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Collaborative Divorce; Florida’s new law

Collaborative Divorce has been popular in Florida for at least a decade, and it is only getting more popular as economic realities have made divorcing couples far more open to working together for cost effective solutions. In a positive development, the Florida legislature passed the Collaborative Law Process Act (the Act), a law designed to make the settling family law cases, including divorce, paternity, custody, and support, outside of court. Governor Scott signed the bill into law, joining 13 other states and the District of Columbia. The new law goes into effect July 1.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce, sometimes referred to as the collaborative process, is a unique method of resolving disputes, in which attorneys and their clients agree that all of the available money, time, and energy the parties have to devote to the dispute resolution process will be devoted to finding solutions and reaching an agreement, rather than in a courtroom fighting. The parties to a Collaborative Divorce sign a contract at the beginning, and agree that the attorneys can only be used for out of court settlement, but not to fight each other in divorce court.

What Does the New Law Provide?

The Act has three stated purposes:

  1.   To create a uniform system of practice for the Collaborative law process in family law proceedings;
  2.   To encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early settlement of any pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures; and
  3.   To preserve the working relationship between the parties to a dispute by using a nonadverserial method. Such methods reduce the emotional and financial toll that traditional litigation takes.

Not all areas of family law are included under the Act, but the most common ones are, including:

  •       marriage, divorce, dissolution annulment, and the dissolution of marital property;
  •       alimony, maintenance, and child support;
  •       parental relocation with a child;
  •       paternity and parentage; and
  •       premarital, marital, and postmarital agreements.

A judge cannot order parties to a dispute into the collaborative law process under the Act, but as soon as the parties enter into a collaborative law agreement, then no matter where they are in the litigation process it is superseded by the collaborative process.

Are You Forever Bound to the Collaborative Law Process if You Agree to It?

You can agree to use the collaborative law process at the beginning of a proceeding, and then change your mind if for whatever reason it is not working out. The Act provides circumstances for how and when such agreements can be terminated. In general, however, it can terminate any time one party provides notice to the other party, or when one party begins a related proceeding without the consent of the other party. There is no cause required to terminate an agreement either, meaning it is perfectly acceptable to change your mind during the process if you are displeased with how things seem to be going, without risk of penalty.

Contact an Orlando Collaborative Divorce Attorney

If you live in Central Florida and would like to discuss your Collaborative Divorce, Collaborative law or the Act further, Attorney Natalie D. Hall would be happy to discuss it with you and whether or not it is the right fit to solve your domestic dispute.  Contact us for an appointment today.

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