Escambia and Santa Rosa County family law attorneys and other family planning professionals are excited to announce the formation of a new non-profit, West Florida Collaborative Law, Inc. The organization is a consortium of legal, mental health, financial, and other professionals who help solve family and marital legal disputes via the collaborative family law method.
Collaborative family law is a process to resolve domestic legal disputes. It was developed in the 1990’s, and after gaining momentum in other parts of the country and in south Florida, local attorneys have taken note and adopted the method for area cases. Instead of litigation, the parties commit to the collaborative process and its mandate for a transparent exchange of information and a cooperative spirit. Through a series of meetings, with neutral professionals and the parties’ respective attorneys, the parties create settlement agreements, and the matter is filed in court as an uncontested case.
According to attorney John Susko, president and board member of WFCL, “Just as mediation changed civil and family litigation in the 1980’s and 1990’s, collaborative law is revolutionizing the way attorneys and their clients think about problem-solving. So far, in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, we have approximately fifteen attorneys trained, as well as mental health and financial professionals, and WFCL will host an introductory and advanced training November 2- 4, 2017. We look forward to growing with our fellow Bar members in Okaloosa County.”
The Florida Legislature adopted the Florida Collaborative Law Process Act last year, to become effective upon adoption of rules regulating the Florida Bar. Those rules were approved by the Florida Supreme Court last month, and both the rules and the statute become effective on July 1, 2017.
Joshua Aaron Jones, secretary of WFCL, believes that the alternative dispute resolution method will spread to other practice area. “After experiencing my first collaborative divorce case, it’s clear this approach will lend itself easily to business and probate dispute resolution. It’s exciting to be part of a new philosophy that helps clients find a speedier conclusion. The dockets can’t keep drowning in the current backlog. I just scheduled a four-hour trial that can’t be heard until December – six months to get a hearing. Families and businesses want to move on with their lives, not wait around for the court’s calendar.”
Stephen Pitre, a shareholder at Clark Partington agrees. “Since the economic crash of the late 2000’s, families and businesses want greater cost predictability for legal services, and that includes getting to a solution in the most efficient manner possible. Traditional civil procedure is almost antiquated, at this point. The practice of law has to keep innovating, to keep up with evolving client demands and expectations. More of the same will only harm our profession.”
Led by John Susko, President; Stephen Pitre and Elise Lovelace, co-vice presidents; Joshua Aaron Jones, secretary; and Catherine Bond, treasurer, WFCL strives to educate the public and professional colleagues about the collaborative method, as an alternative to traditional litigation or mediation. Board members include Amy Waddell, Galen Novotny, Jon Kagan, John Hodges, and Mary McDaniel, along with the officers. In addition to monthly membership meetings, the group provides speakers to various civic and professional groups, at no cost.
About West Florida Collaborative Law, Inc.: WFCL is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. It is not an attorney referral service. The group is a consortium of legal, mental health, financial, and other family planning professionals who collaborate to solve family and marital disputes, without traditional litigation. For more information: www.westfloridacollaborativelaw.com