Collaborative Law

A confidential out-of-court alternative based upon mutual respect.

Collaborative Law differs from the traditional litigation process because it promotes mutual respect and gives control of the process to the parties, not a judge.

Going through a divorce does not automatically mean having to endure the turmoil that is often associated with it. You  have another choice – Collaborative Law. Developed as an alternative to the stereotypical litigated divorce, Collaborative Law is an option for divorcing or separating couples to resolve disputes respectfully without going to court. It offers couples a humane, solution-based approach to ending a marriage while maintaining a healthy relationship when that is appropriate, such as when the parties have children.

Collaborative Law differs from the traditional litigation process because it promotes mutual respect and gives control of the process to the parties, not a judge. Also, rather than everything being played out in the public record, which is what happens in litigation, the Collaborative Process is private, except for minimal documents being filed in court after a settlement agreement has been signed by the parties.Clients agree not to go to court, so the process is more transparent and less adversarial. The goal is to enhance communications throughout the process and to lay the foundation for a healthier relationship during and after the divorce or separation. Through the Collaborative Process, relationships are preserved rather than destroyed.

Collaborative Law is based upon four principles:

  • The parties pledge in writing not to go to court.
  • Both parties engage in an honest and full exchange of information.
  • Each solution takes into account the highest priorities of both spouses or partners and their children.
  • The entire negotiation process is done in private, away from public scrutiny.

How the Collaborative Process works.

Once the Collaborative process has been chosen by the couple, each spouse or partner selects a lawyer specially trained in the Collaborative Family Law Process to assist them until every issue has been settlement.. Both parties and their attorneys sign an agreement not to go to court. The Collaborative Process is unique in that the spouses and their lawyers meet together for face-to-face discussions and negotiations without going into court.

In an atmosphere of openness and honesty, information about all sources of income, assets and liabilities are disclosed, needs are communicated and potential solutions are explored. When children are involved, their interests are given foremost priority. We involve a specially trained neutral mental health professional from the inception of the process to help the parties stay focused on their priorities and to improve their communication skills. The neutral mental health professional also helps the parties to formulate a parenting plan when the couple has minor or dependent children. In some cases, another neutral Collaborative professional, such as a forensic accountant, financial planner or child specialist, may also be involved.

The end result of the Collaborative Process is a settlement agreement that has been achieved through mutual problem solving using interest-based negotiations. The divorcing or separating parties, along with their lawyers, take control of shaping the final agreement rather than having a resolution imposed upon them by a judge.

Benefits of Collaborative Family Law.

Designed as an alternative to conventional divorce and family litigation, the Collaborative Process offers many distinct advantages:

Client remains in control. Decision making is directly in the hands of the spouses involved in the divorce or the partners involved in the separation rather than in the hands of a judge. This means that the client is not bound by a “one size fits all” resolution. Settlement terms are only limited by the creativity of the clients and the Collaborative professionals involved in the process.

  • Parties enjoy confidentiality. Problems and assets are kept private and are not a part of the public record. Nothing becomes public until simple and brief papers are filed to obtain a Final Judgment that ratifies the couple’s settlement agreement. The Collaborative Process is ideal for people who are public figures or who want to limit the public disclosure of private information about their net worth.
  • Solutions are mutually beneficial. The Collaborative Process recognizes and understands each client’s needs, interests, concerns and goals, while allowing both parties to be heard throughout the process.
  • Respect is key. Collaboration changes the notion of divorce from adversarial and win/lose, to a problem-solving constructive experience in which everyone is involved in a positive, win-win situation.
  • Couple can expedite the process. The time of the process can be reduced if the couple adheres to the principles and guidelines of Collaborative Family Law. The Collaborative Process can be much faster than litigation.
  • Process may be less expensive. The parties frequently spend less money on attorneys and other professionals in the Collaborative Process. If it is necessary to hire an expert, the parties agree to hire one neutral expert for a particular issue, thereby saving money that is usually spent in litigation on battling “hired guns” for both parties.
  • Kids count. Children are given a voice in the process through a Mental Health Professional and/or a child specialist, reducing potential trauma to the children that sometimes lasts for years.
  • Higher level of professionalism. The Collaborative attorneys work with each other and the clients with the common goal to help the clients resolve their case, rather than fight against each other, as frequently happens in litigation.

It is our opinion that the Collaborative Process can be used in the vast majority of family matters to successfully resolve all of our clients’ issues. We believe that it is the wave of the future and that more and more clients are going to insist that the dissolution of their family relationships be handled Collaboratively.

Who should choose the Collaborative Process.

Although the Collaborative Process has primarily been used to resolve dissolution of marriage actions, it is also an ideal method to resolve other family disputes, such as:

  • Same-sex dissolutions: In Florida, same-sex marriages are now  legally recognized. However, most couples have never married.  If an unmarried same sex couple want to terminate their relationship, the Collaborative Process can  help the  couple resolve all of the issues involved in the dissolution of their relationship, such as resolving property rights and claims, support issues, parental responsibility and timesharing issues when the couple has children. All of that is done in the privacy of confidential, personal negotiations.
  • Pre- and post-nuptial agreements: By handling negotiations Collaboratively, the specially trained Collaborative attorneys are able to help the couple come to a mutually acceptable pre- or post-nuptial negotiated settlement while minimizing the risk of damaging the couple’s relationship.
  • Non-married couple agreements: Couples who are not married to each other have very limited rights and obligations under Florida law. Through the Collaborative Process, a couple who is not married can voluntarily agree to have certain rights and obligations that would be recognized under Florida law.

For more information on Collaborative Law go to www.collaborativepractice.com; www.collaborativefamlaw.com, www.collaborativefamilylawfl.com or www.choosecollaborative.com, which are links to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Collaborative Family Law Institute, the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida and the South Palm Beach County Collaborative Law Group, Inc.

 

Is Collaborative Law the right choice for you and your family?

Contact Robert Merlin to learn more about Collaborative Law. He can assist you in making an informed choice.  If you would like to find how he can help you, email him at info@merlinlaw.com or call him at 305-448-1555.