Serving Families Since 1996

Family Law Mediators | Collaborative Law
Over 25 Years Serving Southwest Florida
(239) 334-0075




Serving clients in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Bonita Springs, Naples, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, & LaBelle and throughout Florida

The Florida Collaborative Law Process Act became effective July 1, 2017. Collaborative Divorce is an alternative to the traditional divorce process. To qualify as a Collaborative Divorce case, you and your spouse must be represented by attorneys. You and your attorneys must sign the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, which includes a disqualification clause for the lawyers if the Collaborative Law Process terminates. This means you and your spouse are formally pledge in writing that you will work toward a settlement on all issues in a non-hostile manner through an honest exchange of information.  Your collaborative team will typically consist of a Financial Neutral and a Communication Facilitator, (often a mental health professional.) The collaborative process involves a series of team meetings with you and your spouse and the collaborative team you share following a written agenda for each meeting.  The process is designed to focus on the interests of both parties with negotiations done in a respectful, transparent, and orderly fashion. This means trust for the team members and respect for their thoughts and input is imperative in seeking a final, signed agreement. This approach is confidential and you and your spouse get to maintain a high level of control over the entire process. One thing we really like about collaborative divorce is that it prioritizes placing child custody parenting plans in your hands while utilizing the Communication Facilitator/Mental Health Expert at the beginning of a case. You and your collaborative team can be creative when deciding on settlement options. This team-based, problem-solving approach can be highly effective and can minimize the emotional strain, and posturing that typically occur during litigation. The agreement is then submitted to the court with a judge approving the agreement, which makes the case uncontested. Bergermann Law Firm has been a proponent of Collaborative Law from the beginning and Vera Bergermann is a member of a statewide leadership initiative in this area. She is a member of Collaborative Professionals of Southwest Florida, The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals Leadership Institute, and The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Something that sets Bergermann Law Firm apart from other Collaborative Divorce lawyers is the in-house counselor we have as part of our staff. Once you’ve retained our firm, we will have you meet with him within a week. The purpose of this meeting is to establish what the communication expectations are between you and our firm, to discuss the divorce process and what you can expect, and to talk through any fears you may have about the process. Our counselor is also available to be a Communication Facilitator as part of your Collaborative Divorce Team.


What is a Collaborative Divorce?
A Collaborative Divorce offers an alternative approach to the traditional divorce process. In this method, both parties and your respective attorneys enter into a Participation Agreement, pledging to tackle all divorce-related matters through cooperation and negotiation rather than resorting to litigation. The process involves a series of conferences where the parties collaborate towards reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. Should the collaborative efforts not yield success, the attorneys are obligated to withdraw from representation, and the parties must seek new legal counsel if they wish to pursue litigation.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
  • Cost-effectiveness: Collaborative Divorce generally proves to be more affordable than traditional divorce litigation. You and your spouse agree to willingly share relevant information, eliminating the need for extensive formal discovery conducted by your attorneys. With less work involved, attorney’s fees are reduced. Moreover, when experts are required, joint retention can avoid redundant work and expenses.
  • Time-efficient: The Collaborative Divorce Process typically spans several sessions over a 2-6 month period. In contrast, traditional divorce proceedings often stretch over a year before reaching trial, and appeals can prolong the process for years.
  • Enhanced settlement outcomes: Your family’s circumstances are unique, deserving of a settlement crafted to meet your specific needs. Collaborative processes yield final agreements that are usually more comprehensive and tailored than those issued by a judge following contested court proceedings.
  • Foundation for a brighter future: While ending a marriage is never easy, the collaborative approach reduces stress, fosters cooperation, and promotes mutual respect. By navigating the process together, you and your spouse lay the groundwork for a less tumultuous future, enabling better co-parenting and reduced emotional strain on all involved.
What matters can a collaborative divorce address?
A collaborative divorce process can address a wide range of issues related to your separation and divorce, including but not limited to:
  1. Negotiation and drafting of prenuptial agreements, divorce agreements, and formal legal separation agreements.
  2. Calculations, modification, and enforcement of child support.
  3. Parenting plans such as custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and time-sharing agreements, including addressing interstate jurisdictional issues.
  4. Disputes involving parent relocation.
  5. Division of marital property, including allocation of retirement funds, joint assets, and debts.
  6. Various forms of alimony, such as temporary support and durational or permanent alimony.
  7. Provision of temporary relief, such as spousal support, child support, custody and visitation arrangements, exclusive use of the marital home, and access to marital assets during the divorce proceedings.
  8. Modifications and enforcement of court orders regarding custody matters, child support, or alimony after the divorce is finalized.
  9. Establishing shared parenting arrangements.
What are the disadvantages of collaborative divorce?

One of the primary drawbacks of a collaborative divorce is that if you do not come to an agreement, you will need to start all over, with new lawyers. You cannot go to court immediately after like you can with mediation.

Who do I need on my Collaborative Team?

In the Collaborative process, you have the opportunity to put together a multidisciplinary team of professionals to aid both you and your spouse in comprehending and resolving your conflicts. This team might encompass communication facilitators (typically mental health counselors), neutral financial advisors, accountants, parenting specialists, child specialists, vocational experts, appraisers, and other specialists as necessary. It is typical to engage neutral joint experts and divide the costs between you and your spouse. This approach minimizes the expense of expert assistance and mitigates the risk of conflicting expert opinions.

What is a Participation Agreement?

A Participation Agreement, also known as a Collaborative Commitment Agreement, serves as a cornerstone of the Collaborative Divorce Process. Signed by both parties and your respective attorneys, this agreement commonly includes the following provisions:

  1. Voluntary disclosure of all relevant financial information by each party.
  2. Commitment to explore negotiation for a divorce settlement without resorting to court proceedings.
  3. Agreement to engage a single neutral expert if expertise is required.
  4. Acknowledgment that in the event of an impasse leading to litigation, the collaborative attorneys will step down, and litigation attorneys will be engaged to represent the parties in court.
What happens if we can’t reach a settlement?

If you and your spouse can’t reach a full settlement on all the issues, there’s still potential to resolve some issues, thus narrowing down the matters that require a court decision. This approach saves both time and money. Any unresolved disputes must be submitted to the court for resolution. At this point, your collaborative attorneys will step down from representation, and you and your spouse will have to hire litigation attorneys to advocate for your positions in court. Additionally, you may still have a mediator continue mediating the contested issues even after litigation has commenced.