What is the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay?
Our Collaborative Divorce Tampa Bay group of divorce attorneys, financial advisers, & mental health professionals is committed to the unique approach of collaborative divorce solutions to families in Tampa Bay. To provide you with local support we have collaborative divorce professionals located throughout Tampa Bay serving Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater, Land O’ Lakes, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Treasure Island, Valrico, etc. Find collaborative divorce lawyers & professionals near you.
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law, or Collaborative Practice, is a new way for individuals to resolve disputes peacefully and respectfully. It is an approach to dispute resolution which does not include the traditional court system. Collaborative Divorce is a specific area of Collaborative Law which gives people facing divorce the opportunity to resolve their issues amicably and with dignity by offering the invaluable resources of attorneys, mediators, and child and life therapists all at one time and in one place. It is often called a “no-court divorce.” Collaborative Law is for people who wish to work cooperatively with their partner in resolving issues, while maintaining control of their situation and working creatively to find answers that will work in the best interest of all parties, instead of leaving it up to the courts.
If you decide Collaborative Law is the right approach for you to address your divorce or family law issue, please be aware that not every legal professional is certified to practice Collaborative Law. Currently, very few lawyers in the Tampa Bay area have received the necessary training and skills to manage collaborative law cases effectively. We are a group of trained therapists, mediators, and legal professionals who have received such training, and are certified and ready to help you begin the Collaborative Law process.
You may be concerned about filing for divorce because heard the horror stories about the battles that happen in the court room and even though you are ready to leave your marriage you are holding back from making a decision because you are not ready to engage in all out war. Collaborative Divorce (also known as “divorce with dignity” or “peaceful divorce”) can provide a wonderful alternative to court-based litigation. Instead of battling in a court-room, Collaborative Divorce offers couples the support, protection, and guidance of not only your own lawyers but also numerous other professionals, including financial and child specialists. It is a new way to approach for you to resolve disputes respectfully and it can often cost less and reduce the stress on the divorcing couples and their families.
Although Collaborative Divorce may not be for everyone, it should be considered by all couples experiencing divorce. The core elements of Collaborative Divorce require:
- Negotiation of a mutually acceptable settlement outside of a courtroom
- Maintain open lines for communication and information sharing
- Creation of shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all
How to Leave the Courts Out of Your Divorce:
Once you decide that Collaborative Divorce is right for you, the first step is for each party and their attorney to sign a Collaborative Law Agreement. This agreement serves as a contract which ensures that the lawyers will act solely as settlement counsel only. By serving as settlement counsel your lawyers are contractually barred from ever going to Court in your divorce case. However, if at some point either party decides it would be more beneficial for the Court to settle a particular matter, you can terminate the Agreement at any time. This helps give you ultimate control of how your case is handled and guarantees an outcome suitable for all parties. It is important to remember that if you or the other party chooses to take a contested matter to the Court both attorneys are fired instantly and can not represent you before the court. Because the purpose of Collaborative divorce is to settle matters amicably and civilly, choosing to take a matter to the court is highly discouraged and may be to the detriment of both parties. This feature of Collaborative Divorce also enhances the possibility of a mutually pleasing outcome and encourages attorneys and clients to work in everyone’s best interest.
The agreement also outlines the expectations of each party and how the divorce process will proceed. Typically, the parties and their attorneys meet in a series of sessions with other necessary financial and health professionals to create a range of quality individualized settlement alternatives that both parties can agree on.
You may be wondering, how is the process of Collaborative Divorce different from traditional court ordered mediation? In mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) assists the negotiations of both parties and tries to help settle your case. However, the mediator cannot give either of you legal advice or be an advocate for either side. During mediation your lawyer may or may not be present, and the mediator typically drafts the settlement terms and submits them for review to the attorneys. Collaborative Practice allows you both to have lawyers present during the negotiation process to keep settlement as the top priority. The lawyers, who have training similar to mediators, work with their clients and one another to assure a balanced process that’s positive and productive. When there is agreement, a document is drafted by the lawyers, and reviewed and edited by you both until everyone is satisfied. Both Collaborative Practice and mediation rely on voluntary, free exchange of information and commitment to resolutions respecting everyone’s shared goals.
