TAKING CONTROL OVER YOUR DIVORCE

TAKING CONTROL OVER YOUR DIVORCE
Jennifer Bretz, Esq.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
― Maya Angelou


Your divorce is just that: your divorce. It doesn’t define you and you should not be defined by it. You may have chosen it or it may have been your spouse’s choice. Regardless of how you have come to be in the divorce process, or what stage you are in, you can choose to take control. You should consider a process to get through this chapter of your life that does not destroy your relationships, your family, your confidence or you.

The familiar, traditional litigation process, managed by the impersonal and possibly overwhelming judicial system doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. No matter how excellent the judges are in your particular jurisdiction, or how fabulous your attorney is, once you file or are served a complaint for divorce, you are bound by the metaphorical handcuffs of the process. You are told what documents you need to file with the court, when to appear, how your case will be managed and are often told, Athe court wants {fill in appropriate demand here}.” If you do not comply in a reasonable manner, then you run the risk of being in violation of an order or contempt of court.


Divorce litigation attempts to create a strict and orderly process out of a naturally chaotic, life-altering event. There is a voluminous book of court rules, found on every attorney=s desk, with hundreds of pages and precise intricacies that set deadlines, page limits and procedures. Every case that enters the system is unique, but in litigation, the same rules apply to all.

Depending on where you live, your judge could see multiple cases a day. Even if there are just 10 cases per day before a judge and there are 5 judges in the family court. That=s 50 cases a day, 250 cases a week, maybe 700 cases a month and possibly 5,000 a year (accounting for dropped cases, settled cases, cases that come for multiple days). How much can a judge determining the outcome of your case — your entire life — actually know about you? How much could they know about your family, your children, your needs and desires? Of course, you have every fair opportunity to tell the judge, in the form of a written submission called a legal brief. Again, multiply that out with the number of cases (and double it, because each side had their own theory of the case) and the amount of pages a judge has to read is astronomical. The harsh reality is that in the judicial process, you are a name on the docket. You may have 15-30 minutes with the judge at a court appearance, so is virtually impossible for him or her to give you the attention your case demands and deserves. Further adding to the stress and expense of litigation is that may take a year or more to finally have your case heard by a judge and your trial “day in court.”

Judges are people, they want to perform well, even excel, at their job. Most have good intentions and want to give you and your family the fairest decision that they possibly can. However, mentally, physically and emotionally, due to the volume of divorce in this country, it is not realistic to expect a judge to Aget it right@ every time. It is the function of the court to dispense a fair and neutral ruling for the outcome of your case. But, everyone has his or her own notion of what is fair – and, if you don=t like the decision of a family judge at the trial level, you always have the sacrosanct right to an appeal.

Appeals are time consuming and costly. Moreover, very few divorce cases are overturned on appeal. There is a general notion in the law that a trial court that actually sees the evidence and hears the testimony is a better judge of credibility, character and overall general impressions of the parties. Unless there is a glaring error in law, there will not be a reversal. The facts are as the trial court judge determines because he or she is the ultimate decider of fact and has the utmost discretion on which party in the “he said/she said” battle is more credible. Thus, the very nature of divorce litigation should be a breeding ground for settlement.


Collaborative law is a different way to transition families in divorce. It is a way for you to take control over your life and future. In a collaborative divorce, the process is controlled by the parties with the guidance of a team of professionals hand-picked to help navigate the divorce. There is no “cookie-cutter” mechanism: you and your spouse are guided to resolve conflict in a non-adversarial manner and encouraged to generate creative solutions through out of the box thinking.

In a collaborative divorce, your attorney is your advocate, not a litigator. In fact, at the beginning of each collaborative case, the parties and attorneys sign a participation agreement, specifically agreeing that in the event the collaborative process breaks down and litigation commences, the attorneys will withdraw from the case. This is a strong motivator, for both the attorneys and the parties to work cooperatively towards successful completion. Once the participation agreement is executed, the parties jointly assemble their team, which may include a divorce coach/facilitator, child specialist or financial expert to assist in efficiently resolving the case.

Collaborative divorce replaces traditional litigation because it removes the impersonal and overwhelming judicial system, but it does not take the “law” out of the case. You are entitled to know all of your legal rights and obligations.

In a series of team meetings, outside “homework” for the parties, individual consults with neutral professionals, the collaborative process is tailored to fit your families’ needs. Outside of the team and with a background of the applicable law, you and your attorney will identify individual issues and develop a strategy focusing on your interests and needs. After information gathering is completed, the parties and their team will create alternative solutions to resolve divorce issues.

In a collaborative process, unlike in traditional litigation, you do not focus on positions, but the underlying motivations. The “why” you have a particular view is the cornerstone to resolution. When you reach a level of deeper understanding of yourself and your spouse, it is possible to gain perspective. Ultimately and within the framework of the process, you and your spouse cooperatively become the judge of what outcome is best for your family. Collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse a safe space to understand, on a deeper level, your unique conflicts and work together to resolve your differences. This process further sets the ground work for handling post-divorce conflicts in a healthy, productive manner.

