of a related matter in the court.
In short, the collaborative process continues only as long as each party is willingly participating in it, a crucial element for its effectiveness. The collaborative process has other unique aspects designed to encourage open communication between the parties. While each party is represented by his or her own collaborative attorney, the process typically involves a neutral financial professional and a neutral mental health professional. In addition, subject to certain exceptions and guidelines outlined in the statute, collaborative law communications are confidential. By focusing singularly from the outset on reaching a non-adversarial and voluntary settlement, the process is intended to encourage a peaceful and early resolution to disputes.
Florida's adoption of statutes formally outlining the collaborative process in family law cases should aid parties, courts, and attorneys alike in uniformly practicing and applying the method. This offers an interesting alternative to the traditional adversarial process that some parties may wish to explore.
Dreyfus Law, P.A. is a full service Civil Litigation Law Firm in Clearwater, Florida that has been serving the Tampa Bay area for over 30 years. Our areas of practice include Divorce & Family Law, Personal Injury, Estate Planning & Probate Litigation, Civil Litigation, and Business & Corporate Law. To schedule a consultation, please call our office at (727) 442-1144.