There is a growing interest in a process called Collaborative Divorce. In Florida, Collaborative Divorce has a variety of groups around the state that have formed for the main purpose of promoting a type of amicable divorce. The author of this article: Florida Divorce Attorney Howard Iken believes in amicable divorce but would like to expose some common myths that glamorize Collaborative Divorce attorneys and the process.
Myth: Collaborative Divorce is less expensive than mediated divorce, or the traditional divorce process.
Truth: Collaborative Divorce Lawyers work in groups of collaborative professionals, such as accountants, financial planners, psychologists, and custody evaluators. The obvious reality is that each person participating in the group wants a “cut of the action.” That means FEES. The entire concept of collaborative law is designed around multiple professionals, all with an input into the process. While Collaborative Lawyers have a good idea in concept – the whole process is a profit and fee machine by definition.
Myth: Collaborative Divorce Attorneys are trained in the process and are less likely to drag your case to trial.
Truth: There is no standard training. Some attorneys went through as little as a one-day seminar on the collaborative process. Some have extensive training. Some divorce attorneys that practice in collaborative divorce are the least likely attorneys to ever negotiate a settlement without going to trial. But they do recognize a good gimmick when they see it.
Myth: Collaborative Lawyers work together for the greater good, always ensuring an even and beneficial outcome for the couple and their children.
Truth: How can this be true? As Florida divorce attorneys, we are trained in the art and science of aggressive representation, competition in the courtroom, and presenting facts in a way that furthers the goal of our client. We like to win – and we come into work each day thinking about how to win our cases. Collaborative Divorce Attorneys, Forensic CPAs, and Custody Evaluators group together, market a specific business arrangement, and try to pretend they do not work as dedicated, biased, advocates. This is not realistic.
Myth: Divorce , in a Collaborative situation is less stressful, and involves “fair play.”
Truth: I have personally dealt with dedicated collaborative law attorneys that wanted to immediately hire over $20,000 in collaborative group professionals and wanted my client (who earned under 10,000/year) to pay for half of it. I did not feel there was anything “fair” about this. The situation represented everything I am used to seeing: aggressive representation, competing for advantage, and using every tool in the arsenal to gain advantage for each person’s side. This is what attorneys are supposed to do. But lets not label it “collaborative” and pretend it is something that it is not.
Myth: Collaborative lawyers sign an agreement that says they will “withdraw” or drop out of the situation if the collaborative effort fails and the case needs to go through court. On first glance this appears to give everyone motivation to settle their case.
Truth: First, if I designed a way to double the costs and fees, this would be the exact plan. We begin by hiring all the experts we would normally hire in a high-conflict, worst-case situation. We also pay substantial fees to two attorneys to work on the negotiation, deal with experts, and read through a stack of expensive-to-produce reports. The parties are under minimal pressure because we wrapped them in a cocoon of experts and called it low-stress collaborative divorce. Then, when the effort fails, we must re-hire new attorneys, pay new fees, and if needed – hire new professionals to produce new reports. Collaborative law is not just a process – it is a “business system.” And that “business-system” is very lucrative for everyone involved. Finally, the biggest insult of the collaborative process – the fact that some attorneys ignore the requirement to withdraw.
Alternatives to Collaborative Divorce in Florida
Collaborative law is a high-priced, over promoted, over blown type of mediation. Normal, run of the mill Florida Divorce Attorneys can duplicate the results in a much lower cost and more predictable manner. Consulting professionals can be hired and participate only on an as-needed basis. There is no “system” in place and you can spend money as available and as needed without being forced into the collaborative divorce mold.
The Best Attorney
The key to a low-conflict divorce is for both sides to retain a settlement-oriented family law attorney. “Settlement-oriented” is not the same as a “pushover.” A true settlement oriented lawyer will always put your interests over theirs. In the end, it is almost never in the client’s interest to go to trial. But any good family law attorney needs an aggressive posture – coupled with a genuine desire to settle.
Financial Consultant / CPA
If there is a huge amount of money or income present, one or both sides may want to see a financial consultant or certified public account. These types of professionals can help you develop a plan that shows how much money will be needed to sustain your needs in the future. But the key to a sensible mediated divorce is to only hire outside professionals if needed.
Certified Family Law Mediator
The Florida Supreme Court credentials certified mediators. Many family law attorneys are certified mediators. A good mediator is assertive and experienced at dealing with divorce attorneys. Mediation is a form of collaborative law – but without the “business system” previously mentioned.
This is a Big-Money option for your case. And where there are children, in collaborative law, a custody evaluator is always called for. Average fees run between ten and twenty thousand dollars. And one of the big problems – many custody evaluators will take a dislike to one or the other parent. Custody Evaluators, many times, are a roll of the dice. They are also the centerpieces of a collaborative divorce.
Mediation Procedure (alternative to collaborative)
Just like a collaborative divorce, a mediated case can start before the first document is filed with the court – or after a case is initiated. A “Pre-Filing” mediation is the most positive. It normally involves two attorneys, the parties, and a mediator. But most mediation conferences occur in the middle of a court case. One really important aspect of this is the pressure that everyone feels mid-case. That pressure gives each side great motivation to settle their case.
The Bottom Line
Collaborative Divorce is trendy, sounds good, and has been presented as a cutting edge procedure. But in reality it is a trendy gimmick and a way for a group of professionals to share in the financial fallout of a divorce case. This article was written by Howard Iken, a Divorce Lawyer and principle of The Law Firm of Ayo and Iken. Mr. Iken believes in the basic idea of collaborative divorce – but does not believe in turning it into a money system. For further information, call us at 800-449-3486.