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Pauline Tesler on Stu Webb (from 1999)

Stu Webb is known as the father of collaborative family law, a non-adversarial process where the spouses’ attorneys agree to focus solely on out-of-court dispute resolution.  Pauline Tesler is oftentimes thought of as the mother of collaborative divorce, emphasizing the benefits of an interdisciplinary team and spearheading the creation of institutions, such as the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”), to help more families.

Back in 1999, Pauline wrote an article in the very first edition of the Collaborative Quarterly (requires IACP membership & password to access), a publication of the IACP (then known as the American Institute of Collaborative Professionals) about Stu Webb and the origins of collaborative law.

You can find excerpts from that article below:

Stuart Webb, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had been practicing family law in the “usual way” for more than twenty years when, like many of us, he became interested during the late 1980’s in mediation and alternative dispute resolution….

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Video: Collaborative Practice in Brazil

Collaborative divorce is a relatively new concept in Tampa.  It is counterintuitive to think that attorneys would promote a concept that keeps divorcing spouses out of court.  Further, who would think that attorneys would be willing to take a step back, and allow (i) mental health professionals to take the lead in emotional divorce discussions and (ii) financial professionals to be the point people on the division of assets and debts and other support topics.

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And, yet, that is what collaborative lawyers do.

Collaborative practice is growing around the world, including in Brazil.  Below is a video in Portuguese that discusses collaborative divorce in Brazil:

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Video: Stu Webb’s Collaborative Divorce & Jazz

Stu Webb is an attorney from Minnesota who one day decided that he no longer wanted to be involved in the destruction of divorce court, and so he created collaborative divorce.  Collaborative divorce is a private process where spouses become teammates rather than opposing parties, and attorneys focus on problem-solving rather than fighting.

Oftentimes accountants, psychologists, financial planners, therapists, and others are used to make sure that not just the legal needs, but also the emotional and financial needs of the spouses are met.

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Collaborative Divorce has become more common here in Tampa Bay as families and attorneys realize that the court system should be seen as a forum of last resort, rather than first resort, to resolve personal issues.

Now, as it turns out, Stu Webb is not only the founder of collaborative divorce, but he is also an avid fan of Jazz.  You can find a short video he helped create comparing collaborative divorce to jazz after the jump.

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Radio: Can Therapy Save A Marriage?

I recently attended the 16th Annual Forum of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and I had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by Gary Direnfeld, a social worker and collaborative professional in Ontario, Canada.  He was an excellent speaker and was discussing cutting edge ideas on helping families.

Gary was recently on a radio program to discuss an age-old question: Can therapy help save a marriage?

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Video: 25 Years of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce and family law began 25 years ago, in 1990, when a Minnesota attorney named Stu Webb decided that he simply no longer wanted to be part of an adversarial divorce process.  He strongly felt that divorce did not belong in the court system: decisions about where children should sleep at night should be made by the parents, and discussions of financial issues should happen around a private conference room table rather than in a public courtroom.

And so, he developed collaborative divorce, where parties agree from the very beginning that their collaborative attorneys cannot be used to fight it out in the court system.

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has put out a video commemorating 25 years of collaborative practice.  You can find the video below the jump.

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Research: Collaborative Divorce By The Numbers (2010)

A few years ago, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals released the results of a survey of 933 collaborative divorce and family law cases.  Collaborative divorce is a process by which parties, instead of going to court to litigate, agree to a private framework that lends itself to developing more creative options for financial, child custody, and other family issues.  In Florida, oftentimes a neutral facilitator/communication coach and a neutral financial professional are engaged to facilitate and lend their expertise to the process.

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The survey was conducted from October  2006 through July 2010, and these results were compiled in the Spring 2012 edition of The Collaborative Review: The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP Research Regarding Collaborative Practice (Basic Findings)” by Linda Wray, J.D.):

  • 58% of husbands and 59% of wives were between 40 and 54 years old;
  • Over three-quarters of all clients had a 4-year college education or higher;

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International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Educational Forum

I am president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Florida’s largest collaborative practice group.  Next Generation Divorce is composed of over 130 members who are attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals dedicated to helping families resolve divorce and family law issues privately and respectfully, through the collaborative process.  Next Generation Divorce’s practitioners cover the Greater Tampa Bay area, with offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties.

