Articles Posted in Collaborative Law

Couch-Meeting-300x200Welcome back to my series of bullet point guides on divorce litigation. We’re coming to the end of this guide, with more information to come on various aspects of family law in the months ahead. If you’ve been keeping up with this series to this point, you’ll know we’ve been covering some of the most commonly queried parts of divorce litigation, ranging all the way from “what is equitable distribution”, to how decisions are made about maintenance.

This time, we’re going to be looking at the concept of an uncontested divorce, what kind of documents you would need to complete an uncontested divorce, and when you might choose to switch from litigation to mediation or collaborative law. Continue reading ›

Going through a New York divorce can be an extremely difficult time for both spouses. However, it does not have to be. When the parties can agree on some of the businessmeeting-300x200fundamental issues, New York divorce mediation is an excellent option to decrease the amount of time, money, and stress expended in the process of getting a divorce.

As anyone who has been through a New York divorce understands, filing for divorce is not free. On top of the legal fees that will be incurred by each party, various filing and trial preparation fees can add up to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, the time it takes for a New York divorce to become final differs, but it is typically a lengthy process that lasts between six months to over a year.

Divorce mediation is an alternative to court litigation for people who want to separate their lives and obtain a New York divorce. The mediation process involves the parties sitting down with a neutral third-party mediator who helps the parties discuss all the relevant issues of the divorce and come up with a mutually acceptable plan. Once the agreement is reached, the end result will be the same as if the couple had gone through the court system to obtain a divorce – except the parties will have saved themselves a significant amount of time and money.

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For some people, the thought of going through a divorce canbe terrifying. Divorces are emotional experiences, that require a great deal of thought and planning to make sure that you walk out at the other end of the procedure prepared for your future. As a divorce attorney, I know that the last thing many of my clients want to do when they’re dealing with the vulnerability they feel during a divorce case, is to present their argument in front of a New York court. Even if the divorce is amicable, taking the process to court can be an overwhelming, and time-consuming process. That’s why opportunities have emerged that allow people considering divorce to choose other methods of dispute resolution.

Alternative dispute resolution proceedings allow you to resolve the issues that appear during the divorce process, through a series of informal negotiations between spouses. These negotiations can take place in more comfortable office spaces, and may ensure that you never have to step inside of a court room. Eventually, the purpose of an alternative dispute resolution is to allow both parties to come to a voluntary settlement about how they want their divorce to be handled. Here, we’ll take a look at the two most common forms of alternative dispute resolution, both of which I can perform from my office here in Long Island.

Using Divorce Mediation for Alternative Dispute Resolution

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Although divorce lawyers are required to remain current with their knowledge in all areas involving family law, thisdoesn’t negate the value of accessing external insight from other professionals during a divorce mediation or collaborative law procedure. I often find that divorcing couples seem unsure of their rights regarding financial matters during a divorce, and may be unaware of the financial implications posed by different settlement options. Just as a child specialist can be effective in helping couples to navigate the complexities associated with child-centric cases, a financial neutral can be beneficial in providing guidance regarding financial concerns. Specifically, financial neutrals can be particularly helpful in answering the question of how both sides in a divorce can manage the transition from one household, to two households, in a way that maintains financial stability.

Unlike collaborative cases – which often involve a team of professionals, most mediation sessions involve a divorcing couple, and a mediator. However, this doesn’t mean that mediation, like collaborative law, cannot be supported by independent parties. In fact, mediating coupes are regularly advised to seek out review attorneys who can review their mediated agreement and help them understand their rights. In the same vein, there’s nothing preventing other professionals from joining the mediation for the best interests of both parties involved. After all, during a litigated case, other experts are frequently retained and court ordered. In collaborative cases, financial neutrals, and neutral divorce coaches usually make up vital parts of the team. Continue reading ›

Matters of family law are almost always more complex when they involve children. This is one of the manyreasons why a large number of parent’s attempt to resolve disputes and concerns through amicable legal methods such as mediation and collaborative law, in an effort to avoid some of the frustration and turmoil that can result through litigation. Sometimes, in order for a mediation or collaborative case to have the most successful impact in any given situation, it may require the input of additional input beyond that given by the neutral mediating party, and any collaborative lawyers present. In fact, many mediators and collaborative lawyers actively advise working alongside other experts during a negotiation-friendly discussion of child custody and parenting time issues whether in the context of a divorce or not.

One of the many valuable experts involved in collaborative and mediation cases for parents, is a child specialist. These individuals are often engaged in an attempt to assist with easing the emotional transition and friction involved in making decisions based on parenting time, custody, and other highly significant family matters. Child specialists are unique in their ability to offer significant value to many cases in the form of additional specialized knowledge, techniques for dispute resolution, and more. While child specialists are referred to most commonly in the context of collaborative law, they can also be used to positive effect in mediation. Continue reading ›


There are several different ways to approach divorce. Among the gentlest, yet sophisticated disputeresolution methods is collaborative divorce. The parties in a collaborative divorce enter into a contract (“Participation Agreement”) to negotiate a divorce settlement without involving the court, or a mediator, but rather assembling a team comprised of collaborative attorneys, a neutral psychological professional (divorce coach), and often a neutral financial professional. During the collaborative law process, the parties sometimes engage experts for assistance, such as appraisers.

Among the benefits are more control over the process than you have by going to court, less acrimony and stress, usually less expense and time than a highly litigated case, and the preservation of existing family relationships. In many cases, collaborative law is the best choice for parents trying to protect their children from the emotionally destructive aspects of traditional divorce litigation.

