Collaborative Divorce in Florida: Laws, Costs, & Alternatives

In Florida, collaborative divorce laws define a method for divorcing couples to resolve the legal aspects of divorce outside of the courtroom through non-adversarial voluntary settlement procedures. Collaborative can be less expensive and less adversarial. In process, both divorcing spouses work alongside their collaborative attorneys to reach a fair settlement.

Collaborative divorce in Florida offers advantages such as more control, flexibility, and lower costs. It can also resolve family law concerns like child custody and support and alimony faster.

Lawyers may charge a flat fee between $2,000 to $20,000 or more for the entire collaborative case — which can be more cost-effective than traditional litigation as it avoids long legal battles that can drive up expert and court fees.

However, collaborative divorce may not be the best option for everyone. It requires trust, honesty, and open communication from both sides.

If there are issues regarding communication, animosity, or complex legal matters, other options like a litigated divorce, mediation, arbitrated divorce, or contested divorce may be better.

What is Collaborative Divorce Law in Florida?

The Collaborative Law Process Act in Florida is contained within the divorce laws of Florida. Statute 61.56 covers the non-adversarial divorce process that aims to maintain a positive working relationship between all parties while reducing litigation’s emotional and financial strain.

All involved parties must sign a “collaborative law participation agreement.”

Both spouses and their respective collaborative attorneys will aim to craft a mutually agreeable and fair agreement encompassing the critical legal aspects of divorce. This includes alimony, custody and support arrangements, and the division of nonmarital and marital assets.

Other experts (such as a neutral financial expert and child specialist) can also provide their insights on how to make the divorce fair.

At its core, collaborative divorce is a commitment to resolution, not retribution. Its key focus is to resolve family law disputes without requiring court intervention.

Collaborative divorce in Florida provides distinct advantages, including greater control, privacy, a less adversarial atmosphere, suitability for complex cases, and a voluntary commitment.

However, challenges such as the need for total trust, less guidance, and the potential for restarting the process if it fails should also be considered.

Does Collaborative Divorce Require Hiring a Divorce Attorney?

Yes, a collaborative divorce attorney should be hired by each spouse to represent them throughout the collaborative divorce process.

Each spouse’s collaborative attorney should be a trusted advocate for their client’s best interests in order to provide zealous representation.

Having a divorce attorney ensures that divorcing spouses have a full understanding of the legal consequences of their decisions during the collaborative divorce process.

Even though the “collaborative law participation agreement” signed by all parties says that the attorneys must withdraw if the divorce case goes to court, it’s still important to have an attorney who’s an expert in collaborative practice.

Hiring an experienced collaborative divorce attorney ensures that both spouses stay focused on cooperation and settlement and pursue a more amicable divorce to avoid escalating to court proceedings.

What are the Advantages of a Collaborative Divorce in Florida?

The advantages of a collaborative divorce in Florida are listed below.

  • More privacy
  • Voluntary participation
  • Less adversarial proceedings
  • Suitability for complex divorces
  • Greater control

​Based on these advantages, collaborative divorce is a good solution for divorces in which both parties are willing to work in good faith to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome. 

Greater Control and Flexibility

Unlike a traditional divorce case where a court imposes decisions, a collaborative process empowers spouses to actively shape the outcomes of their divorce.

In the case of developing a parenting plan, for example, a court would typically adhere to the guidelines set out in Florida law to create a plan most suitable for the child’s needs.

However, with a collaborative process, the couple has more flexibility to create a plan that works for the best interest of everyone involved.

This enhanced control allows for more tailored and mutually agreeable resolutions on matters such as child custody and support, alimony, and marital property division.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Another advantage of collaborative divorces in Florida is that it maintains privacy and confidentiality for each spouse.

Unlike traditional court proceedings, the collaborative process is conducted privately. This allows spouses to navigate sensitive issues like parenting plans, alimony, and property division confidentially.

Any personal and relevant information remains confidential during the collaborative divorce process and is not made public without the couple’s consent.

However, signing the “collaborative divorce participation agreementmeans both parties will commit to full disclosure of anything required of them, such as financial information.

Less Adversarial

Sometimes, Florida law requires voluntary settlement procedures like mediation and collaboration to try to settle marriage disputes out of courtrooms before continuing to litigation.

This is ideal for those who would prefer not to be questioned by an attorney in courtrooms and further perpetuating the “us versus them mentality” with their spouse.

Fortunately, the less adversarial nature of collaboration prioritizes the future over the past. It allows couples to discuss shared aspirations for their children in a collaborative environment.

This process is cost-effective, streamlined, and efficient compared to litigation and helps couples avoid prolonged court hearings and the associated high legal fees.

Suitability for Complex Divorces

The collaborative process caters effectively to complex divorces involving significant assets, businesses, or child custody challenges.

Collaborative divorce is ideal for complex cases as it allows for a more tailored and cooperative approach.

Suppose a divorce case involves intricate financial matters, diverse assets, or interstate divorces. In that case, a collaborative divorce might just be the key to a smoother and more successful dissolution.


A Florida collaborative divorce is voluntary, meaning both spouses commit to the divorce process willingly. Couples choose collaborative divorce to avoid going to court and make their own decisions instead.

The collaborative divorce process aims to end in a win-win situation. Unlike traditional divorce, where one party might get more than the other party (according to the judge’s decision), collaborative cases seek to find mutually beneficial solutions where both parties are likely to abide as they helped create them.

Can Alimony be Negotiated in a Collaborative Divorce?

Yes, determining spousal support, or alimony, can be negotiated in collaborative divorce cases. Open communication allows spouses to reach alimony agreements that suit their specific circumstances.

Florida law explicitly acknowledges alimony, maintenance, and child support as issues falling within the purview of collaborative matters.

Can Child Custody be Negotiated in a Collaborative Divorce?

Yes, the determination of child custody in Florida can be negotiated in collaborative divorces. A full agreement on custody arrangements and parenting plans is necessary, especially if the couple has minor children.

Aside from determining if the spouses will have sole, joint, or shared custody, visitation arrangements should also be discussed.

Can Child Support be Negotiated in a Collaborative Divorce?

Yes, the collaborative process can be used to determine child support in Florida, so that each spouse can ensure the child is treated fairly.

This covers financial support, usually based on the parents’ incomes. A financial professional may be required for divorcing parents who own businesses and other complex assets.

Can Marital Assets be Divided in Collaborative Divorce?

Yes, the question of how marital assets are divided in a Florida divorce is negotiated by the collaborative team in a manner that suits the specific situation of each spouse.

This is why the collaborative divorce option is useful for complex divorces. Financial experts can assist in ensuring a fair distribution of assets.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Collaborative Divorce in Florida?

The disadvantages of a collaborative divorce in Florida are listed below. 

  • Requires full trust, honesty, and openness
  • Offers less guidance
  • Start over if the process fails

Based on the disadvantages above, collaborative divorce is not a good solution for divorces where parties cannot communicate effectively, have significant disagreements, are unwilling to compromise, or when the case involves complex financial or emotional issues.

Requires Trust, Honesty, and Openness

Collaborative divorce works best for couples who can communicate openly and have high trust.

Success depends on sharing information transparently and navigating the process with mutual understanding. Lack of trust and transparency can hinder the process’s effectiveness.

Each spouse should be honest about their assets and any potential challenges.

Less Guidance

Collaborative divorce has less guidance than traditional divorce because it doesn’t involve litigation.

In a collaborative process, the spouses work together to reach an agreement on various issues through negotiations and mediation, meaning there’s less legal guidance.

However, a mental health professional, appraiser, and other professionals may be asked to come in to help make the agreement as beneficial as possible to both parties.

Despite that, the couple still gets the last say.

Start Over if the Process Fails

A collaborative divorce can fail due to various factors, including disagreements over parenting time, spousal support, and unresolved emotional issues.

If the process fails, each spouse must hire new divorce attorneys and begin new legal proceedings because each collaborative lawyer can no longer represent their clients in court.

REMEMBER: Once a divorce case reaches the court system, both parties’ control over the outcome will be limited as the judge makes the final decisions.

Are Agreements Made in Collaborative Divorce Binding?

Yes, agreements made in a collaborative divorce are legally binding if made with mutual consent, legal counsel involvement, compliance with Florida law, court filing, and clear language.

Judges generally uphold these agreements unless there is a valid legal reason not to do so. This formalization of agreements ensures their validity and enforceability.

For example, following the “collaborative divorce participation agreement” (which includes finding a new divorce lawyer if the case goes to court) is usually required — but there are some exceptions.

Fraudulent or unconscionable agreements are unenforceable, and significant changes in circumstances can also result in the judge modifying the agreements.

How Are They Enforced?

The agreements reached by both parties are enforced through the court system. This process involves a judge who carefully reviews the agreements to ensure both parties agree and comply with all legal standards.

Once the judge approves the agreements, they become legally binding, and each party’s legal counsel will help to incorporate them into a court order.

In case of a breach of the agreement, either party can petition the court for enforcement.

The judge will then review the agreement and, if it has been proved that there was a breach, enforce it through various legal means, including penalties for contempt of court.

This ensures that both parties are held accountable for fulfilling their obligations.

How Much Does a Collaborative Divorce Cost in Florida?

