We periodically feature our members (Fellows) so that you can learn more about them, Collaborative divorce, and our organization.
Name: Theresa Beran Kulat
Profession: Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator
Title: Founding Partner of Trinity Family Law
What drew you to become a Collaborative Divorce Professional
I grew up with happily married parents but had a set of grandparents who never let go of the anger that precipitated their own divorce. Family gatherings had an undercurrent of drama: When one grandparent entered the room, the other would quickly leave. Twenty years later, when my marriage was ending, I knew I did not want this history to play out in my children’s future. Collaborative Practice was just starting out, and my former husband and I used it for our divorce. Since then, we have co-parented our young children through to adulthood with respect and care. We both attend sporting events, school plays, graduations and other family events to celebrate and support our children. Shortly after my own divorce in October 2002, I attended the first Collaborative training in Illinois and, in 2003, started my own law firm focused on non-adversarial divorce.
What should clients know about you as a Collaborative Divorce professional?
I stand for healthy relationships. For divorcing couples, this means maintaining respect and dignity throughout the process and, if kids are involved, putting them at the center of their decision-making. When the divorce is complete, my intention is that the whole family can thrive and prosper.
On occasion, I’ve had clients decide to reconcile during the Collaborative Process. The process provides a framework for talking through challenging topics in order to make decisions. In the midst of this, these couples were able to talk through their differences and re-discover one another. This is very rewarding!
What do you find rewarding about practicing Collaborative Divorce?
I’ve seen it work – in my own life and in the lives of my clients. It’s wonderful to get an email or letter from a past client giving me an update on their lives. I truly believe that divorce can be an opportunity for personal growth. I enjoy watching clients find their voice and use it to express their needs and goals throughout the process. In addition, I’m a problem-solver. The settlement-based approach that underlies Collaborative really appeals to me. To be clear, problem-solving is not the same as fixing. In Collaborative, the whole team – clients, attorneys, as well as neutrals on the team – shares information and works together to find solutions that address each person’s most important concerns, needs and priorities.
Where do you practice Collaborative Divorce?
Most of my clients are in DuPage and Cook counties. That said, I have also worked with clients in Kane, McHenry and Kendall counties. I prefer to meet in person for team meetings. Zoom works well for one-on-one meetings and even mediation sessions. However, for team meetings with four or more people, in my experience, Zoom does not garner the same level of trust. The human body and brain register interactions beyond the spoken word that are not captured well in a virtual environment. We have options and can tailor the meeting location to the clients’ needs. Bottomline – we can work with any couple in Illinois who wants to work respectfully and with full transparency. Zoom has expanded our reach.
When you are not hard at work practicing in the Collaborative world, what do you do for fun?
Theatre and music have always been a part of my life. High school musicals and community theatre is where it started. When my kids were in school, I sang in PTA-sponsored rock bands. Lately, I have taken improv comedy classes. It is great to be around laughter and joy.