Guding 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

A Future International President in Our Midst !

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

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 found Board member of the New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups, are unsurpassed. She serves as a divorce coach and child specialist and is deep committed to helping families resolve their conflicts with dignity and respect to benefit the entire family post-divorce.

Larry Esposito, Esq.

Annual N.J. Collaborative Conference

The annual Collaborative State Conference, sponsored by the New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups, was held at Maggiano’s,in Bridgewater, N.J., on May 21, 2014. Talia Katz, Chief Executive Officer of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals [IACP] presented on “Excellence in Practice”. A strong showing of collaborative practitioners, from all over New Jersey, were present, eager to pursue the goal of excellence in their work. Ms Katz, a collaborative attorney, was inspirational, in her offerings, quoting Aristotle – “Excellence is not an act but a habit”. She reminded attendees that it is crucial to see “the forest and the trees” when practicing collaborative divorce, being aware of the small and the big picture.
Ms Katz focused on necessity of commitment to team work, the importance of case work uniformity and being in sync with team colleagues, to best serve collaborative clients. Collaborative professionals need to trust [the process and each other] and have the courage to do, just as clients are asked to do. Ms Katz stressed the need for collaborative coaches on the team to best serve clients.
Attendees were also reminded of the usefulness of the IACP which now has over 350 practice groups, in 24 countries and 9 languages spoken. Collaborative practitioners offer a broad range of services to separating and divorcing couples throughout the world. The IACP provides a plethora of resources, a wonderful website, providing a library, handouts, videos and Forums. Ms Katz stated that collaborative professionals “try to change the nature of conflict resolution, which does require an international connection.
Collaborative practitioners lauded the presentation, the lovely dinner and enjoyed the opportunity of exchanging ideas and goals with colleagues.

Sharon Klempner, LCSW

Annual Collaborative Attorney Meeting

On May 5, 2014, attorney members of the North Jersey Collaborative Law Group and the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey held their annual meeting and training, in Hackensack, New Jersey. The meeting featured a continuing education program, conducted by Catherine E. Youngman, Esq., of Paramus, New Jersey and was entitled, “I Am Getting Divorce…Can I Go Bankrupt Also?” Although many of the attending attorneys had basic knowledge, from their matrimonial law practices, regarding the impact of bankruptcy on clients going through a divorce, the presentation provided more specialized information related to actual cases. Attendees learned the differences between Chapter 7, 13 and 11 bankruptcies and which Chapter was best suited for their divorcing client. Ms Youngman offered insight into the ramifications of representing divorcing couples when only one party files a bankruptcy petition. Other topics included: if divorcing couples in the collaborative divorce process can share a bankruptcy attorney and if a Chapter 7 trustee has the power to become involved in equitable distribution decisions prior to a divorce.
Ms Youngman explained what marital property becomes part of the bankruptcy estate, what happens to secured property in bankruptcy and what can be done, if anything, about judgment and tax liens. The program was highly informative for the collaborative attorneys’ clients who are involved in a collaborative divorce, mediation or litigated matter.

Larry Esposito, Esq.

Collaborative Advanced Training

On April 24, 2014 members of the Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey and the North Jersey Collaborative Law Group met, in Westchester, NY, for an advanced collaborative divorce training entitled, “Adult Attachment Style During Relationship Breakdown, A Road Map for Collaborative Professionals”. The training was co-sponsored by the North Jersey Collaborative Law Group and the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals; it featured distinguished speakers, Yuval Berger, MSW, RSW, a mental health professional and collaborative divorce lawyer, Lisa Alexander, BA, LLB. Yuval and Lisa practice in Vancouver, Canada (the site of this year’s upcoming IACP Forum) and have taught collaborative law courses in Canada, the U.S. and internationally.
During the training, attendees learned to identify various attachment styles and how people with each style tend to react during conflict. The program also helped collaborative professionals assess how clients will likely react during the collaborative divorce process, to enable members of the collaborative team to effectively structure the progress of a collaborative divorce to better serve the needs of all members of the family. Attendees also learned to be more cognizant of their own attachment styles and how to best utilize those styles to facilitate the collaborative process for the benefit of their clients.