A divorce lawyer who handles collaborative cases may charge a flat fee that ranges from $2,000 to $20,000 or more for the entire case. Collaborative cases in Florida cost less than traditional divorce.

The cost of divorce can vary — but it usually includes legal fees, fees for collaborative professionals, court fees, and other related expenses.

What Fees Are Involved in a Collaborative Divorce?

The fees involved in a Florida collaborative divorce may include legal fees, collaborative professionals’ fees, filing fees, and other related expenses. Parties need to discuss fees with their attorneys and professionals upfront.

  • Legal Fees: Collaborative attorneys charge separate fees for each spouse, based on case complexity, experience, and negotiation duration, either as an hourly or flat fee.
  • Specialist Fees (Optional): When expert opinions are required (such as from financial specialists or psychologists), they’re also called into the meeting. Their fees may vary depending on the services and expertise they provide.
  • Filing Fees: These are fees associated with filing necessary documents with the court.

NOTE: Fees and costs for family law cases can vary. Speaking with several divorce attorneys is recommended to understand the potential costs of building a collaborative divorce team. 

What Factors Impact the Cost of a Collaborative Divorce?

Various factors can affect the cost of a collaborative divorce, such as the case’s complexity, the attorney’s experience, the duration of the collaboration, and the number of specialists involved. 

Since both parties have control over the outcome, they can cooperate to avoid litigation costs.

  • Complexity of the Divorce: Intricate divorces with significant assets, businesses, or child custody challenges typically involve more attorney and specialist time, driving up the cost.
  • Attorney Experience: Many lawyers offer a fixed or flat fee for the collaborative divorce process, while experienced attorneys may charge higher hourly rates. 
  • Negotiation Duration: The longer it takes to reach a full agreement, the higher the legal fees.
  • Number of Specialists Involved: Utilizing multiple specialists adds to the overall cost.

How Long Does a Collaborative Divorce Take in Florida?

Collaborative divorces in Florida typically take 3-6 months, offering a considerably quicker resolution compared to the average litigated divorce that can extend for years.

In a litigated case, the duration varies significantly, with a fast divorce taking six months, while unresolved issues may lead to litigation lasting over a year.

Litigants also often face delays, waiting over a month for a hearing due to reliance on the judicial calendar.

The collaborative process is more efficient because the parties control the pace and negotiations. This helps in resolving faster.

What are the Alternatives to a Collaborative Divorce in Florida?

The alternatives to collaborative divorce in Florida are listed below.

  • Litigated divorce
  • Uncontested divorce
  • Arbitrated divorce
  • Mediated divorce

Litigated Divorce

If parties involved in a divorce or custody case can’t agree on the terms, the case must be resolved by a judge. This process is known as divorce litigation, and it is adversarial in nature.

Divorce litigation is a legal action between two parties who disagree on an issue. During the proceedings, both parties will present the facts of their case regarding the areas of disagreement.

If spouses cannot reach an amicable settlement, the divorce will go through a family tribunal, even if the partners have no children.

In contrast to collaborative divorce, divorce litigation is also more expensive and lasts longer.

Divorce Mediation

A mediated divorce is an alternative non-adversarial process involving a neutral third party helping couples reach agreements. Each party retains complete control over the outcome. They can also bring in their own experts if everyone consents.

The mediator’s role is to facilitate communication and effective negotiation between the parties and not to make decisions on their behalf. During the mediation process, the parties discuss their concerns, interests, and priorities, and the mediator helps them explore possible solutions and reach agreements.

Collaborative Divorce vs Divorce Mediation

When comparing collaborative divorce vs divorce mediation there are important differences. Unlike the collaborative process, a mediator does not represent individual interests and cannot provide legal advice or create legally binding agreements.

Arbitrated Divorce

Arbitration is a flexible alternative to trial, where the parties choose an arbitrator or a neutral third party to preside over the case in a comfortable setting. The arbitration process is usually much quicker than a trial.

During the arbitration, both sides present their evidence and can cross-examine witnesses. Parties can choose binding or non-binding arbitration. The binding decision is final with limited challenges, while the non-binding decision allows for renegotiation.

In contrast to a collaborative divorce, arbitrated divorce agreements don’t come from each party but from the arbitrator.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on all terms of their separation.

This can happen when the spouses agree on all aspects of the divorce and submit an agreement to the court or when one spouse files for divorce and the other does not respond.

It involves both spouses working together to agree on a fair settlement for their family without the involvement of lawyers or mediators. There will be no formal trial, and appearing in court may not be necessary. A lawyer will only be required to file the divorce papers.

In contrast to a collaborative divorce, an uncontested divorce is a faster and more affordable option for both spouses.

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