September 15, 2015

Collaborative Divorce and College Admissions Compared

563958559-1970s-american-football-gettyimagesEvery year, I am asked by my undergraduate alma mater to participate in the prospective student interview process. It is a good cause, to be sure; the university this year has over two hundred applicants from the greater Twin Cities metro area, and the Alumni Schools Committee needs all the help it can get to interview all those eager minds and to write reports to send to the Admissions Office for consideration in the students’ files. I have participated in the process in the past, and through it I have met a handful of – in my opinion – highly qualified candidates who make me think that, were I applying to college today, I’d never be accepted. Unfortunately, none of the candidates I have interviewed have ever been admitted. This is frustrating. My time – like that of just about every interviewer, I’m sure – is at a premium and, given my track record, it is hard to avoid the feeling that I am tossing my high evaluations into the wind to be summarily ignored by the Admissions Committee. I know, on an intellectual level, that this is an oversimplification, that there are many factors that go into the decision to admit a prospective student, and that I had the good fortune to attend a competitive university that must turn down many excellent individuals. But the frustration persists nonetheless, and I have decided this year – perhaps selfishly – that I will not be an interviewer.

I happen to have just sent off the email declining to participate in the interview program, and maybe out of guilt, I’m looking for some larger significance in the feelings that have led me to take a pass this year. I’ve found that larger significance, or at least what feels like a valid comparison, in my job as a divorce attorney. We all value being of service, but more importantly, we value knowing we are of service. Some attorneys are able to find that knowledge in the world of litigation, and certainly, even I have had the experience of providing to a client going through a traditional divorce service that I know is of value above and beyond my hourly fee. But more often, litigated divorce makes me feel like an impotent participant in a process that has a life of its own, in which I am constantly opposed, often ignored, and generally irrelevant to the result. And I compare these feelings to those I have in a Collaborative divorce, where I feel myself to be an integral part of a meaningful, unusual, albeit sometimes delicate process, and I wish I could steer more clients toward the Collaborative option, as much for my sake as for theirs. Again, intellectually, I know this to be a whitewash of the truth: litigators definitely do much that clients could not do for themselves, and conversely, some couples who select the Collaborative process are mere steps away from being able to do their own divorces. But I am speaking of the feeling of being of service, and even though an admissions counsellor might assure me that my time is valued or I might achieve a good result in a litigated dissolution, if I don’t subjectively experience my efforts as useful, something is missing.

What would the “Collaborative divorce” version of the candidate interview process look like? Perhaps actually having a conversation with an admissions officer, in which I had the experience of being listened to, even if my recommendation on the particular candidate was not followed, would satisfy my need to feel involved and relevant. I leave it to the reader to decide whether this says more about college admissions or the Collaborative process.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>