Larry Esposito, Esq.

The Milan Institute

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) hosted its fourth Institute, for advanced training, in its first international destination in Milan, Italy in March, 2014. One hundred collaborative practitioners, from around the world, representing thirteen countries, spent four days learning, fine tuning collaborative skills, networking an supporting each other and enjoying the beauty of Milan.
Three New Jersey collaborative practitioners attended and the feed-back was positive, encouraging educational support and international connections that are fostered by our collaborative work.
Collaborative professionals are passionate and committed to the process and know that it is a vehicle for social change as we work together to support divorcing families in transition. A commitment to basic and advanced training is key and our Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey members recognize this expectation for excellence in practice. We are committed to attending the IACP annual forums and Institutes to advance and hone our skills.
The Milan Institute was a wonderful experience for growth, exchange of ideas and skills and connecting our work world-wide.

Shireen Meistrich, MSW

Avoiding the Rachel Canning Saga

By now we are all familiar with the unfortunate, highly publicized litigation between a Morris County high school senior and her parents. The student, Rachel Canning, filed suit to have her parents pay for the balance of her private high school education and her college tuition. Rachel and her parents allegedly became embroiled in a controversy over Rachel’s refusal to abide by certain house rules. Rachel moved out of her parents’ home and was living with the family of a friend when she instituted suit against her parents. In fact, the legal action initiated by Rachel was allegedly financed by her friend’s parents. The regrettable litigation made news not just in North Jersey but throughout the country and internationally.

When we engage in traditional litigation, mediation or collaborative divorce, we are frequently called upon to negotiate or litigate the issue of private school and college obligation in the context of families who are divorcing or who are already divorced. Indeed, it is standard practice to address the payment of private school and college expenses in any matrimonial settlement agreement.

What is so unusual about the Canning matter is that it involved a clearly unemancipated teenager’s lawsuit against her parents to compel payment of educational costs in an otherwise intact family situation. Many attorneys and legal commentators believed that this case, like many other cases involving bad or unusual facts, could have set a very unfortunate legal precedent which would open the floodgates for children of intact families seeking to enforce their “rights” to expensive private school educations and who knows what else, perhaps cars, a spring break vacation, etc.

Those of us who practice collaborative divorce immediately recognized the value of such a process to a family like the Cannings. Had the family decided to engage a collaborative
child specialist and collaborative attorneys to deal with the family dynamic issues which caused the rift between Rachel and her parents, a more meaningful and certainly a more private outcome would have resulted. The collaborative child specialist is a licensed mental health practitioner trained to elicit, hear and understand the concerns of the child [of ALL ages] and help guide parents to address those concerns in an optimal manner for all involved. The child specialist could have addressed those issues which resulted in Rachel feeling that she could no longer remain in the family residence. That would have paved the way for a more constructive dialogue by the parties and the attorneys about the relatively straightforward financial issues. In many of our divorce cases, the collaborative child specialist is integral to helping parents and children transition through the divorce process and maintaining a better parent/child relationship for the future.
Whether the Canning matter was litigated, mediated or handled collaboratively, there is no question that a collaborative child specialist would have been invaluable in dealing with the highly charged emotional issues which led to the separation between daughter and parents. Further, If the parties chose to be represented by collaborative attorneys, the goal would have been to seek a private and lasting resolution that was focused on addressing the needs and interests of all family members.

Larry, Esposito, Esq.

“Split”

This documentary is a ‘must see’ for any parent contemplating divorce. It’s full of spontaneity and wisdom, straight from the mouths of children who have weathered the experience, each in his or her own way. It will impress, inform and touch children and adults who view it. Often children don’t share all of their feelings to their parents, for various reasons. They may be too angry or hurt and don’t want to further upset their parents, among other reasons. We professionals who viewed the film have been offering the same advice to divorcing parents, for many years, but we were all deeply touched by the children expressing their own divorce experiences. We learn how they felt, feared and coped. Ellen Bruno, director and producer, captured both the innocence and sturdiness of these adorable and open children, each coming from a different divorce experience, as they negotiated their own solutions.

