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.

***

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Family Law Explanation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it too Late to Restore My Maiden Name in Florida?

In Florida, as in most other jurisdictions, women can restore their maiden name as part of the divorce process.  However, for a lot of reasons, many women keep their married name.

Sometimes it is so they can maintain the same last name as their minor children, making it easier to communicate with school and healthcare officials.  Sometimes it is related to their employment, and they do not want to disrupt an earned reputation by altering their name.  And sometimes it is because they simply did not know they had the option to restore their name in divorce proceedings.

So, after divorce, is it too late to restore a maiden name?

Continue reading

Posted in Name Change | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Same-Sex Annulment

As Florida does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, some judges have interpreted the state’s ban as precluding them from granting same-sex divorces.  I am involved in a case in which two women married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, and separated.  They utilized the interdisciplinary collaborative process to come to a full settlement agreement and filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Tampa.  The judge ultimately denied their petition, determining that she did not have jurisdiction to dissolve that which the state does not recognize.

And we appealed.  This has become the first divorce matter in Florida to challenge Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, the gay marriage ban is still in effect.  So is there anything that same-sex spouses can do to legally end their marriage in Florida?

Continue reading

Posted in Case Law Update, Family Law Explanation, LGBT Family Law Matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advanced Training: Get More Collaborative Cases!

Are you an attorney, mental health professional, financial professional, or mediator who wants to build a profitable and satisfying collaborative practice?  Do you want more collaborative cases? Next Generation Divorce has a training geared to you:

Woody Mosten is Coming to Tampa February 27-28, 2015.  Click Here To Learn More

Forrest “Woody” Mosten has an international reputation for high quality Mediation and Collaborative training from introductory courses to advanced supervision for highly experienced peacemakers. He maintains an intense focus on cutting edge issues in law and the craft of conflict resolution skill building, and enjoys helping other professionals build their own profitable practices.

Woody Mosten’s Training is an Approved Continuing Education Provider by the California State Bar CLE & Family Law Specialization, the California Psychological Association Accrediting Agency, and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Most courses are approved by the Association for Conflict Resolution and may qualify for credit by other agencies and organizations throughout the world.

Continue reading

Posted in Collaborative Divorce | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Podcast: Comparing Collaborative Divorce and Mediation

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Garin Vick in Tampa, Florida, where we recorded an interview for his podcast show, Divorce without Destruction.  We discussed the similarities and differences between collaborative divorce and mediation.

We talked about how both are forms of private dispute resolution that are better than duking it out in court.  We also discussed how the structure and the process of collaborative divorce and mediation differ, and what it means for families going through or considering divorce.

Continue reading

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Collaborative Divorce: A Flowchart

Many people come to my Tampa office because they heard collaborative divorce is private, respectful, conducive to co-parenting, and usually quicker than the traditional courtroom divorce.  But they do not quite understand logistically how the collaborative process works.

The first thing to understand is that each party is represented by his or her own attorney whose sole purpose is to help the parties reach a settlement.  The attorneys are contractually barred from engaging in costly, damaging contested court battles.  If parties want to fight one another in the court system, they must choose different litigation attorneys.

A neutral facilitator, who usually is licensed in a mental health profession, is involved in most collaborative cases.  The facilitator not only helps the parties (and attorneys) focus on the future rather than rehash the arguments of the past, but he or she also teaches the parties communication and dispute resolution techniques that will help them and their families long after the divorce is finalized.

A neutral financial professional is also oftentimes used to efficiently ensure financial transparency between the parties, to develop personally-tailored options for support and the division of assets and debts, and to help the clients budget to give them the best chance for financial security once their divorce is finalized.

Some folks are visual learners, and so my firm has created a flowchart that shows how a collaborative case might proceed.  Please understand that, depending on the facts of your case and the needs of your family, your collaborative divorce process may be customized differently:

Continue reading

Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Family Law Explanation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prenuptial Agreements: Divorce Planning or Collaborative Marriage Planning?

Prenuptial agreements have been around for quite some time in Florida.  They are an agreement between people who are about to wed in which the parties set out their rights and responsibilities in a written document that is executed in front of a notary and two witnesses.  Prenuptial agreements are oftentimes thought of as “divorce planning” so as to avoid a future nasty court battle, should the parties’ marriage not work out.

But who wants to plan a divorce, especially when you are not even done making the wedding plans?

There is an alternative.  It is a new process known as Collaborative Marriage Planning.

Continue reading

Posted in Family Law Explanation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tampa Same Sex Divorce Appeal: Text of Answer Brief

We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe – some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others – some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.

But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president.  That institution … is a court.  It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest [lower] court in the land. . . . Our courts have their faults, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird, pg. 274 (1960).  Mockingbird is a timeless novel set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930’s.  Discrimination was the norm and “separate but equal” ruled the day.  Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).  The words are from a different time, yet they apply directly to the laws being challenged in this Court.

You can find the answer brief in the Tampa same sex divorce appeal at the following link: 2D14-2384 Shaw Appellee’s Answer Brief.

Continue reading

Posted in Case Law Update, Collaborative Divorce, Family Law News, LGBT Family Law Matters, The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will a Florida Judge Order a Doggy Custody Schedule?

When two people are getting divorced in Florida, and they have one or more minor children, a custody schedule (now known in Florida as a time-sharing schedule)  must be established.  Approximately 90-95% of all cases settle at some point (whether it is before the filing of a petition for divorce or after spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing for or even going through trial), and so the parties generally end up agreeing to a child time-sharing schedule.  But in those times where they do not agree, a Florida family law judge will take the decision out of the hands of the parents and set a time-sharing schedule.

But divorce doesn’t only affect the children.  It also affects the family pets.  So will a Florida judge order a doggy (or kitty) custody schedule?

Continue reading

Posted in Case Law Update, Collaborative Divorce, Family Law Explanation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Attorney General Seeks to Prevent Tampa Same Sex Spouses’ Divorce

Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi has filed a motion to intervene in my client’s same sex divorce matter.  The parties married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, came to a full settlement agreement via the Collaborative Divorce Process, and asked a Hillsborough Judge to dissolve their marriage.  Their request was denied and their case dismissed.  The case is now in the Second District Court of Appeals.

The Tampa Tribune has reported the development as follows:

Attorney General Pam Bondi may be fighting to prevent same-sex couples from marrying in Florida, but she is also taking a legal position that has the effect of forcing gay couples who married elsewhere to stay married, lawyers in a Tampa case say.

***

Continue reading

Posted in Case Law Update, Family Law Explanation, Family Law News, LGBT Family Law Matters, The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment