Governor Rick Scott signed HB 967 into law the “Collaborative Law Process Act” on March 24, 2016.
The purpose of this act is to encourage the peaceful resolution of family law disputes and the early resolution of pending litigation through a voluntary settlement process. This is a unique non-adversarial process that preserves a working relationship between the parties and reduces the emotional and financial toll of litigation.
1. Dissolution of marriage, annulments and marital property distribution;
2. Child custody, visitation, parenting plans and timesharing;
3. Alimony, separate maintenance agreements and child support;
4. Parentage and paternity;
5. Premarital, marital and post marital agreements.
The Collaborative Law Process is a private form of dispute resolution where the parties agree by contract to settle all issues outside the court system with their respective attorneys. The attorney’s role is solely to help the parties reach an agreement that is best suited to the needs of their family. Attorneys are not allowed under this process to engage in opposition research or prepare for trial.
Other professionals may be involved in the process. These professionals may include a child specialist to help develop a parenting plan or a CPA or Financial Planner to help develop a budget so as to maximize the parties’ financial security.
Under the Collaborative Law Process there is a “privilege” similar to the attorney-client privilege, so that except under very limited circumstances, the parties cannot repeat in court anything that was said by the other party during the Collaborative Process.
Though HB 967 will become law on July 1, 2016, there are still several steps that must be completed before the Collaborative Law Process goes into effect. The Florida Supreme Court must first adopt Rules of Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct to govern the Collaborative Process.