Collaborative Law through New Eyes
Attorneys, like many professionals, are required to continue their legal education once becoming licensed to practice law. I spent Thursday and Friday of last week with other attorneys, mental health professionals and financial professionals attending a seminar which sought to train the professionals in attendance in the Collaborative practice of law. The Collaborative process is typically utilized by couples seeking a dissolution of marriage who want to forego the traditional adversarial model, i.e., litigation.
The Collaborative process is unique in that it is a client-driven, and as indicated above, non-adversarial process. The typical litigation model is thrown out the window, as a team of individuals works together to obtain an agreement which meets both parties’ needs. In a Collaborative case the team consists of a mental health neutral, a financial neutral and each party’s attorney. Each professional has a distinct role which aids the parties in reaching their agreement. The attorneys provide the necessary legal advice, with the financial neutral facilitating healthy communication and the exchange of ideas. The financial neutral gathers the parties’ financial information and aids in informing the parties of the financial implications of whatever agreement is reached.
Unlike the traditional litigation model where parties sometimes communicate exclusively through their respective attorneys, the Collaborative process is one which is marked by openness and transparency. Openness and transparency are not just buzz words in the Collaborative process, as the entire team meets together when working towards an agreement.
Neither party seeks judicial intervention throughout the process, but commits to seeking like-minded solutions. This means no Motions, no Hearings, and no Judge taking one side or the other. In fact, the parties and professionals involved sign an agreement which states that in the event an agreement cannot be reached through the Collaborative process and the parties resort to traditional litigation, the professionals involved must withdraw and cannot assist either party in the ensuing litigation – including the attorneys. Doing so creates a true incentive for the parties to work together to obtain an agreement that is suitable to both sides.
From the onset of the Collaborative process, the parties’ goals are of the utmost importance. At the first team meeting each party lists his or her goals and desired components of the final agreement. The team then works together over a series of meetings to reach an agreement which includes each party’s goals, and when necessary, a fair compromise which leaves each party feeling like his or her needs and wants were respected by the entire team.
The methods and tools utilized in the Collaborative process help the parties maintain their dignity and respect for one another throughout the process of obtaining a divorce. The very nature of the Collaborative process helps the parties build skills necessary for life post-divorce. This is especially true for parties who share minor children and must work together for years to come in the upbringing of their children.
Unique in the State of Florida, the Collaborative process is authorized in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida through Administrative Order Number 2008-06, which was implemented by Chief Judge Belvin Perry in 2008. The Administrative Order recognizes the Collaborative process as a suitable alternative to adversarial litigation and is complimentary of the aims of the Collaborative process.
The Johnston Law Firm is here to help you with any of your Family Law needs. If you would like to discuss your particular situation and whether the Collaborative process is right for you, please feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation or visit our website to learn more about our commitment to Collaborative Law.