Communicating with the Neutrals in a Collaborative Case

Florida’s Collaborative Process is a neutral process where both parties agree on an alternative to litigation. Potential candidates for Collaborative Law include spouses and unmarried parents who have at least some common goals, a genuine desire to protect their minor children from the Divorce process, as well as those who are intentional about being solution-focused.

Who are the Collaborative Neutrals? In a Collaborative setting, two neutrals are present throughout Team meetings with both parties and their Family Law Collaborative Attorneys. The Mental Health Neutral serves as the Facilitator, meaning he or she will in essence run each Collaborative Team Meeting. Both parties will work with the Mental Health Neutral to complete the Parenting Plan. As a Neutral, the Mental Health Professional will consider goals that are in the best interest of the minor children, rather than just the wishes of the Family Law Clients.

Known as a more private approach to Family Law, sensitive financial documents in a Collaborative case do not need to be filed publicly with the Court. Instead, the Financial Neutral will assist both parties in preparing the financial affidavit, mandatory disclosure, equitable distribution worksheet, etc. Examples of qualified and Collaboratively trained Financial Neutrals are Certified Public Accountants, Forensic Accountants, or Business Valuation Experts.

What separates Collaborative Neutrals from the Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorneys?

While Orlando Family Law Attorneys in a Collaborative case are not considered opposing counsel, they are still ethically obligated to advocate for their respective Client and not for the other party. Confidentiality between Clients and their attorneys is still a priority. However, in circumstances where Clients meet with their Mental Health Neutral or Financial Neutral, confidentiality is not required.

According to the Florida Supreme Court, all Family Law Attorneys must provide Collaborative Law as an option to all prospective Family Law Clients as an alternative to the traditional litigation model. However, not all Family Law Attorneys in Florida are Collaboratively trained. Our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys is dedicated to navigating the Divorce process in a way that honors everyone involved and we believe that Collaborative Law offers our Clients an opportunity to resolve their case in a way that is peaceful and amicable. All of our Family Law Attorneys are Collaboratively trained and are here to help you.

If you have questions regarding communicating with the neutrals in a Collaborative case, or would like to speak with one of our Orlando Family Law Attorneys about the Collaborative Process, please call our office at (407) 872-3161.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

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What to Expect in the First Collaborative Team Meeting

As a Family Law Client who chooses to proceed with your case by utilizing the Collaborative Process in Florida, you may be curious about what will happen in the first meeting. Remember, Collaborative Law is a voluntary process. Both you and your spouse will work with Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorneys who will prepare you for this meeting.

At the first meeting, you and your spouse will come together with your respective attorneys, a Financial Neutral and a Mental Health Neutral. You can anticipate that the Mental Health Neutral on your Collaborative Team will facilitate each meeting. Right away, he or she will explain the Collaborative Process and its purpose. Once an overview of Collaborative Law has been presented, the Mental Health Neutral will go over the necessary documents needed for your case to be resolved. Examples of such documents include a Collaborative Participation Agreement.

Our Collaboratively trained Orlando Family Law Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys believe the most important part of the meeting follows, which is goal setting. At this point, you and your spouse will each share what your goals are and what you would like to see come out of the Collaborative Process for your Family Law case. Each professional on your Collaborative Team wants to see the process succeed and will support you along the way.

Prior to the first Collaborative Team meeting, you should meet with your Family Law Attorney to discuss your specific goals and gain his or her insight. You are an important part of the Team and your trusted Collaboratively trained Family Law Attorney should have sound legal advice for you in order to make sure the Collaborative Process runs smoothly.

During the goal setting stage of the first Collaborative Team Meeting, it is imperative that both parties present their goals in a way that can be easily understood and agreed upon. Of course, the most common goals in many Collaborative cases involve protecting the minor children and ensuring their security and stability. By choosing the Collaborative Process, you are remaining focused on solutions and prioritizing peace and transparency throughout your case.

