FAQs Florida Collaborative Divorce

What is Collaborative Divorce? Why do people choose it? How much does it cost? How long does it take? Read answers below to these and other FAQs in Florida Collaborative Divorce. If you have other questions, please contact Sampson Collaborative Law or a collaborative professional in your area!

FAQs in Collaborative Divorce mugs and wheaten terrier
What is a Florida collaborative family law matter?

A Florida collaborative family matter is a dispute, a transaction, a claim, a problem, or an issue for resolution. The matter is described in a collaborative law participation agreement and arises under chapter 61 or chapter 742, Florida Statutes. Collaborative family law matters include marriage, divorce, marital property distribution; child custody, visitation, parenting plans, and parenting time; alimony and child support; relocation with a child; paternity; and premarital (prenuptials), marital, and postmarital agreements.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is an option you can choose to resolve your divorce without fighting in court. Each spouse has an attorney. You and your spouse sign a collaborative law participation agreement. Each commits in writing to full disclosure, honest communication, confidentiality, and to engage in no litigation during the process.

Why is Collaborative Divorce special?

In a Collaborative Divorce, the clients and each lawyer sign a binding collaborative participation agreement. Under this agreement, the lawyers can’t participate in contested court proceedings on behalf of the clients. That means everyone focuses on resolving the matter. No one has an eye on the litigation door. This disqualification commitment makes Collaborative Divorce different from mediation or litigation. Collaborative practice uniquely lets couples achieve creative, flexible, private settlement of family law matters without fighting in court. Most couples who choose Collaborative Divorce reach agreement. They’re not drained emotionally and financially. At the end of the process, they still respect each other. Further, in Collaborative Divorce, they keep painful and sensitive details and financial records out of public court records.

Why do people choose the Collaborative Divorce process?

People who choose Collaborative Divorce want to decide how they’ll resolve their family matters. Many couples’ lives stay connected after they part. That’s especially true when they have minor children together. People choose Collaborative Divorce when they want to:
• build long-term parenting plans flexible to accommodate their kids’ development;
• avoid confrontation, time, stress, pain, and expense litigation can cause;
• keep sensitive financial, business, and personal information confidential; and
• decide how their family moves forward and not leave decisions to a judge who’s a stranger.

What are benefits of Collaborative Divorce?

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce are many.
1. You and your professional team set the pace and commit to resolve issues respectfully, out of court.
2. The Collaborative Process values each person’s interests and the family’s needs.
3. You could achieve flexible solutions by contractual commitments. Without such contracts, a judge couldn’t order some things on which you might agree.
4, A neutral facilitator helps you work through emotions and tailor parenting plans to your family’s needs.
5. A neutral financial expert guides you about your current financial situation and explores what’s possible and practical.
6. Collaborative attorneys don’t wage war, but are legal guides who work towards creative, flexible, and long-lasting solutions.
7. Your Collaborative Divorce team and you stay focused on the present and future, rather than on past slights, wrongs, and pain.
8. You keep delicate family issues private, rather than airing them out in court.
9. Regarding cost, you can move through Collaborative Divorce efficiently and spend less time and money than you’d spend fighting.

How much does Collaborative Divorce cost?

The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP) statistics showed 30% of collaborative cases in Florida cost $12,500 or less per person; 53% cost $20,000 or less per person; 68.8% cost $25,000 or less per person; and 18.1 % cost between $25,000 and $50,000 per person. For couples with reduced means, collaborative professionals may offer pro bono or low bono programs. Intangibles money can’t measure include maintaining respect for and improving your ability to communicate with each other. In contrast, in litigation, aggressive “barracuda” or “bulldog” lawyers may magnify even petty disputes. They may spend time and your money fighting over discovery, kids, money, accounts, and property. If the case doesn’t settle, trial may not happen until many months later. The losing spouse (or both parties) may appeal. The appeals court may send the case back to the trial judge for even more work. For a chart comparing tasks typically done in litigation but that don’t take place in Collaborative Divorce, read Sampson Collaborative Law’s cost of collaborative v. litigation comparison chart.

How long does Collaborative Divorce take to finish?

The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals (FACP) statistics from surveyed Florida collaborative professionals showed: 92% of collaborative cases in FL completed with full agreement; 95% of collaborative cases in FL completed within 1 year; 84% of collaborative cases in FL completed in less than 9 months. Full disclosure and open communications assure that you cover all issues timely. Settling issues out of court means no waiting for time on a judge’s calendar for a trial. How fast your Collaborative Divorce goes depends on, among other things, your personality, your spouse’s personality, cooperation, the issues, availability of information, each person’s health, and the family’s functioning.

Cost and time savings in Collaborative Divorce: How does it compare to litigation?

