West Palm Beach divorce attorney expands family law office throughout Florida with new virtual law office
How is a Virtual Law Office Different Than a Regular Law Office?
How Does Virtual Divorce Work and How Do I Get One in Florida?
Virtual Divorces are Not One Size Fits All! You Have Choices…
Why Should I Hire a Virtual Divorce Law Office?
As remote communication in the world of commerce becomes the norm rather than the exception, a silver lining of the pandemic is the continuation post-pandemic of conducting business virtually from the comfort of home or the remote space of your choosing.
Legal services are no exception in the virtual business world. The legal industry has been utilizing ever-evolving technological advancements, particularly over the last decade, to provide clients the most efficient and effective services possible.
In the arena of Florida divorce, during the pandemic the courts deemed family law cases “non-essential,” halting all cases and leaving the family in indefinite uncertainty and, more often than not, misery.
A few months into the pandemic, Florida court administrators authorized the use of virtual platforms for spouses and their attorneys awaiting judges’ resolution of contested issues in hearings and trials. But the already backlogged court dockets made getting a court hearing time a waiting game of usually three to four months out – an eternity if you are at loggerheads with your spouse about time-sharing rights with your children or the need for temporary alimony or child support.
With legal divorce services 100 percent virtual for more than two years, the family law community realized we could avoid the waiting game and our clients’ indefinite uncertainty and misery if they agreed to an uncontested divorce process. That is a divorce by negotiation, collaboration, cooperation, or mediation, rather than waiting endlessly for a resolution by a judge at contested court hearings and trials.
We also realized conducting uncontested conferences in virtual platforms resulted in lightning-fast divorces for our clients. Virtual negotiations also served to decrease our clients’ anxiety and feelings of intimidation during their divorce process. This naturally resulted in their ability to make better decisions on critical and life-changing issues in their case. Hence, the virtual family law office and the virtual divorce were born. We learned there were no drawbacks, only advantages, to working virtually in uncontested cases.
Here are some references on virtual divorce as it developed during the pandemic:
Now with the pandemic lockdown and ban on in-person contact lifted, virtual divorce remains a premier choice for those who want a seamless and straightforward divorce process without in-person meetings and court appearances.
How is a Virtual Law Office
Different Than a Regular Law Office?
A virtual law office is exactly as it sounds: an online resource that connects clients with attorneys for legal services conducted remotely using video, teleconferencing and internet communication (i.e., email).
Virtual law offices are particularly effective for divorce due to the document-heavy component as well as the lack of any true need for a physical meeting between attorney and client, as contrasted with medical services requiring a patient to be examined physically by a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Virtual communication provides clients with a seamless process just as effective, if not more effective, as in-person conferences and appearances. And scheduling mutually convenient meeting times is faster and easier, with no time taken away from life activities, work, childcare, or travel.
A virtual divorce is also ideal for couples who have already separated with one or both spouses living in different cities, states, or countries.
How Does Virtual Divorce Work
and How Do I Get One in Florida?
A virtual divorce is conducted through virtual platforms such as Zoom, Webex, or Microsoft Teams in tandem with internet resources, email communications, and conference calls. Virtual divorces are typically less complicated for the attorney and less demanding on the client than traditional divorces because they save time, money, and stress.
In Florida, obtaining a virtual divorce is a straightforward process, especially if it is uncontested (meaning no court appearances). If the divorce is uncontested, spouses can begin the process of virtual divorce through a virtual law office either separately or together if they can agree on an attorney who is also a divorce mediator.
In either instance, the spouses must agree their marriage is irretrievably broken (in other words, there is nothing that can fix it) and be willing to divorce without litigation, meaning not to use the court system for the resolution of their divorce.
The first step in the virtual divorce process
is to contact and compare law offices that handle divorce cases virtually. Once you have selected the best firm and attorney to suit your specific needs, your attorney will set an initial intake conference with you by video or teleconference at your preference.
During this initial conference, your attorney will collect information from you regarding your assets and debts, and if you have minor children, details regarding them.
This will also be your first opportunity to ask any questions you have about the process or your legal rights in the divorce. The details you give your attorney are then used to prepare the legal documents in your case for filing with the court through the Florida statewide e-portal filing system.
You will also be given the opportunity to review, approve, and sign the documents created by your attorney before they are filed. For documents required to be notarized, virtual law firms can notarize your signature remotely.
The documents in your case can be filed with the court either before or after the negotiations in your case conclude. The timing of filing the court documents is a matter of strategy, which you and your attorney will decide together.