One specific goal might involve where the children will reside once your divorce has been finalized. Some Clients decide it’s best for the minor children to remain in the marital home where they can maintain familiarity (friendships, neighborhood activities, schooling, etc.) however, it is a common goal that the children spend as much time as possible with both parents. Another common goal could revolve around the children’s financial future.

Looking ahead to building a foundation of ongoing and positive communication amongst the co-parents may be a common goal as well. While your marriage may be ending, your commitment to the wellbeing of your children and the preservation of your family as you and your spouse move forward should not change.

While the goals mentioned above may be envisioned by both parties, in some Collaborative cases, Timesharing (also known as Child Custody) agreements may require more conversation and compromise from the co-parents. Ultimately, Timesharing schedules should reflect what is in the true best interest of the minor children, above the desires of either co-parent.

Another goal that may be brought up in the first Collaborative Team Meeting relates to spousal support. If you or your spouse has a financial need to receive alimony, and the other spouse has a financial ability to pay it, this should be expressed openly to the entire Collaborative Team. The Financial Neutral will help you navigate this part of the Collaborative Process.

Goal setting is considered the framework of the Collaborative Process and will allow both parties to move forward while collectively working towards what they would like to accomplish. However, if new goals arise, they may be shared at subsequent Collaborative Team Meetings.

Perhaps you can think of other goals that would come up during a Collaborative Team Meeting. If you are interested in learning more about this healthier approach to Family Law in Florida, please contact our office at (407) 872-3161 to speak with one of our experienced Orlando Family Law Attorneys today.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

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Collaborative Law: A Brief History and Overview

Florida’s Collaborative Law Process Act came to be in 2016, but the original concept for Collaborative Law came from Minnesota by an Attorney named Stuart Webb in 1990. He realized the importance of personal relationships in the legal process. Attorney Webb believed the litigation process could be harmful to spouses and families.

Did you know, our very own Attorney Matt Capstraw contributed to the Collaborative Law Process Act in Florida? For more on his involvement, check out Attorney Capstraw’s profile HERE.

According to Florida Statute 61, the purpose of Collaborative Law in Florida is “to preserve the integrity of marriage and to safeguard meaningful family relationships, promote the amicable settlement of disputes that arise between parties to a marriage, and mitigate the potential harm to the spouses and their children caused by the process of legal dissolution of marriage.”

While traditional litigation and mediation involve two Family Law Attorneys who act as opposing counsel in a Divorce, the Collaborative Process utilizes a Team to help resolve the case in a peaceful and productive manner. Benefits of the Collaborative Law Process include but are not limited to: Goal centered and solution-oriented meetings as well as the opportunity to protect minor children from the Divorce process.

Who makes up a Collaborative Team?

Family Law Attorneys: Unlike the litigation or mediation processes, in a Collaborative divorce, the Orlando Family Law Attorneys work together in order to assist both spouses reach an amicable and peaceful resolution.

Mental Health Counselor: In a Collaborative setting, the Mental Health Neutral serves as the facilitator. He or she will facilitate the Collaborative meetings and make sure common goals of both spouses remain top of mind among the Team during the case.

Financial Professional: To preserve the privacy of the spouses and their family, the Financial Neutral maintains the financial affidavits of both parties, rather than the parties filing the document as part of public records. Any amounts relating to Alimony are also kept private in a Collaborative case.

In some cases, especially in situations where the parties are in need of additional assistance, the Collaborative Team is able to bring in Allied Professionals as well.

Potential Allied Professionals

Realtors: Collaboratively trained Real Estate professionals are able to assist in the valuation of the marital home, determine potential rental costs, etc.

Florida Ethics Rules require all Divorce Attorneys to present Collaborative Law as an option to potential Family Law Clients during the initial consultation. However, not all Family Law Attorneys have Collaborative experience or training.

All of our Orlando Lawyers at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys are Collaboratively trained and are active members of The Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida. Our Team recognizes the true value of this process.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

To learn more about the Collaborative Process, call our office at (407) 872-3161.

