Using The Collaborative Process To Resolve Marital Dissolutions in Florida

by:  David B.  Mitchell, Esq.

David B. Mitchell, P.A.,

In 2016, the Florida legislature enacted the Collaborative Law Process Act which authorized and detailed the collaborative process as it applies to family law matters. These include dissolution of marriage and related issues, paternity, and prenuptial and marital agreements. The Florida statute added the collaborative process to the available methods of resolving disputes in these areas. As of today, there are various methods through which these disputes can be concluded, including the traditional route of litigation, by means of mediation, and by utilizing the collaborative process. It is up to the parties to determine which avenue will be traveled to close the dispute.

Each of these three methods of dispute resolution has its advantages and disadvantages. One can use the image of a pyramid to describe the litigation process with the judge at the top of the pyramid, the lawyers in the mid-point and the parties and their witnesses at the bottom. The litigation process will typically involve many months of legal maneuvering, delays in securing needed documents and will require a tremendous investment in legal services by the parties. Often, the family’s finances are crippled by litigation. Also, with a ‘win-lose, zero sum-game’ approach, litigation can be damaging to long-term family relations. In mediation, the pyramid is inverted with the parties at the top, the lawyers in the middle facilitating the negotiations and the absence of a judge. There is a new participant: The Mediator. The Mediator shuttles between the parties while working to craft a settlement agreement. Typically, mediation can involve a single, full day of negotiations and can leave the parties physically and emotionally exhausted.

The collaborative process sits apart from either litigation or mediation. Florida statutes define the collaborative process as one without the intervention of a judge and it is governed by a participation agreement signed by both parties. The process involves both sides working with their respective lawyers, a neutral mental health professional and a financial neutral (typically, a forensic accountant), all collaboratively trained, working together as a team to resolve the family law matter. Without the constraints presented by litigation and with more time to resolve the case than that typically available in mediation, the parties can expeditiously gather the necessary information, settle immediate issues, and reach a final settlement in a cooperative fashion. Additionally, the statute provides that collaborative communications between the participants are generally confidential, encouraging open discussions.

The collaborative process to resolve family law issues requires a commitment by all participants to be open and transparent, possessing a willingness to resolve their matter. The result can be a comprehensive settlement agreement that typically only requires the court’s final approval. This new addition to the alternative dispute resolution processes opens the way to settle family law cases without the adversarial nature of litigation or the time-pressure of mediation. Everyone facing a family law matter would benefit by being advised of the availability of collaborative family law and its many advantages.

Dance With Drama

by: Candice D. Saketkoo, Ph.D., Psy.D.,

If you find yourself aligning more with your client than you are with your Collaborative Professional Team, are you dancing in your client’s drama? Are you noticing that your client idealizes you while devaluing others? Although such feelings can be alluring and even intoxicating, they can be even more dangerous and destructive.

I recently had three cases in which one of the attorneys was paralyzed by the perceived need to be positional as a means of advocacy. While I could easily recognize the damaging dynamic between the client and respective attorney and how this behavior impeded the Collaborative Process in all three cases, I, the Neutral Facilitator, was tasked with finding a non-threatening approach to discussing this with the respective attorney while remaining neutral.

Rather than focusing on perceptions or anything else that might be considered subjective, I offered my colleague an ear along with a safe place to have a private open dialogue. I concentrated on discussing the observed behaviors and language used. I then explored and discussed with them the obstacles imposed, the resulting increase in conflict among the clients, and the likely detrimental outcome.  Throughout these discussions, I found myself reminded of Section 3.2 of IACP Standards and Ethics,  Advocacy in the Collaborative Process, which provides five different standards of professional behavior:

  • A Collaborative Professional will respect each client’s self-determination, recognizing that ultimately the clients are responsible for making the decisions that resolve their issues.
  • A Collaborative Professional will assist the client(s) in establishing realistic expectations in the Collaborative Process.
  • When the matter relates to the care and support of children, elders, or other dependents, a Collaborative Professional will encourage the client(s) to consider the impact of decisions on the dependents.
  • A Collaborative Professional will consider the impact that the professional’ s experiences, values, opinions, beliefs, and behaviors will have on the Collaborative matter.
  • A Collaborative Professional will avoid contributing to interpersonal conflict of the clients, including when identifying and discussing the clients’ interests, issues, and concerns.