To learn more about “Split” Google the title or go to EllenBruno .com.

Sharon Klempner, MSW, LCSW, BCD

“My Client Is Divorcing. Now What !”

On November 20, 2013, Larry J. Esposito, Esq., current president of the North Jersey Collaborative Law Group, will be joined by former NJCLG member, Shari M. Reffsin, CFP, ADFA, in a presentation at the regional meeting of the Financial Planning Association of New Jersey, to be held in Paramus, New Jersey. The topic will be “My Clients are Divorcing. Now What!” The presentation will include the pros and cons of various divorce options, including collaborative divorce, mediation and traditional litigation. The speakers will offer suggestions as to which divorce process will likely be most effective for couples in varying situations. The role of the certified divorce financial analyst will be explored and clarified.

The Jewish Woman’s Struggle for Divorce

Recent headlines about two Orthodox Rabbis, accused of kidnapping husbands, and physically forcing them to grant their wives Jewish divorces, have revealed a serious problem, a Jewish woman trapped in a divorce with a man who refuses to let her go.
Judaism does allow for divorce. However, unlike the civil process where either party may file for divorce, under Jewish religious law, only the man is allowed to ask for the divorce. He must appear before the religious court, the Bet Din, to make the request. Depending upon the community, the Bet Din might help resolve all of the parties’ divorce issues, but typically,today, they just issue a religious divorce decree called a Get.
That little piece of paper can affect generations to come. If a Jewish woman does not have a Get, she is not allowed to remarry. In many communities, she can’t even date without the Get. She is known as an agunah, a woman whose marriage is technically over, but whose husband cannot or refuses to give her a Get unconditionally and in a timely fashion. Agunah literally means a chained woman.
Should the agunah decide to enter into a civil marriage, any children she would have from this relationship would be considered a “mamzer”, a child from a forbidden sexual union. This would include incest but also includes offspring whose married mother has children with someone other than her husband. Mamzers and their offspring can’t marry within the Jewish community. Rabbis are trying to find loop holes to prevent and limit the agunah problem.
In a Jewish divorce, if the husband doesn’t start the process there is nothing the woman can do so she would be forced to give into any of his demands for her freedom. When a husband refuses to issue a Get, he is bullying and abusing his wife.
Most Rabbis are empathetic to women in this situation. Conservative and Orthodox Rabbis are providing a prenuptial agreement to couples. Many Rabbis will not perform the marriage ceremony without one.
These prenups provide that the parties agree to appear before the Bet Din to dissolve their marriage as well as agreeing that if the parties separate, the husband agrees to pay the wife a designated sum, every day, until he provides the Get. It also provides that if the wife does not accept the Get, the obligation to pay ceases. The Get isn’t finalized until the woman accepts it. Rabbis are finding that the utilizing the prenup helps to alleviate the agunah problem. Two websites where you can find the prenup as well as information on the Get process are:
•www.theprenup.org
•www.bethdin.org
•www.kayama.org provides information on the Get process

I urge every attorney, mediator and collaborative professional to make it clear in any prenuptial agreement that the couple agree to provide the other with a Get. Additionally, every Property Settlement Agreement should also include language that the parties will cooperate with the Get process and if not, can be sanctioned by the civil court. Once these items are spelled out in these documents, it is more than likely that the civil courts will enforce the religious agreement. Otherwise, such as in New Jersey, the courts will not force a party to provide a Get, unless it already was part of a written agreement. If it is not codified in a civil document, New Jersey courts see it as blurring the line between State and Synagogue/Church, because then they are requiring a party to be involved with a religious process. However, if a party signed an agreement saying they would provide a Get, then the court is just enforcing an agreement and women would no longer be trapped.

Lorraine Breitman, Esq.