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What Happens When a Christian Husband Wants a Divorce?

In marriage, sometimes we go through difficult seasons. Life as Christians does not mean that we won’t experience trials or endure challenges. Perhaps you have been trying to work on your relationship for months or even years. Even still, you have reached a breaking point and feel like you don’t love your wife anymore. Divorce is on your mind. Our Team at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys Orlando can help you through the process.

Being a Christian husband, you take what the bible says seriously. Feelings of guilt, loss, and regret may arise as you are a believer. As a Family Law Attorney who believes in marriage, I often ask my Clients if there is anything they can do to save their relationship with their spouse. Our Central Florida Divorce Attorneys encourage reconciliation in situations where it is possible, appropriate, and safe for both parties.

To get to place where the marriage can be restored, you may want to consider counseling with a Christian therapist, who has a biblical worldview. Ephesians 5:25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Being willing to sacrifice and compromise will help you make your wife and children a priority.

If you have done everything in your power to move forward as a couple and divorce still seems like the best option, think about how you want to proceed with your case. There are other options than traditional litigation. Florida requires all Family Law Clients be informed of the mediation process as well as Collaborative Law.

When two spouses would like navigate divorce in a way that is amicable, voluntary, confidential, and outside of Court, Collaborative Law is encouraged. During Collaborative Team Meetings, you sit in the same room with your wife and your Collaborative Team–which includes the attorneys, mental health neutral, financial neutral, and in some cases, allied professionals (such as realtors.) Everyone works together toward a resolution through goal setting. The process is peaceful, and often protects the wellbeing of the minor children.

Watch our YouTube Video HERE.

Listen to our Podcast HERE.

It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”

For more information on the collaborative process, call our office at (407) 872-3161. Our Collaboratively trained attorneys would be happy to assist you.

4 Steps to Take After Your Initial Consultation

Meeting with an attorney for an initial consultation can be overwhelming. Perhaps you have not been in the position to seek legal advice before. Once you have an opportunity to discuss your family law case with an experienced Central Florida attorney, you may be left wondering what to do next.

Depending on your overall experience going through the consultation process, you may want to consider the following steps:

  1. Contemplate your options: Before you decide to retain an attorney, you might want to ask yourself the following questions.
  • Can my marriage be saved?
  • Have my spouse and I exhausted all efforts to maintain our relationship?
  • Are my spouse and I willing to try counseling?
  • Would a Collaborative strategy meet the needs of my family?
  • Am I ready to take legal action?
  1. Review your notes: During your initial consultation, the attorney will ask questions to get to know you and the specifics of your case better. Many potential clients use this time to write down how the meeting went from their personal point of view. Did you feel comfortable discussing the details of your case with an attorney? Are you confident in his or her ability to serve as a legal advocate on your behalf?
  1. Determine your ability to follow through with a fee agreement: There are many factors that contribute to an attorney’s hourly rate such as experience, industry training, educational background, etc. Be sure to carefully read any documentation related to fees and/or retainers. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if there is anything you don’t fully understand.
  2. Contact the attorney to retain services: Once you have made the decision to take legal action, it is imperative to get in touch with the attorney you would like to represent you. Remember, every case is unique and different. It is important to manage your expectations. Should you have questions regarding policies and procedures that the attorney and/or legal team follow, let them know as soon as possible.

If it turns out that the timing isn’t right to move forward, you still might choose to keep your notes and contact information for the attorney in a safe place, in the event that you decide to pursue your case at a later date.

To speak with one of our attorneys, contact us today.

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How Can Collaborative Divorce Benefit You and Your Family?

How Can Collaborative Divorce Benefit You and Your Family?

Whether you are embarking on the divorce process now or contemplating your options regarding the future of your marriage, it is important to base your decision on what is best for your family. What worked for someone else may not lead to an ideal resolution for you. If your efforts toward a reconciliation have been unsuccessful, we encourage you to consider a collaborative divorce.

