2017 Case Law Review

It is that time of year again, when I present the Case Law Review at the Annual Family Law Professional Collaborative Conference.  And, after each conference I provide my case law review to those who may be interested in how family law has developed over the last year.

This year one important development is the approval of Collaborative Law Rules of Procedure.  With the approval of these rules, the Collaborative Law Act goes into effect.

In addition, there were a number of significant cases decided over the past 12 months.  One that I found particularly interesting is the Rosaler v. Rosaler case, in which the Wife spent almost one million dollars for her attorneys, accountants, Guardian Ad Litem and costs.  If ever there was a case that showed the benefits of a collaborative approach to divorce, this case is it.

You can find the complete case law review HERE

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HOW MUCH WILL MY DIVORCE COST?

You have options on how to finalize your divorce.  And the costs will depend on the method you select.  The Court fee for filing a divorce is approximately $395 and is the same no matter what method you select.

DO IT YOURSELF DIVORCE

You can download the Florida Supreme Court forms for free, fill them in with your spouse and file them yourselves and then proceed through the court process.   The only cost is the filing fee.  However, you must consider the length of time this will take you to prepare the forms without assistance and to process the forms through the court process which may take many months.

PARALEGAL DIVORCE

There are paralegal services that will help you fill in the Florida Supreme Court forms.  These services cannot prepare any documents other than the standard forms and cannot offer any legal advice.  They also cannot file the case for you and obtain the Final Judgment on your behalf.  The costs for the assistance to prepare the forms is approximately $400 to $800.

FLAT FEE DIVORCE

My office can assist you in preparing all documents necessary to obtain a final judgment of dissolution.  This includes a Marital Settlement Agreement drafted by the attorney and a Parenting Plan if necessary also prepared by the attorney.  In addition, there are a number of pleadings that must be presented to the court will be prepared and presented to the Judge.  We will then file the final documents necessary to obtain the Final Judgment on your behalf.  In many cases this process can be completed in less than a month.  The cost of this services is $1,500 for a divorce without children and $2,000 for a divorce with minor children.

MEDIATED DIVORCE

I am also a Supreme Court Certified Mediator and can assist you and your spouse to negotiate the terms of a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan if you and your spouse are struggling with the terms.  As the mediator I cannot file the final documents but can assist you through the process or refer you to an attorney to complete the process.  The cost of this service is $300 per hour but the final cost will depend upon the number of issues to be addressed and the number of meetings necessary to resolve the issues.  Each meeting last approximately two hours and normally there are on average between three to five meetings.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

As a Board Certified Marital and Family Attorney I can represent you in a collaborative divorce process when there are more difficult issues to be decided.  My fees for this representation of a party in a collaborative divorce is $350 per hour.  This process also includes a neutral financial professional, a neutral facilitator and a collaborative attorney for your spouse.  While this process is certainly more expensive than the options above, it is much less expensive than the average fully litigated divorce.  A comparison of the Collaborative Process for a case with minor children to a fully litigated divorce can be found here.

A LITIGATED DIVORCE

My office does not represent clients in this process.  I stopped handling litigated divorces in 2012 after many years of assisting clients through this process.  Part of the reason for this is the extreme costs involved which I did not find in my client’s best interest.  Some cases require litigation to resolve the issues, but I strongly advise clients to consider if this is necessary and the costs involved. A comparison of the costs of a Collaborative Divorce and a Litigated Divorce can be found here.

 

IT HAS ARRIVED!

Florida has joined thirteen other states and the District of Columbia that have enacted a Collaborative Law Act and accompanying Family Law Rules of Procedure for Collaborative Law in Family Law cases.  The new law and rules went into effect July 1, 2017.  Many of us have been utilizing the Collaborative Process in Divorce, Paternity, Prenuptial Agreements and other areas of family law for many years, however, now it is governed by rules and regulations, making it more recognized and uniform.  The stated purpose of the act is to create a uniform system of practice to “encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and the early settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures” and to preserve the working relationship between parties to a dispute through a non-adversarial method that reduces the emotional financial toll of litigants”

The Collaborative Law Process begins when the parties enter into a collaborative law participation agreement.  If a legal case has already been filed with the Court, the case is put on hold until the collaborative process is concluded or terminated.  By entering into the process, the parties agree that the process shall be confidential and prevent disclosure of communications made during the process to any court should the process break down and litigation ensue.  In addition, the agreement must provide that, should the collaborative process terminate without an agreement all attorneys must withdraw from representation.  By eliminating the possibility that either attorney will assist the clients in any litigation, the attorneys are free to devote their full effort to achieving a settlement in an efficient and cooperative manner.

