The Value of the Collaborative Process

Written by Brenda Shapiro

Thirty-two years ago, I became a family lawyer thinking it meant I was going to get people divorced. It doesn’t. Family lawyers help clients accept change in their family life whether through dissolution of marriage, adoption, or shared personal partnerships. Collaborative Law at last provides a process to do all those life-changing things in a safe, confidential, way. When parties litigate lawyers ask a Judge to decide when the client can see his or her children and how much of what is theirs, they have to give away. In a Collaborative case, a Mental Health Professional, a financial expert and two Collaboratively trained lawyers help couples decide when they see their kids and how much of what they have, they can keep. 

The important part of a Collaborative case is you work with a team to help solve complex problems. Each client is an active participant in the problem-solving process because, of course, it is their problem. The professional team is at your direction to bring their expertise in law and fiancé to explore your options with you. The Mental Health Professional helps you craft a parenting plan and navigate the clients and the team through this safe harbor, safe because it is confidential, and your privacy is protected. 

Best of all, the time it takes to cruise down the unfamiliar river of dissolution takes less time than litigating your case which has you swimming upstream against the tide. The average litigated family case takes twelve to eighteen months as you push against judicial calendars, each judge having approximately 2,000 cases. Most Collaborative cases are concluded within six to eight months.  Yes, time is money. 

You don’t see the Judge until all the work is done and you have an agreement for the Judge to stamp. In a collaborative case, the Judge is happy to see you at the very end because he/she appreciates that you and your team have done the work, and the Judge doesn’t have to decide anything. You did! 

How to Help Your Adult Children Succeed in the Face of Inflation, Stagflation, and Recessions

Written by Elaine King, CFP

It’s a tough time to be a young adult. Stagnating wages, inflation, and a possible period of stagflation on the horizon mean that the economic outlook isn’t exactly full of sunny skies and rainbows. For a majority of young adults, these tough economic times mean a return to their childhood home. As of 2020, 52% of 18 to 29-year-olds lived with at least one of their parents, exceeding the previous record made during the Great Depression era.  

Some of the main reasons young adult children return to the nest are job loss, financial hardship, and college campus closures due to Covid-19. So, how can you help your child fly free once again and achieve their full independence? It’s not easy, but the good news is that economic downturns don’t last forever. Plus, with hard work and the right guidance, your child will soon be able to turn things around and succeed, even in the face of difficulty.

Here are some suggestions to help your adult child get back on their feet:

Make a Plan

It’s understandable that you want to support your child as much as possible. Yet, part of that support is helping your child face the reality of adult life. Here are some points to consider:

  • Set a Date for Moving Out. With this in mind, your child will have a goal of getting a job and/or saving enough money for a deposit for rent or a down payment. This doesn’t have to be set in stone but will serve as a general expectation that can be reevaluated as necessary.
  • Think Twice Before Giving Gifts. It’s easy to fall back into old habits from when your child lived with you before. You may even think to give them an allowance, buy them clothes, or pass them a $20 when they head out with friends. Instead, opt for more thoughtful gifts that will help them advance as adults, such as a financial coaching session or financial literacy class. Or, you might offer to match contributions to a savings account up to a certain amount. 
  • Encourage Your Child to Build an Emergency Fund. While living at home, your adult child will be able to save some money on rent and groceries. Even if they contribute to the household (which is a great idea!), it will likely be less costly than if they had to pay market rates. Creating an emergency fund can help your child avoid needing to be bailed out again in the future, helping them build essential financial security that will help them weather tough economic times. 
  • Help them Make a Budget. If your child hasn’t learned basic budgeting skills, help them create one. From a simple spreadsheet to using an app like Mint can help your child learn to track expenses and income. Ultimately, the goal is to limit spending and make sure that savings are set aside each month. 

Set Expectations

The recession and inflation affect everyone. If your employment or retirement status has been affected by these changes, don’t be afraid to share this information with your adult child. In fact, sharing some basics about your financial situation can be important to ensure that the household continues to function. You might consider explaining some of the changes that you’ll be making before suggesting contributions that your child might make. For example, you might say “I’ll be packing lunches and taking coffee to work rather than buying, perhaps you could help pay for X item in our budget.” The goal isn’t so much to force your child to pay up, but instead for them to make a symbolic contribution that helps build a sense of responsibility.

