Santa Fe College offers classes to simplify divorces


Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 9:12 p.m.

While preparing for what many say is the happiest moment of their life, couples go through pre-marital counseling, wedding showers and planning a lavish wedding ceremony.

Facts

How to divorce

To remember the steps in a divorce, the Gainesville Collaborative Law Team uses the acronym peace.
Petition: One party files a petition to dissolve the marriage. The petition includes the facts of the divorce as well as what the party feels entitled to. The other spouse has 20 days to respond.
Equitable distribution: After property and assets are determined marital, the court or the couple divides it equitably.
Alimony: Alimony is calculated through a formula and bound by case statutes. Permanent alimony is only given to Florida divorcees married for more than 17 years and is just one of several types of alimony.
Children: The couple must decide how to divide custody, now called “timesharing.” This is done through a parenting plan. Parents are also required to take a divorce resolution class.
Everything else: This includes attorney’s fees and court costs.

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If you go
What: “How to Divorce Without War,” a class offered through the community education department of Santa Fe College.
When: 7-8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Westwood Middle School office, 3215 NW 15th Ave.
Cost: $20
To register or for more information, go to http://dept.sfcollege.edu/ce/.

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Number of Divorces
The number of divorces in Florida has slipped since 2006, but remains higher than the national divorce rate, according to the state Department of Health.
2005: 81,287
2006: 85,955
2007: 84,386
2008: 79,868
2009: 74,752
For more information on collaborative divorce, go to www.gainesvillecollaborativedivorce.com.

Invariably, when the wedded bliss turns to fights, the end of some marriages mirror their beginnings with divorce classes, parties and ceremonies — sometimes with the two spouses working together toward separation.

Santa Fe College offers two divorce classes in its community education department taught by the Gainesville Collaborative Law Firm.

Collaborative divorce is relatively new, having been practiced in the Gainesville area for the past four years, said lawyer Leslie Haswell.

In a traditional divorce, lawyers act like knights in battle for their kingdom, Haswell said. That doesn’t work for families.

“They’re still going to be a family after,” she said. “There’s just a change in the structure.”

The premise is that the couples work together in managing their divorce — and their emotions.

Divorce coaches work with each spouse to help them navigate through feelings and the process while an independent financial expert works for each spouse.

Bob Krefting, a certified personal accountant and divorce lawyer, said the average divorce can last more than a year and cost $15,000.

“This is one the hardest times to go through a divorce financially,” he said.

The biggest hurdle can be refinancing a mortgage into only one spouse’s name, Kreftig said. That doesn’t include finding new health insurance and child support.

Haswell said the law firm has offered classes for the last two years, including “How to Divorce Without War,” which will take place again on Tuesday, and “Considering a Divorce?”

That’s where one couple, married for more than 20 years, found themselves last week. The wife said she saw the class while browsing Santa Fe College’s community education classes. She then invited her husband.

Both listened and took notes. The husband said they were new to the process and trying to get prepared.

During an intermission, the pair agreed that collaborative divorce seemed the best for themselves and their children.

“I think it’s fair and equitable,” she said. “It allows both parties to keep their dignity intact.”

It’s why Haswell prefers collaborative.

“I much rather families solve their problems than go to war,” she said.

Haswell said that because nothing is filed until both sides have agreed on terms, collaborative divorces are cheaper. A one-hour hearing can cost one spouse more than $1,200, she said.

“That’s not cheap,” she said.

Mimicking the beginning of marriage, some cities are seeing divorce parties become popular.

Susan Minter, owner of the Event Divas, said she hasn’t been asked to plan a divorce party yet.

“You hear about them all the time,” she said. “If that happens, they usually happen at a bar.”

Lillian’s Music Shop has seen its fair share of fresh divorcees, said longtime bartender Tom Blake.

“The one reason Lillian’s sees so many because its so close to the courthouse,” he said. “It’s convenient after their moment in front of the judge.”

The “parties” tend to be spontaneous, Blake said, with only one of the ex-spouses comes to the bar.

“You get one person’s point of view — moaning and groaning that life is unfair,” he said.

But Blake said he had one instance when both spouses came to the bar to celebrate their divorce decree. Included on the ex-husband’s guest list was his new girlfriend.

“That was waving the red flag in front of the bull,” he said.

The sister of the ex-wife was particularly incensed, Blake recalled.

“Unfortunately they never got close enough to have a throw down, but the daggers were flying eyeball to eyeball,” he said.

Sometimes people drift in to the bar because a significant moment in the relationship occurred there.

“Most people are sensible, at least, that it’s over,” Blake said. “Everyone knows that when we leave this bar, whatever horrible past it was, it’s gone and it’s time to start anew.”

Something that can help with the transition is a divorce ceremony, said Myrna Neims, a therapist.

In 2009, a Japanese businessman began charging about $600 for divorce ceremonies, according to Reuters. Each spouse takes separate rickshaws to a “divorce mansion” where they would later smash their wedding ring with a gavel.

For those considering creating their own ceremony, the Divorce Blessing Ceremony at Divorceceremony.com offers blessings for each spouse to move forward.

Neims said she’s witnessed one separation ceremony, including one of her clients. After years of living together, the pair decided to split because marriage was not in the picture.

The ceremony was moving as each recounted good memories of their relationship and said goodbye, Neims said.

“In the parking lot, they looked at each other and said, ‘What are we doing? We don’t want this,’” she said. The pair later married.

In that case, Santa Fe also offers a wedding planning class.

Contact Jackie Alexander at jackie.alexander@gvillesun.com or 338-3166.

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