The civil litigation firm started by sisters Caroline Johnson and Christen Ritchey specializes in family and divorce law, but its cases don’t necessarily end up in a courtroom battle. In fact, when it comes to divorce cases, Johnson and Ritchey do some of their most important work within the comfort of their tranquil Boca Raton office.
That’s because the two graduates of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (Ritchey in 2005; Johnson in 2006) employ a collaborative process for interested clients in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
“We can’t stand to see people wasting their assets on a fight that ultimately rips them and the family apart,” says Ritchey, who launched the practice (Johnson & Ritchey, 150 E. Palmetto Park Road; johnsonritchey.com) with her sister in 2014. “We think it can be done better.”
To that end, the sisters focus on spreading awareness regarding alternatives to litigation in divorce matters. In a collaborative case, both parties retain a lawyer, but no lawsuit is filed. In addition, a neutral mental health specialist and financial adviser are present. During these “team meetings” parties discuss their interests and what they want as the outcome of the case.
The process, intended to keep the proceedings as respectful as possible, is completely confidential; none of the financial information or other private matters appear on public records. At the end of the agreement made between the lawyers, both parties attend a short court hearing, where the judge dissolves the marriage.
“I fell in love with family law because I’m helping people in their time of need,” Johnson says. “It’s rewarding to help a family restructure and preserve the co-parenting relationship.”
In Florida, there are now 15 groups that practice this holistic approach to divorce.
“We value family. It’s the most important thing in either of our lives,” says Ritchey, who is a mother of two (Johnson has three children). “We devote our career to family law, and the fact that someone is going through a divorce doesn’t mean they can’t stay a family.”
4 Collaborative Benefits
- Less cost because of shared expense of professionals.
- Documents and financial records confidential.
- More transparency.
- Greater communication.