Collaborative Divorce tends to be cost-effective, streamlined, and more efficient than litigation. Couples who choose the Collaborative process can avoid prolonged court battles with expensive legal fees often associated with litigation. By agreeing on property division, for example, you avoid the time-consuming process and cost of formal discovery, contentious hearings, trial preparation, trial, and appeals of a judge’s decisions. Work closely with your Collaborative attorney or a trusted financial advisor trained in Collaborative Divorce. You can develop a detailed budget for funding the Collaborative Divorce. Openly communicate with your spouse about the financial benefits of choosing a collaborative approach.

Is Collaborative Divorce faster than traditional litigation?

Focused negotiations and no court scheduling delays make Collaborative Divorce generally quicker than litigation. For example, if you agree on child custody and support arrangements, the process can move forward without having to wait for hearings for a judge to decide these issues. Depending on your spouse’s and your cooperation and complexity of issues, timelines can vary. Consult with a collaborative attorney to outline a clear timeline and set achievable goals. Work with your spouse to gather necessary documents promptly to expedite the process. 

How is Collaborative Divorce different from mediation?

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your collaborative team direct your energy and focus on solutions. If you don’t reach an acceptable settlement, the lawyers must withdraw, so have no economic stake in litigation. In contrast, in mediation, a neutral third party helps you and your spouse negotiate a settlement, but can’t give legal advice. Mediation usually takes less time than Collaborative Divorce. Positional bargaining typically continues in mediation, often from separate caucus rooms. You and your spouse, speaking through your lawyers, horse trade rather than explore solutions that might best meet your family’s goals. Once the mediation session ends, you, your spouse, and the lawyers may forge ahead in the lawsuit. Unlike in Collaborative Divorce, there’s no disqualification requirement in mediation if the case doesn’t settle. So, if mediation fails, your lawyers know they may resume billing for further fighting, moving the dispute to trial, and trying your case.

How can I protect my children’s well-being through Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce focuses on tailored parenting plans that address your children’s development and needs while reducing stress and conflict. Working with a neutral mental health professional, you and your spouse can create a child-centered parenting plan that ensures your children’s stability, detailing visitation schedules, educational decisions, and co-parenting strategies. Your tailored parenting plan can accommodate your kids’ needs, school schedules, and extracurricular activities. Consult a collaborative family lawyer to discuss crafting a comprehensive parenting plan. Schedule a family meeting to communicate and ensure your kids’ best interests are met.

How can I ensure flexible parenting arrangements for my kids through Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce lets you create adaptable parenting plans that suit your children’s evolving needs as they grow. Collaborative Divorce lets you create a parenting plan that adjusts to your children’s needs as they mature, accommodates expected school schedules, plans for extracurricular activities, and is flexible for evolving preferences. Read more about anticipating events reasonably certain to occur. Sit down with your spouse. Try to identify key areas of flexibility your family would like in your parenting plan. Get more information from a child specialist or your neutral collaborative mental health professional so your parenting plan aligns with your children’s developmental needs.

How can Collaborative Divorce protect my business interests?

Collaborative Divorce values creative, flexible solutions. In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse can work on an agreement that considers the value of your business and future growth, ensuring an acceptable distribution of assets.  Read more about Harnessing Collaborative Contract Power. Find and assert your voice in discussing property division and financial matters that might affect your business. Consult with a business valuation expert to accurately assess your business’s value. Work with your collaborative attorney to draft a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement that outlines the role of your business in property division and other financial arrangements.

How can Collaborative Divorce help me maintain financial privacy?

Collaborative Divorce safeguards financial confidentiality, enabling private negotiation of property and support matters. You can keep sensitive financial information confidential, ensuring discreet property division and support negotiations while avoiding public disclosure court litigation often entails. Collaborative Divorce keeps your financial records confidential and out of the court file. For most couples divorcing in Florida, filing with the court or at least exchanging sworn financial affidavits is a requirement. Consult with a collaborative financial expert. Work with your collaborative attorney so discussions about sensitive financial matters take place within a confidential setting.

Can I maintain confidentiality of my business affairs in Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce keeps personal and business matters private within the collaborative team. Business matters including proprietary information stay private. Financial details of your business won’t be exposed in court. Florida adopted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which specifically protects confidential collaborative communications made during the process. That prevents public exposure of sensitive business details that can occur in court proceedings open to the public. Think about and clearly define which business information should stay confidential within the Collaborative Divorce process. If your employer restricts communicating sensitive business information to third parties, will you need to get permission from the company to share the information confidentially to your spouse and Collaborative team members? Work with your Collaborative attorney to create guidelines for handling sensitive business-related discussions during negotiations.

What if my spouse won’t agree to a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is voluntary, so both spouses must agree. A judge can’t force your spouse to collaborate. If your spouse doesn’t want to agree to Collaborative Divorce, try discovering why. Is your spouse uncertain about the process? If so, it may help for your spouse to get more information from a collaboratively-trained professional with no stake in the divorce and who won’t charge to spend a few minutes explaining the process. Is your spouse skeptical or afraid? If so, materials from the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals or the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals may help allay fears. And, even if a case begins by filing a petition for divorce, your spouse and you may put the court case on hold while you try Collaborative Divorce.

