The Guardian Ad Litem program is a well-established effort for helping kids who are neglected and abused. Until recently though, there was no such program for kids caught in high-conflict divorce cases.
Too often, judges struggle to obtain objective information about how the kids are faring in these difficult circumstances.
When launching the new program, judges in the 12th Judicial Circuit (Sarasota) Family Division reached out to Icard-Merrill about helping out. As of this writing, we are proud to announce that almost 25 attorneys have volunteered.
Attorneys who participate in the program will have powers similar to volunteers in the traditional Guardian Ad Litem program. Pursuant to Florida statutes, they will have broad powers to investigate, report and make recommendations to judges concerning the child’s well-being.
The inspiration for the program stems from a similar effort launched in Pinellas County. After seeing the success of the program, Judges Charles E. Williams and Lee E. Haworth decided to give it a try in their district.
Attorneys participating in the program will be required to complete specialized training before taking on any cases. Judges in the family law division will identify cases where they feel require an extra set of eyes and ears to ensure the well-being of kids caught in this difficult situation.
We are eager to help the 12th circuit make this program a success. As family law and divorce attorneys, we’re keenly aware of how bitter arguments over custody and assets can be harmful to any kids involved.
To learn more about the program and our firm’s activities, check out this roundtable discussion that aired on local TV earlier this year.
First introduced in 1991, the practice of collaborative divorce has grown tremendously in the last 20+ years.
A collaborative divorce can be defined as “a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of contested litigation.”
Rather than going through the stress and cost of a traditional divorce, the collaborative divorce approach allows separating couples to settle the terms of their separation face-to-face, in good faith and out of court. This approach has been shown to reduce stress, especially on any children involved. It is also more private since any litigation is a matter of public record.
Since its inception over 20 years ago, the collaborative divorce option has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity.
Some states, like New Jersey, are going a step further and by mandating divorcing couples try a collaborative approach first before resorting to the traditional route of litigation.
Generally speaking, New Jersey is following the Collaborative Law Act developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law (a.k.a. the Uniform Law Commission, or ULC). The ULC was established in 1892 and “…provides states with non-partisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.”
Similar laws related to collaborative divorce have been enacted in:
Although other states do not have formal statutes related to collaborative divorce, there are procedures developed by local courts and legal organizations to facilitate this process. It’s estimated over 22,000 attorneys in the U.S. and across the world has received training in this form of alternative dispute resolution.
A collaborative divorce bill, SB 1190, was filed in the Florida Senate in 2014. Although the upper-chamber passed the bill unanimously, the Florida House was unable to act on it before the conclusion of the session.
According to an analysis and fiscal impact statement for the bill, collaborative divorce is a much faster option and much less expensive. A study by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals evaluating 933 cases found that 80% of all collaborative divorces are settled within a year, and 86% of the cases ended with a formal agreement and no court.
While a collaborative divorce is a good option for separating couples who feel they can amicably negotiate a settlement, it is generally not recommended in cases of domestic violence, substance abuse or severe mental illness.
Icard-Merrill’s exceptional team of Florida divorce attorneys and mediation experts strongly support the idea of collaborative divorce, or any case where two disputing parties can come together and hammer out an agreement.
If you’re considering divorce, this collaborative approach has been shown to cost less, and more importantly, minimize stress in an already stressful situation.
The recent media coverage of National Football League (“NFL”) player Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, has placed a spotlight on domestic violence in American society. The saga of the pro star has gripped the nation and brought back memories of past celebrities and sports stars accused of domestic violence.
Continue reading for a brief timeline of events surrounding the case of Ray Rice, which is current as of this writing. We’ll provide updates as the case progresses and more information becomes available.
More information on the process of seeking an injunction against domestic violence in Florida is available here.
If you’ve been victimized by domestic violence, get help immediately, be it through friends and family, or organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And to discuss your individual situation from a legal perspective, contact domestic violence attorneys at Sarasota’s Icard-Merrill today.