2015 Annual New Jersey Collaborative Dinner

The New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups held its annual state dinner on March 18, 2015, at Maggianno’s in Bridgewater, NJ with Ross Evans, esq as the featured speaker. Ross was a former president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals [IACP] and has practiced collaborative law for many years,in Cincinnati, Ohio. His topic was “Public Education: Building Awareness in Your Professional Communities”.

Attendees included collaboratively trained attorneys, mental health and financial professionals. The Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey was well represented and members were enthusiastic about Ross’ guidance in helping other professionals and the public discover the benefits of collaborative divorce. Ross emphasized the importance of informing and educating the clergy who are close to those going through divorce and in distress. Collaborative professionals can ease the stress of couples who are divorcing, and their families, as well as mental health professionals and the clergy who are also there to help.

Joe Noto, esq

Young Children and Divorce

mission statement for the collaborative divorce association of north jerseyYoung Children and Divorce…..On March 16, 2015 a group of attorneys and financial professionals of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey attended a presentation by four of the mental health members of the same group. Toby Friedman, LSCW, Linda Taylor, PhD, Elisabeth Curshen, LCSW and Sharon Klempner, LCSW offered a peak into the window of how younger children experience divorce. The group viewed “Split”, a documentary, by Ellen Bruno, in which children, age six through twelve, share their feelings about their parents’ divorce and how they cope.

Various aspects of the children’s divorce experience that Bruno covered were: Wondering, Two Homes, Back and Forth, Missing, What Happened, Wishing, New People, May Be, and Life Goes On. Seeing and hearing a young child say,”It’s something that you love breaks and you want to put it back together” but can’t or “I feel it was
my fault cause I was hard on my mother” takes the viewer into the child’s head for a moment to empathize with the curiosity, fears, helplessness, dependence and confusion. One marvels at their attempt and success at various ways of coping.

The group discussed how parents can be overwhelmed with their own emotions and responsibilities so they may not realize what their children are experiencing. Attendees were informed that children do not want to upset or anger their parents so they may not share all their feelings. Attorneys appreciated the Child Specialist role that mental health members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey perform to help children express their needs and help the parents understand those needs. The Child Specialist is the only member of the Collaborative team who sees the parents and the children, in a brief and focused manner. The Child Specialist is also available, post divorce, if requested, but only in the Child Specialist role, not as a therapist.

The presenters stressed that the importance of the role of the Child Specialist is not just for young children but extends to teens and adults, even those who are married with their own children.

Sharon Klempner, MSW, LCSW, BCD

CDANJ Annual Retreat

On Sunday, February 8, 2015, members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey convened for their Annual Retreat at the Bergen County Bar Association in Hackensack. Featured was Victoria Smith, esteemed collaborative attorney, author and lecturer from Toronto, Canada, with over thirty years of experience.
The topic of Victoria’s day-long presentation was “Exploring Collaborative Advocacy”. The program focused on how the role of advocacy, in the Collaborative process, differs from advocacy in the tradition litigation model. Members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey who participated gained a better understanding of how the role of the advocate is redefined when applied to a Collaborative Divorce context.
Attendees also received training about the spectrum of advocacy in the Collaborative process, ranging from Facilitative Advocacy to Partisan Advocacy. Other skills honed at the Retreat included screening techniques for clients in the Collaborative process: working with a variety of clients who could be considered accommodating, bullying or those with unrealistic expectations. The feedback received from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.
A day-long upcoming training, which the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey is co-sponsoring, with the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals, is entitled “Conflict Transformation”. The program, on February 26, 2015, in White Plains, New York, features a former President of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Nancy Cameron. Nancy is an internationally acclaimed Collaborative law expert, lecturer and author who will be speaking about conflict resolution strategies which practitioners can apply to all types of family law disputes.

Larry Esposito, Esq.

In Memorium: Lorraine Breitman, esq.

Members of the Collaborative  Divorce Association of North Jersey mourn the loss of a valued colleague, Lorraine Breitman, who passed away November 1, 2014.  Although she had only practiced collaborative law for the past several years, her colleagues knew she would be a wonderful ‘fit’ for the collaborative process.   Lorraine was a family attorney for more than 25 years and was dedicated to helping make the divorce  experience  more respectful for couples and their children.  She was a devoted wife and loving mother who cherished her 10-year-old twins.  Lorraine was an energetic presence who filled a room with sunshine with her grace, humor and positive attitude.  If she saw a problem, she not only addressed it but offered possible solutions.  Our colleagues consider themselves fortunate to have known and worked with her.  She will be sorely missed and long remembered.


