Collaborative Law is a confidential out-of-court alternative based upon mutual respect
The Collaborative Law Process differs from traditional litigation because it promotes mutual respect and gives control of the process to the parties, not a judge.
Going through a divorce or a paternity dispute does not automatically mean having to endure the turmoil of litigation that is often associated with such relationship changes. You have another choice – the Collaborative Process. Developed as an alternative to the stereotypical litigated divorce, the Collaborative Process 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 or changing parenting status while maintaining a healthy relationship with the other party when that is appropriate, especially when the parties have children.
Rather than everything being played out in the public record, which is what happens in litigation, the Collaborative Process is private and confidential, 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 between the couple 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 and their attorneys pledge in writing not to go to court.
- Both sides engage in an honest, transparent and full exchange of information.
- Each solution takes into account the highest priorities of both spouses or parents and their children.
- The entire negotiation process is done in private, away from public scrutiny.
How the Collaborative Law Process works
Once the Collaborative Process has been chosen, you and your spouse or partner each selects a lawyer specially trained in the Collaborative Family Law Process to assist in the negotiation of a settlement and the preparation of all required documents.
You, your spouse or partner and your attorneys sign an agreement not to go to court. The Collaborative Process is unique in that you, your spouse and your lawyers meet together for face-to-face discussions and negotiations without going into court.
Building a team centered around you
When children are involved, their interests are given foremost priority. We involve a specially trained neutral mental health professional as a facilitator from the inception of the process to help you stay focused on your top priorities and to improve critical communication and parenting skills. The facilitator also helps formulate a parenting plan if you have minor or dependent children. In many cases, another neutral Collaborative professional, such as a forensic accountant, financial planner or child specialist, may also be involved as part of the professional team.
The end result of the Collaborative Process is a settlement agreement that has been achieved using interest based negotiations and mutual problem solving focused on your family’s highest priorities. You, your spouse and the lawyers, take control of shaping the final agreement rather than having a resolution imposed upon you by a judge. Through the Collaborative Process, you can create a settlement that meets your family’s specific needs, rather than being limited to what the law says a judge must do.
What are the Benefits of Collaborative Family Law?
Designed as an alternative to conventional divorce and family litigation, the Collaborative Law Process offers many distinct advantages:
- You maintain control of the outcome. Decision making is directly in your and your spouse’s hands rather than in the hands of a judge. This means that you are not bound by a “one size fits all” resolution, as a judge is often required to do. Settlement terms are only limited by the creativity of you, your spouse and the Collaborative professionals involved in the process.
- Your divorce is confidential. Problems and financial information 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 settlement agreement. The Collaborative Process is ideal if you are a public figure or want to limit the public disclosure of private information about your net worth and how your children will be raised.
- Your voice will be heard. The Collaborative Process recognizes and understands you and your spouse’s needs, interests, concerns and goals, while allowing each of you to be heard throughout the process.
- You can maintain respect for each other throughout the process. The Collaborative Process 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.
- You can expedite the process. The time needed to resolve everything can be reduced if you and your spouse adheres to the principles and guidelines of the Collaborative Process. The Collaborative Process can be much faster than litigation, especially given the difficulty of obtaining hearings and trials before judges.
- You have better control of costs. A Collaborative Divorce is frequently less expensive than traditional litigation. The focus is on being as efficient as possible and utilizing cost effective experts and professionals. This often results in a reduced cost for attorney and professional fees. You can mitigate the trauma of divorce on your children. 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 frequently lasts for years. Research has shown that it is not the divorce that harms children, rather it is the way people divorce that has the greatest negative impact on them.
- You are part of an aligned team. Collaborative attorneys work with each other, you and your spouse with the common goal to help you resolve your case, rather than fight against each other, as frequently happens in litigation.
- You learn how to resolve differences. Instead of attorneys battling each other, Collaborative lawyers and professionals s work together to help you achieve the best possible outcome. The professionals demonstrate dispute resolution skills that will help you and your spouse resolve your differences in the future.
Is Collaborative Law used in other areas of Family Law besides divorce?
Although the Collaborative Process has primarily been used to resolve divorces it is also an ideal method to resolve other family matters, such as:
- Pre- and post-nuptial agreements: Collaborative attorneys help couples to design a mutually acceptable pre- or postnuptial agreement . Our goal is to help our client to enter into an agreement that resolves potential future disputes, thereby increasing the likelihood of the couple having a happy and healthy relationship during their marriage.
- Non-married couple agreements: The Collaborative Process is ideal for parents who are not married. The process can facilitate resolutions that judges cannot use in litigation, if the parents choose such a settlement. Unmarried couples who want to live together 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 a couple who have a paternity dispute, everything can be resolved privately through the Collaborative Process without washing private laundry in public.
Why retain law offices of Robert J. Merlin, P.A. for your Collaborative attorney?
We may have more experience in the Collaborative Process than any other attorney in South Florida and perhaps the state of Florida. Robert Merlin helped to write the Florida Collaborative Law Process Act and worked for more than seven years for its adoption by the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar and the Florida Legislature, which passed the Act in March 2016. He also helped to write and argued before the Florida Supreme Court for the adoption of the Collaborative rule of professional conduct and Collaborative rule of procedure that was adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in May 2017. The Florida Collaborative Law Process Act and the accompanying rules went into effect on July 1, 2017.
National and Statewide Collaborative Law Leader
Bob trains other attorneys, mental health professionals and financial professionals in the Collaborative Process, he has written many articles on the Collaborative Process that have been published in Florida and around the United States, and he is the first person elected to the Board of Directors of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Board of Directors of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Reputation for excellence
Bob has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a major in accounting and he has taken hundreds of hours of courses in areas such as the Collaborative Process, alternative dispute resolution, child development, intimate partner violence, brain development and financial issues that affect divorcing families. As a result of Bob’s training and reputation, he is the go-to Collaborative professional in Florida.
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