The parties also have the benefit of counsel advice during the process, which they sometimes don’t during mediation (even though people are advised to use review attorneys in mediation). However, critically, if a matter does not get resolved through the collaborative process, the attorneys who represented the parties in the collaborative divorce cannot represent them in the litigation that follows. The rule is intended to allow the divorcing parties to be more honest and direct and posture less. It also ensures that attorneys commit themselves to the collaborative process, rather than abandon it for litigation.

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No matter the circumstances, a divorce is rarely pleasant or easy, but it can be resolution and a new beginning. In any situation, there are various factors that both parties will need to carefully consider – such as how to split or share assets, who should be responsible for what, arrangements connected to child custody and parenting time or visitation, alimony aka maintenance, and so on. Commonly, divorcing spouses find that they agree on very little, and neither are immediately willing to compromise. When dealing with a high net worth divorce, the issues can become somewhat more intense, as unique nuances present themselves that are likely to occur less frequently in other cases. For instance, the stakes are higher as each side has more resources at stake, including a combination of business interests, assets, tax implications and more. Because of this, certain steps that wouldn’t be considered at other times come into play more frequently and in greater number.

In any divorce, both parties are likely to feel a wide range of emotions, from disappointment and aggravation, to anger and betrayal. Because of this, divorce rarely seems like the best time to make decisions regarding long-term finances, but it is crucial to consider the effect a divorce is going to have on someone’s life moving forward. In a high net worth case it is particularly important not to rush, just to get the divorce done. While a quick resolution may be desired, things need to be carefully considered. It’s worth noting that many of the considerations that must be addressed in high net worth divorce cases are topics that may be relevant in typical divorces. However, since the resources are greater, the incidence of issues within high net worth cases may be more frequent and the consequences greater. Continue reading ›

Issues of conflict commonly arise when parties within a case find themselves intolerant of each other’s requests or opinions. When goals change, cracks can begin to form in relationships of any kind – from marriages, to parents and their children, colleagues in the workplace and more. When people think and act agreeably, there is an alignment that ensures dispute and conflict can often be avoided – however this is rarely the case in legal matters, particularly in regards to family law.

Unfortunately, the more conflict is allowed to grow, the more likely it is that such conflict will begin to cause serious problems – which can be a barrier to resolving a case and reaching an amicable settlement. The task of professional mediators, collaborative lawyers and negotiators is to utilize the right techniques in de-escalating conflict and resolving matrimonial and family law cases. Although this blog is mostly written with divorce mediation in mind, such techniques can also be useful in collaborative cases, and to a certain extent may have some impact on classic settlement negotiation or litigation. However, the adversarial model used within the court system often tends to escalate, rather than reduce conflict – leaving less room for resolution by agreement. Continue reading ›

Let me start this blog by stating that this blog entry is not to be considered tax advice. Everyone is advised to seek the advice of an appropriate tax professional, such as a CPA, regarding tax questions. This blog, however, is intended to identify some issues and language to be considered when trying to address the tax issues that commonly present in divorces. These matters should be considered when planning, drafting and negotiating a divorce settlement with your divorce lawyer or mediator.

Each case and agreement is different, so the following is intended to be illustrative only. Tax filing status is a big consideration when divorcing. Some common language in a settlement agreement might provide that the husband and wife can file taxes jointly or separately if they so choose for any tax year that they are still married at some juncture during the year. In that event any tax refunds received are often designated by the agreement as the Separate Property of the recipient spouse. The settlement can also state that if both sides agree to filing jointly, they may do so only so long as they are able under the tax laws. In what proportion any refunds or taxes owed should be discussed such as whether everything (refunds or amounts due) is going to be shared equally or in proportion to the respective contributions towards taxes or responsibility for any shortfall. Continue reading ›

My mission is to help the wronged, unhappy or injured get what is fair and right.  This is the initial draft of my “Why” as I discovered yesterday when doing an exercise at the annual training of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.  The “Why” can be tweaked and tested, but this is was what I came up with after working with others to search for it in the exercise.  The exercise to find our Why was as suggested by Simon Sinek’s method through our trainer at the meeting.  My understanding of what the Why is would be that which we can not help but doing because it is our natural inclination.  On reflection, I get to do this as a matrimonial,  family law lawyer and mediator on a daily basis.  As a mediator, it is not my role to advocate for either side of the issue, but rather to facilitate the coming together to resolve their issues.  When I look at the settlements as crafted between the parties from my mediated cases, I find that they are fair balanced agreements.  It is my job as a review attorney to identify for my clients the fairness of the agreements that have been negotiated with a different mediator.

As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation and collaborative law, but the majority of my cases are and have been in the more traditional route as set up by the court system, which is the adversarial system.  So, a lot of my clients are in battle, and as their lawyer, I fight hard for them.  Since I am an experienced litigator, trained and certified mediator and collaborative law attorney, it allows me to help people with divorce and family law issues no matter what process they choose to use.  It turns out though, that my chosen profession fits the why that I discovered.  Invariably, people with matrimonial and family law issues either feel wronged, unhappy or injured in some way.  It is my job as their lawyer to help them get what is fair and right.

There are many reasons that I recommend mediation or collaborative law over the traditional adversarial route for those that are willing and able to do it.  To name a few of them, the adversarial method tends to foster bad feelings between the parties as the usual modus operandi of everyone involved is to emphasize the good for their side and the bad about the other.  In other words there is mud slinging in litigation.  Just because a relationship has ended, however, does not mean that people need to leave the relationship as enemies.  Two parents are forever connected by their children even if they are no longer romantically involved. Continue reading ›

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