Meet Me in the Field: Collaborative Family Law Attorneys Committed to a Better Way for Connecticut Families

It could be considered a somewhat surprising scene.  So many lawyers, and yet the morning started with a meditation, not a gavel.  Agenda items ranged from a discussion on the most recent (ever evolving) court decisions on division of inheritances to role plays on how to negotiate thorny issues.  Judges were quoted, so was Rumi.

It was the annual meeting of the Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Association of Greater Hartford, Connecticut (CDLA), and it wasn’t held in a board or banquet room.  Kristen and I were thrilled to spend the day with our 20-plus CDLA colleagues — widely recognized as prominent practitioners in the Connecticut family law bar — who had all cleared their calendars for the day to sit in folding chairs in a beautiful backyard, and discuss how to continue to transform the divorce process for willing spouses.

CDLA’s members share an understanding, based upon their individual experiences in practice, that traditional, positional divorce litigation is, for some families, inferior to the collaborative process in which lawyers, clients, and other team members commit to (1) negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues, (2) maintain open communication and information sharing, and (3) create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all.

Collaborative law arrived in Connecticut back in the early 2000s.  Like the founder of the collaborative movement, Stu Webb, some Connecticut family law attorneys — many of whom were CDLA founding members — became frustrated with the shortcomings of the traditional divorce litigation process, and the negative financial and emotional impacts it can have on spouses and their families.

Although the traditional adversarial litigation model works well in some areas of the law, zealous advocacy can produce profound detrimental side effects in family law cases. Full-scale adversarial representation can require tactics that are destructive when employed in divorce cases, especially when children are involved. When contested divorces are fought as battles to be won, there can be no real winners. The negative impact can have long-term repercussions because a divorced couple has a relationship that continues after the litigation.

― CDLA Website

The members of the CDLA are experienced practitioners who focus their practices on family law.  At Freed Marcroft, we believe that a non-adversarial approach to a marriage dissolution is often best for our clients and their families, which is why our team includes lawyers committed to kind and fair resolutions and trained in collaborative law and mediation.

All CDLA members are specially trained in the collaborative process, and “have come together out of mutual respect and commitment to the ideals and protocols of the collaborative model.”  “Each member is included in the network because the others believe that he or she is highly experienced and skilled, not only in the legalities of divorce, but in effective communication, cooperative negotiation and creative problem-solving.”

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) explains that the collaborative law process was designed “to craft a way to bring the particular talent of lawyers as problem-solvers into a ‘settlement only’ process for family law representation.” Because the parties and their counsel all sign a contract agreeing that the “lawyers could not, under any circumstances, go to court over any issue, [] lawyers have no alternative but to rise to the challenge of solving the problem.” 

The problems in Connecticut’s family law system are many, and not all of them were solved in last week’s circle in the grass under the trees.  Much work remains, but, in the meantime, as collaborative professionals recognize, the alternative of collaborative law exists to help spouses reach their own solutions with dignity and respect.

Each time that spouses settle their differences fairly, honestly, and efficiently — and spare themselves and their family litigation —  is a victory.

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Freed Marcroft’s attorneys guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce while remaining mindful of their overall wellness.

To discuss our helping with your situation, contact us today either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

Meghan Freed and Kristen Marcroft are members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce (CCND), and the Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Association of Greater Hartford, Connecticut (CDLA). Meghan Freed is a member of the Connecticut Collaborative Divorce Group (CCDG).

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Written by Meghan Freed