After the initial intake conference, with your attorney fully informed of all details and issues in your case,
it is time for the negotiations between you and your spouse to commence. If your attorney has been hired exclusively to represent you (as opposed to serving as a divorce attorney mediator for both you and your spouse), your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will meet and confer virtually regarding the positions of you and your spouse on all matters to be resolved in your case.
These remote conferences will include discussions on how you will divide your marital assets and debts. If you have children, there will be discussions about the details of your parenting plan, which governs how you will raise your children as unmarried co-parents.
If you and your spouse have hired a virtual divorce attorney as a mediator, your attorney mediator will set a series of team conferences on a video platform to assist you both in the negotiation process.
The goal of the negotiations between your attorney and your spouse’s attorney, or between spouses who have hired an attorney-mediator, is to reach an agreement on all the terms. Towards this end, it is likely you will be asked to concede in some areas, and your spouse will be asked to do the same.
The end result of a successful negotiation process
is the finalization of a document called a marital settlement agreement. This document sets down in writing the details of your agreements with your spouse regarding the division of your marital assets and debts. Once each of you has signed the document, it becomes a binding and enforceable contract and is submitted to the court.
If you have children under the age of 18, your attorney or your attorney-mediator will also assist in the negotiation and preparation of a document called a parenting plan. The parenting plan sets down in writing the details of parental responsibility, time-sharing, school jurisdiction, and other important details about the care and nurture of your children by you and your spouse as co-parents no longer living under the same roof.
The final step for your attorney or your attorney mediator
is to prepare a document called a proposed final judgment of dissolution of marriage. This document is carefully drafted to include the terms of your marital settlement agreement and parenting plan if you have children. The proposed final judgment is then electronically submitted to the judge assigned to your case.
Once the judge reviews all documents filed in your case and finds they are complete and in proper form, he or she will sign the final judgment, and voila, you are divorced.
The signed final judgment also gives the written agreements you have with your spouse the power of enforceability. That is, if you or your spouse violate the terms of your written agreements, the court can intervene with judicial powers to enforce the terms of the agreements or impose sanctions on the breaching spouse as a penalty.
Virtual Divorces are Not One Size Fits All!
You Have Choices…
As you likely already know, there are many different methods of divorcing. Divorces fall into two major categories: contested and uncontested.
If you are completely at odds with your spouse on important matters such as custody of your children; who should remain in the marital home; or how marital assets and debts should be divided, then your case falls in the category of contested, also known as litigated, divorce.
Before the pandemic, litigated divorce required in-person court appearances. During the pandemic, these court appearances were conducted by video. At the time of this writing, in-person court hearings in Florida are once again required in contested court cases by almost every judge in almost every county.
However, keep in mind an experienced divorce attorney who is highly skilled in negotiation can keep a contested case out of litigation. In Florida, before you can take a disputed issue to court for resolution, you and your spouse must first attempt to resolve your dispute in a mediation conference.
A seasoned divorce attorney who is handling your case virtually can resolve disputes in mediation conducted by video just as effectively, and probably more effectively, as he or she can in a live meditation conference.
If your virtual divorce becomes litigated after a failed attempt at mediation, your virtual divorce attorney can either represent you at future contested court hearings or refer your case to a litigation attorney with whom he or she closely associates.
The most effective type of divorce case conducted virtually is an uncontested divorce. There are generally four types of uncontested divorce: (1) negotiated; (2) collaborative; (3) cooperative; and (4) mediated. All four methods are ideally suited for remote, virtual resolution.
A negotiated divorce occurs when your divorce attorney and your spouse’s divorce attorney meet and confer on the points of contention in your case. With the advocacy of each of your attorneys and the final approval of you and your spouse, each party to the divorce makes concessions on terms where appropriate, which results in a settlement.
This is one of the least expensive divorce options because there are no third-party mediators or other professionals used in the process. A negotiated divorce is ideal when you and your spouse are basically on the same page about the terms of your divorce but need assistance getting the details set down in writing.
A collaborative divorce is comprised of a team of four professionals hired with the goal of a full settlement that is completely confidential with no court appearances. You and your spouse each have collaboratively trained divorce attorneys to represent you, and neutral financial and mental health professionals are also brought on board. Collaborative divorce is designed to support the divorcing couple in all areas: legal, financial, and psychological.
If you and your spouse have sensitive issues involved in parting ways, such as differing views on how to raise your children; extra-marital affairs or mental health challenges; complex marital assets and debts; or opposing views on their division, collaborative divorce is a highly effective, modern alternative that can keep your differences out of court and in the hands of specifically trained professionals. It is also ideally suited to be conducted virtually in a series of video conferences until a full agreement is reached.
A cooperative divorce is similar to a collaborative divorce, except only one neutral professional is hired to assist in the divorce process instead of two or more. Both you and your spouse are represented by collaboratively trained divorce attorneys, and typically only a mental health professional or only a financial professional is hired to complete the team.
