It’s time…

You have given it a lot of thought, done the work in counseling, and you have decided it’s time to divorce. The idea of a court battle over children or finances can be stomach-churning and anxiety-producing. Collaborative Law is another option that not many people know about, and only a few attorneys are trained in.

A better option…

Collaborative Law is a process where divorce happens outside of the court system. It is a team approach to divorce. The team consists of your attorney, your spouse’s attorney, a financial expert to assist with the money aspects of the divorce, and a mental health professional (MHP). The MHP serves as a coach and moderator to make sure the team works efficiently. They also help develop parenting plans for children. Both of the experts are neutral. They are part of the team assisting the parties and attorneys to develop unique solutions for your family.

table with gavel and wedding rings and attorney with divorce papers

The beauty of collaborative law is that the professionals are often able to craft a much more unique agreement for the family. These agreements aim to meet the specific needs of your family. This is very different from the limited things a judge can order in a court hearing. The vast experience of the team helps the parties think creatively to problem solve every issue the family is facing – legal and otherwise. A judge can’t do that.

Collaborative Law builds communication and co-parenting skills. These skills are critical for two parties who wish to dissolve their marriage – but keep their family intact. I have seen the benefit of these learned skills even with clients that have adult children. Adult children get the benefit of enjoying family events and celebrations with both of their parents. The parties can maintain a respectful relationship with each other because they gave each other the gift of handling their divorce with dignity and respect for one another. They did not wage war in court causing family members to be collateral damage.

The process…

A series of team meetings will be set once the team is in place. The two attorneys select the neutral experts for the team. The attorneys select experts they think will work best with the parties and the specific issues that need to be addressed. Each meeting has a set agenda and tasks to be completed. The process usually takes considerably less time than litigation. Collaborative law’s cost is also typically less than the cost of litigation due to work not being duplicated.

alimony text over stack of money and gavel

In a typical, litigated divorce, both sides might have their own financial expert who bills them for financial work. The attorneys then bill to review that work. The experts each bill their own client to disagree with the other expert, and so on. In contrast, in collaborative law, there is one expert doing financial gathering and analysis. This expert usually works at a lower hourly rate than the attorneys. This can be substantial savings for the parties. The MHP typically helps the parties create a parenting plan outside of the team meetings. Again, this is a substantial saving since only one professional (at a lower hourly rate) is working on this aspect of the case with the parties.

Keeping it in the family…

The privacy afforded to the parties is one of the best aspects of collaborative law. There are no damaging motions and petitions filed with the court. The parties’ financial disclosures are not made public. The family’s closely-held business details are kept private. This privacy can be critical if the parties are looking to sell or transition their business. The family can deal with substance abuse or mental health issues discreetly, without shame or punishment.

There are certainly those divorcing couples who have good communication skills and can work out an agreement on their own. We call them “kitchen table divorces” and they are wonderful. These couples should still have their documents drafted by a licensed attorney to ensure they are not overlooking something. Those couples probably don’t need collaborative law to resolve their divorce, and that’s ok. For those couples who are facing litigation because they can’t make a “kitchen table divorce” happen – collaborative law may be the gentlest divorce possible.

For more information on Collaborative Law, visit the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals website at https://www.collaborativepractice.com/or the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals website at https://www.collaborativepracticeflorida.com/

Amanda Colon
Amanda is a Wife, Mother and Step-Mother of three girls (and a Doberman), Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney, Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, and Business Owner. When not running to court, the office, lacrosse, ballet or tutoring, sometimes she can also be found at Publix or Target. Amanda passionately supports the PACE Center for Girls, Inc. and has been proud to serve PACE Center for Girls - Pasco as a Board member and past Chair for the last five years.