Posted By Irene C. Olszewski, Esq. on September 19, 2012
Last night, the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, a Connecticut practice group with a membership consisting of collaboratively-trained lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals, elected its new slate of officers for the 2012-2013 term. I’m pleased and honored to report that I was elected to serve as the CDP’s vice president. The slate of officers includes Evelyn Gryk Frolich, president; Angela Green, membership/secretary; and Linda Ursin, treasurer. I am also the chair of the website committee. (A complete re-design of the CDP website is in the planning stages).
Regular readers of this blog already know how passionate I am about collaborative divorce. I have posted in this space extensively about the collaborative process and sincerely feel it is the best way to facilitate a divorce. There are multiple collaborative divorce practice groups across the country (and abroad). Connecticut has several practice groups spread across different regions of the state.
I suppose I should explain the purpose of collaborative divorce practice group. I’ll start by telling you what it is not: a collaborative divorce practice group is not a group of lawyers sharing a law practice. Rather, it is a group of collaboratively trained professionals with a collective desire to practice collaborative divorce law and to adhere to the strict professional standards of the collaborative divorce model. Practice groups are established as a way for the collaborative professionals (lawyers, mental health coaches and financial neutrals) to establish relationships with each other that will better facilitate the collaborative experience for the professionals and clients alike. Such groups exist to provide continuing education, panel discussions and a variety of educational and training resources for the practitioners. Practice groups establish standards and guidelines for the member-practitioners to follow. Such groups also seek to educate the general public on the collaborative divorce model as a viable alternative to divorce litigation.
I came to the collaborative divorce process honestly. As a 3L (meaning 3rd year law student), I had the good fortune of being mentored by Professor Carolyn Wilkes Kaas at Quinnipiac University School of Law. I had worked with her in the legal clinic, earned a Distinguished Academic Achievement Award for highest grade in her class and worked as her research assistant for a brief time. She also agreed to serve as my advisor while I was writing my major academic paper. My chosen topic was Client-Centered Interdisciplinary Models and their Application to the Law. That probably wasn’t the exact title but you get the idea.
During the course of our discussions, Professor Kaas spoke about the collaborative divorce model that had found its way onto the Connecticut family law scene. She graciously arranged for me to accompany her to an intensive collaborative divorce training being led by a noted collaboratively-trained lawyer and her team. I was eager to attend and eager to explore that exciting possibility. It was the first time I had ever heard of collaborative divorce.
The training was amazing. I left full of inspiration and a true sense of direction for the type of law practice I one day hoped to build. In the years since, I have never forgotten what I learned at that training. I applied the principles to my own lawyering and found them to suit me well.
When I opened my own law practice, I opted to to focus on family law as part of my legal offerings. In those early years, I represented clients engaged in divorce litigation. I often thought about that collaborative divorce training but hadn’t yet delved into that practice model. One afternoon, an esteemed colleague (who was elected as president of the CDP this evening) called to ask if I’d be interested in getting together with some colleagues who were working to form a new collaborative divorce practice group. I jumped at the chance. I attended the requisite collaborative trainings as a licensed attorney (rather than a law student) and earned my credentials to practice collaborative divorce law.
Several of my colleagues have ceased practicing divorce litigation altogether. These days, they focus solely on collaborative divorce and mediation. Like me, they believe that there is a better way for couples to divorce that doesn’t involve adversarial and often bitter litigation. The collaborative model endeavors to bring civility and respect to the divorce process. It is truly client-centered — and is, in fact, family-centered. I have a lot of respect for the model and have proudly worked with couples to achieve wonderful results.
Tonight, as I reflect on my exposure to the collaborative model as a law student, I give a long overdue tip of the hat to Professor Kaas and to the trainers who first inspired me to believe that divorce doesn’t have to be ugly. As I look to the coming year and my new role as vice president of the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, I am excited to work with a wonderful group of practitioners who share my belief that there truly is a better way to divorce.
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copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.