Will Collaborative Law Work for You?
Perhaps you are ready for a divorce but are unsure of whether to approach the matter using the traditional court-based solution or whether you should turn to the new growing phenomenon of Collaborative Divorce. How do you know if this alternative is right for you?
If you will:
- Maintain a tone of respect, even when facing a difficult decision or disagreement.
- Prioritize the needs of your children.
- Listen objectively and consider the needs of you and your spouse equally.
- Work to devise creative and unique solutions to your issues.
- Plan for the future by reaching beyond your current frustration.
- Behave ethically when interacting with your spouse and other Collaborative professionals.
- Maintain control of the divorce process and not relegate it to the courts if a difficult situation arises.
Then Collaborative Divorce is a workable option for you. If this sounds like a comfortable solution for you we suggest you talk to a Collaborative lawyer or other Collaborative professional about your situation so they may help you make your final decision. You can find a lawyer or other Collaborative professional by visiting the “who are we” tab. Any professional you find there will be more than happy to assist you in making this important decision.
Do You have Another Family Law Issue You Wish to Address Collaboratively?
Although we focus mostly on Collaborative Divorce you may be facing another issue that you wish to solve collaboratively. This method can also be used as an approach to peacefully resolve issues regarding child custody or support modification issues and paternity issues, as well as many others that arise after a divorce is final. We still recommend you consider the values above when deciding whether to solve your family law issue collaboratively and contact a Collaborative law professional as soon as possible to discuss your issue.
Principles of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative Divorce is a new way for a divorcing couple to work as a team, with trained professionals to resolve disputes respectfully without going to court. The term encompasses all of the models that have been developed since Minnesota lawyer Stu Webb created the Collaborative Law model in 1990. This model is at the heart of all of Collaborative Divorce. Each client has the support, protection and guidance of his or her own lawyer. The lawyers and the clients together comprise the Collaborative Law component of Collaborative Divorce.
While collaborative lawyers are always a part of collaboration, some models provide child specialists, financial specialists and divorce coaches as part of the clients’ divorce team. In these models the clients have the option of starting their divorce with the professional with whom they feel most comfortable and with whom they have initial contact. The clients then choose the other professionals they need. The clients benefit throughout collaboration from the assistance and support of all of their chosen professionals.
Although Collaborative Divorce comes in several models, it is distinguished from traditional litigation by its inviolable core elements. These elements are set out in a contractual commitment among the clients and their chosen collaborative professionals to:
- Negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients
- Withdrawal of the professionals if either client goes to court
- Engage in open communication and information sharing, and
- Create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients.
Collaborative Divorce is a client-centered and client-controlled process that begins with an assessment of the individual needs of each client. In response to client needs, the Collaborative Practitioners selected by the clients provide them with professional services using an integrated approach. This approach creates a supportive, problem-solving environment, where the clients can negotiate their own agreements face to face, assisted by their Collaborative Practitioners.
Collaborative Divorce strives to provide clients with the support, information and structure they need to reach agreements that are voluntary and of maximum mutual benefit. To achieve this goal, collaboration begins with and emphasizes education prior to negotiation, explores common goals in place of divisive positions, and creates a safe environment for constructive conversation.
The Collaborative participation agreement the clients and professionals sign at the start of collaboration mandates that any Collaborative Practitioner in the case must withdraw from representing or assisting either client, if either client engages in any form of litigation about the dispute. This requirement mitigates the negative impact of the power-based procedures inherent in the adversarial court model. At the same time, it encourages continuing efforts to find creative solutions in the face of apparent negotiation impasse.
To reach agreements that are of greatest mutual benefit, and to ensure the integrity of the process, the clients, and their professional practitioners must freely disclose all relevant information. The Collaborative Practitioners help each client make fully informed, intelligent and voluntary decisions. The commitment to full disclosure and the withdrawal requirement are essential elements of a safe process.
Collaborative Divorce represents an opportunity for clients to achieve their best at a time when circumstances frequently encourage fear of the worst. Through professional teamwork that involves clients as working partners, the possibilities for successful resolution are maximized.