Introducing Judith Jordan Family & Collaborative Lawyer

We’d love you to give a big, warm SA Woman welcome to Judith Jordan, Family & Collaborative Lawyer, who steps into the business spotlight for July! 

In this chat with Jess McEachen Copywriting, Judith dives right in to the difference between a Collaborative Lawyer and a Litigious Lawyer, and why she’s passionate about keeping her clients out of court. She also reveals why early in her Family Law Career, she knew the collaborative approach was right for her, even before it was on trend! Judith explains how this decision was at first her biggest obstacle, but has become her biggest triumph.

We get to benefit from Judith’s years of experience, with her top tips on how to communicate and even disagree with respect. *Spoiler alert* – don’t forget to Breathe! Judith also details the first 3 actions for women to take, once a decision to separate has been made. 

Judith takes us behind her decision to sponsor The Heart Award and The Backbone Award in the 2022 SA Woman Awards, and she also tells us how the SAW membership community is a great space for her to connect with other women outside of law, to bounce off and talk about life with.

A huge welcome Judith to our Business Spotlight in July – we’re looking forward to sharing your wisdom and the journey that has brought to where you are today.

// A big, warm welcome into the business spotlight Judith! For anyone who hasn’t come across you yet, can you please introduce us to your business and who you love to help?

My passion is keeping families out of litigation and resolving matters by negotiation and consent either using a collaborative model, mediation or in a more traditional sense but without the Court using a form of informal conferencing.

I like working with couples and families who want to find a way to transition from one home into two homes doing as least damage as possible to their children and extended families, or in a Wills and Estates matter who recognise they need to resolve their issues and have peace in the family moving on from their dispute.

// “I am the founding member of ResolutionSA, a group of collaboratively trained family lawyers, family therapists and financial planners who work together to provide solutions to families as they transition from one household into two utilising the collaborative process rather than the Courts.”

This is so wonderful – firstly that ResolutionSA exists, and that you brought it to life!

Can you please tell us more about being a Collaborative Lawyer, and how that differs from a more traditional approach to family law? Also, how can having access to these different professionals all in the one space help?

When I work as a Collaborative Lawyer the parties are both represented by trained Collaborative Lawyers and the 4 of us sign an agreement that we will not litigate. If somebody walks away from the negotiations, then both Lawyers are out because they have sat in the room and discussed the issues at stake and know too much about the other party.

That is different to when I work as a Lawyer in a contested dispute where everything goes through the laborious process of the client meeting with you, you draft a letter of advice and a draft letter to the other side and send it to the client, and they come back to you. There are probably several amended versions of that letter all of which increases the client’s costs and then it goes to the other side who repeats the process in order answer you. It’s easy to see how costs accumulate quickly and how slow the process can be in some cases before you start to get to a point where you can even talk about what a settlement proposal might look like.

When I work collaboratively, I’m able to bring in a financial neutral such as Sarah Martin from Resolution SA or we are able to agree on a Family Therapist to provide advice on what is developmentally appropriate for a party’s children in terms of how we craft Children’s Orders. It makes it less stressful for the parties when we work collaboratively because they are able to sit around a table and with the assistance of the collaboratively trained professionals work towards reaching their own resolution.

// Oh this is just so important isn’t it! I know from my own experience as well as watching friends around me, the difference it makes being able to resolve outside of court. I also love how not only do you use litigation as a last resort, but you also focus on helping to improve your client’s communication skills so they can co-parent through the transition from one home to two, and beyond.

What benefits do you see this bring to your clients’ lives? How does improved communication then play out as they move forward after separation?

When parties come to us we’re not seeing them at their best. There is a lot of grief and hurt associated with either a marriage or relationship breakup or a contested Estates matter. People in those situations when they hurt are often fearful and that is what causes them to defend.

In my experience clients don’t always understand why they are scared. If you can get them to talk about their fear and unpack it with you in a one-on-one session, then I can help them create in their own language a way of asking a question of the other person in a 4-way meeting to try and see if their fear is actually likely to happen.

Very often it’s not and we have fears that we create because we’re scared, and we assume we know what the other side will and will not do.

If we can find a way of coaching clients to have insight into why they are being defensive and then flip that to a point where they are able to openly talk about what they need with the other party, then in my experience that is when agreements are reached.

There is an old saying along the lines of, “I’m talking but they’re not hearing me” and I think that speaks to the fact that sometimes we don’t express ourselves well and the other side don’t hear what we are really wanting to say.

So if we can help our clients, to reflect, gain insight and communicate their needs in an open and non-defensive way then that has to be a value-add from a nasty situation as they move forward in life and should assist them to move on co-parenting, perhaps still working in the same profession or business as a former partner, and in a Wills and Estates matter it will hopefully allow for ongoing family relationships.

Meet Judith Jordan, Family and Collaborative Lawyer

// Peace is not when everyone agrees. It is when we can respect our disagreements and still play in the sandbox together.

I love this quote you recently shared because I feel like it sums up the end goal for coparenting beautifully! Having said that, it’s obviously a tricky space because of the emotions involved, as well as grief, hurt and stress that so often accompanies separation.

Do you have any tips or tools to help people to reach a place of being able to disagree with respect? Or how to reach compromise?

My tips would be:

Breathe! We so often forget to do that. When we breathe, we start to calm down and control our emotions so we are able to think clearly.

If we can help our clients learn to listen actively and not reactively then even though you might not agree with the other side’s logic or point of view you can at least hear it and respect it.

If we can coach our clients to stop, breathe, reflect and reframe what they say in a non-judgemental or confrontational way then in my experience respect comes and compromise becomes possible.

