Friday, March 30, 2021

Collaborative Practice Development Seminars in Ireland

On March 29, thirty family law solicitors from across Ireland gathered for a practice development seminar with Pauline Tesler, sponsored by the Legal Aid Board of Ireland. The final segment of the day-long event focused on do-it-yourself public education and marketing, with participants being coached in simple techniques for getting the word out to their communities, individually and collectively.

At least one participant promptly implemented the suggestion to begin public education efforts right away, designing and putting her new collaborative law blog online the same day. Here is the link:

A similar seminar will be presented in Cork, Ireland, on March 29 to family law solicitors and barristers who have previously attended Pauline's core training events.

110 More Irish Collaborative Lawyers

Last week in Dublin, more than 110 family law solicitors (and one barrister) attended a two-day introductory training in collaborative family law, presented by Pauline Tesler. The event was sponsored and subsidized by the Legal Aid Board of Ireland, which provides representation in nearly half of the divorces and legal separation actions in Ireland and which is strongly supportive of collaborative divorce.

The total number of trained collaborative lawyers in Ireland is now approaching 300. In addition, nearly 60 mental health counselors have become involved in providing coaching services to collaborative divorce clients in the southern part of Ireland, as a result of efforts of the Association of Collaborative Professionals, based in Cork, Ireland.

Wednesday, March 21, 2021

More collaborative lawyers in Northern Ireland

On March 22 and 23, another twenty family lawyers from Northern Ireland will attend a basic two-day collaborative law training that I am conducting at the invitation of Collaborative Family Law Northern Ireland. They will join more than fifty colleagues who have attended my trainings in Belfast over the past two years. Local radio and television stations are interested and enthusiastic; the BBC and several commercial stations are promoting both the training and the collaborative divorce model in interview programs.

Saturday, March 17, 2021

Audacious Billboard Campaign

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, working with collaborative lawyers in Cincinatti, Ohio, have designed a billboard as part of a comprehensive IACP public education campaign to make collaborative divorce widely known and understood.

The Cincinatti Academy of Collaborative Professionals has the image displayed on at least nineteen billboards throughout Cincinatti.

The striking design has a solid black background, with images of men's, women's, and children's faces displayed across the center. At the top, in white, the words "A Different Way to Divorce." Across the bottom, the IACP logo, followed by the group's web address.

I'm looking forward to the day when people see this image as they board a plane in Ohio, and again when they land in San Francisco, or Toronto, or Dublin, or Paris. And I don't think I'll have to wait all that long!

Forty New Collaborative Lawyers in Scotland

About forty family law solicitors--and one life coach!--completed a two-day basic training in collaborative law yesterday, here in Edinburgh. Energy and participation levels were high throughout the two days.

At the end of the second day, a young solicitor came up to thank me and began to cry, she was so moved by the possibilities for a value-rich, integrity-based kind of work with clients that had been explored in the training.

That happens now and then, and it helps me remember how profoundly different it is to work in this way with divorcing families.

I just can't recall the last time I saw a family lawyer cry at a conventional continuing education program. But if it ever happened, I am sure it was from boredom.

During discussion of one of the roleplay experiences, one woman observed with a kind of wondering amazement, "I was in effect asking Henry (the husband in the roleplay) to assess his own moral stance with respect to his family!"

These new "graduates" join about 80 colleagues who have previously attended collaborative law trainings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The revolution is in full swing here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2021

Colorado Bar Ethics Opinion: take two pinches of salt and feel better in the morning

The ethics committee of the Colorado State Bar Association has issued an opinion regarding the ethics of collaborative law, which has generated widespread criticism for its unsound reasoning and internal contradictions. It has also been faulted for unsubstantiated and inaccurate but sweeping generalizations about the nature of collaborative practice.

Practitioners and clients alike should take the Colorado opinion with a healthy grain of salt. It is non-binding, even in Colorado, and prevents no lawyer or client even in Colorado from electing collaborative legal representation. The opinion stands alone in its obvious hostility to collaborative legal practice--and in its faulty reasoning. All other ethics opinions to date have supported the informed choice of collaborative law.

Practitioners should note that the Commission on Uniform Laws is presently considering a model Collaborative Law statute. North Carolina, Texas, and California already have statutes in place recognizing collaborative law.

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has recently announced appointment of an Ethics Task Force, chaired by Pauline Tesler. The Task Force plans to issue a White Paper on the ethics of collaborative practice sometime later this year.

Meanwhile, for a point-by-point critique of the Colorado opinion, see John Crouch's posting on the Family Law Blog:

Friday, March 9, 2021

Alternatives spare costs, conflicts of divorce
By Kathy Kristof
Fresno Bee

Want a divorce? Fine, but stay out of court.

