Collaborative Divorce, Paternity and Child Custody Law
Collaborative Divorce, Paternity and Child Custody Law
1) What is a Collaborative Law Process for family law cases?
Collaborative law is an alternative method to standard family law litigation in court that is designed to be non-adversarial or at least as non-adversarial as possible. It is a problem solving team approach to working out parties’ highest priorities without contested litigation.
There is a structured collaborative process that includes the following:
a) Each spouse or parent meets and selects his or her own collaborative attorney.
b) Each spouse signs a collaborative agreement that outlines the process.
c) A team is built to meet your family’s specific needs. Since the collaborative process avoids unnecessary and expensive divorce and child custody litigation, the parties are able to allocate resources to problem-solvers. The team may include one or more of the following professionals:
- Mental Health Professional and/or Parenting Coordinators
Divorce is often an emotional time for parties. Therapists help the parties handle emotions and keep you focused on the goals of what is needed in your divorce or child custody case.
For those with children, mental health professionals and parenting coordinators can work directly with you in a therapeutic atmosphere to create a parenting plan that describes in adequate detail how the parents would share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of a the minor child and time-sharing arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent, the designation of who will be responsible for all forms of healthcare, school related matters, other activities and the methods and technologies that the parents will utilize to communicate with the minor child.
- Forensic accountants have several purposes:
They are trained professionals that conduct business valuations to determine the value of a business to divide as part of a divorce case.
They review financial documents to determine the marital financial profile and cross check financial records to determine if there are any other marital funds or property.
They can prepare financial affidavits, child support and alimony guidelines, trace assets, conduct an equitable distribution analysis, or when needed, conduct a lifestyle analysis.
- Financial planners
It can be particularly scary for spouses that did not handle finances throughout a long marriage, to all of a sudden be in charge of his or her own finances. A financial planner can help that party manage his or her money and make a budget to meet his or her needs.
- Vocational Experts
In many marriages, only one party works while the other maintains the household and/or children. In some cases, but not all, it may be necessary for the stay-at-homemaker to enter back into the work force. A vocational expert considers the stay-at-homemaker’s educational history, prior work history, skills, and compares it to the local job market to determine what that individual is capable of making. Then that figure is taken into consideration for the purpose of alimony and child support calculations.
When divorcing couples need to divide their assets, professionals are often needed to determine the value of commercial real estate, residential real estate, jewelry, sports or other expensive memorabilia, boats, motorcycles and other vehicles, etc.
- Child Psychologists
Separation is not only hard on parents, sometimes it is extremely difficult for a child. A trained person can help direct your child to gain inner strength, better communication and problem-solving skills and learn to love both parents separately and embrace the concept of living in two separate households.
- Real Estate Agents
In some cases, one party keeps the marital house and in other cases, the parties decide to sell the house. A real estate agent can list your house on the multiple listing service (MLS), show the residence to perspective buyers and represent you in the negotiation of a sales contract.
d) The trained professionals have a meeting and work out an agenda schedule that works for your particular family. The lawyers and/or forensic accountant works with the parties to gather financial information for the team meetings.
e) Each party works privately with his or her attorney to share information and to be advised as to Florida law and reasonable expectations. The parties and the trained professionals have a series of joint meetings to tackle and resolve each of the issues in the parties divorce or child custody case. The key focus on these meetings is settlement. During these meetings, the parties’ goals are listed and then a list of alternative ways to reach each goal is prepared when the parties have separate goals. This brainstorming method helps the team think out of the box and be creative to find a resolution for both parties.
f) Once the parties are able to reach an agreement, a written settlement agreement is prepared and formally signed by both parties. The lawyers then file necessary documents, present the agreement to the Court to obtain a Judge’s signature incorporating the parties’ agreement in a Final Judgment.
2. Is a Collaborative Divorce or Child Custody Case Right for You?
The collaborative law process is a voluntary process that is not right for everyone. You should only engage in this process if both parties:
- Share the desire to settle without court intervention
- Are willing to make their best efforts to create proposals and work with each other through the assistance of the collaborative team to reach compromises
- Desire to be transparent with disclosing their financial information
- Trust the other party to fully disclose assets and debts and to communicate in an open and honest manner
- Treat the other party civilly and with respect
- Agree to maintain an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation and integrity
3. Pros and Cons of Collaborative Divorce.
The following are the many advantages to collaborative law in family cases:
- Confidentiality is particularly essential for public figures such as celebrities, socialites, sports persons, politicians and business owners. It is also an advantage to anyone who does not want to make their net worth, personal life or details involving their children available to the public. The privacy of keeping the details out of Court avoids also the potential for business owners to expose trade secrets of their company or other details that can be used against them by competitors.
- Maintaining good relationships between the parties, which is particularly essential when there are children involved.
- The parties generally avoid wasting money in contested divorce or child custody litigation.
- The parties avoid wasting valuable time at the Courthouse.
- There are no adversarial depositions of friends, family, colleagues, coaches, teachers, etc. There are no contested court hearings and motions with defamatory allegations that are public record.
- The use of neutral professionals such as one forensic accountant when needed instead of each party hiring their own professional to battle with each other lowers financial burden on the parties.
- The parties can be creative and formulate their own settlement rather than having a judge dictate how they are going to divide their estate and if relevant, co-parent their children and/or allocate support. When the parties have more control over the result, it provides for more satisfaction with the result.
- The team approach provides support and problem solving to enable parties to be educated about their choices and alternatives to settle their case amicably.
- The process avoids slow and drawn out litigation where court hearings often takes months and some cases take years to reach final trial.
- For those parties with children, the collaborative process helps them work together and gain new communication skills for a happier co-parenting process in the future.
- The following are the important disadvantages to collaborative law in family law cases:
- There is no guarantee that the collaborative process will be successful.
- If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw from the case.
5. Rebekah Brown Wiseman’s Collaborative Divorce and Child Custody Practice
Since attorney Rebekah Brown-Wiseman only practices family law, she has the commitment and takes the time to read the Collaborative Law Process Act (CLPA), the Florida Supreme Court’s recently adopted Florida Bar Rules and Professional Responsibilities on the Collaborative Process, the updated Florida divorce and paternity statutes, the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure; and Florida case law to best represent her clients. Even though the collaborative process is an amicable process, the power of knowledge and persuasion are essential tools in the process.
What also separates attorney Rebekah Brown-Wiseman from other lawyers is that she has a Masters in Social Work/Social Science Administration with a concentration in children and families and was a previous child therapist. This enables her to therapeutically support and protect her client while facilitating an amicable and often creative settlement agreement.
Rebekah Brown-Wiseman received advanced training specifically in collaborative law. She has also taught for the state required Parents, Children and Divorce class and presented a seminar on Helping Families Cope with the Divorce Process to the Florida Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
As a family law attorney, Rebekah Brown-Wiseman knows that her clients are going through an emotional time and therefore provides each of her client’s with her personal cell phone number.