// Also, can we look at the very start of this process. For women in particular – what are the first actions that you suggest they take once the decision to separate has been made?

I am assuming that we are not in a situation answering this question where the woman or man is in fear of physical or verbal abuse.

1. Write up a chronology of the relationship starting with when you met, when you started living together, when you maybe married, when you had children if you did, when major financial things occurred such as the purchase of a house, with as much detail as you can recall.

2. Gather as many financial documents as you can such as bank statements, superannuation statements, tax returns, house settlement statements, etc and any information about any windfalls or inheritances that happened during the relationship. The combination of these 2 things will help to focus your mind on the task at hand and be able to sit down with your Lawyer who you need to go and see quickly to get advice.

3. Google Lawyers who work in the family law area and try and find one whose values resonate with yours and don’t be afraid to ask for a first free interview or phone call before committing to engaging a Lawyer.

In my experience clients don’t always understand why they are scared and if you can get them to talk about their fear and unpack it with you in a one-on-one session then I can help them create in their own language a way of asking a question of the other person in a 4-way meeting to try and see if their fear is actually likely to happen.

Very often it’s not and we have fears that we create because we’re scared, and we assume we know what the other side will and will not do.

If we can find a way of coaching clients to have insight into why they are being defensive and then flip that to a point where they are able to openly talk about what they need with the other party, then in my experience that is when agreements are reached.

Judith Jordan

Family and Collaborative Lawyer

// Taking it back a step now – you’ve been practising law for 24 years now, and Family Law for over a decade now. What made you decide to specialise in this particular area of law? And, what do you find most fulfilling or satisfying about your work?

I started practising as a Lawyer at the Legal Services Commission of South Australia in the Advice Section and then spent a year as a Duty Lawyer at several Magistrates’ Courts representing people brought into the cells overnight and anyone who walked in and needed assistance with either a criminal or a civil matter. I then went on into private practice in a general law firm where it was normal to do several areas of the law in any one day. Having worked in a family business and retail before coming to the law all of that life experience was useful.

I recognised after moving into private practice that family law brought together many areas of the law that were intellectually very interesting to me, such as commercial, trust, family inheritance matters and children and property matters.

I was already heading towards focussing on family law but after a lovely female Judge of the Family Court took me aside at a legal function and told me that she thought I had talent in this area, and I should focus on it, I did.

I have always been someone who liked to help other people and I grew up in a very politically active family where it was ingrained into you that you should give service to the community and so what I now do and the way that I practice I think fulfils that.

// Can you also let us in on the decision to establish your own practice. What led you to go down that path? What have been the main triumphs and obstacles you’ve found since having your own business?

I think the main triumph is also the main obstacle for me.

When I decided to badge myself more than 12 years ago as a Dispute Resolution Lawyer rather than a Litigious Lawyer I did so before it became fashionable to do that.

The way I wanted to work in family law meant that I talked to my clients about their communication in the relationship and their communication in their family growing up to try and get insight into how they communicate and present themselves now.

That’s not normally in my experience what most Family Lawyers do, but I had reached a point where I knew that how my client communicates with others involved in a dispute and in their own headspace to themselves, is vitally important when you look at moving a matter forward and trying to reach resolution without litigation.

So, in a sense my desire to practice Family and Wills and Estates Law in a different way was initially an obstacle but it’s been a triumph in that I spend very little money on advertising, if any at all, and I don’t have any signage, yet I always have clients and it’s usually by word of mouth.

// Obviously life isn’t all about work and no play! What do you love to do outside of the office?

I like to read cookbooks, watch TV, show my pedigree cats, cook and be a homebody who likes to read and spend time with the grandkids and the family.

// We want to say a huge thank you for supporting our SA Woman Awards this year and joining with us to celebrate the achievements of women in business and careers across SA. You’ve sponsored The Heart Award through Resolution SA and The Backbone Award through your own business.

The Heart Award is for an organisation that has at its heart the needs of women in their local community, such as a social enterprise, not for profit or community organisation. Then the Backbone Award is for a woman who is the backbone of the family business or place of employment, where the business wouldn’t run or operate as smoothly without them.

Can you tell me what drew you to sponsoring these particular categories?

As a Family Lawyer I have seen a lot of men and women but particularly women in dire financial circumstances following the end of a relationship where perhaps they’ve been the primary homemaker and not wage earner, so I am drawn to The Heart Award because those nominees look to take care of women who may find themselves in need of help.

As for The Backbone Award, well, I come from a family of women who are what I would call heavy lifters and I see a lot of those women in my practice and quite often they are not the ones who are given credit in a family business for the work that they do, so I view that as an appropriate sponsorship category for me.

// We’re so grateful to have you in our SAW membership community for all of your support and wisdom you so happily share. What do you enjoy the most about being part of the SA Woman membership community?

Because I work by myself it’s great to have a network of women who aren’t all doing what I’m doing to bounce off and have a coffee with and talk about life with.

// Lastly, if you could have lunch with 3 other amazing South Australian women – who would you invite?

Assuming their death doesn’t stop me:

  1. Dame Roma Mitchell
  2. Julia Gillard:
  3. Maggie Beer
Thanks for chatting with us Judith!!

Find out more about Judith Jordan Family & Collaborative Lawyer:

Facebook: Judith Jordan Family and Collaborative Lawyer

LinkedIn: Judith Jordan




More interesting websites Judith recommends:


www.collaborativepractice.com This is in the US so our law is different but there is interesting information on it for the public about the collaborative process.