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Helping Families Benefit With Collaborative Divorce

Garden City Life - 5/23/2017

Studies show that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But that doesn't mean the couple has to go through a lengthy court battle. Now more celebrities and the public are opting for collaborative divorce, a nontraditional innovative model that is less stressful and non-adversarial, focusing on the well-being of the family.

To educate mental health professionals, Kim Ciesinski, collaborative divorce attorney and partner at Schwartz & Ciesinski, a divorce and family law firm in Garden City, presented an interactive program to a group of Long Island social workers and clinical psychologists. Often considered first responders for people going through a divorce, Ciesinski enlightened the group about the benefits of collaborative divorce, how to determine who is an appropriate candidate and the unique team approach.

"Divorce is a psychological process with legal implications," she explained at the seminar. "With litigation, the kids end up suffering the most and negative emotions are reinforced during and after the divorce."

Using a collaborative approach, everyone is a winner as the couple creates their own settlement through the help of an interdisciplinary trained team of two lawyers, a financial advisor and psychologist. This process is unlike mediation where the couple is on their own with a professional guiding them along the way.

"It's all about communication," said Dr. Roxane Polak, a family psychologist on Ciesinski's collaborative team and a co-presenter.

"The majority of cases shouldn't go to litigation, and it's the emotional issues that get in the way," said Polak. Along with helping the couple communicate better and listen to each other in a respectful manner, the team also brings the voice of the kids into the meetings. "Unless it is done collaboratively, there is usually a lot of fighting that goes on after the divorce," Polak noted.

In addition to the communication component, Ciesinski emphasized that because of a specific agenda outlined for each meeting, there is no wasted time. To the attendees surprise, they learned that it could take the time and cost of a traditional litigated divorce.

"But you must be committed to the process, or it doesn't work," Ciesinski said.

Despite collaborative divorce working in the best interests of the couple and children, New York is far behind other states and countries.

"In order for collaborative divorce to be recognized as an effective model here, there needs to be a cultural shift," Ciesinski noted.

"Lawyers and other professionals dealing with divorcing individuals need to be 100 percent on board with this newer yet proven method that is good for the couple and the kids," she said.