In all three cases, attorneys for one of the spouses did not recognize they were driving the negotiations from one point of view in exchange for their client’s admiration.  Not only did the client’s behavior motivate the attorney to fight more for their client’s position, but it also isolated the attorney from the rest of the professional team without grasping how emotional boundaries were moved or how their client maintained power and control. Such divisiveness and destruction often cause a breakdown in communication among professional teams, opening the door for such clients to divide and conquer.

During a follow-up conversation with one of the attorneys, the attorney admitted to later realizing that she was indeed sucked in by her client and that upon reflection, she also recognized that language she chose to use with the professional team emulated that of her client. With a seeming sense of shame, she stated, How did I not see that?

It isn’t only for the clients that we need to provide and ensure a safe environment, but for the professionals as well. If we as professionals cannot remain a united front with open communication at all times, we need to immediately examine why so that we avoid creating a weakness in the team. We need to ensure that upon advocating for our clients, we are promoting the Collaborative Process.

Transitioning From Spouse To Co-Parent In a Collaborative Way

by: Lana M. Stern, Ph.D.
Lana M. Stern, Ph.D., Miami, Florida,,

While a marriage ends an intimate relationship between the spouses, the family relationship continues. The divorced couple’s shared affection for their children forms the basis for a new relationship. New patterns will be created as the family undergoes a “reorganization.” The couple’s relationship becomes one that focuses on parenting the children. The couple moves from an emotional, personal, and informal relationship to a structured, contractual, and more formal relationship.

During the transition of the spouses’ relationship, children require reassurance that they are loved, will be provided for, and are not at fault for the changing relationship. Planning the discussions with your children is paramount to their emotional stability during these changes. Be sensitive to children’s hurt, fear, and pain. Communicate with them openly about their daily lives and how they will change – where they will live, go to school, when, and how much they will see each parent.

The most important indicator of how children cope with a divorce is the relationships that their parents have after the divorce. The spouses in the Collaborative Process model communication skills as co-parents. These parents limit their communications with the children to child-related issues and avoid discourteous remarks regarding the other parent in front of the children (even if a co-parent does not feel the other person deserves it). The mental health facilitator establishes a culture of trust and respect, which enables understanding of the other co-parent’s point of view. A co-parent becomes a guest in the other parent’s home, and arguments, blame, or conflicts are not addressed in front of or in ear-shot of the children. Children should not be placed in the position of “messenger,” “confidant/advisor,” “spy,” “judge,” or the “decider of custody.” Collaborative Team meetings are used to resolve relationship conflicts, with the mental health facilitator and other team members brainstorming or redirecting this behavior into tangible solutions that benefit the parents and children’s relationships.

The introduction or existence of a new relationship with one of the co-parents during the Collaborative Process can add tension in settling marital disputes. A spouse should not involve the children in dating. Children should not become a “confidant” or “advisor,” and any introductions to a serious partner should occur slowly. The Facilitator of the Collaborative Team will work with the other professionals and the co-parents to work through the emotions and tensions caused by the new relationship and minimize the impact of completing the Collaborative Process. The successful Collaborative Process results in strengthened co-parenting that enable the resolution of future parenting issues and creatives a more nurturing environment for their children to succeed beyond the relationship transition of their parents.

When The Professionals Want The Collaborative Process More Than The Clients

To be successful, the Collaborative Process must be valued by the clients and the Collaborative Team.

by: Rebecca H. Fischer, Esq.

Fischer & Feldman, P.A.,

Four Collaborative cases came to my office in December.  One resulted in the signing of a Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreement, while the second case is now in litigation. The third case was pro bono and went back into the court system, and the fourth case remains a mystery as to its status. I was terminated for not advocating or being positional enough for my client’s liking.  In all the Collaborative cases I have worked on with a team, only one other case ended in litigation.  What went wrong with three out of four of my December cases? Was it the stress of COVID on the families?  Was it me? I was indeed a common denominator in all of them.  Or were these cases that did not belong in the Collaborative Process from the beginning?

