Arnold Cribari Blog

In a Collaborative Divorce, You – the Client – Have the Power

I recently participated in a Collaborative Six-Way Meeting, which comprised both spouses, their lawyers, a divorce coach and a financial specialist. During this meeting, my collaborative counterpart was very aggressive. While that tactic can work in a case being negotiated through the court system, an overly aggressive attorney in a collaborative divorce is less effective. My collaborative colleague is a well-trained collaborative attorney, and well intentioned. However, she still does a lot of divorce litigation, and that affects her collaborative practice.

im-right-1458410_640In divorce litigation (court based), being aggressive can be very effective because of where the power lies. In litigation the power rests primarily with the Judge, secondarily with the attorneys, to the extent they can persuade the Judge or intimidate or outfox the other side. The clients have virtually no power. Indeed, during a trial the clients can only speak during the limited period of time that it is their turn to testify as a witness.

In a collaborative case, there is no Judge, and the power rests primarily with the spouses, and secondarily with the collaborative attorneys and other professionals.

So here is what happened in my recent collaborative settlement conference. The […]

Westchester Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Goes to Trial

After 38 years as a divorce attorney in Westchester County, New York, I can state with absolute certainty that divorce court is toxic, sometimes comparable to descending into Dante’s “Inferno.” It was my hellish experience in divorce trials that drove me to explore collaborative divorce and mediation, and, ultimately, to become a settlement specialist. Most divorce cases can and should be done collaboratively or through mediation. Once in a while, though, a trial is necessary.

trainSuch was the case when a man crossed my threshold several months ago, having represented himself in preliminary divorce court proceedings. The trial “train had already left the station,” so to speak, and this man was going to have to face his wife’s attorney in court, with himself as his only legal representation. Three weeks before the trial, he realized that it would be wise for him to get his own attorney, and so he asked me to take on his case.

This man’s case looked like it would be relatively simple because it involved a short, five-year, childless marriage. So I agreed to take on the case.

I soon learned that both the husband and wife had a […]

Divorce, Children and Holiday Plans

For divorced parents, the holidays are often beset with conflict and stress, even many years after the divorce. We have all heard about couples who go back to court several times after their divorce to re-litigate holiday visitation issues that were supposedly settled through the adversarial process. This year, with Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day, interfaith co-parents face a scheduling conflict they have never faced before.

6615_Christmas-gift-boxes-golden-backgroundFor couples who choose a collaborative divorce, however, the stress of the “holiday shuffle” is eased, if not eliminated. The collaborative process allows the divorcing parents to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation. However, interfaith co-parents face a unique holiday scheduling challenge this year, one that probably wasn’t anticipated when their divorce settlement agreement was written.

This brings to mind an important reason to consider a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process takes couples through a healthy, respectful way of dealing with contentious issues and conflicts. Having experienced this model, the two divorced partners know that it is possible to address the reasonable needs and concerns of both parents – and their children –without “going to […]

A Westchester County, NY, Divorce: What You Need to Know

Westchester County, NY, has some unique policies and procedures for conducting a divorce through the court system. If your divorce will take place in Westchester County, it is important that you engage a divorce attorney familiar with the distinctive norms and practices in Westchester County divorce court. Moreover, avoiding the court system altogether may be advisable in your case, so consult with a Westchester divorce lawyer well-versed in non-court alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce.

The first phase of a court-based divorce is called “discovery,” meaning the exchange of documents and information. If you are doing a divorce through the Westchester courts, during the discovery phase the spouses and their attorneys meet with a Court Attorney Referee (CAR). The CAR system – unique to Westchester – has been set up to keep track of discovery information and to lighten the workload of the judges, who are inundated with cases. In Westchester County it’s likely that you may never see a judge during the discovery phase. After the discovery phase is complete the divorce case is sent to a judge for a pre-trial conference and a trial.

Another […]

Collaborative Divorce: The Advantages

A highly regarded Collaborative Divorce lawyer in California, Pauline Tesler, has written the authoritative book on Collaborative Divorce: Collaborative Law, Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce Without Litigation. The third edition of that book was published in 2016, and it includes a “Collaborative Divorce Handbook.” This handbook is a must read for anyone considering a collaborative divorce.  The information is relevant to a New York divorce, although Ms. Tesler practices in California.

The following is the first blog post in a series about the Collaborative Divorce Handbook.

For those considering either a collaborative divorce or a traditional adversarial divorce, Ms. Tesler points out eight advantages of Collaborative Law.
1. In Collaborative Law, all participate in an open, honest exchange of information. There is no “hide the ball.”
2. In Collaborative Law, neither party takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of others, but instead identifies and corrects them.
3. In Collaborative Law, both parties insulate their children from the conflicts. They avoid the professional custody evaluation process, instead making use of specially trained coaches and a child-development specialist to arrive at solutions that both parties can accept, solutions that reflect the children’s needs and concerns.
4. Both parties in Collaborative Law use joint accountants, appraisers and other […]

New York Divorce: Questions Raised by the Brangelina Break-up

The most famous divorce in the news is, of course, the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie split. Needless to say, their divorce isn’t exactly typical. Moreover, Ms. Jolie filed for divorce in California, which has very different statutes and case law from New York divorce laws. This recent article from the New York Times gives some good basic information regarding divorce options for couples residing in New York State.

