Collaborative Divorce Consultation: I Will Meet With Both Spouses

When prospective divorce clients call in my Tampa office and ask whether both spouses can attend a consultation, they are often relieved to learn that I am willing to meet with both spouses.  I did not always have this policy.  In fact, most Florida divorce attorneys refuse to allow both parties to attend a consultation together.  

There is a strict prohibition against an attorney representing both parties to a divorce, and most lawyers want to avoid even the appearance of representing both spouses.

And I, like other attorneys, cannot represent both spouses.  But what I can do is invite divorcing spouses into my office and discuss with them the available process options.  Of course, I will talk with them about traditional litigation, which is the court battle that often comes to mind when people think about divorce.  I will bring up mediation, which is a great form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to come to an agreement, but which leaves open the door for their mediation attorneys to engage in detrimental litigation if a full settlement is not reached.

And I will talk about collaborative divorce, which is a voluntary, private process in which the parties and their attorneys agree from the very beginning that they do not want to engage in nasty, public court fights.  In fact, the spouses, who each will have their own individual attorney, sign a participation agreement that states that their attorneys must withdraw if the parties cannot come to an agreement.  Collaborative divorce has a success rate of nearly 90%, so this withdrawal clause hardly ever comes into play, but it allows clients to be open in negotiations without worrying that their spouse’s attorney is keeping an ear open for opposition research to use in trial later on.

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Florida Same Sex Spouses’ Federal Benefits Clarified

United States Attorney General Eric Holder has announced policy changes in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, the policy changes, which will treat same sex marriages equal to opposite sex marriages for purposes of federal benefits, include the following:

In a new policy memo, the department will spell out the rights of same-sex couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses, even if their marriages are not recognized in the state where the couples live.

Under the policy, federal inmates in same-sex marriages will also be entitled to the same rights and privileges as inmates in opposite-sex marriages, including visitation by a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse, and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on the incapacitation of an inmate’s spouse.

Related: 5 Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

In addition, an inmate in a same-sex marriage can be furloughed to be present during a crisis involving a spouse. In bankruptcy cases, same-sex married couples will be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. Domestic support obligations will include debts, such as alimony, owed to a former same-sex spouse. Certain debts to same-sex spouses or former spouses should be excepted from discharge.

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When Is A Guardian Ad Litem Appointed in Florida?

You may have heard the term “guardian ad litem” and wondered what they were and when they were appointed.

In a Florida divorce or child custody case, a guardian ad litem is a professional who looks out for the best interests of a child.  Florida Statutes Section 61.401 describes the circumstances under which a guardian ad litem is appointed:

In an action for dissolution of marriage or for the creation, approval, or modification of a parenting plan, if the court finds it is in the best interest of the child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate. The court in its discretion may also appoint legal counsel for a child to act as attorney or advocate; however, the guardian and the legal counsel shall not be the same person.

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Florida Child Custody, Military Service, and Grandparents’ Rights

If a parent who is the subject of a Florida child custody order is activated, deployed, or temporarily assigned to military service, that military parent may be able to designate the child’s grandparents to care for the child in his or her absence.

Related: Florida Grandparents’ Rights and Collaborative Divorce

Florida Statutes section 61.13002(2) states that, if a military parent so desires, a grandparent can take over that parent’s time-sharing schedule under certain circumstances.  The activation, deployment, or temporary assignment must be ordered for more than 90 days and materially affect the military parent’s ability to exercise his or her time-sharing rights.  The military parent must notify the other parent of the designation in writing.   The written notice must be provided to the other parent at least 10 days before the grandparent is to take over the military parent’s time-sharing.

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St. Petersburg and Clearwater Bar Associations Hold CLE on Collaborative Divorce

The urge for a more humane way to practice divorce law has hit Pinellas County.  The days of pitting husband versus wife, mother versus father in an adversarial courtroom divorce have both attorneys and clients pining for a private, healthier alternative to deal with family law issues.

And so the Saint Petersburg Bar Association and Clearwater Bar Association have invited Adam B. Cordover, Esq., John L. Sullivan, IV, CDFA, and James B. Morris, Jr., Ph.D., to discuss the interdisciplinary collaborative divorce model at their annual Family Law Update.  The 2014 Family Law Update is approved for 4.0 general continuing legal education hours and 3.5 hours for purposes of Marital and Family Law certification.