Three of our attorneys at The Marks Law Firm are collaboratively trained, experienced, and dedicated to building a custom team of professionals best suited for your family law case.

When couples are experiencing divorce, it is very likely that they will need assistance beyond legal representation. Who is on your team?

Family Law Attorney

Whoever you choose to be your legal advocate and counselor should work closely with you and your professional team to maximize your goals and interests,  in order to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Financial Professional

A financial neutral can assist you and your spouse in identifying and determining the value of your assets and debts. They can also help you understand your complete financial situation and provide you with financial options to help you and your family achieve your goals and interests for the future.

Mental Health Professional

Your mental health professional will also serve as a neutral member of your professional team and will guide you and your spouse to effective communication. He or she will help you create a positive co-parenting relationship with your spouse and work with you to develop a parenting plan that maximizes the benefits to your children.

To learn more about collaborative divorce and why it might be the best option for your family, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our collaborative attorneys today.

Florida Passes the Collaborative Process Act

After unanimously passing in the Florida House and Senate, on March 24, 2016, Governor Rick Scott signed and enacted the Florida Collaborative Process act.  This act recognizes and establishes requirements for the use of the Collaborative Process in family law matters in the State of Florida.  The Collaborative Process is a dispute resolution method used as an alternative to Court litigation.  In enacting the Collaborative Process Act the Legislature stated the purpose of the Act was:

The Legislature finds and declares that the purpose of the Part III of Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, is to:

  • Create a uniform system of practice for a collaborative law process for proceedings under chapters 61 and 742 of the Florida Statutes
  • Encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures.
  • Preserve the working relationship between parties to a dispute through a non-adversarial method that reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.

In the Collaborative Process, each party, with the help of a specially trained attorney, meet jointly and privately to respectfully negotiate the settlement off all the issues in their dissolution.  Information and documents are exchanged voluntarily without the need of going to Court or the expense of formal discovery.  A neutral financial expert, such as a certified public accountant or a financial planner, helps the couple gather and understand their assets, liabilities, income and expenses, to help the parties negotiate a settlement of those issues.  A specially trained mental health professional acts as a facilitator to assist the parties with issues involving their children and to stay focused on resolving the issues in their dispute rather than attacking the other person.

The cost and time required by the collaborative process is typically less than half of a litigated divorce.  Best of all, the parties learn how to problem solve together, lessening the possibility of future litigation.  This is in stark contrast to litigated divorce cases which may leave bitterness and anger for years leaving the parties without a working relationship and solving future problems through more litigation.  Further, the Collaborative process allows the parties far greater privacy for themselves and their finances than traditional litigation.

We at the Marks Law Firm have been have been utilizing the Collaborative Process for years to help our clients in their disputes.  The attorneys in our firm have received special training in the use of this process, and one of the attorneys in our firm aided in the creation of this statute.  It is our hope that, with the passage of this act, the use of the Collaborative Process will become more common as we believe it will greatly benefit Florida’s families.

Collaborative Law vs. Divorce Mediation in Family Law

By Orlando Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

First, let me say that both the Collaborative Law Process and Mediation have their place and each can be very beneficial in the right circumstances. However, although they may appear similar at first blush, their focus and processes are different. Both attempt to help the Parties resolve their issues without formal litigation, with the goal being a Settlement Agreement in their case.

One calls that agreement a Collaborative Law Agreement and the other calls it a Mediation Agreement.

Let’s look at the differences.

Collaborative Law vs. Divorce Mediation

Mediation typically involves “positional bargaining,” while Collaborative involves mutual “goal setting.” An essential difference is that in Mediation the parties typically take their respective corners and usually start bargaining from polar extremes.

Each Party normally hopes to end up somewhere closer to the middle or, depending on his or her perspective, closer to their position.

In the collaborative family law, collaborative divorce or collaborative problem solving, the parties come together in a more transparent fashion. They outline their goals together and work together to find common purposes like “protecting the minor children.”

