Understanding the Basics of Florida’s Collaborative Law
Collaborative law is a relatively new option available to married couples in Florida who are seeking to divorce in a peaceful, voluntary manner, without the need for protracted litigation. The Florida Supreme Court recently adopted a series of forms for attorneys and parties to use in conjunction with the collaborative law process. Here is a brief introduction to what these forms say and what you need about the basics of collaborative law.
How Collaborative Law Works
Collaborative law requires the active consent and participation of both spouses. If either spouse wants to file a lawsuit for divorce in court, there can be no collaborative process. And even when both spouses initially agree to participate in a collaborative law process, either party may choose to leave it at any time.
Although collaborative law is a non-adversarial process by design, each spouse must still retain their own attorney. This is mandatory. Florida law does not allow “pro se” or self-represented spouses to participate in the formal collaborative law process. This ensures that both sides have the advice of a Florida family law attorney who is specially trained in collaborative law.
The Goals of Collaborative Law
As the Florida Supreme Court’s new forms make crystal clear, the central idea behind collaborative law is that the parties want to resolve their differences “without court intervention.” This means that while the collaborative process is ongoing, neither spouse will attempt to initiate formal legal action against the other. Instead, the parties and their attorneys will engage “in informal discussions and conferences to negotiate the settlement of all issues.” Only if a voluntary agreement is reached will both parties jointly file a petition to dissolve the marriage. Ideally, the parties will only need to appear in court one time, to seek formal judicial approval of their settlement agreement.
Given this emphasis on voluntary, non-adversarial resolution, there is no formal discovery process in collaborative law. Instead, both sides are expected to “make full financial disclosure of all income, assets, liabilities, and other information necessary for an equitable settlement.” If either party requests a document, the other must produce it within 30 days. And if there is a need for any consultants or experts to help resolve certain issues, such as the valuation of marital property, the parties will “retain them jointly” unless otherwise agreed to in writing.
Ultimately, collaborative law is premised on both sides acting in good faith. If that proves impossible, then collaborative law may not be a viable option. Keep in mind, however, that when a party withdraws from the collaborative process for any reason, their attorney is also bound by law to cease representing them. This is another critical feature of collaborative law: It helps to ensure that collaborative law is not misused to try and give one party a tactical advantage in any subsequent contested divorce litigation.
If you would like to learn more about the collaborative law process and how it may be beneficial to your situation, contact the Boca Raton family attorneys at WiseLieberman, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation.