The word “divorce” brings to mind some unpleasant thoughts and feelings: fighting, custody battles, sadness, money issues, spite, and pain. A relationship is ending, and things can get messy. Many people who have lived through a divorce will attest that there is a lot of negativity and anger surrounding sensitive issues like money, the division of property, and who gets the kids when. The fighting comes with the territory.
Now, more people are opting to cut out the fighting part of divorce as much as possible by choosing a collaborative divorce. Collaborative law allows couples to work as a team, rather than against each other, to resolve the divorce quickly and without actually going to court. Generally, a divorce “team” made up of lawyers, child specialists, and accountants will all work together for the common good of both divorcing partners. The goal is to keep communication respectful and to the point. A divorce can be completed quickly, rather than dragging on in court for years.
In some cases, the collaborative divorce doesn’t work, and couples end up in court. In this situation, both attorneys must withdraw from the case when it goes to court. But for couples who are able to divorce under collaborative law, the results are generally positive and the divorce experience is less dreadful. Relationships may be left more intact. Collaborative divorces are often less expensive. Of course, both parties have to want to make a collaborative divorce work. If one partner is reluctant or unwilling to negotiate, a collaborative divorce is not going to work, no matter how badly the other partner wants it to.
If you are facing a divorce, or helping someone else make their way through one, there are undoubtedly a thousand little questions floating around up in the air. We will try to answer some of the more common ones here.
Q: My wife and I went through mediation, and we collaborated and signed an agreement that is beneficial to both of us in every way. Do I still need to be at the final hearing?
A: Yes. Florida law states that a petitioner is always required to be present for their final hearing.
Q: My wife and I have been separated for over 3 years. Am I still required to get a Marital Settlement Agreement, and if so, what should I do if she refuses to sign it?
A: A signed Marital Settlement Agreement is required for a simple dissolution of marriage (no children/pregnancies, both parties agree on property division) or any sort of uncontested divorce. If you do not (or are not able to) obtain a signed form, you will have to proceed with a contested divorce.
Q: I really want to file an uncontested divorce, but I am unable to track down my spouse. Do I have any options?
A: Unfortunately, if you are unable to track down your spouse, you will be unable to file an uncontested divorce (as both parties’ cooperation is required). You will still be able to file for a divorce, but you will have to put in a good-faith search for your spouse first. That usually requires you to put out a notice in a local newspaper, contact all friends and family members who might have any information as to their whereabouts, and make sure you document everything. You will need to prove to the court who you contacted, when you contacted them, how long you were in contact, and what was discussed.
Q: When will my divorce be final?
A: Once the judge signs the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s quite possible for 2 individuals, who their respective friends and family would call “the nicest, most honorable person in the whole world,” to get locked together in a bitter divorce proceeding.
You could even be one of those individuals, and you could have every facet of the moral high ground supporting you. You could have everyone you know, including your spouse’s friends/family, backing you up with emotional support.
However, the judge does not know that, and given your limited interactions with the judge, they will likely never know that. All the judge knows is what is in the filing, and unless it is specifically spelled-out for a valid reason, an individual’s character is relatively unimportant.
That is why it is critical to put everything down on paper. Ask as many questions as you possibly can (especially when signing documents), fact-check every single thing you are told (especially when coming from your spouse), and do not expect anyone to see things from your perspective.
This often seems to be particularly tricky when you are trying for a cooperative divorce, but it’s really not. It is one thing to treat your spouse with civility, and quite another to blindly accept every word they say. You can still work together while you keep a cool, wary distance. The alternative is to get embroiled in a nasty, heated battle which will benefit no one. Just remember, divorce is a very serious event, with life-altering consequences, so take nothing on blind faith, and double (maybe even triple) check everything you can.
The court will not see things from your perspective, but if you and your attorney work together, you should be able to spell the situation out in language that any judge could understand.
When going through a divorce, an individual will likely have a thousand questions running through their minds. Who will get custody of our kids? How long will this take? How are we going to split assets? Is the family going to split, or stay close? Will I have enough money to live off comfortably afterwards? What about child or spousal support?
One of the questions that often is glossed over, however, is who will be paying for college?
According to Florida law, parents are legally required to provide support and education for their children. That means housing, food, clothes, other basic necessities, and schooling.
The problem is that this legal obligation stops once the child is no longer considered a dependent. This can be when the child turns 18, or it can be later if the child is still in high school or has a disability preventing self-support.
For most parents, though, child support stops around 18 years of age. This can be a problem for parents that have custody of their children and are receiving support payments from their ex-spouse. All of a sudden, the child is no longer dependent on you, and even though you want to be able to send your child to college, you’re facing the daunting bills all on your own.
This is where collaboration can really come in handy. It may be possible to have a court ordered stipulation where child support will continue past 18 for college expenses, but it’s much easier to simply sit down and discuss with your ex-spouse the desire to send your child to college. It’s in every parent’s best interest to see their child succeeding in college, so it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that future.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for solving these complex issues by yourself, but if you mention your concerns with your attorney, they will be able to provide you with the insight you need.
Divorce is an extremely emotional event. Even the most level-headed of people can find themselves resorting to grudges, revenge, and petty name-calling when looking down the barrel of a divorce.
It’s understandable, too, as for many people, the events leading up to a divorce are far from smooth. In almost all cases, something happened to violently disturb the water’s surface.
However, if celebrity divorces can be used as any kind of social indicator, amicable splits are on the rise. While it may have been common (and almost expected) to dish about an ex to a news outlet or on a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter, fewer and fewer celebrity couples seem to be lashing out in anger these days.
For example, the recent news that Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin were splitting came as a huge shock to many people. Even more shocking, however, was what the family decided to do next. They took their kids on a Bahamian vacation, and the 2 are still shown wearing their wedding rings in public.
They’re far from the only celebrity couple to go through such an unfortunate change with smiles on their faces. Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom, who split back in October, have been going out of their ways to actually share kind words about each other.
In a world where divorce is seen as a family-shattering monster, it is immensely refreshing to see that it’s still possible to get through the process unscathed.
There’s something to it, too, as almost every study ever undertaken has shown that couples and families that remain calm throughout the entire process come out the other end in the best shape. With these recent celebrity stories plastered all over the news, here’s to hoping that other couples realize they too can avoid some of the pitfalls of divorce, and can remain friends with the person they once wed.
The story often goes as follows: A couple gets married, starts having difficulties of some sort, and eventually decides to get a divorce. Most of the time, it is expected that divorces will be bitter and full of fighting and back-stabbing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Fighting over property division, assets, and child custody is not always necessary.
Fortunately, for those who do want a more peaceful, cooperative process, there is a solution: Collaborative law. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers defines collaborative law as both parties cooperating fully, negotiating towards a mutually beneficial divorce. Each party still has their own attorney (and the professionals behind them), but rather than fighting against each other, both sides share all information and use negotiation/mediation rather than letting a judge rule on the case.
According to recent reports, many people in Florida are starting to see the wisdom and benefits of such a cooperative approach, which are as follows:
- In contentious divorces, children are often feel like they are forced to “pick” one side or the other, but in collaborative law, they are more free to stay close to both sides
- Parents can even do more co-parenting to ensure that their child’s needs are fully taken care of, rather than putting stress on the child every time custody is handed over. In addition, parents remain a more active part of their children’s lives
- Often times, couples will be able to make decisions during the divorce that ultimately save them money in the long run, mostly related to asset division and taxes
- Finally, collaborative law is most often vastly quicker than a contentious divorce, and often saves you money on court and legal fees as well
The collaborative law process is not for everyone, however. If one spouse in your household tends to be domineering or abusive, then it is unlikely to work out well. Do not be afraid to discuss all options with your attorney, though. They will be able to advise you on which method would be best for you.
It seems like that would be impossible but it doesn’t have to be so. Look at some of the most notably public divorces that have ended in mutual respect – Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Katy Perry and Russell Brand, and most recently Katie Holms and Tom Cruise.
Nice divorce seems like a contradictory statement, but in the end if it’s possible it can make life so much easier for all involved, especially if children are involved. But even aside from kids it will make things easier on family and friends. When a long-lasting friendship-turned-marriage turns sour, it’s almost as if the friends in your shared circle are another set of children.
Children will benefit the most from a friendly divorce. Keeping your marital differences as your own rather than exposing them to your kids will help smooth the inevitably rocky road in front of them. Keeping your differences to yourself will allow the children to form their own opinions about each parental figure rather than providing them with fuel to be angry with you.
A collaborative divorce can save time and money once you’ve made the decision to part ways. To be able to have such an experience, each party must agree to avoid the confrontational side of divorce and seek a cooperative divorce. This will keep costs down and keep things out of the courtroom. Not all divorces can be so amicable. If you can’t stand the site of your soon-to-be-ex, sitting down and having polite discussion over the division of assets may not be possible. But if you can, you stand to save anywhere from 40 to 65 percent on legal proceedings. The end result means there’s more left for you and your ex to divide.