You may also want to discuss expectations surrounding:

  • Chores
  • Visitors
  • Curfew
  • Damage to the house, furniture, or appliances

Getting Back on Their Feet

Many parents also want to help their children get back on their feet with generous gifts or loans. For example, you may want to pay for your child’s college tuition, invest in their new business, or fund the down payment so that they can purchase a home. Rather than make a complete gift, consider offering to contribute to a portion of these needs. Or, for example, offer to pay your child’s college tuition as a loan that can be paid back at a very low-interest rate in twenty years. This way, your child has the opportunity to show responsibility without being on the hook for a higher, more strict bank loan. 

Ultimately, each family is different and you know your child and your relationship with them. Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Many families are navigating this same situation right now! Before you know it, your adult will be living a more independent life. In the meantime, enjoy the closeness you can enjoy while living in the same home again.

Value In Being A Scribe

Have you completed your Introductory Collaborative training and wondering: now what? You can volunteer to be a Scribe and learn from seeing an actual case from start to finish. You must commit to participating in the entire case. You will be responsible for taking notes for all team meetings and sharing them with the professionals and clients. It’s an invaluable mentoring and learning opportunity. If you are interested in being a scribe, the CFLI will match volunteers with Collaborative teams. With almost all meetings conducted virtually, it’s a great opportunity to observe colleagues from throughout the state. 

A scribe is a wonderful way for a professional who is new to collaborative to see the inter-workings of a Team Meeting, learn from more experienced collaborative professionals, and network within the collaborative group! – Rachel Klastorin Samek, Esq.

“I have had the pleasure and honor of serving as a scribe on a couple of collaborative cases with professionals I consider mentors.  My experience has been extremely positive.  By serving as a scribe, I have learned a lot about the collaborative process by taking notes and observing team dynamics.  By serving as a scribe, I have gained a better understanding of the collaborative process, and I have obtained first-hand observations of varying styles of proceeding in an interest-based, professional team environment.  I now not only understand that there is not a one size fits all approach, but I have gained practical experience of how successful the collaborative process is from a legal perspective, mental health perspective, and a financial viewpoint for everyone involved, including the professionals.  I would recommend the role of a scribe to any new professional looking to immerse solely in the collaborative process as a collaborative professional.  By doing so, you are allowing other professionals to get to know who you are, how you work, and build trust in your abilities.  In turn, you will grow your collaborative practice.” – Kristen Goss| KWG Family

I’m a financial planner, and there are 3 things I wish I could tell every divorced woman about money

If you are a woman and have gone through a divorce, believe me, I know what you’re going through. I’m not divorced myself, but I’m the child of divorced parents, and that experience taught me a lot.  

In fact, I’d venture to say this crucial event in my life motivated me to become a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, as well as getting my postgraduate in family therapy.  

There are many reasons you could have gone through a divorce. We are not here to look at the past but to focus on your bright future, in which you’ll conquer your finances. 

Here is what every divorced woman should know about money.

Create a budget

With divorce comes the enormous challenge of reconfiguring your life. Now, what you and your partner used to do together you must do on your own, from big things like contributing financially to the household income to small things, like filling up your car with gas at night. In addition, you’re living in a world where women make, on average, 79 cents to every dollar a man earns for the same work.

After a divorce, women need to be lean and mean, mustering up extra power to make their finances fit their new life. How do you do this, you ask? With a lot of discipline and an intimate relationship with your new spending plan (aka your budget) — this is your new best friend.  

Start by detoxing every expense that does not make you 100% happy and that is not necessary. In addition, link your finances to an app, such as Mint or You Need a Budget, that can keep track of your spending vs. your budget. Keep the difference between your spending and income in a high-yield savings account.