That's the message from former Judge Roderic Duncan, who spent a decade deciding which spouse would receive custody, support and assets in the crowded family law courts of Oakland.

"Going to court isn't efficient. It's way too costly, it takes too much time of everyone involved, and it creates stress and discord between people," Duncan said.

"If it's discord between just a husband and wife, that happens. But if there are children, that discord spills over to them and that's just not fair."

Duncan, 74, joins a growing number of experts who favor alternatives such as mediation and collaboration over court-based divorce.

He opted to deliver his message by writing a book called "A Judge's Guide to Divorce: Uncommon Advice from the Bench." The crux of the book is that traditional divorce brings out the worst in people, and the result is that couples end up supporting the college aspirations of their lawyer's children rather than their own kids.

Contentious divorces easily can cost $100,000 in attorney fees and take more than a year to complete, Duncan said. And the outcome is rarely as good as when couples cooperate.

His book cites several examples of divorces that have spanned decades and demanded legal fees approaching $500,000. And still, 80% of the apparent "winners" left court saying that they didn't get what they wanted, he said.

"When I looked back at it after retirement, it became so clear to me that we created a system where the impetus is to fight and contest and nobody gets the result they want," Duncan said. "There are so many alternatives available that are better and cheaper and involve so much less stress."

Four things have to be decided in a split, he said: child custody, child support, alimony and the division of assets.

When those issues are simple, many couples can work out a deal without attorneys. Some courts have clerks assigned to couples to navigate the court system without a lawyer.

It is wise to have any do-it-yourself agreement reviewed by an attorney, Duncan said. An attorney may be able to spot clear inequities and bring up issues the couple may have forgotten.

Even if these few issues result in the attorney spending several hours to get the agreement buttoned up, the couple probably will save thousands compared with the cost of having attorneys from start to finish, he said.

When the issues are more complex, the parties are unequal or one party appears unwilling to play fair, do-it-yourself divorce may not be an option. But there are still alternatives to court that may settle the split more cheaply and amicably, Duncan said:

Mediation: Many courts now require divorcing couples to meet with a mediator before they meet with a judge.

Court-trained mediators are familiar with the rules of family law and can advise the warring parties when their requests are unreasonable or are likely to be rejected.

Their hourly rates often are half of the cost of a divorce attorney. The process also encourages cooperation -- sharing of financial information, for example, thus eliminating the need for subpoenas, discovery and a raft of hearings that drive up legal fees and accomplish little.

Duncan contends that a successful mediation can take eight to 10 hours and cost less than $5,000.

Collaborative divorce: The hottest trend in divorce is something called collaborative law. In a nutshell, each party hires lawyers, but both sides agree the lawyers will be used to help settle the dispute rather than litigate it.

In some cases, the lawyers suggest both parties also hire other experts, such as psychologists and financial planners, to help understand repercussions of their actions.

"We are able to treat the divorce as a financial restructuring, where you get tax specialists and financial planners involved, so that both sides come out with a plan for going forward," said Pauline Tesler, a San Francisco family law attorney and co-author of "Collaborative Divorce."

If the process is successful, the fees usually run $15,000 to $30,000, experts say. But if one party breaks the agreement and opts to file in court, the attorneys on both sides quit and the entire divorce process must start over.

What brought Duncan to the conclusion that traditional dissolutions don't work? It was probably the baby pass.

One day a couple came into his court, with the father holding a baby in his arms. The hearing was about the fact that the father had taken the child for the weekend and refused to give him back.

The father said the mother was unfit, and he would not relinquish custody. Duncan insisted the father hand the child to his mother for the remainder of the hearing.

Instead, the father threw the child to a waiting friend and attempted to flee the court. He was arrested.

"The thing that's wrong with the divorce system is that we try to cram it into the framework of everything else that happens in court, like automobile accidents and murders," Duncan said.
Kathy Kristof can be reached c/o Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Her e-mail address is

Monday, March 5, 2021

Retired judge: Court-based divorce is out of order

This story was sent to you by: Pauline Tesler

Retired judge: Court-based divorce is out of order

Alternatives such as collaboration and mediation generate less expense and stress, Roderic Duncan says.

By Kathy M. Kristof
Times Staff Writer

Mar 4 2007

Want a divorce? Fine, but stay out of court.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,3051219.story?coll=cl-books-util

Friday, March 2, 2021

A Short Video about Collaborative Divorce

If you, someone you care about, or someone you are assisting professionally would benefit from knowing something about collaborative divorce, an "easy access" short video clip might be a good beginning. Pauline Tesler and Peggy Thompson explain the advantages of collaborative divorce briefly in this YouTube video clip:;=Search