I am proud to be the co-chair of a Pro-Bono project in Broward County. The Pro-Bono Collaborative Project started by Nancy Brodzki and Judge Gundersen has been an amazing experience and a great opportunity that has infused new life, enthusiasm, and excitement into our local professional collaborative community. As a result of an agreement, and subsequent plan developed, between Nancy and Judge Gundersen, this pilot project has been able to offer the community an opportunity to experience the benefits of the collaborative divorce process and has provided the local Collaborative professionals an opportunity to put their new collaborative skills into practice and to (net)work with new like-minded professionals.
The program started December 2018 and includes having Judge Gundersen set aside time for Nancy Brodzki to explain and present the collaborative process to pro-se litigants at case management conferences. The clients that are provided this opportunity meet specific criteria including: 1. They have to be pro-se, (in order to establish the need and benefit of having attorneys assigned); 2. They have to have children, (in order to establish the need to have a neutral MHP facilitator); 3. And they have to have no history of criminal or domestic violence, or any open dependency cases. As co-chair, my job is to reach out to our local professional collaborative community and gather volunteers (including attorneys, neutral facilitators and neutral financial professionals), which are assigned into teams for the cases that sign up to the program.
There have been five rounds of cases assigned and from my observation, the response from the professionals has been mostly positive and has generated a lot of enthusiasm. As a result of gaining feedback from the professional volunteers, changes have been made over time to improve the potential success of the case-outcomes. Specifically, we have learned that speaking to the clients before the case begins in order to emphasize the need for them to appreciate and respect the professional’s time and to encourage their cooperation when the professionals request documents and/or assign homework seems to have helped cooperation; and we now will be using a questionnaire that the clients have to complete prior to signing onto the program as part of an improved vetting process, which assesses the clients’ level of trust, willingness to cooperate with each other and the process, willingness to be transparent and honest, history of DV not reported, their attitudes towards litigation and perceived benefit of the collaborative process, their interest and wish to have expert/professional guidance, etc.
I expect that there will be future changes made to the program as we learn more from the cases and the collaborative professionals involved. And I hope this project will continue to promote Collaborative Divorce to our local community and continue to provide a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the professionals that get involved.