Collaborative Law rules for Florida family law cases are being considered by the Florida Supreme Court. Collaborative Law offers a new alternative to the traditional adversarial court process.
The American court system is based on conflict. Our rules and procedures are designed to facilitate an orderly, controllable fight. This adversarial process, focuses on a winner and a loser. Often, this process does not yield the best solution for a family as a whole.
Judges, attorneys, and legislators realized that there had to be a better way to resolve issues in family law cases. The first widely adopted alternative to litigation was mediation. In 2004, a statewide program was established to make mediation more accessible to all litigants.
Mediation is a process wherein the litigants and their attorneys sit down with a neutral mediator who facilitates settlement discussions. The mediator has no authority to make a decision, but can moderate settlement discussion between the parties with the overall goal of resolving the conflict.
All contested family cases in Central Florida have been referred to mediation since 2004. Over 80% of these cases have settled without the need for a trial.
I have participated as either the attorney, or the mediator, in hundreds of family law cases. Mediation can be a very effective way to settle family law cases, but it has limitations. Participants in mediation often feel rushed or pressured to resolve a case within the time scheduled for the mediation. Litigants, may not have all of the information readily available at a mediation to make the best decision. Mediators are not permitted to give advice. Litigants are often in an adversarial mindset during mediation.
Legal professionals, in their search to find a better way to resolve issues in family law cases, developed the “collaborative law model” as an alternative dispute resolution method. The collaborative law model for resolving family cases addresses many of the limitations with the mediation process.
Collaborative law cases involve a team consisting of two attorneys, a neutral mental health professional, and a neutral financial expert, such as a CPA. The team, and the clients, meet for several sessions to problem solve the unique issues of the case. The sessions are usually two to three hours in length, and generally four to eight sessions are required. The professionals and the litigants work together to craft unique solutions. Each professional provides input based upon his or her specialty and knowledge of the case. The participants gather information and research issues between collaborative sessions. This process promotes better decision making.
Collaborative law cases usually require a larger initial investment; however, the likelihood of successfully resolving a dispute outside of court is high. If successful, collaboration will almost always be more cost effective than litigation, and may be less expensive than mediation.
At the beginning of a collaborative law case, all of the professionals involved must sign an agreement wherein they commit to working in good faith to settle the case. The professionals must agree to maintain the confidentiality of information gathered from all sources, and agree to cease involvement in the case if negotiations fail.
One of the most appealing aspects of collaborative law is that it encourages litigants to work together, rather than against each other, to obtain a final result or agreement. This process is not only more efficient, but it can also avoid further damaging strained family relationships and sometimes improves the overall new emerging family dynamic.
On July 1, 2016, the new collaborative law statute became effective. New rules are being written, and the collaborative law model will become a mainstream alternative to resolving family law disputes in 2017. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0061/0061PartIIIContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2016&Title=-%3E2016-%3EChapter%2061-%3EPart%20III
The collaborative law model is not appropriate for every family case, but it should be considered by anyone researching the divorce, paternity or any family law issue. If you wish to inquire about whether the collaborative law process could benefit your family law case or circumstances call The Sanders Firm P.A. Call us at 407-843-0012 to discuss your case. Let our family help your family resolve conflict expertly and effectively.