Melissa Donahue, LCSW is the Unit Leader NASW-NJ for Bergen and Passaic County. On January 27th, she invited Shireen Meistrich, LCSW to present a program on collaborative divorce to the Bergen-Passaic social workers. Both Melissa and Shireen are members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey. Collaborative Divorce offers a respectful and dignified approach for families going through a divorce. Educating the professionals working with these family’s about this consensus dispute resolution option remains essential so people can understand all the options available to them during the process. Collaborative Divorce focuses on all family members goals, needs, and interests to help a family achieve an optimal resolution for a final settlement.
Judith Deer, Esq. delivered a spirited talk to 15 members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey at its recent brown-bag lunch on April 3, 2019. The presentation included all aspects of division of retirement plans as part of the divorce process. Ms. Deer is the president of All-Pro QDRO, an organization dedicated to assisting law firms in negotiating and drafting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”).
Various types of retirement plans were reviewed. Ms Deer discussed in detail the difference between Defined Contribution Plans (such as a 401(k) or savings plans) and Defined
Benefit Plans (such as traditional pension plans). The various mechanisms of division of Defined Benefit Plans were addressed including the martial coverture approach (Marx Formula) and the immediate offset approach.
A most informative part of the talk included division of a 401(k) pre-judgment, without any early withdrawal penalty. By the use of a QDRO, qualified payees which are limited to a spouse, former spouse or a dependent can utilize a QDRO pre-judgment for certain purposes including payment of legal fees. In these instances the alternate payee satisfies any taxes which might be due.
Ms. Deer reviewed the four things which should be included in the Property Settlement Agreement, to then be incorporated into the QDRO. These include the following:
- 1.Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity so the alternate payee receives the funds even if the participant dies before the plan goes into effect.
- 2. Marx Formula (martial coverture fraction).
- 3. Cost of living increases.
- 4. Early retirement subsidy.
Ms. Deer pointed out that if these items are negotiated between the parties, which unfortunately is often not the case, it can avoid problems later on when preparing the QDRO. If the early retirement subsidy, for example, is not included in the Property Settlement Agreement, it can result in litigation at a later point.
Ms. Deer also discussed New Jersey state plans as opposed to Federal plans; public plans as opposed to private plans; and provided a general overview of TIAA-CREF. The mechanism by which various plans set up separate interest accounts for the alternate payee was also reviewed. Ms. Deer pointed out that once an election has been made for the creation of the separate interest account, such elections are irrevocable.
We were also treated to a discussion of the unique Police Fire Retirement Pension which is the only plan in New Jersey that does not allow for survivor benefits. Ms. Deer recommended that if a PFRS plan is involved, the best approach is to value the pension so that the alternate payee can be bought out or if necessary life insurance can be purchased to avoid the problem of the participant dying before the alternate payee.
Judy had an audience which was quite interested in the presentation. She endured questions which went on well past the usual ending time. An enjoyable and educational experience was had by all.
By: Daniel Hoberman, Esq.
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!
Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey had three members attend the 2018 Seattle annual IACP Forum this past October.
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!
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 !
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
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.
Sharon Klempner, MSW, LCSW, BCD
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
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.
This 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