Effective July 1, 2017, Florida families now have another choice that can keep divorcing spouses and their children out of court. It’s known as The Collaborative Law Process Act (CLPA), and it can help families navigate the process of divorce faster, less expensively, and with privacy and dignity.

In a collaborative divorce, there are several key changes that make it different from typical litigation that may make it the best option for your family. For one thing, all negotiations and settlements are made outside of court. This means that families, and not a judge, ultimately make the decisions that will affect their children’s upbringing and the spouses’ financial futures.

The process works by both spouses signing a Collaborative Participation Agreement and each hire a lawyer to guide them through the process. These lawyers act as collaborative partners with one another, not opposing counsel. A mental health professional, also known as a neutral facilitator, and financial professional, such as a financial advisor or an accountant, are brought into act as neutrals and provide guidance to reach the best possible outcome for all parties. If a settlement cannot be reached, the attorneys agree to withdraw from further representation and not litigate the matter themselves, which gives the attorneys an incentive to reach a fair settlement.

A Collaboration, Not a Battleground

A collaborative negotiation is focused on finding the best possible solutions and outcomes for all parties, and not on battling one another to gain ground. This is reflected in the terminology used that differs from a typical litigation scenario.

The attorneys are known as “teammates”, rather than “opposing counsel”. Clients are referred to as the “spouse” or “co-parent” rather than the “opposing party”.  Instead of trying to “state positions and settle”, counsel helps their clients “elicit interests and reach an agreement”. The language used is collaborative rather than adversarial, which keeps the focus on the interests of the children and the emotional well-being of the parties involved.

How Collaborative Divorce Benefits Families

There are several provisions in the Collaborative Participation Agreement that allow the parties to negotiate freely and focus on outcomes without having to be guarded. For one thing, the communications in a collaborative divorce negotiation cannot be used against either spouse in further litigation.

According to the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Collaborative Law Process Act “creates a statutory privilege, similar to the attorney-client privilege that, except in limited circumstances, prevents communications and negotiations during the collaborative process from ever being used against a spouse in court.” Furthermore, the contract states that the attorneys contracted for the collaborative settlement cannot be used to fight one another in divorce court.

The Collaborative Law Process Act is a Good Choice for Child-Centered Divorce

Many of the provisions in the Collaborative Law Process Act are designed to protect the interests of the children involved and to empower their parents to make the best possible decisions for them. Unlike a court proceeding, where all information is a matter of the public record, everything in a collaborative negotiation is kept confidential to protect the family’s privacy.

The collaborative process promotes the best interests of the children when emotions and tensions run high.  The family is spared the worst of the financial nightmare that a divorce litigation can become.  The Collaborative Process can often be less expensive than a court battle and may resolve faster than traditional litigation. According to info from the Research Committee of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals, 34% of collaborative cases resolve in fewer than three months, while 66% take less than six months.

To get more information about whether the Collaborative option may be right for your family, click here to schedule a no-cost consultation today.