I invite you to make the choice to take control over your divorce. I invite you to Collaborative Divorce.

Cathy J. Pollak, Esq. Named Leader of Matrimonial Law in New Jersey

Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey is proud to report that one of our founding members, Cathy J. Pollak, esq and a principal at  Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, pc  has been named   one of “Ten Leaders of Matrimonial Law in New Jersey” by the Ten Leaders Cooperative in North and Central New Jersey.  This honor was featured in the November issue of New Jersey monthly.

Cathy’s concentration is in the area of family law utilizing her expertise in litigation, negotiation, mediation and collaborative law. She is recognized by her peers for her skills and experience and by her clients who count on her dedication and sensitivity to their situations and needs.

Congratulations Cathy !

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The Role of CPA’s in Collaborative Divorce

In New Jersey, there are four ways to divorce: litigation, arbitration, mediation and collaboration.  On Sept 10, 2014, Governor Christie signed the New Jersey Family Collaborative Act, to legitimize the practice of collaborative divorce.  It is a type of  alternative dispute resolution in which an attorney is retained to assist his/her client in resolving family disputes in a voluntary, non-adversarial manner, without going to court.

Collaborative divorce identifies the goals and interests of both parties to arrive at a happy medium through open communication and a pledge not to go to court.  Both parties sign a Participation Agreement, stating that they are committed to resolving the dispute through the collaborative process.  The Agreement also stipulates that the attorneys will not represent them if the dispute is submitted to court, other than for the settlement agreement.

The New Jersey Family Collaborative  Law Act extends the privilege of confidentiality to all members of the collaborative team: the confidentiality of the collaborative divorce proceedings cannot be breached with the permission of the clients.

In addition to the attorneys, the collaborative team may consist of a mental health practitioner and a financial expert, such as an accountant or financial planner. The attorneys function as colleagues rather than adversaries, while providing individualized legal counsel to and advocating for their clients.

A mental health professional, as coach, helps manage emotional obstacles to arriving at a respectful dissolution of the marriage..  Strong emotions, so often present during divorce, can interfere with the ability to think logically and clearly.  This is not therapy. A mental health practitioner, as the child specialist, may also be involved to assist with issues and concerns regarding the children.

The financial expert is an essential member of the collaborative team.  He/she advises and assists the parties in understanding and preparing  the following:

  • Income analysis
  • Budgets, current and prospective
  • Business evaluations
  • Equitable and tax-friendly property distribution options
  • Calculations of the tax impact of alimony and support
  • Projections based on settlement options, which help spouses understand what their future financial worlds will look like

Collaborative divorce allows the parties the flexibility to work out their own solutions in a more creative way as opposed to being at the mercy of the court with judges who select options from statutes and case law. Couples maintain more control of their divorce.

Collaborative divorce offers the possibility of minimizing costs when couples are able to work together, establishing options.  Others savings include time, emotional and personal investments by helping the parties develop a fair, sustainable agreement that meets both their approval.

Couples often enter divorce proceedings feeling like two separate entities with opposing missions.  Collaborative divorce can bring them to a point of unification, being satisfied with the separation agreement and confident that it represents the best interest of all members of their family.

Megan A. Sartor, CPA, ABV, CFF

Annual CDANJ Retreat

It was a warm, sunny day,  February 28, 2016, when twenty-eight members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey committed to being indoors, largely without windows, for more than half of the day. Our annual Retreat, always in  February, is a day of learning and team building.

In the morning, our own Paul Kreisinger, Esq, LCSW presented “Love and Hate in the Collaborative Crucible”. In an engaging and informative presentation, including videos, he explained the need for attachment in humans and how it affects our interactions in relationships as well as how it plays out during divorce. Not only is a divorcing couple coping with their attachment issues, it is important for all members of the collaborative divorce team to be aware of their own sensibilities. We all have them and it is incumbent for collaborative divorce professionals to be self-aware to best help couples through the collaborative divorce process. If the couple has children, the benefits multiply as they are more likely to engage in better cooperative co-parenting, sparing their children much emotional stress. Discussion of this topic, was lively as members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey are committed to continued advanced learning and offering the best service possible during a trying time for a family.

After lunch, we broke into two groups to enter “escape rooms” where we had to work together, utilizing clues and codes, to be able to get out of the rooms. In addition to being fun, testing our observational skills, wits and patience, it is so important to be able to trust and work well together, to achieve resolution. These efforts result in enhanced cooperation among the professionals of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey, and with clients, in the collaborative divorce process.

Everyone wins.

Sharon Klempner, MSW, LCSW, BCD

 

CDANJ Celebrates the Holidays

collaborative divorce association of north jerseyOn December 2, 2015, the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey celebrated the holiday season, at Bel Posto Restaurant, in Hackensack. The smiling faces, above, reflect the festive and collaborative spirit of our colleagues.

collaborative divorce association of north jersey

There was much to celebrate this year, with membership reaching a new high, the completion of a successful in-house basic collaborative law training, continuing advanced CLE programs, and the ascension of Shireen Meistrich, LCSW, to the presidency of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

We look forward to  the continued growth of our collaborative community to increase respect and civility in divorce.

