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Florida Collaborative Divorce Overview


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Divorce is an inherently stressful process. However, there are ways to lessen that stress and promote more amicable relationships. One legal method that prioritizes the mental and emotional health of all parties is called collaborative divorce.

At Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon, we increasingly use collaborative divorce methods with our clients. We began using this method when we realized that clients often seek negotiation and communication methods that lessen animosity.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative law is a new way to resolve disputes by removing the dispute from the litigation process.

Although a marriage may end by divorce, the parties must maintain an ongoing relationship as they continue to co-parent their children. A long and nasty divorce battle often will make this impossible and affect all the parties for years to come.

In a collaborative case, the couple will work with a team of professionals that support them through the emotional, legal, and financial aspects of their case.

With the help of the team, the clients will avoid the uncertain outcomes of court litigation and create a divorce settlement that best meets the needs of both parties.

To learn about this better way to divorce, contact Galen M. Novotny with Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon.

Should I Choose a Florida Collaborative Divorce?

Whether to choose a collaborative divorce depends on your circumstances and goals.

If you desire to lessen stress and work together to negotiate a fair settlement agreement, a collaborative divorce can be an effective tool. Parents negotiating the care and support of children find this method particularly useful, as it prioritizes the well-being of their children.

However, if you and your spouse have such animosity towards each other that negotiations would be strained, a collaborative divorce may not work.

We do not recommend this method to all our clients. Instead, we evaluate the circumstances of your divorce and advise you on the separation method most likely to reach your goals. 

How Does a Florida Collaborative Divorce Work?

In some ways, collaborative divorce in Florida is similar to traditional divorce. However, it differs in the methods your attorney uses to reach a divorce settlement. Here are the major steps required in a collaborative divorce. 

Retain an Attorney

Each party retains an attorney if they choose. Attorneys provide legal guidance and protect each person’s interest during a collaborative divorce.

Voluntarily Choose a Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce in Florida is voluntary, so each party must ask their attorney to use collaborative methods.

You can use collaborative methods at any part in divorce proceedings. For an efficient, amicable divorce, many couples choose to start collaborative methods immediately.

Other couples realize midway through divorce proceedings that they need a less stressful way to separate, so they switch to collaborative methods then.

Write a Participation Agreement

Each party and their attorneys will meet to write a collaborative divorce participation agreement. This participation agreement will outline:

  • Issues the parties want to resolve,
  • Decisions the parties need to make,
  • Documents the parties need to gather, and
  • Rules for collaborative negotiations.

This participation agreement will serve as a promise that the parties will not use the court system to litigate their divorce.  

Frequently Asked Questions

As you begin the collaborative divorce process, you may have a number of questions.

Can I Relocate with My Child(ren)?

When either parent who is entitled to timesharing with the minor child intends to move more than fifty (50) miles away, Florida law requires that parent to follow the very specific procedures set forth in Florida Statute 61.13001.

Permission to relocate with the minor child can be obtained either through the agreement of the other party, or by filing a Petition with the family court. If necessary, the Court will consider the statutory factors to determine if the requested relocation is in the “best interests of the child.” 

A relocation will often limit time sharing of the non-moving parent.

Ultimately, the Court will have to consider the opportunities the relocation may present versus the benefit of the child remaining with both parents actively involved in the child’s life which is a very high burden to overcome.

If you are considering relocation or if your former spouse is requesting to relocate, please contact Galen M. Novotny with Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon to learn your rights and obligations.

What Are My Parental Rights to a Child I Had Outside of Marriage?

Pursuant to Florida law, the unwed mother of the child is designated the natural guardian of the child.

If the father wishes to be a part of the child’s life, he must establish his rights through the Court.

The signing of the birth certificate as the “father” does not automatically give that person parental rights to the child. The father must petition the Court to establish parental responsibility and timesharing and the appropriate child support.

While the unwed parents of the child may get along initially and can agree on these issues, it is important to establish your rights through the Court with an enforceable court order that will be beneficial for all parties in the long run.

If you have any questions as to what your rights and responsibilities are as a parent of a child born outside of marriage, please contact Galen M. Novotny with Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon for a consultation.

Can I Get “Custody” of My Children?

Traditionally, in Florida family law there was a presumption that one parent was going to have “custody” of the children when there is a divorce or paternity case.

However, the term “custody” has been removed from Florida family law and there is no longer a presumption for or against either parent. Now, the Court must determine what is “in the best interests of the children” in establishing a parenting plan that will address parental responsibility and timesharing.

Parental responsibility is often shared and is the method in which parents make important decisions for their children. Timesharing is a schedule of how the children will spend time with each parent.  

If you have questions on what your rights are regarding your children in either a divorce or paternity matter, contact Galen M. Novotny with Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon. 

What Attorney Should I Choose?

Divorce is a personal, stressful matter that requires an attorney who is both compassionate and diligent in advocacy. If you desire a Florida collaborative divorce, you need an attorney with training and experience in collaborative methods.

Traditional divorce attorneys are trained to tenaciously advocate for their clients while ignoring the harm that they may be doing to children and families.

Collaborative attorneys seek what is best for their client in a way that prioritizes communication and cooperative parenting. Instead of “burning bridges,” collaborative attorneys seek to help you build bridges toward healthier relationships.

Contact a Collaborative Divorce Florida Attorney

If you’re looking for a less stressful approach to divorce, an attorney for collaborative divorce in Florida can help.

At Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon, our divorce attorneys help couples negotiate and communicate toward a peaceful division of assets. We help parents prioritize the well-being of their children and work together to create a parenting plan that puts the needs of the family first.

Contact our attorneys for a consultation where you can learn more about collaborative divorce. Attorney Galen Novotny is on the board of Northwest Florida Collaborative Law Group and offers a wealth of knowledge about the collaborative process and resources.