When people usually think about divorce, they picture a courtroom with the parties appearing before a judge to argue their respective positions. This is the image of the legal system in America – working out disputes in front a judge who makes the final decision on issues like who is at fault, should pay money, or receive custody of a child. Given that divorce is traditionally seen as a contentious process that often requires the parties to openly contest the demands of the other, it makes sense that alternative ways of resolving disagreements are often unknown, let alone discussed. However, there are numerous advantages to settling divorce concerns in forums outside the stressful environment of the courtroom. If parties want to preserve their relationship in order to better co-parent a child or continue operating a family business together, choosing a less combative proceeding presents a better opportunity to achieve that aim. In fact, Florida recently passed legislation that formalizes a collaborative divorce process that is intended to facilitate amicable dissolutions.
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party attempts to help individuals in a legal dispute come to an agreement. Essentially, a mediator works to help the parties communicate more effectively and concede a compromise if it is necessary to prevent an impasse in the process. It is common for each party to have his/her own attorney present at mediation sessions to ensure legal interests are not unnecessarily given away. This procedure is voluntary, and either party can opt out at any time in favor of pursuing a traditional suit in court, but some of the advantages of this method include:
- lower cost;
- faster timeline;
- parties can choose the mediator;
- facts of the case remain private and confidential; and
- complete control over the outcome.
In addition, it is worth noting that Florida law permits a judge to refer parties to mediation in cases where the parties are disputing parental responsibility, visitation, or child support, so this is a process that is already recognized as beneficial by the traditional legal establishment. In Hillsborough County, mediation is mandatory before the parties can have a hearing before a judge.
Finally, the Florida legislature recently passed a law that formalizes the operation of the collaborative law process for family law matters in this state. This method offers a non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution that is intended to preserve the parties’ relationship. It is a voluntary settlement process that employs the services of mental health and financial professionals, as well as specially trained attorneys, to help the parties collaborate towards the satisfactory settlement. The parties enter into a participation agreement wherein they agree to forego filing a standard divorce petition while engaged in the collaborative process. Further, if the parties are unable to come to an agreement in this forum, the attorneys must withdraw their representation, and cannot participate in the court case. Usually this method is employed only if there are mental issues involved, alimony, real property and personal property which require experts to help resolve the issues. If not, then it is not necessary to go through this process and one attorney can be utilized throughout the proceedings.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you are seeking a divorce, regardless of whether you can or cannot come to an agreement, a case will have to be filed with the court. And even if a case is filed before you come to an agreement, this does not mean you cannot amicably resolve your differences thereafter and have an uncontested divorce. A family law attorney can advise on all the alternative dispute resolution options, and help guide you to the type that is most advantageous for you. The Tampa Bay All Family Law Group, P.A. is experienced in adversarial and non-adversarial approaches to divorce, and can adapt to either approach if circumstances change. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+