Attorney Clarissa A. Finnell participated in the first interdisciplinary training seminar sponsored by the Central Indiana Association of Collaborative Professionals (CIACP) held April 28-29 at the Indianapolis Bar Association. Finnell was part of a group of 36 attorneys, mediators, family therapists and financial advisors in Central Indiana who attended the seminar to be trained in collaborative practice.
Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution process most commonly used in divorce and family law. It’s a structured method where couples are represented by specially-trained attorneys and engage in a series of negotiations and settlement conferences to reach a peaceful resolution. It’s commonly referred to as a “respectful divorce” because the collaborative process encourages rational decision-making and minimizes adversarial behavior. It helps reduce the emotional and financial costs of divorce, while focusing on communication, cooperation and co-parenting.
CIACP is a separate entity from the law firm, founded as a non-profit in part by Stephenie Jocham, a founder of Jocham Harden Dimick Jackson, who saw a significant growth in demand for collaborative law and mediation in family law matters. The organization’s mission is to further develop the practice of collaborative law in Indiana and train additional professionals.
Finnell has practiced family law throughout her legal career and is experienced in complex divorce litigation. Finnell views the additional training as an asset to her practice and her ability to represent clients. While she often sees common issues and disputes in family law cases, each case has to be individually evaluated to determine the best strategy – and in many cases, circumstances and financial resources don’t warrant the traditional litigation path. Certainly, there are always going to be divorce and custody cases that require litigation due to the complexity of issues or allegations, especially in cases involving domestic violence or substance abuse issues. With the additional training in collaborative law, the firm’s Family Law Practice Group offers options to clients so that they can pursue the best process for their particular case.
Another important note is that collaborative law isn’t just for divorces. It can be used in a number of family law disputes including post-dissolution custody or parenting time (relocation is a common issue after divorce), as well as paternity or domestic partnership matters. Selecting collaborative law or mediation for a modification after a decree or court order can save parties significant time and fees compared to litigation. The nature of the business structure used in the collaborative process (settlement conferences have agendas and minutes), means it is also very effective for other civil matters and business disputes or contract issues.