A word of caution: Be careful not to overcompensate with shopping or trying to buy your way into happiness; it is common to spend more or eat more when you’re feeling emotional. Instead, fill your day with financial affirmations, meditation, social impact, and exercise that will clear your mind and lead you to a positive life of prosperity.

Know the value of your time and delegate tasks that aren’t worth it

Every divorced woman should fully understand the value of her time. For example, if you work 60 hours a week in a full-time job with a salary (or you run a business) and you make X amount of dollars, divide the dollars by the hours to calculate what you are making per hour. 

This amount will help you decide if the one-hour phone call to the cable company or the two-hour supermarket shopping trip is aligned with achieving your financial goals — consider delegating or consolidating tasks or ordering online when you can.  

Build an emergency fund and protect yourself

Before, you may have been able to rely on your spouse in the event of a financial emergency. Now, you should have three to six months of fixed expenses saved to weather any storm that may come your way.  

Also, make sure to protect all your assets with insurance — you’ll need to cover your car, house, and health, and you may want to get life insurance (if you don’t already have it) as well as disability insurance in the event of a medical issue that prevents you from working. You cannot afford to lose your hard-earned money, and insurance is a good strategy to lower your out-of-pocket expenses in case of an accident. 

You should update your estate planning documents, too. This includes your health care directive, durable power of attorney, guardianships, and insurance beneficiaries. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to focus on your long-term finances by investing your money so that it grows. After all, women live 10 years longer than men on average, so make sure your money will last by investing. 

Recognized as 2017 People Magazine’s 25 Most Powerful Women, Elaine King is a Family Business Advisor and a Certified Financial Planner professional who is considered an expert in international family financial planning and an ambassador for the CFP Board of Standards.  She is also the founder of the Family and Money Matters Institute, whose mission is to empower the family’s human & financial capital making money a positive force.


By Jeffrey P. Wasserman, Esq., Accredited Collaborative Professional, #AskAboutCollaborative

My Wife says I have a glazed look whenever I enter a hardware store, looking at all of the different tools.  And she is right.  After all, I am not a handyman, plumber, electrician, carpenter or mechanic and I would have no knowledge what a lot of the tools are for nor would I know how to use them.  I would have the same look entering a store specializing in technology.  I am very grateful that I have found my niche in life as a lawyer, as I would probably have starved trying to make a living doing any of the other things mentioned.

As a Collaborative Lawyer, I have developed my own Toolbox.  It consists of the tools I need to keep handy to practice my skills.  There are no hammers, screw drivers, wrenches or other tools of that nature.  There is a three-ring notebook (yes, I need the physical notebook) housing the following items for my practice:

  1. IACP Minimum Standards and Ethics
  2. FACP Collaborative Process Ethical Standards
  3. Collaborative Law Process Act consisting of §61.55-61.58 Fla. Stat.
  4. Florida Supreme Court Rule 12.745 Fla.Fam.L.R.P. Collaborative Law Process
  5. Rule 4.1.19 Rules Regulating the Florida Bar

These are the minimum tools all Collaborative Attorneys should have in their Toolbox.  For other Collaborative Professionals, you should substitute item #5 for your own professional rules governing your specific practice area.

From these, you will have immediate access to the basic tools needed for participating as a Collaborative Professional.   The notebook, whether physical or stored in your computer or the cloud, should be handy for easy access in your office and should be available for all team meetings as a source for reference when questions arise. 

But, doesn’t the Toolbox feel light containing just these few tools?  Yes, it does.  So, I have expanded my Toolbox to contain the Florida Supreme Court Forms, 12.985 (a) thru (g) Fla.Fam.L.R.P.  In addition, when I find appropriate forms I have used with others in my different Collaborative cases, I have added a copy of those forms, as well.  They are there for easy reference for when I commence a new matter and the Team need to select the required Participation Agreement and other preliminary forms suggested for use in commencing the Process. Suddenly my Toolbox is expanding.

Of course, I have my Retainer Agreement and Addendum for when the client elects to use the Collaborative Process for their case.  All other professionals should have their engagement letters and any preliminary forms they use in commencing the Process in their own Toolbox.   

