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.