Another difference is the people involved. The Collaborative Process includes a team working together, not just the Clients and their Attorneys. The team includes a Collaborative Mental Health Professional and a Financial Collaborative Professional. These two professionals are considered “neutrals” and they do not advocate for one side or the other; they are part of the solution. And the attorneys, because they sign the Collaborative Agreement stating that they will not take the case to Court, are also vested in reaching resolution in the Collaborative Process.

One last important difference: although all Family Law cases in Central Florida are required to go to Mediation before they proceed to any contested Hearings, Collaborative Cases only proceed where both parties agree. There has to be some level of trust and willingness to be open and transparent for the Collaborative process to be effective. However, the potential benefits are tremendous for the parties, their children, finances and futures. But if the trust isn’t there or the Collaborative Process is not an option, Mediation is still far better than formal litigation, which usually results in substantial pain to everyone involved.

Check out this video of Attorney Tom Marks and Attorney Ronald Sims discussing Collaborative Law vs.  Mediation:

 

Orlando Collaborative Family Law and Professionalism

By Orlando Collaborative Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I believe that the vast majority of attorneys are caring and professional in their behavior and advocacy for their clients. In our adversarial system it is only natural though that by the end of the case, at least one of the parties will feel like they lost. That is especially true in Family Law, the area I practice in.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and that is one of the reasons I have developed a Collaborative Family Law Practice where husbands and wives agree to work together to resolve the issues without having to take the case to Court.

Not only are both parties winners in Collaborative Law, because they avoided acrimonious Litigation, but also because both parents together have focused on their kids’ best interests.

I have actually participated in Collaborative Law Cases where both parties have felt like they are not only happy with the final results but that they believe they have done everything they can mutually to protect their children and to ensure that their children thrive even after the Dissolution of Marriage. They have chosen to love their children the most and to continue to be friends in order to co-parent their children in the most healthy and productive way possible.

A Word About “Collaborative” Family Law Attorneys

Attorneys who practice Collaborative Family Law are some of the most professional, ethical and caring lawyers I have ever met. The focus is no longer on litigation and winning at no small expense, financially, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually to the clients. And in  addition to the Collaborative Family Law Attorneys, there are highly professional Neutral Collaborative Professionals like the Financial Collaborative Professional and the Mental Health Collaborative Professional. They assist the clients and attorneys in putting together Equitable Distribution Worksheets and other financial documents as well as the Parenting Plan and other important documents in the case.

I am not saying that Family Law Attorneys involved in the Litigation aspects of Family Law are not for the most part Professional. There certainly are many. But those Attorneys who have decided to focus on Collaborative Family Law, do it I believe, because they care about the process of helping clients resolve their cases in the healthiest and most productive way possible.

Reaching a Common Ground

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I went this last week to visit Regent University in Virginia with my daughter and we went to an event called the “Clash of the Titans.” It was a debate from the political left and right moderated by Dana Perino, of the Fox news show called “The Five.”

The two conservatives, Newt Gingrich and Jay Sekulow debated the two liberals, David Axelrod and David Plouffe. The focus of the debate was on “Executive Powers” and involved some of the most divisive issues of our day, including Obamacare, the medical exchanges currently in disarray and the IRS targeting conservative political groups. Of course, issues like the recent partial federal government shutdown and the threat of defunding Obamacare were on the table for a potentially polarizing and out-of-control argumentative free-for-all.

However, even though the participants did not agree on many of the pressing issues facing America today, they maintained civility and respect for each other’s ideas, goals and positions. It made me think of The Marks Law Firm’s Family Law Practice and how even opposing parties in the Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings can still act civilly and seek common goals of protecting the minor children and properly co-parenting them into the future. I see those successes in my Collaborative Family Law Cases and even in the more traditional litigated Family Law Cases.

Even with gridlock in Washington DC, these politicians from opposite sides of the political spectrum could still agree to disagree in a debate on the issues and then sit down and have dinner together and try to reach common ground for the good of the country.

I believe parents should and can do the same thing even through a divorce, for the good of their minor children.