Depending on the issues in your case, other professionals can be used, such as appraisers, business valuators, or CPAs. Cooperative divorce is a powerful method when your major points of dispute are in one area. For example, if you either do not have children or you have children, and you and your spouse completely agree on how they should be raised post-divorce, but you have complex or high net worth marital assets and debts, a financial professional is hired to assist in resolving a fair distribution.
On the other hand, if your marital assets and debts are straightforward or few, but you are in complete opposition about how your children should be raised, then a neutral mental health professional is brought in to assist you and your spouse in developing a parenting plan which best supports your family.
A mental health neutral is also invaluable where there are highly charged emotions involved in your divorce, such as cheating, substance abuse, or personality disorders present in one or both spouses. Cooperative divorce also is ideally suited to be conducted virtually.
Now let’s talk about mediated divorce. There are two types of mediated divorce: (1) represented mediation; and (2) unrepresented mediation, also known as a pro se (without counsel) mediation. Both methods are highly effective when conducted virtually.
In a represented mediation, you and your spouse are individually represented by divorce attorneys (who ideally are both collaboratively trained), and a third-party family law mediator is hired to negotiate the sticking points in your divorce.
This type of mediation is best when you and your spouse are at loggerheads over the details of your divorce, but given insight, education, and information on how divorce laws apply to these details by your attorneys, you and your spouse are enlightened about the other side of the coin. Thus, informed concessions can be made by you and your spouse regarding your opposing positions, paving the way to a full settlement of your case.
In an unrepresented mediation, neither you nor your spouse is represented by legal counsel. You both agree to hire a family law mediator who assists in and guides the negotiations with the goal of a full settlement. It is important to keep in mind your mediator cannot give either of you legal advice about your rights in a divorce.
He or she can, however, inform you of considerations a judge may have on a particular issue by applying Florida divorce laws. This method of mediation is ideal for a divorcing couple who, for example: have been married less than six years; have no children; have few marital assets and debts; or essentially agree on the major components of their divorce and just need help hammering out the details.
Why Should I Hire a Virtual Divorce Law Office
The reasons for divorcing spouses to choose a virtual divorce instead of a divorce requiring live appearances are virtually countless…
As times change and life evolves, the pandemic has shown us there is a continuing need for virtual divorce for so many reasons. Here’s a few:
- the lessening of intimidation and anxiety due to the absence of in-person confrontations;
- spouses who frequently travel for business or other reasons;
- spouses who have limited time due to their work or childcare schedules;
- spouses who have already separated and are living in other cities, states, or countries;
- spouses who desire a straightforward and quick process with no court appearances;
- spouses who don’t want a quick divorce and wish to dictate the pace instead of being bound by legal time requirements triggered in contested divorce;
- spouses who wish to keep the personal dynamics of their family confidential and out of the public record;
- spouses who wish to keep their assets within the family instead of paying hourly billing fees to attorneys in endless litigation.
The reasons are endless.
Virtual law offices allow you to benefit from the efficiency and effectiveness of quality legal services from the comfort of your home or other remote location of your choosing.
In-person divorce proceedings are highly time-consuming and thus will drain valuable hours, days, weeks, and months from important aspects of your life, such as your peace and well-being, your wellness plan, your pleasure activities, your work, and your children.
You can be at ease knowing you are in your own safe space while in the midst of one of the most mentally and physically taxing transactions of your lifetime.
Morgan Divorce Law Firm is one of Florida’s best virtual law firms. If you believe you qualify for a virtual divorce or have questions about the types of divorce available to you, please reach out to our team here at Morgan Divorce Law Firm, and let’s set up a time to talk.
Who’s in your corner?
Andrea is a native Floridian born and raised in Winter Park, Florida. Throughout her career as a divorce attorney, she has handled divorce cases in every county in Central and South Florida. She has recently expanded her firm from Central Florida to also serve Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach. She is a respected divorce lawyer, coach, consultant, author, mediator, and advocate of social change within the Florida court system.
Andrea earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University College of Law, New Orleans and graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies.
She has been certified as a family mediator by the Florida Supreme Court, is a trained collaborative family law attorney, and is a member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida; the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida; and the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
With over two decades as a trial attorney, Andrea has fine-tuned her understanding of the unique dynamics and challenges families face during restructure. She handles contested family law cases that are litigated in court, but also vigorously encourages uncontested divorce methods as the premier route for the restructuring of families.
Andrea advocates divorce mediation, cooperative divorce, and collaborative divorce as the more effective, more respectful, more cost-effective, and more healthful means to divorce, especially when there are children involved.