Resolving conflict

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Amy Stewart honored for collaborative law work, helps keep clients out of the courtroom

By Beth Taylor

Family law attorney Amy Stewart wants to help build awareness for collaborative practice, a process best known for its use in divorce and family conflict. Stewart, a Geist resident, was recently honored for her completion of the year-long International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) Leadership Academy. She also has been named to the Leadership Development Committee of the IACP.

“I was extremely honored and humbled to be chosen to take part in the IACP Leadership Academy,” Stewart said. “It is a rare opportunity to be able to learn at such a high level, alongside people with such enormous hearts and brilliant minds.”

Stewart views the collaborative approach to divorce as a healthier option for a divorcing couple. “This approach makes sense for couples who are looking for a process that is consistent with their values,” said Stewart, a partner at Mallor Grodner. “This is a more dignified, peaceful and respectful way to handle divorce. Couples want an approach that will be healthier for their children and protect them from going to court.”

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse retains a divorce lawyer, and the couple must sign a binding agreement to reach mediation. Collaborative divorce enables couples to work out differences more quickly than litigation to avoid the costs associated with going to court.

“To some extent, our nature in the Hoosier state is that we take our time to grasp new approaches or ideas. Other places get the wrinkles out before we adopt things. We’re now beginning to see collaborative practice start to emerge more in Indiana because many of our clients are searching for a better way to get through a divorce,” said Stewart.

After a ten-year stint as a partner at another Indianapolis law firm, Stewart said that her decision to join Mallor Grodner in 2014 was about family in three ways. “First it was about my own family and wanting to be more present for our eight-year-old son, Fernando. One piece would be about the Mallor Grodner family–I was very excited to be part of a larger group that does what I do. And it was about the families that I serve. I really wanted to focus on serving clients in a healthier, more supportive way, in a way that I think I’m best suited for and that includes focusing on collaborative practice,” she said.

Stewart thinks that it’s instinctive to assume that collaborative divorce only works for amicable cases, where few issues need to be resolved. However, it can be a good fit for more complicated cases that require creativity, support and attention.

“Often litigation is less well-equipped to manage the complicated cases, and a collaborative approach is better because you’re able to build a case around the needs of the family,” said Stewart. “This is also a good approach for clients who want to have a say in making their own decisions, instead of lawyers and judges making decisions in litigation,” she said.

According to Stewart, one quality that good collaborative divorce attorneys share is the ability to take a back seat to their clients, to let the clients “drive the bus.”  “Our judgments, emotions, biases, opinions, must be left at the door so that we can provide a strong, safe container for clients to do their best work and be their best selves. That’s very exciting to watch a client and their spouse do, but takes some getting used to for many lawyers,” she said.

Stewart views her role as one of support and strength, helping her clients through one of the most difficult things in life. “When you really can see a client who is able to grow through the experience and reach a place where you know and they know that they are going to have a great life after a divorce, which is absolutely possible—the best feeling.”

About Amy Stewart

Indiana University: Bachelor of Science IU–business analysis

Indiana University: Jurus Doctorate

Distinguished career in business and state government prior to pursuing law degree. Former chief of staff for the Office of Governor of Indiana for *Frank O’Bannon

Hobbies: Love to fish. Between having a law practice and an eight year old, hobbies are an afterthought right now. I’m a summertime girl. Fishing and family fun and baseball—I’m a Phillies fan.

Vacations: Our ideal vacation involves renting a cabin by a lake or beach and plan really hard to do absolutely, positively nothing. Since we’ve had our son, we have been focused on exploring our national parks.

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