I’ve always had a love of learning, which helps with skill-building for my career. As a divorce attorney, I am always signing up for professional development seminars, learning new techniques and perspectives and generally enhancing my skills to benefit my clients.

The legal and social climate is always changing the landscape of divorce, so it’s really a necessity to stay up on the latest trends and approaches to family law.

When I started practicing law, the mindset was that in a divorce, the children always went to the mom, and Dad saw the kids on the weekend. Now, many judges assume the parents will share parenting time equally because e we know that children benefit from close relationships and time with both parents.

Look how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time!

We must keep up with changes. It’s not just the law that’s changing—it’s people’s perceptions and expectations and comfort levels.

I used to educate myself only on updates in the law and policy changes. Now, my focus for professional development includes more on behavioral trends for people because my goal as a family law attorney is to make the world a better place.

That might sound strange, I know, but that’s my over-arching goal. I want people to leave my office in a better place, prepared to move forward productively in their lives.

With  my focus being on helping people with their behavior, during and after divorce, how they conduct themselves, how they function as a family, and how they feel about their family situation, what I discovered is that our  legal system isn’t set up to help families, really. So many families go through the court system these days, and it gets flooded. In some courts there might be a delay because of the volume of cases; in other courtrooms, a case might be pushed through too quickly for what the family is actually dealing with in transitioning their family to two homes. The legal system is now designed to just move people through—not to care about the people. This makes my role as someone’s attorney even more important—because I do care.

I’ve learned through experience that people get better results when they are able to talk with each other. That’s why I am so devoted to Collaborative Divorce. While it’s important to keep up with the changes that are going on in life and society, it’s not just policy and law. People are always learning new things about how to help people behaviorally, and that’s true in divorce.

We’ve found that staying out of court is better for all involved. I wasn’t trained in that mindset, so I educate myself to evolve as a divorce lawyer and as the court system evolves.

I’m not a therapist, and I didn’t go to school to study behavior. But understanding what’s going on inside someone during a conflict situation helps me guide my clients better.

Photo by Jack Moreh from Freerange Stock

My first change started when I trained as a mediator, giving me the ability to work with people outside of court. I focused on that for a long time.

When Collaborative Divorce was founded, the concept was amazing to me. I fell in line with it so naturally, and I’ve pursued a lot of training in the different aspects of Collaborative Divorce, including process and procedure.

If you’re a well-trained Collaborative Law attorney, you’ve kept up with the changes in this mode of family law. It has evolved mightily since it was first established! And I keep up with all the changes, train in all the new methods, connect with colleagues who are as devoted to the Collaborative process as I am.

All of this evolution is absolutely to the benefit of our clients. Even when there’s a change that I might not agree with, I study and learn and self-reflect to understand why this new addition is essential to the process.

One of the cornerstones of the Collaborative Divorce process is full transparency. I remember being hesitant about the notion that if one partner has an affair, the Collaborative Divorce process would have them sharing this information with the team.

I wondered, why tell them? It would only serve to hurt the other spouse.

But I learned that in the Collaborative process, it makes a difference for a number of reasons. One of the more subtle reason is because most likely it’s going to come out sooner or later, and if the person was not willingly transparent during the process, the other spouse can question if the entire process has been a sham, with this one lack of transparency.

I was humble enough to learn the reasons behind this value of Collaborative Divorce, and I came around when I understood it.

The only way to excel in a profession—any profession—is to stay up on the latest trends, arm yourself with training and knowledge about the industry as it evolves, and commit to always learning. I love learning because it empowers me with knowledge that helps me be better every day.

At different points in my career, I’ve sought skill-building from various organizations. Right now, I do a lot of work with Canadian Collaborative attorney Jacinta Gallant and the innovative programs she’s created for lawyers. I am also deeply involved with the International Academy of Collaborative Practitioners.

In the past, I participated with programs from the now-defunct Mediation Council and other organizations, and I’ve started to look into an international group for family court facilitation. Always learning, always growing.