In a recent Pauline Tesler webinar, Pauline held the Collaborative Process out as the “golden apple.”  A process to which the client has to earn the right to be a part and aspire to engage.  I never thought of the burden of the Collaborative Process being on the client. I viewed my job as getting the client through the Collaborative Process. The problem with my view of the world has proven to be many fold.  First, I do not know the nature of the other spouse or the attorney to be chosen by the spouse.  Second, I am not a psychologist. I do not necessarily understand the nuances of my client’s emotional issues to know early in the case whether he or she has what it takes to reach for the “golden apple.”  Third, I want to be a Collaborative attorney.  I thought it was my responsibility to encourage my clients to choose Collaborative instead of litigation.

What I learned from the three cases not resulting in signed Collaborative Marital Settlement Agreements was this:  I, along with the rest of the team, wanted a positive outcome more than the two clients did—or at least one of them.  We worked hard and long hours, trying to achieve a positive outcome.  The clients did not work nearly as hard, nor did they “choose” to be Collaborative.  Had I—had the team—recognized earlier in the Process that we wanted the Process to succeed more than the clients, we might have saved them a lot of money and ourselves a lot of frustration and time (none of us billed for all of our time) and the pro bono case was—well—pro bono.  

I have now learned to be more vigilant in screening my cases, listening more than talking, and watching for signs that I am working harder in the Collaborative Process than our clients.  If our clients do not want to settle using the Collaborative Process, the professional team needs to rethink where the matter is going and how we are working within the Process.  If the Collaborative Process is indeed the “golden apple,” then it is a process to be earned not given.  We need to be cautious in moving forward with the Process about which we are so passionate.  

Minimize Conflict Between You: Choose Collaborative Divorce

by:  Stewart L. Applerouth, CPA

Co-Founder of Appelrouth Farah & Co,

We are experiencing public conflict through protest at this time in history. Conflict, at times, may be useful and needed, and can bring about positive change.  However, in emotionally charged marital matters, conflict is a negative emotion that rarely creates a positive outcome.  Divorce can cause irreparable harm to relationships that affect the ability for spouses to be civil involving matters that affect adult children or growing children involving their school or social events.

The Collaborative Process can reduce conflict in divorce and enhance the lines of communication through honest discussion.  When spouses are separated and have new significant others in their lives, the Collaborative Process can avoid litigation arising from negative memories and emotions during the marriage.  Such matters may also have complex financial issues involving high net worth individuals, real estate development and rental activities, valuation of business entities and assets, business litigation, and budgeting for adult children.  

I recall a matter having the potential for high conflict from a long separation and complex financial issues where the Collaborative Process was selected. This peaceful and structured process enabled the spouses to work together and amicably arrive at fair outcomes for both of them, even when a spouse proposed a solution to his or her personal detriment.

I encourage individuals who have decided to end their marital relationship, to consider whether the Collaborative Process makes sense for their situation.  Always remember that reducing conflict sustains your emotional wellness and other relationships that endure beyond the 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.” 

Inspiring Adult Interactions: Modeling Behavior Through the Collaborative Process

Collaborative Teams and the Collaborative Process influence spousal behavior and team dynamics through their interactions with each other.

by:  Susan M. Keyes, Esq.

Divorce Without War,®

Years ago, I was visiting my sister in NJ, riding as a passenger in her car with my three-year-old niece sitting in her car seat next to me. My brother- in- law slammed on the brakes, forced to stop suddenly when the car in front of us stopped. As our car lunged forward, my niece shouted, “YOU MORON,” and we all looked at her with shock. What caused her to say this? How many times had she heard a parent yell “YOU MORON” while driving?  We know that children may not be very good at listening to their elders, but in these moments, we realize they are listening, and they never fail to imitate us. 