Collaborative Practice has been around for over twenty years and has successfully assisted many families to resolve their family law matters without the time, expense and stress of litigation.  The parties work with a team of trained professionals consisting of the individual attorneys representing each party, a Neutral Financial Professional and a Neutral Facilitator to resolve the issues of their divorce, paternity or other family law matter in a non-adversarial way.

The full text of the Florida Statute can be found here and the full text of the Florida Rules related to Collaborative Practice can be found here.  If you would like to learn more about how Collaborative Procedures could assist your family in resolving your matter, please contact our office at 941-228-8571.

2016 Case Law Review

Each year I am honored to provide the Florida Case Review for the 12th Judicial Circuit Family Court Professional Collaborative Annual Conference.  Please click 2016-marital-and-family-law-review-course-materials to see my case law review for the year (November 2015 – October 2016).  Enjoy.

Family Law Case Filings on the Rise in 2015

karen e rushing 

Karen E. Rushing, Clerk of Court and County Comptroller, Sarasota County, Florida

Family Court Filings increased by 4 percent in 2015 in Sarasota County.

My local Attorney Bar Newspaper for Sarasota County, The Docket, had an article from our Clerk of Court, Karen E. Rushing.  She provided a three-year review of cases filed in her jurisdiction.  According to her statistics, many areas of case filings were down over the past three-year period.  However, the area of Family Law had a four percent increase in filings; from 3,954 in 2014 to 4,110 in 2015.  (The Docket, February 2016, Karen E. Rushing)

I am conducting a survey of Collaborative Law Cases in our area presently, and so far I am aware of at least 40 cases handled in a collaborative manner last year.  While I am very happy to see that this number of families have been helped by this team approach to family law, I am extremely sad to see that this is still less than one percent of the total number of filings.  This means that 99% of the families going through difficult transitions of divorce, post-divorce and paternity issues are not being assisted with a collaborative team approach to resolving their case.

I would love to see these numbers reversed.  I know that a few people need to resort to the courts to resolve differences of opinion about their divorce or paternity cases.  These people may have families that suffer from domestic violence or such severe disagreements that the only way to resolve the case is by having the intervention of a Judge to decide the case.  Yet I also know that the vast majority of cases would be better served by the guidance of collaboratively trained attorneys, financial and mental health professionals to find solutions that best suit their family.

If you would like to learn more about how your family can avoid the costs, time delays, anxiety and conflict of litigation please contact my office to learn more about the Collaborative Law Process and how it can help you and your family.  Visit my Website for more information: www.odayresolutions.com

Expanding Your Options Can Produce Great Results!

shorty head

Once You have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.  Dean Koontz

Soon after my last dog, Sally Mae Ride Astronaut Girl Dog, (my family believes that dogs with longer names seem to have more importance) passed away suddenly from cancer, my daughter and I decided to visit the local animal shelter to find a new dog to join our family.  Before we left home I made a list of my priorities for the new dog: It would be smaller than Sally who was a Gordon Setter mix, it would definitely have short hair (dear Sally had left piles of her hair around my house during her life), and it would be female as they are calmer and easier to train (sorry guys, but you know it is true).  With my relatively short list in hand, we traveled to Bishop Animal Shelter in Bradenton.  As soon as we got there and started to walk through the aisles of the kennel, my heart was touched by one dog that was so happy looking despite the small conditions allotted to each dog.  I asked my daughter how she felt about the dog and she was also immediately drawn to the dog’s bright eyes, expressive face and wagging tail.  We asked to meet the dog and right away I knew this was the one.  We named the dog Shorty and took him home.  So, how did I do with my list of priorities?  Shorty was a one year old male Rottweiler Shar Pei mix bread (we call him a Ra-pei) and weighs about 65 pounds.  Okay, he has short hair but pretty much failed on all other must-have criteria.  But we love him!

