Divorce mediation has become an accepted alternative to litigation in the resolution of the complex issues faced by families in transition. The Divorce Mediation Clinic is designed to provide both practical mediation experience and insight into divorce mediation and family law practice. While the clinic is ideal for those considering incorporating divorce mediation into their professional repertoire after graduation, it can also provide invaluable experience for students interested in pursuing careers in either ADR or family law.
Divorce Mediation Clinic Director
Professor Robert Collins
Bob Collins has practiced and taught divorce and family mediation for the past 35 years. He served as a founder and president of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York and as chair of the Ethics Committee of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation. He holds a B.A. from Yale College, and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to teaching, he worked in private practice for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and was a partner at Davidson, Dawson & Clark, and an Assistant D.A. in the New York County District Attorney’s office.
One day each week students serve as mediators in matrimonial cases referred through the Office of Court Administration, ordered by Supreme Court Judges sitting in matrimonial parts, or sent from community dispute resolution centers. Students co-mediate with the professor at the start of the semester; they progress to working in student co-mediation teams, and eventually have the opportunity to mediate solo – but always under direct faculty supervision. Cardozo Law School is unique in affording students the responsibility for mediating all the aspects of divorce, including the couple’s parenting arrangements, child support calculations, asset division, spousal maintenance, tax issues, and grounds; upon completion of these discussions, students draft the formal legal settlement agreement and prepare and file the divorce papers. A two-hour seminar once each week focuses on discussion of cases currently in the Clinic, issues around parenting, support dilemmas and equitable distribution, access to justice challenges, an analysis of mediation techniques, models and methods, and controversial topics in mediation such as the limits of confidentiality, the appropriateness of mediating when domestic violence has occurred, and ethical questions concerning conflicts of interest in drafting legal documents.
Students must be available for a four-hour block of time for mediation over Zoom one day each week, and for the weekly seminar at the Law School. In addition to the hours spent in mediation, students are expected to devote an additional four hours every week to related practice tasks, such as drafting separation agreements and divorce papers for their couples, observing and analyzing mediations, journaling their experiences, preparing seminar presentations, and reviewing and critiquing mediation sessions.