In almost any Florida family law matter that involves financial issues, such as child support, alimony, division of property and debt, or attorney’s fees, parties are required to exchange and file Florida Family Law Financial Affidavits. Financial Affidavits outline each party’s source(s) of income, as well as expenses, assets, and liabilities.
And, when they are filed, they become part of the public record, accessible by anyone.
Most people, for any number reasons, do not want their financial profile to become public. And yet, when people go through the traditional litigated divorce, that’s exactly what happens.
But it does not need to be that way.
As Joryn Jenkins alluded to in her article on the website of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay, there is a process by which judges in Hillsborough County and around the state are permitting parties to file “naked” or redacted financial affidavits: collaborative divorce.
Collaborative divorce is a form of private dispute resolution in which each client hires their own attorney whose job is to help the client reach an agreement on all divorce issues. Collaborative attorneys understand that the courtroom is a very public forum for resolving very private issues, and so the collaborative attorneys are contractually-barred from bringing issues to be resolved by a judge.
A facilitator is hired to help bring the clients together and focus on the issues that are important to them, such as the best interests of any children and the clients’ ability to remain part of the same religious and social institutions. A facilitator can also help the clients privately address embarrassing issues such as infidelity or addiction.
If there are businesses or extensive portfolios involved, a neutral financial professional (such as an accountant or financial planner) is retained to efficiently gather needed documents, provide sensible options for the division of assets and debts, and recommend how the clients can best position their financial futures. As is often the case, if one of the spouses is less financially savvy, the financial professional can help teach necessary skills such as budgeting and checkbook balancing.
At the end of a collaborative divorce, like any divorce in Florida, the clients will need to go in front of a judge who will enter a final judgment granting the dissolution of marriage. However, by the time the case gets in front of the judge, all issues will have been decided in private. In Hillsborough County, and in more and more counties around the state, most financial agreements, and the Financial Affidavits, will not need to be filed or made part of the public record.
By the way, the collaborative process is not just for divorce. This private process can be used in paternity, child support, prenuptial, postnuptial, and even post-judgment family law cases.
If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative process can preserve your family’s privacy, schedule a consultation with a collaborative attorney at 813-443-0615 or by filling out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and one of 24 professionals around the world selected to be part of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.