I recently came across an article by Sandra Young and Brian Garvey, collaborative divorce lawyers in Illinois, who offer what they refer to as a “Divorce Weekend.” This is a fascinating model of collaborative divorce which offers the option of a quick settlement, and there is no reason why a weekend collaborative divorce cannot take place here in Tampa Bay.
This is how the model works:
Each party retains an attorney trained in collaborative family law (click here to find other locally trained collaborative divorce lawyers). The parties and attorneys agree from the beginning that they will be transparent and settle all issues privately in the collaborative process, and they will not fight in public court battles. They further agree that, if this promise to settle all issues privately is not kept, then the collaborative attorneys must withdraw (this further incentivizes the attorneys to help the parties reach an amicable agreement).
Further, a facilitator is retained to help focus the parties and attorneys on their goal of a quick resolution and a neutral financial professional is retained to help divide assets and liabilities (and deal with issues of support) in a way that is most advantageous to the parties. The attorneys can provide recommendations on which facilitator and financial professional should be chosen.
The professionals and parties agree to set aside a full weekend (Saturday and Sunday) to settle all issues of the divorce. A checklist of mandatory financial disclosures (such as pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and investment statements) is provided to the clients, and they must forward all of the requested documents, as well as a draft financial affidavit, to the financial professional at least 10 days prior to the divorce weekend.
Prior to the weekend, the facilitator will have spoken to each client to determine the client’s interests and goals. Additionally, each client will have met with his and her respective attorney to prepare for the weekend. If there are children involved, then the parties will have attended the required parenting course.
When the weekend begins, all of the professionals and clients will sit around a table and attempt to hammer out a settlement that is fair and agreeable to both clients. So that the focus can be solely on settlement, arrangement for child care will have been made beforehand, cell phones will be turned off, and the only thing scheduled for the weekend will be the collaborative meeting.
This is an intensive working session that can last through lunch and dinner and well into the evening. By the time the weekend is over, a marital settlement agreement, parenting plan (if applicable), and all other documents necessary for the divorce should be signed. The only things that would be left is to (i) file the petition for divorce and accompanying documents and (ii) schedule an uncontested final hearing, which usually can be had within 2 to 4 weeks (depending on the judge’s schedule).
Of course, we as attorneys cannot guarantee that you and your spouse will be able to come to an agreement over the weekend. However, the collaborative attorneys, facilitator, and financial professional working together will give you the best opportunity to meet that goal of a weekend divorce.
If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam served on the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.