So, what does this story have to do with negotiations and mediation?  Actually a lot!  Very often I see people come to negotiations with a checklist and if they don’t get everything on their list they will not agree to anything.  They may have very good reasons for the things on the list and they believe that without attaining each of their goals the negotiations will be a failure and they will leave.  In negotiation parlance we call this positional bargaining.  This means a person takes a position and will not move from it.  They are not open to options that may meet underlying needs or desires if it is not a complete match to their pre-decided list.  Had I approached the search for a new dog this way, I would have walked into the shelter and told the clerk at the front desk my list: female, small, calm, short haired.  The clerk would have evaluated my list and told me if there were any dogs that met my priorities and if not I would have left.  Instead, the clerk invited me to walk through all of the kennels and see if I found the right dog.  By exploring options, I found the right dog for my family, now named Einstein Short Tail Entomologist Guy Dog (I won’t explain this name but there is a lot of irony in his name, which is obvious when you meet this bug hunter).  I was open to the possibilities outside my initial position and because of this we have a happy, funny boy in our family that has brought us years of joy and security.  My interests were met by this happy dog who fits in with our family, even if he does not exactly match my initial position.  So, when you enter into negotiations, make your list of goals, prioritize them in importance (short hair was clearly a deal breaker for me) and then be open to the possibility that there may be other ways to achieve happiness that you have not thought of yet.

 

Women Bring Something Different to Negotiations

swanee hunt Swanee Hunt, Former Ambassador to Austria

I was driving back from the grocery store this morning and listening to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS show.  He had a group discussion that made me wait for the conclusion of the segment before taking my groceries into the house.  The topic was international peace negotiations with the lead guest being our former Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt.  She was discussing a peace negotiation that she had been involved with to bring peace to the Balkans.  I was particularly interested in this as I was working with the UNHCR in Croatia during this same time.  The negotiations had been very difficult and complicated.  When the day came to sign the agreement finally reached she said she looked out at the room filled with men in grey suits and it hit her.  Perhaps it was the lack of women at the table that made the negotiations difficult.  When she then discussed with women around the world why they were not included she was told that the warlords did not want the women there because they “would be more likely to compromise”.  After all the men with the guns had a specific agenda and they wanted to negotiate from a place of power and the women had different priorities.

In fact, the women did have different priorities, and these included peace, security for their children, and the ability to provide their family with stability, education and health care.  This is not to say that many men don’t also have these as priorities for their society but the political and military men who were negotiating for land, rights to assets and power were not the men that may have these priorities.  The results are that the international negotiations are too often inclusive of only one group, the ones with the guns that benefit from war or at least “power negotiations”.  As was discussed in the piece on GPS, this too often make negotiations difficult and the agreements reached tenuous.

The lessons to be learned from this piece struck me hard.  Almost all of the negotiations that I am involved in on a daily basis do include women as they mostly involve family negotiations and mediation.  However, the participants may approach the negotiation priorities very differently.  It is important to ensure that everyone is clear on the goals of a lasting agreement.  Also, it is important to ensure that all parties affected by the agreement have a voice at the table.  The children are usually not included in the adult negotiations of divorce and sometimes the elder suffering severe dementia or health problems are not included in negotiations that seek to resolve their situation.  However, it is often helpful to have a picture of these “parties” present at the negotiations to keep them “present” while we discuss their priorities.  In more expansive societal negotiations, whether it be community relations, politics or international peace negotiations, it is critical that we include representatives from all aspects of the society at the table.

For more information on Swanee Hunt and her programs to include women on an international scale, please visit her website https://www.swaneehunt.com/

One Last Thing for 2015

2015_16

As the year comes to an end there is one thing I always try to do and I want to recommend to you as well.  I take a few days near the end of every year to evaluate what has transpired over the past twelve months.  I consider what went right and what went wrong.  I actually put pen to paper and write down a list of the highs and the lows.

Then I examine the highs with gratitude.  I consider each one as a gift.  Some were given to me by others or the universe.  I am thankful for my beautiful daughter and the wonderful things she has accomplished throughout the year.  I am thankful for the others in my circle of family and friends and the joy that each has brought me.  And I am blessed to live in Florida where it never gets too cold and I can take a break to walk on the beach anytime I want.  These things I have been lucky to have in my life, provided by the universe.  I am also thankful for my clients and the opportunity that they have given me to help them through difficult situations.  They have trusted me to assist them as they go through a divorce, paternity or other legal matter.  Many lawyers find working in Family Law challenging because our clients are under a lot of stress and confusion.  But this is not the case in my practice.  Because I have chosen to help people in a non-litigated way through these complex transitions, I am able to help them avoid the stress and anxiety that too often accompanies divorce or other family law matters.

