Orlando Divorce Attorney Tom Marks Joins Lee Wright to Outline Benefits of Collaborative Law

As a member of The Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida, Attorney Tom Marks attends monthly general meetings as well as development group meetings to connect with other advocates of the Collaborative process. During a recent general meeting, he met Lee Wright, who is a Divorce Coach in the Central Florida community.

Lee’s mission is to help her Clients through change. After experiencing her own Divorce, Lee believes it is one of the biggest upheavals people will go through. She felt called to become a Divorce Coach after witnessing a close friend navigate the vulnerable process. Lee has a passion for helping her Clients heal, blossom, and grow.

Tom was recently featured on Lee’s YouTube channel: Season Ebb & Flow. Below are highlights of their conversation regarding Collaborative Law. For those who don’t know, Collaborative Law is recognized as an amicable alternative to contentious Divorce.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of the Collaborative Process.

Lee: Tom, can you explain to me and my viewers the difference between Collaborative Law and Litigation?

Tom: Yes – in traditional Litigation, both parties lawyer up. One party files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which is commonly referred to as Divorce. The other party responds to the petition with an Answer and Counter Petition. These steps are followed by completion of Mandatory Disclosure, Depositions and Hearings. Unfortunately, the litigation process can be destructive to the family when minor children are involved and even when they are not. There are situations where one party may attempt to get a leg up or initiate a Custody battle. More often than not, Litigation leads to co-parents hating each other, failing to communicate, and ultimately the minor children suffer.

In the Collaborative approach, both parties enter a voluntary process. They sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement that outlines the requirements of successfully resolving a Collaborative case. Examples of these requirements include resolution outside of Court, remaining transparent throughout the process, expressing common goals, working together with each member of the Collaborative Team, etc.

Lee: Who makes up the Collaborative Team?

Tom: Well, each Client must have a Collaborative Family Law Attorney under the Florida Statute and then you’ll have a Mental Health Neutral and a Financial Neutral along with both parties. The Mental Health Neutral and Financial Neutral will take care of several things that the Attorneys otherwise would have done. Many times, this results in lower costs accumulated for the Clients. Since a Financial Neutral is typically a forensic CPA, he or she can very easily put together Child Support guidelines, Alimony analysis, Financial Affidavits and Equitable Distribution Worksheets. While the Mental Health Neutral helps the parties put together a Parenting Plan so the Attorneys can be more like advisors, facilitators, and encouragers throughout the process.

Lee: So, if the Attorney is not responsible for those financial portions or developing the Parenting Plan, and the other professionals are less expensive, the Clients are saving both time and money by choosing the Collaborative route. Is that correct?

Tom: Yes, typically Family Law Attorneys have a more expensive hourly rate than the Neutrals. As an advocate for the Collaborative Process, I recognize that while I may generate less revenue, the results are often far superior to the Parties having to endure Litigation. In fact, I believe the number one benefit of Collaborative Law is the positive pathway it creates for successful co-parenting after a Divorce is finalized. Clients are solution-oriented, dedicated to communication, and maintain a willingness to work together for the well-being of their children.

Lee: Can you talk about other benefits of Collaborative Law compared to Litigation?

Tom: Certainly. In a Collaborative case, two parties are focused on the specifics of what really matters to each of them and their family as a whole. Whereas in a Litigation setting, a Judge may broad brush regarding the Marital Home and Timesharing arrangements, depriving the Parties of the details they may have wanted. Due to a high volume of Hearings, Judges don’t have as much time to navigate the dynamics of each case. The Collaborative Process offers much more flexibility and an opportunity for peaceful resolutions, confidentiality, and can be much less expensive than a full-blown Litigation. The reason being that in Florida, Family Law Clients who opt for traditional Litigation are required to go through Mediation first which adds to the overall expense of their resolution if the case does not resolve at Mediation. Because if they cannot resolve their case through Mediation, they are left to also pay costs associated with going to Court.

Lee: How do Allied professionals contribute to a Collaborative case?

Tom: Allied professionals are not the Neutrals. They’re brought in separately, since believe it or not, some cases might require a Realtor or a Divorce Coach to handle various needs. At my firm, we have a list of trusted professionals who fill necessary Allied Professional roles and they can be very helpful.

Lee: Sometimes Family Law Clients don’t know what to expect when moving forward with Divorce. I have one final question for you. How do you prepare your Clients for Collaborative Team Meetings?

Tom: I always meet with my Clients before the first Collaborative Team meeting to kind of paint a picture of what to expect. At this point, I will let my Client know how the meeting will be set up, where everyone on the Collaborative Team will sit, topics that will be discussed, goal setting, etc. As the Family Law Attorney, my role is to advocate for my Client and his or her best interests. Something that I always strive to follow is the golden rule. In other words, if I were the Client, what information would I like to know prior to the first meeting. It is important that Clients are upfront about their expectations, so that I can communicate what they can anticipate during each Collaborative Team Meeting. Most cases are resolved after three or four meetings, so by outlining the purpose of each, Clients can have a better understanding of what to expect.

CLICK HERE to watch Attorney Tom Marks’ full interview with Divorce Coach Lee Wright. If you are interested in a consultation to learn more about Collaborative Law, call our office at 407-872-3161.

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