Sharon Klempner

Passage of the New Jersey Collaborative Family Law Act Should Not Create the Impression that Collaborative Divorce is Untested or Undeveloped in New Jersey

New Jersey has a reputation for being progressive in the development of statutory and case law with respect of family, divorce and custody matters.  On September 19, 2014, New Jersey became the ninth state to enact a Collaborative Family Law  Act.(NJCFLA).  Passage of the NJCFLA reinforces general awareness that there are improved methods to resolve disputes rather than escalating acrimony via litigation, which can be financially and emotionally detrimental.  The NJCFLA  sets  standards and unifies the concept of Collaborative Law  already practiced  in our state.   Litigators who are interested in clients’ best interests recommend and attempt to utilize alternate dispute resolution techniques, when applicable to clients’ situations. New Jersey had already joined the national and international movement of Collaborative Law, which has been practiced in our state for years. The Collaborative Law method exists in 42 states and D.C. as well as 24 countries.

Courts and attorneys have employed various alternate dispute resolution techniques for years, beginning with the concept of negotiating and settling issues with an agreement reached between the parties, with the help and guidance of their attorneys. To assist in such an undertaking, the Early Settlement Panel [consisting of experienced volunteer attorneys) was developed and implemented in all counties.  Eventually, counties offered complementary custody mediation.  Then, mandatory economic mediation was introduced and these procedures were implemented within the framework of the litigation process.  Most parties in litigation realize, at some point, that alternate dispute resolution [ADR] is superior to proceeding to a costly and emotionally draining trial.  ADR techniques have evolved in many cultures and in the court systems; the collaborative divorce method  operates completely outside of the  litigation system until the final resolutions of issues results in an uncontested divorce.

Mediation can be pursued prior to or independent of litigation. However, not all couples are able to participate in mediation without ongoing assistance.  It’s best for each party to have an attorney for legal advice.  In Collaborative divorce, each party has an attorney, trained in mediation, trained in mediation as well who supports each client in  positive manner that benefits both parties and their children.

For those considering divorce, it is important to know  that members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey have been training for years in the collaborative method and are committed to its principles toward moderating the destructive aspects of  divorce and creating a more constructive experience for divorcing couples and their  families.  Our collaborative divorce professionals have access to experts, as needed, who tailor the process to a couple’s, or family’s, specific situation and needs such as custody determinations, tax issues, evaluation tasks and legal issues.

Sharon Clancy, Esquire


Divorce: Changing versus Ending the Relationship

There is no such thing as divorce…It is impossible to end a relationship.  It is only possible to change it.  Marriages cannot be ended… We can tell each other that they ended, we can even get government officials to declare they ended but we cannot end them.

The quote above is from Debbie Ford’s book, “Spiritual Divorce” and excerpted from the 2014 Advanced Training Manual of the New York Association of Collaborative Professions and the North Jersey Collaborative Law Group.

Once you have committed your heart to another person, you may revoke the commitment but not the reason you initially made it.  At some point, the partner you now wish to leave was compelling enough for you to have pledged yourself, to him or to her, forever.  Though you may desire to completely eradicate the relationship from your life, especially if you have children, it’s unlikely that you can erase the way that you have changed as a result of the marriage.

Further proof of the permanence of the past resides in the precious faces of your children, which can bear a resemblance to the partner your may wish to never see again.  Acknowledging the good that resulted from the marriage will increase future communication between you both which is crucial to cooperative co-parenting post-divorce.  Collaborative divorce can help  you accomplish such a goal by emphasizing the constructive roles you both share in raising your children [or decreasing the stress of emancipated children].  A Collaborative divorce preserves your parental relationship rather than contributing to a negative dissolution of the bonds between you, as often occurs in a litigated divorce.   Collaborative professionals are sensitive to the various needs of  parents and children [young and older] and committed to helping the whole family move forward in a restorative manner.

Pamela Zivari, Esquire

Guiding Clients: Financial Aspects of Divorce

On July 9, 2014, the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey was honored to have one of its members and past board member, Hubert Klein, CPA/ABV/CFF, CVA, CFE, give his presentation, “Guiding Clients: Financial Aspects of Divorce.” His presentation included collaborative divorce, mediation and litigation.  Hubert offered a detailed review of the process of filing the complain, the response and management aspects of the divorce process.  During a marriage couples accumulate a lot of financial personal date.  An informative handout provided a detailed list of what each spouse should obtain to get a total picture of the marital estate.