When I consider the “lows” of the past year, I try to look at the list with some gratitude as well.  Perhaps it is for the lessons I learned such as when I learned that I never wanted to represent a person in a litigated divorce after a year of lows for the anxiety that my clients and I felt.  This year one of my “lows” included needing surgery on my ankle and having three months of pain and recovery.  But then I must be grateful for the wonderful skills of my surgeon that could perform the operation and that I live in a time when we have the technological skills and equipment to allow this to happen.  Generally, I have to say, that this year the list of lows was pretty small.  Another blessing.

After making the list of last year, I begin to plan for the year to come.  I use the assessment of my highs and lows to reevaluate my practice to see if there are things I should change to make it bigger, better, stronger.  I consider how I can improve my health, relationships and spiritual connections.  I set goals (not resolutions, those don’t work) and plan some initial actions to begin the year in the right direction.  Again, I actually write these down.  And at the end of the year I can use this list to evaluate how I did over the past 12 months and where I have to put my attention to achieve my real goals.

I want to recommend this process to my clients, colleagues and friends.  In this hectic and overwhelming time that we live, it is important to take a bit of time for yourself to practice some gratitude and makes some plans.  I know that, particularly for my clients who are going through stressful times it may be difficult to think of what you are grateful for.  However, when times are tough it is even more important to take stock and find the things that are working right.

So, here is to an exceptional, outstanding and wonderful 2016.  May you all have many blessings to count this time next year.

2015 Case Law Review

time

It is that time of year again.  I have been invited to present the Annual Case Law Review for the 12th Judicial Circuit Family Court Professional Collaborative (FCPC) Fall Conference.  It is a great honor to present an update of the cases to my colleagues and the Judicial Professionals in the area each year.

I have attached a copy of the Case Law Review to this Blog Post.  (Click Here)

The FCPC Fall Conference is open to Lawyers, Financial Professionals, Mental Health Professionals and other professionals working in the Family Court System that qualify for membership in FCPC.  If you would like more information about the FCPC Conference please call the Law Office of Faith Lodder.

Why I hate New Year’s Resolutions…

NY resolutions

I know. I’m lazy. But I made myself a New Years resolution that I would write myself something really special. Which means I have ’til December, right?

Catherine O’Hara

We all know the drill.  That magic date is fast approaching: January 1st.  A new beginning.  A chance to start over.  And in honor of the date, we make New Year’s Resolutions.  We make a firm commitment to do or not do something (One of Webster’s definitions of “resolution”).  “I resolve to lose 30 pounds”.  “I resolve to stop smoking.”  “I resolve to save money this year.”  “I resolve to have a better relationship with my kids.”  We say the words and we take some initial action to make it happen.  Maybe we join the gym, or buy Nicorette gum, or make a new budget, or announce to our family that we are going to be more available to them.  Have you ever noticed how full the gym is on January 2nd?  But these resolutions rarely ever work.  Have you ever noticed how empty the gym is again by January 30th?

I too have tried the New Year’s Resolution game and I too have failed.  But that fact just puts me in the majority.  According to a 2007 University of Hertfordshire study, 88% of resolutions fail.  So, if these big proclamations are bound to fail, why try?  Well, the basis of trying to be better, of doing things we know are good for us or not doing things we know are bad for us is a worthwhile endeavor.  The point is to find a way to set ourselves up for success rather than failure.  To set resolutions and then fail at them can actually be harmful.  It can lower self-esteem and further a feeling of inadequacy.

So, how do we set ourselves up for success at self-improvement?  Studies have shown that there are some ways to achieve lofty goals and make major changes.  After all, 12% of resolutions actually succeed.  Here are some hints to make better resolutions that just might work:

