Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay > Florida’s First Pro Bono Collaborative Divorce Takes Place in Tampa

Posted on September 22, 2013


From Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay:

On September 20, 2013, at 9 a.m., Judge Laurel Lee will officially divorce Pamela Burton and Tyler Nelson. This will be the first time the judge will meet Pam and Tyler, because they engineered their entire divorce using the collaborative dispute resolution (“CDR”) process. By doing so, they completely settled all of their marital issues, without consuming years in costly and contentious litigation; they collaborated, for their child’s sake, under the tutelage of trained professionals, to forge a new and different bond as co-parents for the rest of their lives. And they set a precedent as the first pro bono interdisciplinary collaborative case ever completed in the State of Florida.

Joryn Jenkins, Esquire, represented Pam; Tyler retained Adam B. Cordover, Esquire. Jennifer L. Mockler, Ph.D. served as the CDR team’s neutral facilitator; Monica Ospina, CPA, ABV, CFF functioned as Pam and Tyler’s financial neutral.

Have you ever been divorced? It is a state-regulated process that requires a court to execute a final judgment disposing of the issues raised by the dissolution of your marriage. It is often, therefore, a litigious process, which is, by its very nature, time consuming, expensive, exposing, and exhausting. Few couples, having finally reached the point at which they want a divorce, are able to sit down and hammer out an agreement with which they can both live. Your alternative is to go to court. And once you retain lawyers and petition the court, the process spins out of your control. And into the public domain.

But court is no longer your only alternative. CDR is spreading like wildfire in Tampa Bay. When you agree to use CDR, you and your spouse each retain your own collaborative attorney. The two lawyers then choose a neutral facilitator and a financial neutral to work on your team. All four of these professionals will have been trained in CDR, to help each of you function in the team environment to develop and achieve your goals, identified in a series of full team and one-on-one meetings. So instead of leaving the decision making up to a judge whose calendar is mired with hundreds of cases and who does not know you, your family, or your values, you are in charge of the focus, decisions, and pace of the CDR process. Your lawyers function as team problem solvers and educators, rather than as adversaries and gladiators in the courtroom. Your neutral facilitator is a mental health professional who manages the emotional content of your meetings, keeping them on track and productive, and acting as the referee of the team and the process. Your financial neutral gathers information, provides impartial financial guidance, and helps you to create financial options.

So what are the characteristics of CDR? The first is a safe environment. You and your lawyers agree not to go to court. This formal agreement aligns the attorneys’ goals with yours; they must withdraw if you give up on CDR and go to court instead. In addition, you can speak freely in your meetings; nothing you say will be used against you in court.

The second unique trait of CDR is transparency. You pledge to be honest and to share all information. This obviates the need for an expensive discovery process. And the use of a neutral financial professional obviates the more costly option of retaining battling experts.

The third distinguishing feature is privacy. Instead of publishing your sensitive family issues and personal financials for all the world to see, CDR enables you to keep such information out of the public record.

Finally, CDR allows you to customize your results to fit your family’s needs and values. In CDR, you and your spouse can create solutions that a judge might not think of or be allowed by the law to order.

It is said that 50% percent of first, 67% of second, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. (Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.) But Joryn Jenkins contends that using CDR to dissolve first marriages should teach participants problem solving skills that will help them to avoid a divorce the second time around. CDR is less costly, less time consuming, and, most importantly, less destructive than going to court. For more information on the two collaborative practice groups in Tampa Bay, go to or For information nationally, go to For more information on pro bono services offered in Tampa Bay, go to Bay Area Legal Services at

Read more at Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.