Collaborative Law Act and Florida

Collaborative Law Act and Florida

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law (also known as Collaborative Divorce) is an out-of-court legal process where spouses work together along with their attorneys to resolve divorce-related issues. The focus of Collaborative Law is handling a divorce without going to court. The spouses make the decisions about their money and their children instead of a judge who is a stranger.  Unlike mediation, Collaborative Law does not involve a third party facilitating negotiations. Each spouse has an attorney, and the spouses and their lawyers work together to resolve their issues in a peaceful way, without the adversity of a litigated court process.  Often other neutral professionals work with the spouses and their attorneys to create options for resolution. 

The spouses and their attorneys sign an agreement called a Participation Agreement initiating a Collaborative Law process. In the Participation Agreement, the spouses promise to use sincere efforts to reach mutually beneficial solutions to their conflict. They also agree, in the Participation Agreement, to be open and honest in their discussions and to disclosure all information that is relevant to the issues that exist. The Participation Agreement prevents their attorneys from representing the same parties in litigation if a Collaborative Divorce is unsuccessful.

The Collaborative Law Act

Because of its efficiency in resolving divorce issues out of court, Collaborative Law is gaining popularity in the United States and globally.

In 2007, the Uniform Law Commission began drafting uniform collaborative law legislation. The efforts resulted in the Collaborative Law Act, which provides uniform rules and guidelines for the Collaborative Law process. The Act enables uniformity even in cases that involve multiple-state jurisdictions. As of March 2022, Florida and 22 other states have adopted The Collaborative Law Act, modifying their family law system to enable a more efficient method of resolving divorce and other family disputes.

The Collaborative Law Act helps to ensure the availability and uniformity of Collaborative process standards across the state lines. Providing couples throughout the United States with equal access and opportunities for out-of-court divorce processes contributes to more efficient and fair dispute resolution.  The Collaborative Law process can involve child specialists, real estate, and financial experts depending upon the issues that require resolution.  Their participation in the process further improves the chances of the spouses reaching a resolution that meets both spouses’ goals and interests and keeps the children at the forefront of the process..

Florida’s Collaborative Law System

Florida’s Collaborative Law System

The Collaborative Law process was adopted by statute in Florida and includes Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, ethical rules, and Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Forms.

Sections 61.55 through 61.58 of Florida Statutes comprise the Collaborative Law Process Act, which promotes uniform Collaborative Law rules for the peaceful resolution of divorce-related disputes. Aware that divorce does not end spouses’ joint responsibilities towards children, the legislators focused on preserving parents’ cooperative relationship. In that regard, the Collaborative Process Act further promotes the shared parental responsibility, motivating the parents to work together in raising their children after divorce.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure relating to the Collaborative Law process. These rules emphasize timely and complete information disclosure between the parties. The information disclosure in the Collaborative Law process is informal, meaning that there is no formal discovery (subpoenas, depositions, etc.) like in litigation. By signing the Participation Agreement, the spouses oblige themselves to disclose and share important information informally. The lack of a formal discovery process results in significantly lower expenses and a quicker process. The Collaborative Law process encourages the parties to avoid taking firm positions. Instead, the process helps them identify goals and work towards achieving them. Open and respectful communication is encouraged.

Apart from the above-mentioned procedural rules, the Collaborative Law process is governed by ethical principles connecting different parts of the procedure into one whole. Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, specifically Rule 4-1.19, consist of ethical rules guiding the Collaborative attorneys throughout the process. These rules address the attorney-client relationship in a Collaborative Law process, setting the boundaries for their mutual communication. The Collaborative attorney must explain to the client the advantages and disadvantages of all the process options available through which to handle a divorce or other family dispute, including the Collaborative Law process. The client must be aware that the process is voluntary and that they can terminate it at any stage for any reason. The termination of the Collaborative Law process before the dispute has been resolved prevents the attorney from representing the same client in any subsequent litigated process. Finally, the attorney must inform the client about expected fees and costs.  That includes the attorney’s fees and the fees of other professionals who may be involved in the matter, including child specialists and financial experts.  It is imperative that a client be fully informed before deciding which process option to use for their divorce or other family matter.

The Supreme Court of Florida adopted Family Law Forms to be used in a Collaborative Law process. These forms are helpful to Collaborative attorneys and their clients. Some of the most common are the following: Introduction and Explanatory Remarks, Explanation of Collaborative Dissolution Process, Collaborative Law Participation Agreement Principles and Guidelines, Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, Confidentiality Agreement, etc.

While the Collaborative Law process is most widely associated with divorce and other family conflicts, the process is being used in other types of matters including civil cases, probate cases, and business conflicts.

Choosing the Right Collaborative Attorney

Carolann Mazza is a distinguished Collaborative family lawyer and a Supreme Court of Florida certified mediator. 

Well-versed in all the nuances of the Collaborative Law Act and the Florida Collaborative Law process, Carolann Mazza will provide you with a top-notch service to help you resolve your family dispute out of court.