  1. Set specific goals. If your goals are too vague they are harder to quantify and achieve.  Rather than “I want to lose weight”, “I want to save money” or “I want to have better relationships”, set measurable, specific goals.  How much weight, how much money, in what ways should relationships improve?  Make your goals measurable and attainable.
  2. Know your Whys.  I have often discussed that for negotiations the question “why?” can be critical.  It is for resolutions as well.  As you think about the goals that you want to set, be very specific about why these are your goals.  What will you gain if you accomplish your goal.  Many people talk about losing weight so that they can see their children graduate from high school, or saving money so that they aren’t forced to eat cat food as their main protein source in old age (okay, that is my reason.)  Picture your life when the goal is achieved.   How will it be better.  Make the image vivid and glorious.  Dwell on this image and the things you will have when the goal is accomplished.  Imagine the joyous time you will have travelling the world in retirement or how fun it will be to play with your children without being out of shape.  Make your “whys” more important than your “why nots”.
  3. Break the goals down to smaller and smaller steps. Resolve to just not eat sugar for today.  Resolve to give up one Grande Macchiato Latte per day and save the $6.00 in a drawer each day for a month.  (Sorry fancy coffee shop, but I think you will survive.)  Resolve to have fun with some exercise just for today.  Then tomorrow wake up and resolve to take one more step towards your goal.  There is a reason why the successful organization of AA (and all the other Anonymous groups) use the “one day at a time” motto.  If you can string enough successful days together you will develop a habit that becomes a new way of living.  You only have to string together the majority of 365 days to have an extremely successful year.
  4. Do not make too many changes at once. Another study, this one by Stanford University, tested subject’s ability to make good choices when their minds were busy with a difficult task.  Some subjects were asked to memorize a two digit number and others were asked to memorize a seven digit number.  After having some time to work on memorizing the number the subjects were told to walk down a hall and report the number.  On the way down the hall they were offered some fruit or chocolate cake.  The subjects with the longer number were twice as likely to take the cake over the fruit as the subjects with the shorter number.  The professors found that when your brain is busy trying to do a difficult task you are less likely to have the cognitive ability to make good choices.   (This is my go to excuse for taking the chocolate cake every time – I am just doing too much with my brain.)  Therefore, try to limit the goals to just one specific, attainable goal at a time.  Don’t make your brain work so hard at trying to change everything at once.
  5. Celebrate your success and forgive your setbacks.  When you attain a short term goal celebrate.  Perhaps seven days of saving the funds from your Latte warrants an extra 30 minutes of TV in the evening.  Or after losing five pounds you should buy yourself a new set of running shoes.  But if one day you fall off the wagon and eat the cake, don’t beat yourself up.  This is not failure, this is a setback.  If your child came to you and told you that she did not achieve her goal for one day would you berate her and tell her that she was a failure and should stop trying?  (If you answer yes to this question, then perhaps we should have a talk about positive parenting.)  Of course not, you would tell her that you are proud of her trying to better herself and you know she can succeed when she gets back on track tomorrow.  So, be as nice to yourself as you would be to your child.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Every successful person has failed hundreds of times before they accomplished their goals.  If you question your ability to succeed, check out the list of 50 famous “failures”.  http://www.budbilanich.com/50-famous-people-who-failed-at-their-first-attempt-at-career-success/
  6. Develop a social support system. You may have a hard time recognizing your accomplishments but others will surely see you trying and help you celebrate your success.  I have several friends that are working hard at getting in shape.  We still occasionally go out for “drinks” after work.  However, they drink water and order salads.  I am thrilled for them and honor their accomplishments.  If you have friends that don’t celebrate your goals for self-improvement then maybe you have the wrong friends at the wrong times.  You can still be friends with these folks but just don’t include them in activities where they can sabotage your forward movement.   You have to know your temptations and include friends and family members in ways that will support you in overcoming them.  You can also use your goals to develop new friends that support you.  Join a club that supports your goals such as a runners club or a weight watchers group or an investing club.  You will have a chance to meet others who have succeeded, learn from them and celebrate your successes with like-minded people.  These folks can hold you accountable and be a coach through hard times.

Okay.  So I don’t actually hate New Year’s Resolutions.  I just hate ones that are set up for failure.  I try to make resolutions regularly in my life.  Some are more successful than others.  None are done just once a year on a magic day in the middle of the winter.  I do like to use this magic time to review last year’s goals and celebrate the successes.  Then I examine the places where I may not have accomplished my goals and see how I can better work towards success.  Finally, I plan my next year out with overall goals, manageable steps to accomplish these goals and planned rewards for my success.  (Yes, I like the word success  Just saying it makes me feel successful.)  This works for me.  My sincere hope is that it will work for you and 2015 will be your best year ever!  Happy New Year!