THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS
“IT IS THE POLICY OF THIS STATE TO ENCOURAGE THE PEACEFUL RESOLUTION
OF DISPUTES AND THE EARLY RESOLUTION OF PENDING LITIGATION THROUGH
A VOLUNTARY SETTLEMENT PROCESS”
The above quote is from the Florida Collaborative Law Process Act. It is probably
somewhat contrary to what many of you or friends or family have experienced while going
through a divorce. Everyone has heard the “horror stories” of endless litigation and exorbitant fees. There is in fact a way to possibly avoid those issues, by using the collaborative process. It is defined as “a unique non adversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation”.
There are some definite rules that must be followed and not every case is suited for the
collaborative process.“As part of this non adversarial and voluntary resolution of disputes, lawyers who engage in the collaborative law process in a family law matter, and any other lawyers in that lawyer’s firm,may not afterwards represent any party in any related proceeding except to request that a court approve the settlement reached during the collaborative law process or in specified emergency situations in accordance with family law court rules.”
As stated above, if for some reason the collaborative process “breaks down” and litigation
becomes the only alternative, the collaborative attorney must withdraw from representing
his/her client. Therefore, if the process is not successful, either a new attorney must be
retained, or the client can represent his/herself. One attorney cannot represent both parties. In addition, both parties must agree to use the collaborative process.
The goal of the collaborative process is for both parties and their respective attorneys act as a
team and not as adversaries. In most instances there are other “team members” such as
accountants, financial advisers, or mental health professionals. The “team” schedules meetings with all parties present. An agenda is prepared and the “team” attempts to move forward to resolve all the issues that are involved. This is a process and therefore the parties should be prepared to have these “team meetings” on more than one occasion.
All parties must sign a written agreement before the process begins stating each client’s intent to resolve the dissolution through the collaborative process, each party’s acceptance that they shall make timely, full and candid informal disclosure of information without formal discovery and their understanding that if either party initiates a proceeding in court, the process shall terminate and the attorney’s involved cannot continue their representation.
Attorneys are now required to advise prospective clients about the collaborative process.
Although there is no actual certification an attorney can obtain to be declared a “Collaborative Attorney”, there are attorneys who have been trained in the process. As in all matters of law, experience and training are always beneficial to a client.
If you or anyone you know are interested in the Collaborative Process, please give my office a