When you first visit our law office for a divorce, we’ll ask if your spouse has a lawyer. If your spouse does not have a lawyer yet, or if he or she has a lawyer trained in collaboration, you may wish to explore the option of a collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce has many benefits. The cost for collaborative divorce can be much less than a litigated divorce and can yield better outcomes.
Leslie Smith Haswell is a divorce lawyer trained in collaborative law and is a member of the Collaborative Divorce Professionals of Gainesville. She is well qualified to work with clients who are interested in the collaborative process.
If your spouse’s lawyer is not trained in collaboration, or if your spouse doesn’t have a lawyer, then the litigation path is the only path available. No Florida family law attorney can represent both spouses at the same time.
The process for a regular litigated or traditional divorce and a collaborative divorce are quite different. It works like this:
Traditional litigated divorce. One party files a petition and the other party files an answer. The parties compile their financial information and exchange it with each other. The parties then go to mediation. If the spouses reach a full agreement they meet before a judge to finalize the divorce. If they don’t reach a full agreement, then they litigate their differences in court. These differences might be over parenting time with the children, distribution of assets or liabilities, alimony, child support, attorney’s fees, or any other outstanding issue. At any point in this process one party can ask the court to decide something in his or her favor, or do something extra. The litigation may turn into an ugly battle and continue until one party gives in, one party wins, or they both run out of money.
Collaborative Divorce. Each party hires a collaborative attorney and they all sit down to review and then sign a contract pledging they won’t go to court until everything is settled. Both sides agree to play fair, be honest and work toward a solution that will be a win-win for both of them. The couple sets goals for life after marriage and then work with a financial professional, a divorce coach and their attorneys to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the each spouse and the children. The collaborative attorney is there to guide the process and write-up the documents. When the spouses have reached an agreement, a joint petition is filed and they all meet before a judge to finalize the divorce. If one party breaks the contact and decides to go to court before a full settlement is reached, then the couple must start the divorce over again with other lawyers.
At our law firm we believe a collaborative approach is better for families, however, we are fully capable of an aggressive court battle if necessary.