Cathy Pollak, Esq,

collaborative divorce association of north jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

collaborative divorce association of north jersey

Celebrating Stu Webb and 25 years of Collaborative Practice!

Dear All,
Boy, did we have an amazing time celebrating Stu Webb and 25 years of collaborative practice! It was a wonderful experience to be together and learn and socialize! Sharon Clancy said it was like being at a collaborative college with your good friends!
It was also very moving for me to accept the Presidency of the IACP and be so supported! Thank you!
We thought you would enjoy a photo of our group with Stu Webb!
We look forward to our Forum Debrief with Megan facilitating us on Wednesday 10/28 at 12:30 pm in Bill’s conference room!
See you all soon,
Shireen

 

Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey

IACP Forum in Washington, DC

I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 International Academy of Collaborative Professionals [IACP] Networking and Educational Forum held in Washington, DC, from October 16-18.  It was my first Forum experience since joining the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey  [CDANJ]  in May, 2014 and it was more than worth my time.

Upon arriving in Washington DC, the first session I attended was a Meet & Greet with Stuart Webb, the founder of Collaborative Divorce.  To say that I felt out of my element and a little intimidated  was an understatement.  After speaking with Mr. Webb and the other speakers for the session, I instantly felt comfortable.  the session included singing a song, meditating and interacting with others.  I connected with people on a level I probably never would have otherwise.  That Meet & Greet session jump-started my Forum weekend and got me energized to learn more about the process and meet more colleagues.

For my first Forum, as a new financial collaborative professional, the majority of the sessions I attended focused on the financial aspect of collaborative practice.  My goal was to learn the most I could, in the financial area of the process, to better my skills and to spread the knowledge to other members of the CDANJ.

The weekend was so motivating, watching attorneys, financial and mental health professionals, from all over the world, come together to teach and better collaborative practice.  The sessions were mentally stimulating and the speakers were inspiring.

I look forward to attending IACP Forums in the future and will focus  on attending more sessions that are outside my comfort zone; I believe that they will greatly contribute to my being a more well-rounded professional.

The next IACP Forum will be held in Lake Las Vegas, NV, from October 17-30, 2016.

 

Megan Sartor,                                                                                                      CPA/ABV/CFF/SAX BST/LLP

 

Collaborative Colleagues Celebrate Latest Achievement of Paul Kreisinger

Paul KreisingerCollaborative colleagues celebrate the latest achievement of Paul Kreisinger. On July 24, 2015, at the Mekong Delta Restaurant, in Ridgewood, NJ, Paul Kreisinger, esq, MSW, was celebrated for becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He has recently opened his private psychotherapy practice, in Ridgewood, in addition to his law practice. Paul, a Renaissance man, regaled his mental health colleagues with his professional ventures, as well as his nonprofessional activities. He is husband to a professional wife, doting father of an accomplished daughter, a musician and more lately, an exercise aficionado in addition to attending conferences far and wide. Attending mental health professionals, Shireen Meistrich, Elisabeth Curshen , Toby Friedman and Sharon Klempner admired his endless energy and good humor.
All enjoyed a scrumptious meal, chosen and prepared by the chef, and the camaraderie between members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey. We not only support each other professionally but also enjoy each other’s company, a plus, in trust, when working together as a team for clients.

Ethics and the Collaborative Law Attorney

The Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey held a seminar, for its collaborative attorneys, entitled “Ethics and the Collaborative Law Attorney”, on April 21, 2015. The Association’s president, Larry Esposito, esq. integrated Opinion 699 of the Advisory Committee of Professional Ethics with relevant New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals’ ethical standards and the recently passed New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act.

Discussion of a variety of  ethical issues included: screening  before a client signs onto the collaborative law process, confidentiality, discovery, cut-off dates and advocacy.  Attorneys attending appreciated the breadth and depth of the seminar.

 

Joseph C. Note, Esq.

 

 

CDANJ: THE 2015 IACP INSTITUTE TRAVELS TO AUSTRALIA

cdanjThis is the sunset view on top of the Sofitel hotel in Broadbeach,Australia to kick off the welcome to the IACP Australian Institute event this past April! There were 120 participants learning and exchanging ideas, concepts, and theories about collaborative process and collaborative divorce. IACP members from Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, England, Scotland, Canada, and The United States gathered for some in depth all day programming that aimed at honing and expanding their collaborative skills. I took a course on the Challenge of Teams and a course entitled the Psychology of Conflict. Both were enriching and intellectually stimulating as we exchanged ideas and experienced a deeper understanding of how the collaborative process is experienced throughout the world. I really appreciate the depth and the intimacy that the Institute learning has to offer, which is different than the Forum, but equally inspiring. For those interested in taking their collaborative divorce skills to the next level, I highly recommend attending the next Institute.

 

Shireen Meistrich, LCSW