Senate Bill 972: The “Family Law Process Act”

Senate Bill 972, the “Family Law Process Act,” has cleared its first committee in the Florida Senate. It will hopefully pass this summer and officially take effect on July 1, 2016.

The Act facilitates an alternate dispute resolution process, collaborative divorce, which allows couples to separate or end their marriages without submitting their dispute to a judge, who doesn’t know them or their children, or share their values. In part, this bill is aimed at controlling exorbitant attorney fees throughout the legal process. It focuses on saving the involved parties time, money, and acrimony. For families, this bill promotes a cohesive co-parenting plan (if children are involved) and avoids much of the emotional turbulence either caused or exacerbated by the traditional court process.

Similar bills have been passed into law in 13 other states thus far.

Senator Tom Lee of Brandon, Florida, who originally introduced the bill in November 2015, explained “Florida courts, especially in family law issues, have an exploding number of expensive, lengthy, and acrimonious cases, many of which could better be resolved through collaborative rather than regular litigation.”

Collaborative dispute resolution was first conceived of over 25 years ago. While not yet as widely practiced as conventional litigation, which, as Senator Lee has pointed out, has ignited in recent years, it is gaining momentum in the US, where it originated, as well as across the world, as more and more people everywhere become increasingly aware of its benefits. The Tampa Bay area is home to a surprising number of collaborative professionals, who focus their practices both on settling family law issues, as well as on resolving civil disputes. They and others have been campaigning for less invasive methods of divorce, which explains why this bill has received little opposition.

For more information on the collaborative process, respectful divorce, or how you can support SB972, call Joryn Jenkins at Open Palm Law (813) 870-3839 or at


Need advice now? Contact Joryn!


About this week’s author:  Joryn Jenkins.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law while also serving as a full-time professor in law at Stetson University.  She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement.  For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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