Collaborative divorce is a relatively new approach and process to ending a marriage in Florida. It is a voluntary, non-adversarial alternative that involves a team approach, consisting of two collaborative attorneys, and, if desired, a neutral financial expert and a neutral mental health expert. The parties and the team sign a participation agreement, stipulating that they intend, through the collaborative process, to resolve all issues cooperatively and forego litigation. Discovery is exchanged in the protected team setting, with the goal of keeping the parties’ financial and personal information as private as possible. If a party does proceed with litigation, the collaborative process terminates, and the team of professionals withdraw from the case.
The collaborative divorce is especially beneficial to high net worth individuals and those with extensive business holdings, as it provides greater privacy than a traditionally litigated divorce. It is also beneficial to parents with a focus on being able to effectively co-parent after a divorce, as the neutral mental health expert can help the parties work through any and all parenting issues and ultimately devise a timesharing schedule and parenting plan that will best suit the parties.
Because of the increased privacy in a collaborative divorce and the greater control the individual parties have over the outcome of their divorce, it is not surprising that it is growing in popularity throughout the country and that many celebrities are increasingly using this process to dissolve their marriages. The collaborative process has been used by Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Cameron Crowe, and Robin Williams, to name a few.
Though the framework of the collaborative divorce process was introduced decades ago, and is currently used worldwide, the concept has only recently started to gain traction in Florida. Administrative orders regulating the collaborative divorce process have now been entered in judicial circuits throughout Florida, including the Ninth Circuit (Orange and Osceola Counties), Eleventh (Miami-Dade County), Thirteenth Circuit (Hillsborough County), and Eighteenth Circuit (Brevard County). More importantly, there is now a collaborative law bill pending in the Florida Senate (SB 0462 and HB 0503). Should the bill pass and become law, more people in Florida will become aware of, and hopefully choose to benefit from, this more cooperative and private approach to divorce.
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