Joanna's Story

 ​When I divorced, I had a toddler and no income.  I remember standing in front of the court, as the opposing attorney told the commissioner, on the public record, that I didn’t care about my daughter, and was only interested in child support.  I was shocked and humiliated.  I couldn’t believe that my family’s future was in the hands of a court system that didn’t know my family or our values.  Every time I tried to protect myself in litigation, it had the opposite effect of increasing the conflict.  I knew intuitively that we could have had a divorce that minimized or at least kept the conflict further away from my daughter, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen once litigation had begun. 


When I opened my law practice soon after my divorce, I worked as a divorce litigator.  I had assumed that divorce would seem different from the attorney’s perspective, but found instead that I profoundly disagreed with my own work of painting the other parent as inadequate or as untrustworthy with money.  I knew that my clients’ children loved and needed both parents.  I earned more money when the conflict was higher, and my work to manage conflict reduced my fees.  I thought there had to be a way of providing a valuable service to divorcing clients, without creating more difficulties for their children. 

I reflected on what had promoted cooperation between me and my daughter’s father, and what had made life harder for my daughter.  I also thought of my experience as a divorce attorney, and what might work better for a family going through divorce.  As part of that exploration, I trained in collaborative law and mediation.  I was astonished at the benefits in approaching the divorce as a joint dilemma rather than as a competition, and in working with mental health and financial professionals. 


Cooperation can’t change that divorce is inherently painful and disruptive.  The structured conversations in mediation support clients in creating settlements that are efficient, tailored to their circumstances and values, and minimize stress on children.  While clients usually begin mediation in profound distress, by creating thoughtful agreements, they end with hope for themselves and their children. 


While I wish that my divorce had been easier for my family, we have had an experience of our own resilience in the years that have followed.  As a mediator, I am proud of the work I do, and I am routinely awed by the work my clients do.  I know that my interaction with clients is brief, and that the work of divorce continues long after the legal papers have been signed.  My hope is that my clients have an experience of their own capacities as they transition into their post-divorce lives, and that my services help them begin that journey.


Professional Activities


2012-present            Family Law Mediator.  Acted as mediator in over 130 family law cases, addressing parenting and financial issues.  Currently serve in the King County Volunteer Settlement Conference program.


2006-2018               Family Law Attorney.  Negotiated divorce settlements as a Collaborative attorney, litigator, and provided unbundled and mediation support services.  Focus on dispute resolution in family law matters through interdisciplinary teams.  


2018-present             Chair of the Washington State Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.  Direct the activities of the Executive Committee, in order to promote best practices within the ADR field in Washington.


2014-2018                 Executive Committee Member of the Washington State Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.


2007-2013                Board member of King County Collaborative Law. Provide leadership for the largest Collaborative Law professional group in the state; have chaired the Public Outreach Committee, and the Community Building Committee.


2012-2013                   Co-Chair of King County Collaborative Law Family Law Practice Group.  Coordinated monthly speakers for newer practitioners of Collaborative Law in order to promote professional competence and collegiality.


2009-2010                  Co-Chair of King County Bar Association Collaborative Law Seattle, WA                        Section.  Coordinated monthly speakers for professionals considering becoming trained in Collaborative Law, and participated in efforts to pass a Washington version of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act.


2008-2009                  Chair of King County Collaborative Law Civil Practice Group.  Led efforts to develop a local Collaborative Law probate practice.



2017-present               Coordinate a Balint Group for divorce professionals.


2013                              Presented on child-inclusive mediation at the Northwest Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference. 


2013                              Presented on Collaborative Law in probate for a King County Bar Association-sponsored Continuing Legal Education seminar. 




2004                            Earned joint Juris Doctor/Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington.  Co-founded the Committee for Human Rights and Justice.  Awarded the Bonderman International Travel Fellowship which permitted four months of travel in the South Pacific to study local and native political institutions.


1999                            Earned Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Nevada at Reno.  Focus on sociolinguistics and the cultural context of language acquisition.


1993                            Earned Bachelor of Arts in Classics (Greek) from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, cum laude.