Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act Goes into Effect

  • The Collaborative Law Process Act went into effect in the state of Florida on July 1.
  • It promotes the collaborative process during the divorce experience.
  • It also promotes cooperation, communication, and transparency among divorcing parties.

When a couple begins the divorce process, emotions are often coloring their perspective and influencing their decision-making. What one spouse may seek in the divorce one day is what the other spouse cannot live without the next. Whether it is custody or asset division, differences emerge, creating a level of uncertainty that both parties feel, in regards to their respective futures.

Many state governments are encouraging couples to seek an agreement outside of court and settle their differences in family law matters. The state of Florida is seeking to follow suit with recent legislation that went into effect July 1.

Understanding the law

The purpose of the Collaborative Law Process Act is to create a uniform system of practice for the collaborative law process in the state of Florida, according to the Florida state Senate. The state is trying to encourage a peaceful resolution of disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process.

The legislation, signed March 24, creates a nonadversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial damage that litigation can often create.

This law puts jurisdiction into the collaborative divorce process, which has existed on a voluntary basis outside of the legislation for a long time. It is considered to be the “gentler approach” to the dissolution of a marriage and is based on a different way of bargaining than the negotiating type typically used in divorce cases.

Understanding the process

During the collaborative process, communication between parties is promoted, in order to reach compromises based on each party’s interests. They discuss what is important about the issue, rather than how to fix it, and it allows each side to consider where the other is coming from.

Both parties sign a participation agreement reflecting their commitment to resolve their differences in the divorce process outside of court, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record. They retain independent mental health and financial professionals, in addition to their respective Florida-licensed attorneys, in order to evaluate custody and various aspects of the marital assets, such as finances, trusts, or investments, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Each side shares documents with the other with the understanding that this process is private and confidential. This is one of the major differences between collaborative and litigated divorce, in that evidence and testimony can be considered in the public domain.

It also eliminates the gamesmanship that can often be involved in the discovery process. Because of the transparency involved, there is no sense of competitive edge that can often be included in asset discovery.

The pace of the collaborative process is dictated by pace of the divorcing parties. Many find the aid of the mental health and financial professionals to aid in speeding up the process, by helping in the construction of custody schedules, parenting time, and proposals regarding asset division.

The independent professionals involved, such as financial experts or mental health professionals, as well as the attorneys that will be involved have to receive specialized training before they can participate in cases involving the Collaborative Law Process Act.

Florida is the 15th state in the United States to adopt a version of this law.

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