When a person observes the behavior of another and then imitates that behavior, he or she is modeling the behavior.  Modeling also applies to adult interactions.  Collaborative Team members model behavior for others in the Collaborative Process, including the clients and other team members.  We risk serving as models for inappropriate and undesirable behavior, such as swearing, losing our temper, interrupting, and speaking disrespectfully.  Appropriate behavior can be modeled by speaking calmly and respectfully, setting the tone for all of the participants at a Team meeting. Listening and not interrupting, even when what is being said, is displeasing or seemingly incorrect, requires restraint, but leads to respectful dialogue. Participants in the Collaborative Process will be more inspired to behave in this way if they view the professionals maintaining this decorum. Outside of Team meetings, do you promote blame, propose that the other attorney is difficult or that the other spouse is unreasonable.  Venting, in this way, is modeling negative behavior. Alternatively, sharing information without disparagement or judgment leads to better understanding and improved outcomes.

In the Collaborative Process, the Team will demonstrate how to speak, listen, and perhaps even understand another perspective- thus creating an atmosphere of respectful communication. Against this backdrop, the parties will reach more holistic resolutions, with improved communication patterns in the relationship after the divorce.  As Collaborative professionals,  we must model the behavior we wish our clients to display.  Lead by example.


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.

Benefits In Collaborative Divorce: You Be The Judge!

The Collaborative Process enables parties to decide how to resolve their own issues as they divorce.

by: Brenda B. Shapiro, Esq.

The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm,

Twenty-seven years ago, I became a family lawyer, thinking it meant I was going to get people divorced. It doesn’t. It means I help clients accept change in their family life, whether through the 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 I litigate, and sometimes I still do, it is my task to ask a stranger in a black robe to decide when my client can see his or her children and how much of what is theirs they have to give away. When I take a Collaborative case, I work with a mental health professional who facilitates, a neutral financial expert, and another collaboratively trained lawyer to 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 your problem. The professional team is at your direction to bring our expertise in Law and finance to explore your options with you. The mental health professional helps you craft a parenting plan and navigates all of us 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 is much less 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 it all!

The Collaborative Process: A Different Way To Divorce

by:  Sydney A. Towne, Esq.

Marks and West, P.A.,

Months spent stuck at home trying to work and simultaneously homeschool can show the fault lines in a marriage. There will undoubtedly be marriages that can recover from the stresses of the current pandemic; however, there will also be marriages that were not working before and for which this crisis is the final straw. That does not mean that those marriages which will end, must end in a contentious, expensive, and public battle in a courtroom. There is an alternative to end your marriage respectfully, frugally, and privately – Collaborative Divorce.

In 2017, the State of Florida legislature passed new laws that allow couples to divorce almost entirely without having to enter a Courtroom. This procedure is called “Collaborative Divorce,” and it can provide you and your spouse with a different divorce experience than you see in the media or that your friends or family have experienced.

In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse hires their own collaboratively trained attorney who represents and protects their interests. Upon recommendation of counsel, you, and your spouse will hire a neutral mental health professional and, depending on your assets and liabilities, a neutral forensic accountant. These trained, impartial professionals will guide you and your spouse, along with your attorneys, through a series of team meetings to identify your goals, concerns, assets, and liabilities. After those are identified, you and your spouse, not a Judge who has limited knowledge of your family and circumstances, will make the ultimate decisions about your children, your finances, and your family’s future.

Information regarding your income, the marital estate, reasons for getting divorced, and the amount of any spousal support, is not filed with the Court and remains private. In the same way, your marriage was between you and your spouse; your divorce can also be as well.

Perhaps more important than preserving your privacy and allowing you to control the outcome during what is inevitably a difficult and emotional experience, the Collaborative Divorce process allows you and your spouse to redefine your relationship with the support and experience of trained professionals. If you have children and you want to be able to attend graduations, weddings, and other celebrations without animosity or lingering ill will, Collaborative Divorce provides the best process for working through the end of your marriage civilly.

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that difficult experiences that are handled calmly by trained and experienced professionals can minimize adverse outcomes and protect the things and people who need it the most. If you are contemplating a divorce, I, as a collaboratively trained attorney who also litigates divorces, would strongly encourage you to consider the Collaborative Divorce process.