On January 1, 2019, I became the new President of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals (NYACP). In this blog, I reflect back on my journey to becoming a collaborative attorney and look toward my goals as President of the leading organization of collaborative divorce professionals in the New York metropolitan area. 

The fact that I’m taking on this new role in 2019 means a lot to me. Exactly 10 years ago, my 2009 New Year’s resolution was that I would stop taking new litigated divorce cases and I would work, instead, with clients who were committed to resolving their family law matters outside of court. 

Ironically, when I was in law school I thought I wanted to be a litigator. I also knew that I wanted to work with people as opposed to corporations. My parents had a difficult marriage and divorced when I was in college, which led me to be fascinated by family dynamics. I naturally gravitated toward family law classes in law school. 

Recent headlines announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 25-year marriage is ending. He and his wife are the wealthiest couple in the world with a net worth of approximately $137 billion, and reportedly never signed a prenup. It’s also reported that when pop star Justin Bieber married model Hailey Baldwin in New York City last fall, they decided to forgo a prenuptial agreement as well. He’s reportedly worth more than $265 million, while her net worth is several million dollars.

We understand Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos are planning to divorce in a non-adversarial and collaborative manner, which is great news for them personally, as well as their four children. If Justin and Hailey ever divorce, we certainly hope they take the same route.

High net worth individuals, not just celebrities, often have complicated assets to value and distribute in the event of their divorces, including, businesses, complicated deferred compensation packages, private investments, assets held in trust, artworks, and more. By entering into a prenuptial agreement before marriage, couples have a contractual opportunity to discuss their assets and finances before the wedding and determine what will happen in the case of death or divorce.

If you’re considering divorce, one of your many decisions will be what kind of divorce is best for you. There are three main types of divorce:

Collaboration

Collaborative divorce helps divorcing couples come to a mutually agreed upon, negotiated settlement without the threat of court. It offers a civilized, solutions-based approach to ending a relationship. Based upon consideration and respect, collaborative divorce also keeps a divorcing or separating couple in control of the process—rather than giving that control over to a judge.

Recent headlines in newspapers, magazines and on television proclaim that millennials are causing lower divorce rates than previous generations, in large part because of what they have seen in their own parents’ divorces and how divorce has traditionally been portrayed in the media.

Millennials are Causing the US Divorce Rate to Plummet – CBS News

You Can Thank Millennials for the Declining Divorce Rate, Study Says – Huffington Post

Today almost half of all births in the United States occur outside of marriage. This is the new normal but the law hasn’t necessarily caught up. Laws vary by state on parental rights for non-married parents. In New York, biological parents do not have automatic parental rights or obligations to their children, including child support and child custody, or the right to make important decisions about the child’s future such as education, health care and religion. Parents either have to agree on these issues, or a court will do it for them.

Healthy co-parenting that stems from thoughtful agreements you’ve made together is in the best interests of your child and makes both the parents and the child feel secure. If you have a child and are not legally married to the other biological parent, you need legal protection to clearly define each parent’s rights and responsibilities.

A well-written parenting and child support agreement is a roadmap of how you will raise and support your child together while living in separate homes and will help you avoid costly, stressful and time-consuming litigation.

A divorce coach is often a vital, but perhaps lesser known, member of the team you will be putting together as you move forward with your divorce. I recommend divorce coaches in all my cases because they help my clients get clear on their goals and concerns, communicate more effectively, advocate for themselves more productively, and not get trapped in the same dysfunctional patterns of behavior with their spouse that was ever-present during their marriage.

Divorce coaches help people to get through their divorce process. Divorce coaching is not therapy or counseling, it is support and guidance for someone going through divorce so they can make better decisions instead of emotional decisions:

  • communicate more effectively with your spouse and attorney

When you married your spouse, you were swept away by his or her charms. Now that you’re divorcing, you may be concerned that mediation won’t be the right process because you’re convinced that your spouse will sway the mediator in his or her favor. As professional divorce mediators, we can assure you: we will not be swayed by your soon-to-be-ex’s magnetism.

Although your spouse may have what you consider to be wit, wealth or good looks that have allowed him or her to move through life with ease, we assure you that when you are in the mediation room, we see you as just two people who are trying to do the right thing while making hard decisions during a very difficult time in your lives.

As divorce mediators, we are neutral, impartial professionals working on behalf of both of you. The goal is to help you to find a way to resolve your marital conflicts and dissolve your marriage with terms that you each feel are fair and equitable. Unlike your divorce attorney who is there to advocate for you, we are trained to stay neutral to help you find mutual ground and the best solution for your unique situation.

Over the past few years, my law and mediation practice has seen a significant increase in requests for prenuptial agreements. A recent New York Times article The Rise of the Millennial Prenup cites the following contributing factors for the increase: millennials are marrying later, they are bringing more assets to the marriage and more women are in the workforce. According to an AAML survey (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers), 51% of divorce attorneys are seeing prenuptial agreements on the rise in the millennial generation, with the most cited issues:

• 78% protection of separate property

• 74% alimony/spousal maintenance