The Collaborative Process

Why Collaboration is Better

The Collaborative Process is a peaceful alternative to litigation. Rather than litigating family issues in Court, families are able to resolve legal issues in a holistic, team setting that is better suited for family law matters and especially beneficial when minor children are involved.

The Collaborative Process takes place within series of team meetings, comprised of the Collaborate “team”. This teams is made up of each individual along with his/her attorney, a mental health professional serving as facilitator and a financial neutral, if necessary.

Each team meeting has an agenda outlining what issues will be discussed at the particular meeting. This allows for a predictable and efficient method of resolving the family law issues relevant in the particular case.

This process is confidential, allowing participants to shield their personal matters and final agreements from the public record.

Although the Collaborative Process is taking place outside of Court, all agreements entered into by the participants are legally valid and recognized by Courts. Once the Collaborative Process has come to an end and all relevant agreements have been finalized and executed by the participants, a Final Judgment is submitted to the Court ratifying and making said agreements Order of the Court. This process is well-suited for all family law related issues that would benefit from avoiding prolongued exposure to the negative effects of litigation. Specifically, the following types of cases can be handled collaboratively:

Collaborative Law Cases

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

Divorce is a difficult time for everyone. This is especially true if there are minor children involved. However, the Collaborative Process presents families with a choice; a choice between engaging in adversarial, non-stop litigation that will come at a high emotional and financial cost to their family, or the choice to engage in interest based negotiations in a holistic team setting that will avoid further fracturing of the family.

The Collaborative Process is perfectly suited to handle family law matters in a controlled team setting allowing even the most contentious of topics to be discussed with little room for miscommunication and misundertanding between the individual family members and their attorneys. Much time and money can be spent on never-ending litigation. Most of the time, individuals are frustrated with the slow pace and animosity associated with traditional litigation.

The Collaborative Process allows individual family members to tackle all relevant issues such as equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, alimony, child support and time-sharing issues without ever having to be exposed to the negative and harmful effects of litigation.

Establishment of Paternity (along with child support, time-sharing & parenting plan)

In Florida, if two unmarried individuals have a child, it is legally necessary for the Father’s paternity to be established. It does not matter that the Father’s name is on the birth certificate. The inclusion of the Father’s name on the birth certificate alone only serves as a presumption of paternity but does not legally establish Paternity. Note: Mother’s do not have to establish their rights, as there typically would not be doubt as to who the Mother of the child is. The legal reality of establishing one’s paternal rights is significant because failure to do so, results in that parent (the Father) having no rights at all over the minor child(ren).

Some individuals may mistakenly believe that establishing paternity is only relevant or important if the parents are no longer together, or no longer getting along. While both of those instances are good scenarios in which to establish paternity, other situations exist where even if parents are together and/or getting along, paternity should still be established. For example, the premature death of the Mother. This would leave the Father in a situation where he does not have legal proof that he is the legal Father of said child(ren).

Along with establishing legal rights over a minor child, a Petition to Establish Paterniy also addresses other relevant issues such as: Parental Responsibility; TImesharing & Parenting Plan; and Child Support.

Modifications (of alimony; child support & timesharing)

If there has been a substantial change of circumstance since the entry of your Final Judgement, a modification of alimony, child support and time sharing may be possible.

Some circumstances that can lead to a modification of the original agreement include:

-Involuntary loss of job
-Change in income whether an increase or decrease. (Whether a decrease in income is voluntary or involuntary will be relevant in a modification)
-Change in time sharing
-Relocation
-Remarriage
-Medical Issues
-The best interest of the child

Modifications are not considered legitimate unless they are approved by the court. As your attorney, we will be able to assess the changes in your life, or your spouse’s to determine whether a modification is a viable and appropriate option.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

When preparing a Prenuptial or Postnuptial agreement, attorneys will typically obtain feedback from their particular client and will draft a proposed agreement based upon the details they have received. Often times, the other individual will retain representation of his or her own in order to also benefit from legal advice and counsel when reviewing a proposed agreement. Note: one attorney cannot represent both individuals in the preparation of this or any type of agreement, as it would present a conflict of interest.

Because the preparation of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement tends to mirror the exchange of information and financial documentation that would take place in traditional litigation surrounding a divorce, preparing these types of agreements can become awkward and even adversarial at times. Naturally, that is not the type of interaction a couple wants to engage in when they are not looking to divorce but instead, either actively preparing for an upcoming wedding or simply looking to come to a fair understanding with a spouse they are not looking to separate from.

That is why couples who are interested in obtaining a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement should consider doing so through the Collaborative Process. This process promotes interest based negotiations while providing an atmosphere of transparency, trust, and direct communication between all individuals involved. Rather than unnecessarily being at opposite ends of the preparation of this agreement, individuals can comfortably discuss terms while also vocalizing their interests and concerns. Individuals will find this setting much more conducive to creating a positive environment around the preparation of such agreements.

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