I do not rely on the compilation of forms to be the final drafts of forms to be used.  I am always finding that there are people who have built a better mousetrap than I carry in my Toolbox.  I have no pride in borrowing and modifying my forms to make them better.  And neither should you.   As Collaborative Professionals, we should all work together to make us better at what we do, so we are able to better represent our clients.

Understand, that this article is drafted for those who practice in Florida.  Each state has its own Statutes and Rules and laws that govern the way the Collaborative Process is conducted.  You should merely substitute your own state’s laws to your Toolbox, always making sure you have the IACP Minimum Standards and Ethics as the first thing in your Toolbox. This article may come off as very elementary and for most of you, I hope it does.  If I have reached anyone in suggesting tools for their individual Toolboxes, then writing and sharing this article has been worth it.  Finally, please add those essentials you feel should be in your own Toolbox that have not been listed herein.  And share your thoughts with other Collaborative Professionals as I have done here

After Covid-19: Now What?

After COVID-19, spouses under stress should consider using the Collaborative Process to resolve their marital disputes.

by:  Robert J. Merlin, Esq.

The Law Office of Robert J. Merlin, Esq.,

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to live in close quarters under stressful circumstances. Sometimes, that will lead people to decide to get divorced. If you are thinking about ending your marriage, here are some things you should know.

Getting divorced should be the last resort. The first place to start is to talk with your spouse about what is bothering you about your relationship. That could be a difficult conversation many people are not willing to have, but it is the fastest and least expensive choice. If that does not work, there are therapists who can help you and your spouse to discuss the problems you are having. The investment of that time and money can possibly save your marriage.

If you still want to end your marriage, you should know your choices for handling your divorce. Most people only know about fighting in court, but there are other ways to address the problems in your marriage.

Sometimes, simply entering into a Postnuptial Agreement is enough to calm things down. This type of agreement enables the couple to agree how to handle things if the marriage ends, such as how to divide assets, how much alimony and child support will be paid and how the family members will live together. This choice is not for everyone, but it may be an inexpensive way to resolve your differences with your spouse.

You can negotiate a settlement with your spouse. If you have minor children, you will need to agree how to make decisions about their education, medical care, religious upbringing and extra-curricular activities. You will need to decide how to share time with the children. You can agree to any timesharing system that you and your spouse feel is in your children’s best interest. You will also need to decide how to divide your assets and liabilities and you will need to decide whether one of you will pay alimony to the other. You need to decide how much alimony will be paid and for how long. Once you and your spouse sign a written settlement agreement, one of you must file a petition in court to ask a judge to approve your agreement and to dissolve your marriage.

If you cannot negotiate a settlement with your spouse, you can use a mediator to help you settle everything. A mediator is a neutral person who will help you and your spouse negotiate a settlement. The mediator cannot give you or your spouse any legal advice but can suggest ways to settle your differences. Using a mediator can be relatively inexpensive and can minimize the arguments you have with your spouse, but unless you have an attorney during the mediation, you may not know what the law is and what choices you have to resolve your differences with your spouse.

You can file a divorce action in court with or without an attorney. Once you file in court, children, family, friends, co-workers and competitors can see the details of your divorce. When you file in court, you empower a judge to make decisions for your family. The judge does not necessarily have the education, training or experience to know how to resolve differences in the best interest of your family. A judge must make decisions based upon laws, rules and appellate decisions, so the judge does not have the flexibility to be creative in resolving contested. Typically, litigating in court is the most expensive way to get divorced. Sometimes, the attorneys fight each other, and some attorneys have been known to cause more problems than they resolve. It is difficult to get hearings before a judge, especially now. Some courts in Florida are closed, but you may be able to get hearings that will be handled by phone or Zoom.

Perhaps the best way to resolve differences with your spouse is to use the Collaborative Process. The Collaborative Process is a private way for couples to negotiate everything related to their divorce with the help of a team of experts. Everything done in the Collaborative Process is private, so no outsiders should know what is happening until simple papers are filed in court. Instead of family attorneys fighting each other, Collaborative professionals work together to help the couple determine their future and the future of their children. This makes sense because you and your spouse should be in the best position to determine what is in your family’s best interest, as opposed to a judge making decisions for you.