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What Is A Florida Parenting Plan?

Any Florida parent who is going through a divorce with children or otherwise dealing with child custody issues will need to have a parenting plan.  A parenting plan is document that is either agreed upon by the parents or created by a judge that sets out each parents’ rights and responsibilities.  The Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco Counties) further describes a parenting plan as follows:

It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. Florida Statutes, section 61.13(2)(c).

A parenting plan is a document developed and agreed to by the parents of a minor child, and approved by the court, or if the parents cannot agree, established by the court, which governs the relationship between the parents regarding the child (encompassing “custody”, “parental responsibility”, and “visitation”). A parenting plan may address issues such as the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being, and must include a time-sharing schedule. The parenting plan must take into account the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction when addressing jurisdictional issues.

For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, which governs each parent’s relationship with his or her minor child and the relationship between each parent with regard to his or her minor child, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.

Any parenting plan approved by a court must address the following issues:

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BREAKING NEWS: Florida Same Sex Couples Sue to Overturn State DOMA

According to the Tampa Bay Times, six same sex couples in Florida are suing to overturn Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).  The couples claim that DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and establishes that Florida will not recognize same sex marriages performed in other states or territories, violates their equal rights under the Constitution of the United States.

This suit comes on the heals of successful lawsuits in Utah and Oklahoma which overturned those states’ same sex marriage bans.  This also comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down portions of the Federal DOMA but left state DOMAs intact.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

Florida’s DOMA, contained in Florida Statutes section 741.212, reads as follows:

(1) Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, are not recognized for any purpose in this state.
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Collaborative Divorce Comes To Sarasota & Manatee Counties

From Brian Pope, MBA, CDFA, and Cindy Barry, Esq.:

I am extremely pleased to announce that there is a new group in town!  The “Next Generation Divorce” group for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has been formed as an expansion of “Next Generation Divorce” of Tampa Bay.

Next Generation Divorce

As the President of the Twelfth Judicial branch of the Next Generation Divorce group (Cindy Barry, not me), it is my sincere pleasure to extend an invitation to the bench and Bar of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit to attend a free presentation on collaborative law on February 6, 2014, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  in the Palm Room at the Sarabay Country Club located at 7011 Willow Street, Sarasota, Florida, 34243.  There will be a variety of complimentary Hors d’Ouerves and a cash bar available for libations.

Our guest speaker is the President of the Tampa Bay area “Next Generation Divorce”, Mr. Adam Cordover, Esq.   He will be sharing the successes of the collaborative law practices in the greater Tampa Bay area and answering questions on how to incorporate collaborative law into your practice.   Of course, there will be a social hour immediately following the presentation.

It is an exciting time as “Next Generation Divorce” is an active and professional group of Attorneys, Mental Health Professionals and Financial Professionals that have been collaboratively trained to help remove court cases from the traditional Court system.  You can visit our website at www.nextgenerationdivorce.com.

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Florida Same Sex Relationships: Do I Need To Adopt My Child?

In general, when a baby is born in an intact marriage, that baby is considered the legal child of both spouses.  Similarly, when a married person adopts a child, that child is oftentimes considered the legal child of that married person and his or her spouse.

But what is the status of a child in Florida born of or adopted into a same sex marriage?  In other words, if two men or two women are married in another state, move to Florida, and have a baby, is that baby considered the legal child of both spouses?

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A Really Quick Divorce Option in Florida

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a form of collaborative family law being offered as a “Weekend Divorce.”  Here is more:

Breaking up is hard to do—even when both husband and wife are ready to bring their marriage to an end. As a result, divorce can often be financially devastating and time consuming.

Against that backdrop, attorneys Sandra Young and Brian Garvey have developed an innovative antidote that is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere: “The Weekend Divorce.”

A centerpiece of their streamlined approach is booking a hotel conference room for two days and negotiating every detail of the divorce agreement and signing all documents by the time the couple leaves on Sunday.

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Collaborative Divorce (aka Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice) is a “no-court-client-centered” dispute resolution process that separating spouses can use with the help of specially trained and licensed legal, mental health and financial professionals.

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