The article is a bid misleading in the way it describes team of “neutral” professionals who work on a collaborative divorce. Actually, each spouse in the divorce has their own attorney. But collaborative attorneys are trained in conflict resolution and interest-based negotiation, which is very different from the adversarial negotiation model that most attorneys know. So collaborative represents the best of two models. Collaborative is a form of mediation, which seeks to reduce conflict and facilitate a settlement that works well for both spouses. At the same time, in collaborative, each spouse has his/her own lawyer; this corrects power imbalances that make mediation a bad fit for a couple where one spouse has more financial assets and/or negotiating skills […]

Marital Separation

There is much confusion about what it means to have a separation from your spouse.

An informal separation simply means that you and your spouse are living apart. There is no legal document or court involved.

A legal separation can take two forms: the separation can be according to a binding, written Separation Agreement between you and your spouse, or the separation is in compliance with a judge’s determination that you are legally separated. The latter, called a judicial separation, is very rare.
Almost all legal separations are formalized in a binding written Separation Agreement. Except for dissolving the marriage, all issues are resolved, including custody, visitation, spousal support, child support, division of assets, medical insurance, life insurance, and all other financial issues between you and your spouse. There are also provisions in the Separation Agreement that state that you and your spouse have the legal right to live separate and apart from each other, and not to be disturbed by the other spouse, as if you were single and unmarried. However, you are not yet divorced, so you cannot marry another person. (If you do so, you are committing bigamy, which is a crime in the State of New York.)


Collaborative Divorce: New Ideas are Met with Resistance

Having been a divorce lawyer in Westchester County for almost 40 years, I have been baffled that more divorcing couples don’t choose collaborative divorce. I know about the divorcing process through the court system. It is impossible to overstate the emotional and financial toll that the litigation (court) process takes during a divorce.

When presented with a less painful, less expensive, less time-consuming, more private, and more-effective-in-the-long-term alternative, why would anyone choose to litigate their divorce?

I think I have stumbled upon the answer. I recently saw online this rejection letter that Einstein received when applying for a doctoral program in physics at the University of Bern.

New ideas are seldom welcomed by the "experts."

New ideas are seldom welcomed by the “experts.”

06 June, 1907
Dear Mr. Einstein,
Your application for the Doctorate has not been successful at this time and as such you are not eligible for the position of Associate Professor.

While you posed an interesting theory in your article published in “Annalen der Physik”, we feel that your conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time are somewhat radical. Overall, we find your assumptions to be […]

Divorce in Westchester County: Why Consider Collaborative?

The court system is structured to set conflicting parties in opposition to each other. By definition, this is adversarial. In theory – justice is attained because the side with the most persuasive argument “wins.”

In practice, however, when it comes to dissolving a marriage this theory of justice is not borne out in experience. Nobody wins. A divorcing couple’s “day in court” usually comes at an enormous price, depleting their financial resources and causing emotional damage. Moreover, in Westchester County, the backlog of cases is so long, couples can wait months – even years – to get their day in court. This delay further exacerbates the stress on the divorcing spouses.

Of course – there are some situations (cases involving domestic violence, for example) where court action is necessary. In most divorce cases, though, there are no clear-cut villains and victims. Just hurt, angry people caught in a system that encourages antagonism and distrust.

Mediation is a viable alternative for some couples who want to avoid an adversarial divorce. There are some caveats to consider about mediation, though. In mediation, both individuals usually represent themselves. Going through the emotional turmoil of a divorce makes it hard for people to be effective […]

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce can work for High-Conflict Couples

There is a myth out there that the only way to resolve a high-conflict divorce is to go to court. Actually, mediation and collaborative divorce – in the hands of skilled conflict resolution professionals – can be much better routes for many high-conflict cases. This is especially true for divorces in Westchester County, New York.

High-conflict cases usually encompass so many assets and issues – it can be monumentally expensive and time-consuming for the court to resolve every issue. When I say time-consuming, I mean not just months –it can be years! Westchester County, in particular, has a tremendous backlog of divorce cases in the courts. Moreover, the Westchester County divorce courts require attorneys to prepare an elaborate trial notebook, which can cost clients many “billable hours.”

The courts are steeped in the adversarial system. In a high-conflict situation, adversarial negotiations function like pouring gasoline on a fire. The non-adversarial negotiating techniques that skilled mediators and collaborative attorneys bring to the table do just the opposite.

Every time you go to court to address a different bone of contention, the spouses become further polarized and a settlement becomes less and less likely. On the other hand, attorneys skilled in mediation and collaborative […]