            The distinguishing characteristics of the Collaborative Process are:

  • You have the freedom to create a settlement that meets your family’s needs, rather than a judge dictating that to you.
  • There is a constant focus on the best interest of the children. We use a neutral mental health professional as a facilitator or child specialist. The Collaborative Process is the only process where such an expert is part of the team to help your family. The facilitator helps the couple focus on resolving their differences, rather than battling each other.
  • Each party has their own attorney, who is specially trained in the Collaborative Process. The attorneys do not work against each other, as in litigation. They work together to help you and your spouse settle everything.
  • When appropriate, a neutral financial professional is used. This is important when there are significant assets and income or complicated financial issues. In litigation, each party’s attorney usually retains their own forensic accountant, thereby doubling the cost of a financial professional.
  • The Collaborative Process is confidential and privileged, so no one should discuss what happens during the process with anyone else. Information and documents are voluntarily exchanged, and the couple commits to transparency. There is no need to go to court to ask a judge to order someone to produce a document or to provide information.
  • The couple and professionals meet together. As a result, the Collaborative Process should take much less time than litigation.
  • The Collaborative Process is voluntary, so either party can terminate it at any time, but if they do, the attorneys cannot represent them in contested litigation against each other.  The termination of a Collaborative matter is rare, with approximately 90% of Collaborative matters in Florida resulting in a settlement.
  • Few people who have used the Collaborative Process ever return to court after obtaining their final judgment. In litigation, it is very common for one of the parties to return to court, thereby causing more conflict between the couple.

The goal of every couple getting divorced should be to resolve their differences as quickly as possible, always focusing on the family’s particular needs. Florida Statutes Section 61.55 states:

“It is the policy of this state to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process. The collaborative law process is a unique nonadversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.” (Emphasis added)

Attorneys have an ethical duty to ensure that their client makes an informed decision about their matter. This includes explaining the options for handling their divorce and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Most family attorneys only talk about litigating and possibly mediation. Very few discuss the Collaborative Process. Before meeting with an attorney, you should ask if they use the Collaborative Process. If the attorney does not use the Collaborative Process, you should consider consulting with an attorney who can provide the Collaborative Process to help you resolve your differences in a peaceful, respectful and private way.

Avoid The Shadows: Choose Collaborative Law To Divorce

by: Brenda B. Shapiro, Esq. 

The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm,

One hundred years ago, when I was a little girl, (litigation has aged me) on Sunday night, my family would gather in the living room around the radio (I said one hundred years) to listen to our favorite program, “The Shadow.” Hear low murmuring organ music, and a resonant male voice asks, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Crescendo, crashing chord. “Only the Shadow knows!” Not only did he know, when he had to expunge those evils, he always knew exactly what to do. How haunting.

Today, as a family lawyer, I am still haunted by the Shadow. Now, however, the Shadow is not always successful, just schooled by life’s experiences and eager to share those experiences with my clients. You know who they are. Your friend who had a bad divorce. Your sibling, who never really liked your spouse. Your parents who only want what is best for you and who have a very clear idea of what is best. Each has advice that is freely given. Each is there for you. The problem, of course, is none of your shadows is you.

Collaborative law offers you an alternative, an alternative that brings light and understanding as you walk the unfamiliar path to divorce. No shadows here. There are four professionals selected to assist you along the way. Each professional has training and experience in the collaborative process to help you make the important decisions you must make.

