Beginning Anew Collaboratively – Florida’s First Pro Bono Collaborative Divorce

Not all divorcing spouses want to engage in nasty court battles.

Such is the case of Tyler Nelson and Pamela Burton, who decided to end their marriage on an amicable basis without consuming years in costly and contentious litigation.  They decided to use a form of private dispute resolution known as collaborative divorce for their child’s sake, under the tutelage of trained professionals, to forge a new and different bond as co-parents for the rest of their lives.

And, on September 20, 2013, they will set a precedent as the first pro bono collaborative divorce ever completed in the state of Florida.

Adam B. Cordover, Esq., Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay (“CDITB”), represented Tyler.  Joryn Jenkins, Esq., co-chair of the Hillsborough County Bar Association Collaborative Law Section Pro Bono Committee and CDITB Executive Board Member represented Pamela.  Jennifer L. Mockler, Ph.D., served as the collaborative team’s neutral facilitator, and Monica Ospina, CPA, served as Pamela and Tyler’s neutral financial professional.

Cordover, Jenkins, Mockler, and Ospina volunteered as part of a joint program of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay, Bay Area legal Services, Hillsborough County Bar Association Collaborative Law Section, and Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group.

“I strongly support a collaborative approach to divorce, particularly when children are involved,” said Mockler, a licensed psychologist.  “A collaborative model minimizes the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences families often experience when they participate in a traditional, more adversarial court process.”

So what are the characteristics of collaborative divorce?  The first is a safe environment.  The attorneys are contractually barred from going to court.  This formal agreement aligns the attorneys’ goals with the clients’ goals; the lawyers must withdraw if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, and the parties then may retain new litigation counsel.  In addition, parties can speak freely in collaborative meetings; nothing they say will be used against them in court.

“When you go to court, it’s a destructive process,” said Jenkins.  “Most divorces start with one party racing to the courthouse with their petition, trying to beat the other person.  From the get-go, it’s war.  But the collaborative process is a model that shows the couple how to get along and be reasonable.”

The second unique trait of collaborative divorce is transparency.  The parties pledge to be honest and to share all pertinent information.  This precludes the need for an expensive discovery process.  And the use of a neutral financial professional obviates the more costly option of retaining battling experts.

The third distinguishing feature is privacy.  Instead of publishing sensitive family issues and personal financials for the entire world to see, collaborative divorce enables clients to keep private information out of the public record.

“Privacy is the aspect of collaborative practice that attracts many professionals and business owners,” explained Cordover.  “Rightly so, people do not want their private family issues aired in the public forum of the courthouse.”

Finally, the collaborative process allows parties to customize results to fit their family’s needs and values.  In collaborative divorce, spouses can create solutions that a judge might not think of or be allowed by the law to order.

Judge Catherine Catlin, a family law judge in Hillsborough County, has been highly supportive of collaborative practice as a way for parties to settle their disputes.  “I’m in favor of anything that helps families resolve issues outside of an adversarial setting,” she said.  “I like the concept of giving control back to the parties.  They’re given the time and forum to work things out.”

“Most people think of courtroom divorces as having winners and losers, though most judges warn parties in protracted courtroom battles that neither will be a winner,” says Jeremy Gluckman, who serves as co-chair of the joint collaborative pro bono project.

Nancy Lugo, pro bono  manager of Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program, believes the collaborative process sets up clients to move forward in a way traditional divorce does not.  “The Collaborative Divorce model prepares the couple for life after divorce by setting up household budgets, teaching the parties effective communication skills, and working out a parenting plan that will ultimately inure to the benefit of their children.”

In the end, Tyler said he found the divorce meetings to be mostly painless and was glad he and Pamela used the collaborative process, which helped them focus on their 7-year-old daughter.  “Everything else was material stuff.  I kept the furniture.  She got the car.  And I get my daughter every other week.”

You can find more information on collaborative divorce in Tampa Bay at  To learn more about local pro bono services, visit the website of Bay Area Legal Services at

If you have questions regarding collaborative divorce in Tampa Bay, you can schedule a consultation with Tampa Bay collaborative attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813)443-0615 or by filling out our contact form.


About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
This entry was posted in Collaborative Divorce, Family Law News, The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A. and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s