Since earning his JD from Boston College Law School in 1974, James R. Skirbunt has become a go-to lawyer on the most complex aspects of divorce law, including business valuation issues and analysis of executive compensation. Skirbunt has been selected for inclusion by The Best Lawyers in America® for more than 15 consecutive years and in all editions of Ohio Super Lawyers. He was honored as Lawyer of the Year in Family Law by Best Lawyers in America in 2011. His firm, Skirbunt, Skirbunt & Wirtz, LLC has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of only four Tier One Family Law Firms in Northeast Ohio. Skirbunt notes, “We have the experience and creativity to find solutions to difficult problems in divorce cases.”
As founding president of the Center for Principled Family Advocacy, Skirbunt is a pioneer in alternative processes to litigation, such as cooperative divorce, collaborative divorce and mediation, as options for navigating through a divorce in a way that minimizes trauma for families. These alternative processes allow attorneys to focus on the interests of clients, rather than litigation strategies, and “gotcha” tactics. “It is important to give clients all of their choices, including litigation, so that they can choose the process that will enable them to address their concerns most effectively,” Skirbunt says.
As an attorney who has dedicated his career to helping families navigate the oftentimes rocky terrain of marriage dissolution, James R. Skirbunt—senior partner of the Cleveland-based Skirbunt, Skirbunt & Wirtz, LLC—is well aware that litigation can be destructive to family relationships. This very real possibility is why Skirbunt has spent the past two decades helping clients pursue alternative legal strategies, such as collaborative divorce, cooperative divorce and mediation.
“The idea of the alternative process comes from a recognition that families are fragile,” says Skirbunt. “We recognize that litigation is almost uniquely ill-suited to solve the problems in most divorce cases.”
But perhaps the biggest differentiator is that Skirbunt allows his clients to choose the process that’s right for them—and the only way to do that is to arm them with one powerful tool: knowledge. “I don’t promote one process over another, and there are certainly cases that need to be tried,” says Skirbunt. “I have the tools to obtain the best outcome for my client in whatever process the client chooses.” These choices now include Cooperative Divorce, which links a negotiating model to a dispute resolution mechanism at the outset of the process. Skirbunt is the principal architect of the Cooperative Divorce model, which follows from a year long study of Cooperative Practice across the country. He says, “Cooperative Divorce fills a large gap between Collaborative Divorce and Litigation.” Cooperative Divorce is an important step in the evolution of alternative dispute resolution in divorce, and a likely choice of individuals facing the end of their marriage.
The key, says Skirbunt, is choice. “We empower our clients,” he says. “I have the experience to guide them through what is often the most turbulent period in their lives. I don’t think there’s anything as satisfying as getting a family through this with their dignity intact.”