Dealing with my uncooperative spouse in Collaborative Divorce: What to do?  

Collaborative Divorce requires both spouses’ agreement. But if your spouse is hesitant, informational sessions can address concerns and encourage participation. If your spouse has concerns, collaborative professionals can address them in a neutral setting. They can explain the benefits of cooperation and encourage your spouse’s and your active and constructive participation in arriving at creative, acceptable solutions. Share resources from Sampson Collaborative Law, the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals, or the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals to educate your spouse about the collaborative process. Suggest to your spouse attending a joint informational session to address any reservations and establish a cooperative, forward-looking, constructive mindset.

What if my spouse doesn’t want to disclose financial information in Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce emphasizes full financial disclosure. Couples commit to open and honest financial disclosure. Neutral financial experts help ensure accurate information is shared transparently. This can ease concerns and ensure both parties have accurate information for good decision-making. The Collaborative team can help build trust between you and your reluctant spouse. Still, if a spouse won’t commit to transparency, Collaborative Divorce won’t be a suitable option. For your reluctant spouse, in comparison, litigation may be an alternative that provides little solace. In Florida contested divorces, rules mandate extensive financial disclosures. Litigation allows for depositions, interrogatories, document requests, and subpoenas to banks, employers, and people who aren’t parties to the divorce. Those aspects would likely be even worse and more unsettling for your spouse who wants to hide financial information. Discuss with your spouse in a joint meeting the role of allied professionals including financial experts in the Collaborative Divorce process. 

Is Collaborative Divorce less adversarial than litigation for high-net-worth individuals? What about for couples who aren’t rich?

Collaborative Divorce reduces conflict and maintains privacy, making it attractive option for divorcing high-net-worth individuals and for couples with less wealth. Couples who seek a respectful, peaceful resolution outside of court may find Collaborative Divorce ideal. And, if you’re a higher net worth person – a pro athlete, an entertainer, a public figure, a prominent leader in your community – Collaborative Divorce prevents public battles that can tarnish your image. The Collaborative Divorce option may best preserve your reputation and reduce disruption to your financial affairs. For couples with less net worth, and for whom initially paying lawyers and the other Collaborative professionals on the team may be a burden, flexible payment arrangements or reduced-means programs (low bono or pro bono) may be available. Compare the cost of using the collaborative process with other divorce options, like mediation and litigation.

Can Collaborative Divorce help us protect our retirement assets?

Collaborative Divorce lets you work together with your spouse and team on acceptable equitable property distribution and financial goals, including preserving your retirement funds, financial stability, and future, long-term financial security. Work with a collaboratively-trained financial expert to analyze your retirement assets and their value. Explore options using tools like the Sampson Collaborative Law calculators for identifying marital enhancement in premarital real property or marital growth in premarital accounts.

We’re an older couple concerned about our adult children. Would Collaborative Divorce be suitable for us?

Collaborative Divorce empowers you to consider your adult children’s well-being. In a difficult time, you can still tailor solutions that reflect their needs and maintain family harmony. You can develop a plan that addresses their emotional well-being during the transition and maintains family unity. If you have a child who likely will be a dependent adult child, creative planning may be available in the Collaborative process, such as providing for special needs trusts or guardianships. Working closely with your estate planning professionals and other allied professionals, you may provide for testamentary, trust, family office, and business succession goals. Involve your adult children in discussions if they’re comfortable participating. Consult with a Collaborative mental health counselor or family therapist to address emotional concerns and foster strong, positive family relationships.

How can Collaborative Divorce help us navigate complex financial arrangements, like investments and pensions?

Collaborative Divorce provides access to neutral financial experts known as Allied Professionals. They can help guide you in understanding, valuing, and exploring options for dividing complex assets while considering long-term financial stability, retirement, and estate planning goals. You and your spouse may find it useful to explore beneficiary designations under life insurance policies, wills, and other accounts that might be revoked automatically when you divorce unless you agree differently. Talk with a collaboratively-trained financial expert to gather comprehensive information about your financial assets. Work with your Collaborative attorney to draft language in your Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement to address financial complexities.

Reducing disruptions in retirement: Why choose the Collaborative Divorce approach?

Collaborative Divorce makes agreeable resolution a priority. That saves you from the emotional and financial toll of contentious, protracted court proceedings during retirement. The Collaborative approach aligns with your desire for a peaceful transition to stress-free retirement. Outline your retirement goals and priorities with your spouse. Engage in honest discussions about your retirement goals during collaborative sessions.

Dividing sentimental assets or unique family heirlooms in Collaborative Divorce: How is it managed?

Collaborative Divorce lets you identify and address sentimental and unique assets in creative ways. You and your spouse can respect their value to your family history and future generations. Together, you can address cherished personal items like jewelry, books, collections, art, and family properties individually. Then you and your spouse can decide how these assets will be distributed to honor their sentimental value and significance to your family legacy.

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