Collaborative Divorce Offers Easier Way to Separate

By: Shannon Behnken


For many couples, divorce can be difficult, expensive and embarrassing. Your dirty laundry is recorded in a court file and open to the public. And it can drag on and on. And on.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Tyler and Pamela Nelson were officially divorced Friday in Hillsborough County Court, and they were smiling about as much as they did on their wedding day eight years ago.

“It was so simple, and we weren’t fighting,” Pamela Nelson said. “We didn’t want to sue each other.”

Tyler and Pamela have been separated for the past four of their eight years of marriage. They didn’t divorce because every time one of them tried to start the process, they got intimidated and didn’t follow through.

“It’s really scary,” Pamela Nelson said.

The couple also couldn’t afford to fork over big bucks to get a divorce. So they went to Bay Area Legal Services for help and were selected for a collaborative divorce. Their attorneys offered to work for free. The Nelson’s divorce is the first pro bono collaborative divorce in the state of Florida.

Attorneys Joryn Jenkins and Adam Cordover said they wanted to give back to the community and get the message out that there is a better way to divorce.

Unlike in most contested divorces, which can get downright nasty, this couple didn’t even see a judge until they were ready for the final step. The whole process took less than two months.

Tyler Nelson says they didn’t want to make the process more difficult on their young daughter.

“It’s mainly about your children,” he said. “it’s not about what you guys had, it’s about the kids.”

Another benefit of collaborative divorce: your personal information stays private. That’s why celebrities are increasingly turning to this type of divorce, Jenkins said.

Judge Laural Lee, who granted the Nelson’s divorce, said it was refreshing to see a divorce that ended almost as happily as it began.

“In any case when a family has to go through a divorce, we hope to see the least amount of conflict as possible,” Lee said. “And certainly for some families, collaborative divorce can be an excellent way to do that.”