Start with your family lawyer, a lawyer specifically trained in Collaborative Law, who will collaborate with your spouse’s collaboratively trained lawyer. Your Lawyer explains the law to you and tells you the options you have within your state family statutes. The written law often says “may” rather than “shall.” You want to understand what you may do under the law. The two lawyers select an MHP, a mental health professional who facilitates the collaborative process for the team and helps you draft a Parenting Plan if you have children. The fourth member of the team is the Financial expert who helps you decide what to do with the assets and liabilities you have acquired, the “stuff” of the marriage. You and your spouse are at the center of the team, setting the agenda for the meetings, and addressing the issues that matter most to you. At the end of each meeting, you accept a task to complete for the next meeting. The six members of the team meet every three weeks until there is an agreement resolving the issues that need to be resolved during the divorce process. When you reach your final agreement, then and only then do you go to Court and give the Judge the agreement. He or she asks if you are a resident of Florida, is your marriage irretrievably broken, and did you sign the agreement voluntarily. You answer, the Judge tells you your marriage is dissolved and wishes you well. Your day in Court takes about fifteen minutes. The Collaborative process usually takes six to eight months instead of the twelve to eighteen months it takes to litigate your case. Yes, time is money.

What holds you together during the process? The fact that it is all confidential. No member of the team, not you, not your spouse or anyone of the four professional members of the group, can talk about your business, your dissolution of marriage, outside of the team. You sign a binding contract that says that. Your best response to your shadows when they ask, and they will ask is, “Thank you for asking. I know you want to help, but I am working on it with a professional team, and the best help you can give me is to trust me to help myself.” 

Communication in Collaborative Divorce: It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It, It’s How I Heard it, It’s How I Interpret It

by Rosemarie S. Roth, Esq. and Lana M. Stern, Ph.D. Florida Collaborative Trainers,

Communications are a critical component in the Collaborative Process.  It should be so simple – I say something, you hear it – everything is fine! So what can go wrong? Just about everything!  Communication is so central to everything we do, think and feel that we hardly give it a moment’s pause. It is comprised of many parts – spoken and written language, body language, cognitive distortions (how we interpret what we hear and see) and more.

The Collaborative Process helps educate divorcing spouses on the tone and content of information being shared and how to actively listen and respect another person’s point of view.  Tone and inflection of spoken language are among the key components of verbal communications. Nonverbal messages are transmitted by facial expressions, eye contact and positions, physical touch, dress, posture and even the physical space between people. Written language lacks these nuances and is open to interpretation by the reader.  Our gestures and body language transmit more than what we say or mean. Cognitive distortions describe how we interpret what we see, hear and say since they are automatic and unconscious reflections of our own biases and experiences (people are notdeliberately misinterpreting).  We filter out what we don’t want to hear, see things as “black or white,” jump to conclusions, catastrophize, personalize, blame and label. Mix in cultural diversity, and it becomes immediately obvious just how complicated communications can be. Consistent verbal and non-verbal communications can help a divorcing spouse send the “real” messages that we mean to convey and enhance understanding of one another.

In the Collaborative Process, commands, critical language, moralizing, threats and name calling will immediately shut down a dialogue. In the Collaborative Team meetings, if distortions occur, a reset permits the divorcing spouses to achieve equilibrium to be able to listen to each other. Honest, open communications between the divorcing spouses and the Collaborative Team will enable effective dialogue to reach a meaningful settlement.


Originally posted by the Florida Bar

By: Gary Blankenship

A request from multiple past chairs of the Family Law Section to include collaborative law questions on the annual family law certification exam is getting a favorable response from the Marital and Family Law Certification Committee.

However, the request came too late for the next family law certification exam, which is scheduled for March.

“My immediate thought was ‘Yes, let’s absolutely put it in there,’” said committee Chair Jennifer Ficarrotta. But she added another committee member reminded her the committee has already posted a study guide, which doesn’t include collaborative law materials, for the upcoming exam.

“One of the things that is so hard about the family law certification exam is there is so much to cover,” Ficarrotta said.

To deal with that, “you can go on The Florida Bar website and it will give you a list of the topics and subtopics and the statute numbers to study,” she said. “I do know people who print that out far in advance and start to study.

“We could have drafted it [collaborative questions] on the test, but it isn’t already part of the study materials. We wanted to be as transparent as possible for studying.”

Ficarrotta, whose practice includes collaborative law, said she didn’t see any problem for including the subject on the 2022 exam.

That’s fine with Miami attorney Evan Marks, the 2004-05 chair of the Family Law Section who spearheaded the petition signed by 19 other past chairs going back as far as 1984-85.

