When people are seeking to gain child custody rights in Florida – whether through divorce, paternity, establishment of parenting plan, grandparent custody, or other proceedings – the first step they usually take is file a petition with the Clerk of the Court.
Generally speaking, this is a mistake.
By filing a petition, they are entering into the public court system which pits mother against father. This is an adversarial system which oftentimes leads parties to engage in emotionally and financially draining court battles, and all dirty laundry gets examined and aired.
But there is another way, a private way of determining parental responsibility and child time-sharing schedules. It is called collaborative practice, also known as collaborative family law.
Collaborative practice is a form of private dispute resolution where each party hires a separate attorney for the limited purposes of helping the parties come up with a mutually agreeable parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. The attorneys pledge from the beginning not to engage in a court battle, and they are contractually barred from bringing disputed issues in front of a judge to decide.
This helps save the parties money as the attorneys are not engaging in the usual opposition research, motion practice, and deposition-taking that fill out a good chunk of attorney invoices.
Collaborative practice happens through a series of meetings in private offices, rather than open hearings in the public courthouse. The meetings, and the process itself, is led by a neutral facilitator, who has a role similar to a mediator. The facilitator is usually a trained mental health professional who can help parties come to an agreement while working through embarrassing and emotionally-charged issues.
Only once the parties have come to a complete agreement will their attorneys file the appropriate paperwork to have a judge ratify their parenting plan and enter an enforceable child custody order.
If you have questions about how collaborative practice can help you establish child custody right in Florida, schedule a consultation with Tampa Bay Collaborative Family Lawyer Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is an Executive Officer of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and was one of 24 professionals chosen worldwide to participate in the Inaugural Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.