NJCCPG Takes Seattle 2018 Forum

NJCCPG-Seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Group members attended the 2018 Seattle Forum of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. We spent the weekend learning and sharing and exchanging ideas with the global community. We received amazing collaborative training and participated in the inaugural global pin exchange. Lots of professionals were seeking out our NJ pins so next year we need to bring even more!

2018 Seattle annual IACP Forum

Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey had three members attend the 2018 Seattle annual IACP Forum this past October.

IACP Forum 2018

Left to right:
Marcia Werner, Shireen Meistrich, and Mitchell Arons.
There was lots of in depth learning and collaborative training available all weekend long. The full group will also meet on Wednesday November 7th to share the learning and wonderful training with our larger collaborative CDANJ community.
We are already planning for the 2019 Forum in Chicago!

Advanced learning and networking with fellow NJ practitioners

Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey members spend the day on May 3rd training at the New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups annual event with Ron Ousky. Great day of advanced learning and networking with fellow NJ practitioners!

collaborative divorce training

Bottom left: Adam Berner, Marcia Werner, Amelia Nickols, Toby Friedman
Top Left: Sharon Clancy, Melissa Donahue, Sharon Klempner, Larry Esposito, Dan Hoberman, Shireen Meistrich and speaker Ron Ousky

Learning About Your Options Through The Ending Of A Hollywood Marriage

(Photo by Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic)

In 2002, a very funny movie came out. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the story of a Greek woman who falls in love with a non-Greek man. Hilarity ensues as they plan their wedding and meld their families and cultures. Actress Nia Vardalos wrote, produced and starred in the film which is loosely based on the real life events surrounding her marriage to Ian Gomez; who played the best man in the film.

Vardalos and Gomez recently announced they are divorcing after nearly 25 years of marriage. Unfortunately, divorce is common these days. What is uncommon is the way they have seemingly chosen to divorce. In addition to the dignity and grace they are showing in their public communication of their decision, papers filed by Vardalos and responded to by Gomez indicate they requested that spousal support be determined in mediation. Timing is important because the IRS will not allow spousal support to be deducted for tax savings in divorces finalized after 2018.

What does mediation mean? How does it work? And why would they choose that path? Can you do that too?

Maybe! Make no mistake, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are actively engaged in a lawsuit. The dissolution of your marriage is a legal event ending your marriage contract. But, you and your spouse have more direct control than you may realize over the cost and time involved when getting divorced. There are three primary divorce processes couples can select from: mediation, collaborative or traditional litigation. Each path is unique and though you will end up at the same place – divorced – how you get there varies widely. This chart gives you an overview:

Divorce: The Leaver and the Left

For the majority of couples who come apart or divorce, to say it is a ‘trying time’ is to put it mildly. There is a loss of the hopes and dreams that most of us have when we embark on such unions, compounded by the reality that has evolved.

 

When one partner/spouse is convinced that their relationship is no longer viable and needs to be out of it, the partner/spouse doesn’t have a choice. What’s important, for both, is to realize that they are not in sync with their thoughts and feelings. Each person needs to understand the other in order to be able to part in a respectful manner, particularly when there are children involved.

 

The ‘leaver’ has made the decision that it is necessary to come apart, most often after experiencing sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc. about their situation. Most people don’t elect to take such steps lightly or quickly. They mentally slog through the disagreements, disappointments, and considerable differences between them. Both adults go through the five stages akin to having and accepting a terminal illness:

 

  1. Denial…feeling this can’t be happening to us, it’s unreal.
  2. Depression…any changes in eating, sleeping, energy level.
  3. Anger…impatience and resentment of their partner and why can’t they change?
  4. Negotiation…acknowledging the need for change and how to achieve it.
  5. Acceptance…we will be coming apart.

 

The leaver needs to realize is that their partner, who may not feel the same way about their relationship [or may, but not conclude that coming apart is the best or only solution] has time to adjust and will need to go through the same stages. The stages are generally experienced in the order listed above although people often shift back and forward, particularly in the beginning phases. It helps when the leaver understands his/her partner/spouse’s need for going through that process and presents his/her wishes gently, clearly stating the reasons for the decision and then being patient for his/her partner to catch up or, at least, be accepting to come apart.  Doing this can facilitate a somewhat less emotional and more civil dissolution of the relationship or marriage, which is important to the couple and how they each move on but even so much more essential when there are children.

 

The person who doesn’t want to end the relationship, for a multitude of possible reasons, is thrust into the first phase listed above. “This can’t be happening!” “I knew we had problems but…not this!” “How can you do this to me (and the children)?” That partner/spouse usually experiences deep sadness once the reality settles in. Everyone’s coping mechanisms vary in how this and all of the phases present. Once anger is boils up in the left partner/spouse, he/she frequently resents that their partner/spouse is doing so well and this is “easy for them”, not realizing that the leaver has, most often, suffered through the same feelings before and is just ahead of them. If that can be sincerely explained it can ameliorate a negative reaction. When there isn’t counter blaming or accusations, there can be a less traumatic coming to terms with the situation and negotiating. Then, acceptance can progress.

 

When in a relationship, it is always beneficial to mentally step into the other person’s shoes to imagine how they think and feel rather than getting stuck in our own perspective of things. When a relationship not working or the relationship is ending, it’s even more vital.

 

by Sharon Klempner, MSW, LCSW, BCD

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