Suggestions were offered on how a financial expert helps the parties sift through the maze of information.  He clarified the actual role of the financial expert.  Major areas in which the financial expert can assist are:


*  Gather documents
*  Prepare a current budget
*  Prepare a personal balance sheet
*  Help the client plan and understand current and future
financial obligations
*  Understand the after-tax value of assets available for
equitable distribution
*  Help client understand the tax implications of various
transfers and its implication on liquidity
*  After the divorce, many things need to be taken care of,
such as retitling of assets, facilitate the transfer of IRA’s,
review and update Wills and beneficiaries

A second handout “Seven Financial Mistakes” was offered.

Collaborative members appreciated this excellent educational opportunity .

Walter Loeffer, CPA/ABV, CFF, CVA

A Future International President in Our Midst !

The Collaborative Divorce Association is extremely proud to announce that one of its own, our immediate past President and current Treasurer and Board member, Shireen B. Meistrich, LCSW, has bee selected President Elect of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).  Shireen currently serves as Secretary of the IACP and will assume the Presidency in 2015/2016.  When Shireen assumes the Presidency of the IACP, she will be the first full-time non-attorney President of the organization.

Shireen’s selfless contributions and commitment to the Collaborative movement, internationally and particularly in New Jersey with the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey and as a founding Board member of the New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups, are unsurpassed.  Shireen serves as a divorce coach and child specialist and is deeply committed to helping families resolve their conflicts with dignity and respect and to maintain a healthy connection after the divorce. LARRY J. ESPOSITO, ESQ.


DATE:  JUNE 12, 2014

CONTACT: VALERIE BROWN, ESQ., LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, 215-933-9978, ValerieBrown95@gmail.com.


Today, the New Jersey State Legislature took a major step forward toward empowering families to divorce with dignity and self-esteem, without resort to conventional litigation. The Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously released A-1477, the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act. S-1224, the Senate counterpart to A-1477, was unanimously released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 24th and the Senate Budget Committee on June 5th.
The bills have received widespread bipartisan support throughout the State Legislature, as well as the endorsement of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), New Jersey Law Revision Commission (NJLRC), and all five New Jersey Uniform Law Commissioners.

The New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups spearheaded the efforts toward passage of the act with the support of its eight practice groups, consisting of hundreds of collaboratively trained professionals throughout New Jersey. Asm. Patrick Diegnan, Esquire (D-14) (Pictured at the far right in the above photograph), the Assembly bill’s prime sponsor, strongly praised the Council’s efforts in swiftly advancing the legislation.

Speaking at today’s Assembly Judiciary Committee meeting, Council Co-Chair Linda Piff, Esquire said, “My colleagues and I were determined to change the way people divorce in New Jersey. We started in 2004 with a small group of ten like-minded individuals and our movement has grown throughout the State. Collaborative law is a powerful idea whose time has come!”

Speaking on the Disqualification Clause in the bill, Council Co-Chair, Anna Maria Pittella, Esquire, said, “This bill creates an obligation on the attorney to focus only on negotiations and to use problem solving skills to break an impasse. It provides for team building that is needed to address all three parts of the divorce: legal, financial, and mental health.”

Finally, Council Co-Chair, Shireen Meistrich, LCSW, IACP President-Elect said, “I truly believe that the collaborative process is an agent of social change as it has the ability to truly shift the way we think about conflict and how we resolve it.”

Other Council members speaking in support of the bill included, John Caroli, CFP, Patricia Carney, Esquire, and Joesph Noto, Esquire. Jeralyn Lawrence, Esquire, Chair-Elect of NJSBA’s Family Law Section and Laura Tharney, Esquire, NJLRC Executive Director, rounded out vigorous testimony in support of the bill.

The bills now head for a vote before both Houses of the State Legislature.

Therapy Can Be an Important Part of the Divorce Process

therapy in divorceOne of the things that I have noticed over the course of my career as a family law attorney is that people going through the divorce process have an unwillingness to go to therapy even though they could benefit greatly from the process. “I don’t need help, I’m dealing with it” or “I need a divorce, not therapy” are refrains I have become used to hearing. Continue reading