Collaborative Family Law

We promote this therapeutic and constructive alternative to traditional divorce by assisting families in conflict with a cooperative process that provides resources and options which are many times unavailable. This novel approach works to end a marriage or relationship respectfully.

Watch firm founder and senior attorney Carolyn S. Zisser explain the difference between traditional family law and the more innovative collaborative family law approach.

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Collaborative Family Law Video Transcript

SS: Welcome back to Buzz TV. I’m Steve Strum. This morning we have Carolyn Zisser, with Zisser Family Law. Good morning.

CZ: Good morning.

SS: So we were talking a little bit off set about what you do as a lawyer, in family law. Tell us a little bit about your firm.

CZ: My firm is located at the Beaches in Jacksonville. We exclusively practice in marital and family law. I formed my law firm 41 years ago, and we offer a choice for clients of either handling their family law case in the traditional litigated approach, or using the collaborative family law model.

SS: So in the universe of family law, which is about divorces, which we have a 50% probability these days of having that. What you said is a little different than what most lawyers do. Tell us a little bit about the difference between traditional family law, and then collaborative family law, and why that is unique in the marketplace.

CZ: What we first want to do is to understand the client’s case by talking about the various issues that are involved using the “PEACE” acronym: parental responsibly, equitable distribution, alimony, child support, and everything else. And then after we answer all of the client’s questions then we talk about what is the approach that can be best used to satisfy our client’s goal. And one is the traditional approach where you file the petition for dissolution of marriage, or the petition for relief, and it goes through the court system with the rules of discovery under the rules of procedure.

The other is to elect to not to go through the court system, and instead elect to handle the case “collaboratively.” And in 2018 we now have a collaborative family law statute, and we also have collaborative family law rules approved by the Florida Supreme Court. This approach is being used nationally, and is very much used in other counties in Florida, especially Dade County and in the Orlando area. It’s relatively new to North Florida/Duval County for some reason. But we have a very active group – the collaborative family law group – and people can learn more about collaborative family law by visiting https://collaborativefamlaw.com/.

The beauty of this approach is that the parties themselves, with the assistance of their attorneys and neutral facilitators, can work through their issues to peacefully solve the various issues involved in a family law case, whether it be parenting or financial support or otherwise.

SS: So we have two different mechanisms by which people can be divorced: you file your petition and go through the court system and go through the litigious process and then you part ways. Yours is collaborative where it doesn’t have all of those items. What do you say to the person looking at divorce saying, “You know what? We’re collaborative anyway. I don’t need a lawyer.”

CZ: Well first of all, when there are children involved and significant legal issues and money involved, everybody needs a lawyer. I do not believe that people can handle legal issues by themselves. Sometimes it’s a cost issue. We have Duval County Legal Aid. We have lawyers who charge less, who haven’t been in practice quite as long. But I do believe that when you try to handle your own divorce it’s a very, very big mistake.

You also shouldn’t be going to a mediator to solve the case because the mediator is going to need both parties having counsel, in most cases. I do want to say that even in the traditional approach, which is the court approach, mediation happens at the end.

The advantage of the collaborative approach – this is not my approach, this is an approach that I believe very strongly in, that is being used widely in other states and in other areas of the country, and really needs to be used more and more in Duval County like it is in other parts of the state – involves a neutral facilitator at the very beginning, a psychologist is involved at the very beginning. One of the things I believe strongly after 41 plus, actually 46, years of practicing law, is I believe so much of what’s involved in a family law case, is the psychodynamics. Understanding the psychology that’s driving the case. And so that is why it’s very important to meet with a neutral psychologist at the beginning of the case that’s involved in the collaborative process, neutral financial advisors, and neutral custody advisors so that the parties and their attorneys can be working together in a team to be trying to solve their legal problems. And then once there is an agreement at the end, then you go to court to have the court approve it.

SS: Got it. So if people want to find out more about this process, about you, how do they connect with you?

CZ: They would connect with me by going to my website https://www.zisserfamilylaw.com/. Or calling me in the office for an appointment at (904) 249-8787. We have a full law firm. We have an associate attorney Lynn Salvatore, as well as me and a paralegal and a very experienced empathetic and strong staff. And to find more about find out more about collaborative family law visit the Jacksonville Collaborative Family Law group website https://www.collaborativecfl.com.

SS: Thank you for joining us and telling us a little bit about what a new approach to an existing reality that we live in.

CZ: Yes, thank you.