Attorney of The Month

Attorney of The Month: Next Generation Divorce

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I place a high value to peer recognition and hold the Board of Next Generation Divorce in high regard. As a member of Next Generation Divorce and as one who takes action to further this cause, this means a great deal to be recognized as the attorney of the month.

I am proud of my background which I believe helped shape who I am today and why my direction in collaborative practice is important to me. I am the son of a happily married mother and father who by the way have been married for 42 years. A true testament to dispute diffusion and resolution. To do it I believe you must live it! My Mother is Italian American from Buffalo New York and my Father is from Peru. I grew up Catholic and  attended Tampa Jesuit High school. After High school I went to Furman University in Greenville South Carolina where I learned about the Bible Belt of the country…a very different seen from Tampa Florida. I pride myself on collecting cultural experiences and trying to remain sensitive to people’s cultural differences in my practice. While attending Furman University I received a degree in both Fine Art and Art History.

After my undergraduate studies I began a career in the fine arts while working various jobs and doing volunteer work for the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem. This is how I turned my direction to law. I was a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for 4 years advocating for abused and neglected children and at the same time learning about the system that these children and families found themselves many times trapped in.

Upon gaining my ticket to the Bar, my first job was with Angelo Ferlita who practices primarily in criminal defense and appellate criminal practice. After this experience I worked for Stratton Smith, Esq., a sole practitioner whose focuses on probate and estate planning. I later joined the office of the Public Defender in New Port Richey in the 6th judicial circuit handling every type of case from misdemeanor battery to any capital offense with the exclusion of cases where the state was seeking death.

Following my three years at the office of the Public Defender, I joined a small firm where I was introduced to family law. To be honest I fell in love with half of it. I did quickly become frustrated by the process that overwhelmingly existed. But then I found out about collaborative law. Right away it seemed like a perfect fit. As I became more knowledgeable about Collaborative Law my desire to learn more about family law grew. I increasingly began to feel as if there was an area of law that suited my personality.

Currently I embrace as much alternative dispute resolution as I can. I am a certified family law mediator, a parenting coordinator, a court appointed guardian ad litem and I am advanced trained in collaborative law. Though there are times that I do enjoy the court room experience I prefer providing options to parties that keep their matters out of court as much as possible. Giving people and families options is refreshing and I am constantly trying to come up with new “out side of the box” approaches to problem solving within this area of law.

Additionally, I also maintain the practice of criminal defense, juvenile delinquency defense and dependency defense. In all of these other areas of law, I make efforts to bring the collaborative principles into play and I must say, I have been able to witness the process work.

I believe in the Collaborative practice of Law and I believe it to be the process that must be attempted first. In family law, especially, people should not be permitted to sue each other as their first option. Attorney’s should be required to offer this as an option!! Required!! How can a person be informed of their options when this option is not discussed or hidden from them? People should always be given an opportunity to choose a process that promotes relationships rather than destroys relationships. I believe that the current model of divorce litigation is detrimental to families, to children, to employers, to the community and our economy. I can’t wait to see this trend develop further and to see the enormous impact it has on the community at large. Many attorney’s say that they can’t afford to offer Collaborative as an option and that they make too much money litigating. I say, how can we afford not to promote the collaborative process. To promote the collaborative process we are directly promoting families. And We are promoting our Own families. How many times has that trial filtered into our personal lives in one way or another! When we think collaborative we act collaborative. When we think litigation, we act litigation. And we bring it home.

My goal for 2014 is to speak to as many clergy members of as many faiths and denominations as I can. To truly be an ambassador for the cause. The reality is that people have problems and divorce can be a solution. But just as the need for divorce is a reality, so is the need to give the people a process that is healing. We all have wounds. I like to think we can find a way to treat them. 

It is my pleasure to hold myself out as a collaborative attorney, to speak to as many people about it as possible and to be recognized by this organization which has been responsible for the promotion of excellence and refinement in the area of Collaborative Divorce.

I can be reached at The Melendez Law Office at 813-280-0181.

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