He said the Legislature approved collaborative practice laws, in F.S. Chap. 61.55-58, in 2016 and the following year family law procedural rules as well as Bar rules were amended to accommodate the statutory changes.

Collaborative practice has only grown since then.

“We have an ethical duty as lawyers to advise clients on all available methods of resolving disputes,” Marks said. “Particularly now when you’re board certified and call yourself a specialist, you better know about the statute and how it works.”

Collaborative law differs from contested litigation in that the parties sit down with their lawyers and neutral experts, such as accountants and mental-health professionals, to work out an agreement. Unlike mediation, several sessions will be scheduled but each no longer than two hours to prevent the parties from being overwhelmed.

“The parties themselves conduct the discussion on what issues are important to them. It’s party driven and interest based,” Marks said. “We are able to get to the meat of the matters.”

It also offers more confidentiality and privacy for clients.

While its use is growing, “Collaborative family law is not going to replace litigation,” he added. “There are cases that are still going to be litigated and judges will have to make decisions. What it does do is it takes a lot of cases that shouldn’t be litigated out of the system.”

The rising interest in collaborative law, Marks said, is shown by the formation of the Florida Collaborative Family Law Institute and the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals. The former offers a listing of lawyers, financial professionals, therapists, and others in Southeast Florida who can help clients who want to try collaborative law. The latter is a statewide association of lawyers and mental-health and accounting professionals who are promoting the collaborative method for marriage dissolutions and seeking ways to expand it into other areas of law.

The support of the past section chairs, Marks said, shows how far collaborative law has come in a few years.

“It really makes a statement when you have people of the stature of these family law practitioners,” he said. “A lot of them have been practicing for 25, 30, or 40 years.”

Other former chairs signing besides Marks were Brenda Abrams, Ira Abrams, Renee Goldenberg, Deborah Marks, Ky Koch, Jeffrey Wasserman, Norman Levin, Caroline Black Sikorske, Richard West, Allyson Hughes, Scott Rubin, Peter Gladstone, Diane Kirigin, David Manz, Norberto Katz, Maria Gonzalez, Nicole Goetz, Abigail Beebe, and Amy Hamlin.

Getting To Maybe

by: Brenda B. Shapiro, Esq. The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm,

            Clients often look for specific qualities when selecting their family lawyer. Some want a bulldog who will fight for them, preferably a pit bull. Some want a hand holder or a lawyer who holds your hand while gently punching opposing counsel with the other. Most want a smart negotiator who will outsmart the other side. When we studied family law we were taught litigation skills and in the third year of law school, when we had the most electives, some of us looking for an easy credit and a practical study, signed up for alternate dispute resolution. The class promised to teach us effective negotiation skills. The textbook was Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Yury the gurus most of us chose to follow.

            Collaborative law doesn’t value pit bulls. Those skills are antithetical to collaboration. Nor does collaborative practice value the punching bag approach, no matter how gentle. Collaborative law values negotiating but it is the client who will do it, not the lawyer. The truly collaborative lawyer values getting to maybe. Therein lies the most significant difference. Negotiating assumes a position. Problem solving  requires exploring options to construct a workable solution.  Problem solving explores “what ifs” and “maybes” and is interest based, not position based.

           Collaborative law is all about problem solving. It is the process that is paramount, not the result and the process requires exploring options. Once you identify the problem, exploring the options you have available to solve the problem assures the best result. As an example, the problem many divorcing couples face , “ What do we do about the house?”  isn’t an “I keep it”, “We sell it” “You buy me out” problem with three possible solutions to negotiate. There are always several options to consider. Start by asking what are the options I have? Which of those options are in my interest? Which of those options are in the family’s interest? Together, the lawyers, the mental health professional and  the financial professional are  there to help you identify the options, the possibilities, and explore together which can work best for you. 

           When you are on an emotional rollercoaster which divorce is, you are rarely  able to negotiate. The collaborative process assures that there are four professionals available to you to help you problem solve and explore your possibilities. And maybe, in the collaborative process you may hear possibilities, options you never thought of…..maybe. Let us help you get there.