Tampa Bay Times Article on 2015 Florida Collaborative Divorce Bill

The Tampa Bay Times recently published an article on collaborative divorce.  The article quotes four local collaborative professionals (attorneys Ingrid Hooglander, Tanya O’Conner, and Mark Moon, and psychologist Rachel Moskowitz), all of whom are members of Next Generation Divorce, an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to educating the public about a healthier way to resolve their family disputes.

The article also interviews State Senator Tom Lee of Brandon, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 642, the Collaborative Law Practice Act.  Though collaborative law is already being practiced as a private way to resolve divorces and other family law issues in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, the bill provides a legal framework for the process and adds protections to the privacy of communications during settlement talks.

Below is an excerpt:

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Florida Alimony Reform 2015 – Florida Alimony Guidelines

Many people are surprised to learn that, currently, Florida has no alimony guidelines.  Rather, it has a bunch of factors that a judge considers, such as lifestyle of the parties, each spouses’ contribution to the marriage, and the age and physical condition of each.  This has left many clients frustrated when they ask their attorneys how much alimony they should expect to pay or receive.

House Bill 943 looks to change this.

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Florida Same-Sex Marriage – Will I Be On My Child’s Birth Certificate?

It has long been the law in Florida that when a child is born during an intact marriage between a man and a woman, the husband shall be placed on the birth certificate.  Generally, this is the case even if the husband is not the biological father of the child; the right of the child to be considered “legitimate” is so strong that it does not matter whether there is an actual genetic connection between the child and the father.

Now that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge and marriage licenses are being provided to same-sex couples, will a hospital put a woman on a birth certificate if her wife gives birth?

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Podcast: Mindful Co-Parenting Parts 1 & 2

Tampa Bay Psychologists Jeremy Gaies and James Morris were recently on the Divorce Without Destruction Podcast to discuss their book, Mindful Co-Parenting.  The also discussed the interdisciplinary collaborative family law process.

Mindful Co-Parenting is an instructive, supportive, and easy to read book for parents who are going through divorce (or for parents who were never married but are coming up with a parenting plan/custody schedule for their children). You can find both Part 1 and Part 2 of the podcast, hosted by Dr. Garin Vick, below (Part 2 is after the jump):

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Is Florida’s Gay Adoption Ban Still On The Books?

Most people know that, for a long time, Florida did not permit gay individuals to adopt children.

Florida’s adoption laws were and are mainly based on the best interests of the child.  Even if a prospective adoptive parent were a convicted violent felon, the felony likely would not automatically prevent an adoption from happening; the judge would need to entertain evidence and make a determination about whether, despite the felony, the adoption was in the best interests of the adoptee.

But if a prospective adoptive parent were gay, and the judge knew this fact, there would be no analysis.  A gay person was not permitted under Florida law to adopt a child, regardless of whether it was in the child’s best interest.

However, that all changed in 2010, when Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals published its decision in In re the Adoption of XXG and NRG.

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Freezing High Conflict Divorce Litigation for the Collaborative Process

I strongly suggest that any person who is in the initial stages of a Florida divorce consider engaging in the collaborative process from the very beginning.  This simply means that each spouses hires an attorney solely for the purpose of helping them reach a divorce agreement.

The attorneys are contractually prohibited from wasting time and money on preparing for trial (90% or so of all divorce cases settle, yet millions and millions of dollars are spent each year preparing for a trial that rarely happens).  Discussions are held in a private, respectful, and transparent atmosphere, and other professionals are brought in as needed to tend to the parties’ financial and emotional needs.

But some clients are resistant to the collaborative process because of perceived cost issues or they feel they need to have a gunslinger to take out their spouse.  And many attorneys will not engage in the collaborative process because litigation work is pretty profitable or they have not invested the time and money in taking an introductory collaborative training.

And so there are plenty of divorce battles going on in the Florida court system.  It is not uncommon for those battles to go on for two, three, four, or more years, and for the parties to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, deposition fees, document production fees, forensic evaluation fees, court reporter fees, and so on, and feel no closer to a final resolution of their divorce.

But there is something that can be done to change the dynamics.

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What is the Purpose of Florida Family Law?

Anyone who has gone through a divorce, paternity, or other family law proceeding in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Florida may have wondered: What is the purpose of Florida Family Law?

Well, section 61.001(2) purports to have an answer:

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Can I Now Divorce My Same-Sex Spouse in Florida?

Last week, Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle clarified his ruling in Brenner v. Scott to state, definitively, that the U.S. Constitution requires Florida clerks of court to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  This has brought great jubilation that marriage equality is finally recognized in Florida.  Clerks throughout the state (including in my own Hillsborough County) have begun issuing marriage licenses, and some even have officiated over marriages.

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank Officiates Over a Mass Same-Sex Wedding

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank Officiates Over a Mass Same-Sex Wedding

However, is same-sex marriage yet completely equal in Florida?  Is it recognized for all purposes in Florida, including for purposes of dissolving that marriage?

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Podcast: Carrollwood Mental Health Counselor Discusses Collaborative Divorce

In the latest Divorce Without Destruction, host Garin Vick speaks with Linda Peterman, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  Linda discusses her views on collaborative divorce as practiced in Carrollwood and the greater Tampa Bay area:

I happen to know Linda, as she has served as a Neutral Collaborative Facilitator in a collaborative case involving a client of mine.  She and I also serve on the Executive Board of Next Generation Divorce, Florida’s largest collaborative practice group.

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A Former Judge’s Take on the Family Court System

As a Florida family law attorney, I tell clients all the time that – for the sake of their children, finances, and sanity – it is best if divorcing spouses are able to reach an agreement on their own, without leaving important decisions that will affect the rest of their lives up to a judge.  I have found that interdisciplinary collaborative practice is the best way for families to reach a resolution, though other options (such as mediation and direct negotiations) are also almost always better than the court system.

Sue Cochrane, who served as a family law judge in Minnesota, also believes that the current family court system is broken.  Below are excerpts of an article she penned for The Collaborative Review (Winter 2014 / Volume 15, Issue 1):

After eighteen years on the family bench I am sensitive to the needs of the thousands who still show up [to court] due to lack of funds or awareness of other options.  Having Collaborative practitioners and others from diverse disciplines working side-by side with those of us from the courts was, in my opinion, a monumental advancement.

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The law is well-known for being logical and dispassionate.  Courts are where intellect and linear, analytic thinking prevails.  In the admirable pursuit of truth and justice, the courts can inadvertently deny the humanity of the people it is supposed to serve and even of the judges and staff who work there.

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