Forumhighlights WebMembers of Next Generation Divorce are also required to register with an umbrella organization, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”).  The IACP has over 5,000 members of various disciplines working in at least 27 different countries.  And, every year, the IACP puts together a massive conference, the Forum, which helps collaborative professionals refine their skills and learn advance topics in collaborative practice.

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Video: Linda Solomon And The Neutral Facilitator Collaborative Divorce Model

Collaborative divorce has one simple requirement: The spouses must each retain attorneys who focus solely on helping them reach an agreement on all issues.  The collaborative attorneys are private problem-solving specialists, and they cannot be used in contested court hearings.  This requirement creates a safe, non-adversarial environment so that each spouse knows that the other spouse’s attorney is not attempting to gather information to use against him or her later in court.  It also ensures that resources are directed towards helping the clients reach an agreement rather than wasted in opposition research or dirty trial tactics.

There are many different models of collaborative divorce that are used throughout the world.  The model that is most frequently used here in Florida involves one neutral facilitator, who generally has a mental health background, and one neutral financial professional.  This model was created in Texas by, among others, Linda Solomon, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

You can learn more about Linda Solomon and the beginning of this model in the video below from Cutting Edge Law:

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The Origins of Collaborative Divorce: Stu Webb’s Letter

In 1990, a Minnesota family law attorney named Stu Webb began promoting what he deemed “Collaborative Law,” or the practice of law separating out trial work and creating negotiation specialists.  Collaborative Law is now used in Tampa Bay, throughout Florida, and around the world, as families have realized that they don’t want to be placed in the adversarial proceedings of trial practice for divorce and other personal matters.

On February 14, 1990, Webb wrote a letter to The Honorable A.M. “Sandy” Keith,
a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, describing Collaborative Law.  Below is the text of the letter:

Dear Sandy:

I met you at a party at Steve & Marilyn Erickson’s several years ago. I was interested in your involvement with mediation. I also heard you talk last November at the Conference for Dispute Resolution Practitioners Seminar.

I, too, took Steve and Marilyn’s mediation training and have done mediation, mediation wrap-ups and, generally, have been vitally interested in exploring alternative dispute resolution in all its manifestations.

I think I’ve come up with a new wrinkle that I’d like to share with you. One of the aspects of mediation that I feel is a weakness is that it basically leaves out input by the lawyer at the early stages (sometimes that’s an advantage!). By that I don’t mean adversarial, contentious lawyering, but the analytical, reasoned ability to solve problems and generate creative alternatives and create a positive context for settlement. Of course, these attributes of good lawyering are not utilized greatly in the usual adversarial family law proceeding either.

But you and I have both experienced, I’m sure, those occasional times, occurring usually by accident, when in the course of attempting to negotiate a family law settlement, we find ourselves in a conference with the opposing counsel, and perhaps the respective clients, where the dynamics were such that in a climate of positive energy, creative alternatives were presented. In that context, everyone contributed to a final settlement that satisfied all concerned—and everyone left the conference feeling high energy, good feelings and satisfaction. More than likely, the possibility for a change in the way the parties related to each other in the future may have greatly increased. As a result, the lawyers may also develop a degree of trust between them that might make future dealings more productive. Read more

Tampa Bay Times Article on 2015 Florida Collaborative Divorce Bill

The Tampa Bay Times recently published an article on collaborative divorce.  The article quotes four local collaborative professionals (attorneys Ingrid Hooglander, Tanya O’Conner, and Mark Moon, and psychologist Rachel Moskowitz), all of whom are members of Next Generation Divorce, an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to educating the public about a healthier way to resolve their family disputes.

The article also interviews State Senator Tom Lee of Brandon, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 642, the Collaborative Law Practice Act.  Though collaborative law is already being practiced as a private way to resolve divorces and other family law issues in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, the bill provides a legal framework for the process and adds protections to the privacy of communications during settlement talks.

Below is an excerpt:

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