Florida’s Collaborative Law System

Florida’s collaborative law system for collaborative divorce has four parts: a statute, a family law rule of procedure, an ethical rule, and Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms.

Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act, section 61.56, Florida Statutes, took effect July 1, 2017. On May 18, 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745 and Rule 4-1.19, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.

The Florida Supreme Court approved family law forms for collaborative divorce. They’re available here.

Florida’s Collaborative Law System: Promoting Peace & Early Settlement

The Florida Collaborative Law Process Act, rules, and forms create a uniform collaborative law system. This system encourages peacefully resolving disputes and settling litigation through early voluntary effort. For examples of fights between couples who didn’t collaborate, browse Florida family law cases since 2011 with this free case search tool

In addition to promoting peacefully resolving disputes, Florida’s collaborative law system promotes a future goal:  Preserving parties’ working relationship. Parents often must work together after they divorce to raise their kids and make decisions together when they share parental responsibility.

The Collaborative Process: Informed Consent

As noted above, a key to Florida’s collaborative law system is its collaborative ethical rule. Under Rule 4-1.19, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, your prospective lawyer team member must have your  informed consent to resolve your matter using the collaborative method. 

Therefore, as you consider your options, expect that your prospective lawyer and you will discuss:

  1. the material benefits and risks of using the collaborative law process to resolve your family law matter;
  2. the nature and scope of the matter to be resolved;
  3. alternatives to collaborative (including do-it-yourself, mediation, or litigation);
  4. that participation in collaborative is voluntary and any client may unilaterally terminate the process for any reason;
  5. that the collaborative law process will terminate if, after signing the collaborative participation agreement, any participant initiates a court proceeding or seeks court intervention related to the collaborative law matter;
  6. limitations on the lawyer’s participation in subsequent proceedings imposed by family law court rules; and
  7. fees and costs you can reasonably expect to incur, including fees of the lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals.

Collaborative: Transparent Exchange of Information

Another important key to Florida’s collaborative law system is a procedural rule, which promotes open sharing of important financial information. This means the collaborative process is transparent, which saves money parties who litigate spend:

  • taking depositions,
  • issuing subpoenas,
  • fighting over requests for documents, and
  • hearings to resolve discovery disputes. 

Collaborative: A Goal-Focused Process

In litigation and mediation, divorcing couples focus on, assert, and often won’t budge from positions. The result? Drawn out court fights case summaries of which appear here. That’s true even when thinking about each person’s and the family’s goals might be better for everyone.

But Florida’s collaborative system and rules create a process focused on and encouraging people to identify and work towards goals. First, a collaborating couple commits to resolve issues openly and with respect.  Towards this end, they commit to listening and other communication guidelines.

Next, the couple agrees not to take positions. Instead, they agree to focus on future needs and goals. The couple starts by identifying on a whiteboard their goals and interests and often find common ones.

Consistent with these principles, Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.745 states the couple will make timely, full, candid and informal disclosure of information.  In collaborative matters, there’s no formal discovery. Clients must update important information when it changes.

Read More About Florida’s Collaborative System and Rules

Read the Supreme Court of Florida’s opinion adopting the collaborative rules at In Re Amendments to Rule Regulating Florida Bar 4-1.19, 218 So. 3d 440 (Fla. May 18, 2017) and amended January 4, 2019, effective March 5, 2019 at In Re Amendments to Rule Regulating Florida Bar – Biennial Petition, 267 So. 3d 891 (Fla. January 4, 2019).

Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA)

The collaborative movement is global. In the United States, Florida and 19 states (plus the District of Columbia), adopted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA). For a chart of state enactment, with links to various state collaborative laws, click here.

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