• Following the Collaborative Roadmap

    April 15, 2015

    Divorce is a life transition not just a legal event.  Every transition has a starting place and a destination. In the Collaborative Law process, the parties carefully assess where they are when they start the divorce process and where they want to be when it ends.

    Instead of spending time and money waiting for a judge to determine their future, Collaborative clients discuss their goals and interests.  This helps them craft a settlement that gets them to the destination they choose, not one which is chosen for them.

    To arrive at their chosen destination, Collaborative clients, with assistance from their Divorce Coach, Financial neutral and attorneys, follow a “Roadmap” – a planned journey — with consensual exchange of information — that allows them to make the best decisions for themselves and their children.

    You wouldn’t drive to a new destination without a GPS, a map or something to guide you along the way.  Neither should you “drive” yourself to a life after divorce without a Collaborative Roadmap to guide you along the way.  The steps include: 1. Signing onto the Process and Assembling the Team; 2. Gathering information regarding children and Finances; 3. Identifying Interests and Concerns; 4. Making Decisions; and 5. Finalizing and Implementing the Plan.

    Sound organized and rational?  It is. And best of all, the clients “drive” the process to reach their chosen destination in a respectful, non-adversarial and focused manner that saves angst and money.

    For further information on Collaborative Law, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609-951-2222 or by email at

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  • Is Mediation Right for Me?

    October 7, 2013

    If your answer to the following 10 questions is “yes”,  mediation is a good option to resolve your divorce issues.

    1. Do my spouse and I want an amicable divorce? 

    2. Is my marriage free of domestic violence? 

    3. Can my spouse and I sit across from each other at a table and talk civilly with the mediator and each other about our divorce issues? 

    4.  Do my spouse and I want to resolve our issues without going to court?

    5. Do we want to protect our children from a protracted and adversarial divorce?

    6. Do we want to move through the divorce process relatively quickly and keep fees to a minimum?

    7. Do we want to keep our discussions private and confidential?

    8. Are we willing to be transparent and provide all our financial documents to the mediator and each other?

    9.  Do we understand that the Mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, but that nothing is final until we have signed a Settlement Agreement?

    10.  Do we understand that the mediator can provide options and alternatives but cannot provide individual legal advice?  (Individual legal consults are recommended for each party before the Agreement is finalized.)

    If you answered “yes” to all the above, mediation is a good option for you.  Feel free to review my website, call Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or email her at for more information.



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  • Using a Divorce Coach in Collaborative Divorce

    January 24, 2013

    Collaborative Divorce is a team approach.  Each party has a collaboratively trained attorney to assist them at all team meetings.  A neutral financial professional (usually a CPA) is often included to address financial issues.  And, most important, there is a Divorce Coach – a neutral mental health professional — to facilitate communication at the Team meetings and to work with the parties on parenting issues separately.

    A Divorce Coach is not a therapist or a marriage counselor.  A Divorce Coach is trained to help divorcing parties communicate with each other with the goal of making  the best decisions for their children.  This may include custody, parenting time, healthcare, education, activities and college as well as any special needs that their children may have. The parties in a Collaborative Divorce will also learn valuable communication skills from the Coach to help them solve problems  concerning the children, both during the divorce and afterwards.

    If you have decided to pursue a Collaborative Divorce, your attorney may ask you and your spouse to schedule a meeting with the Coach. The attorneys will not be present.  This meeting is informal and will permit you and your spouse to question the Coach about the Collaborative process in order to make an informed decision as to whether this process will meet your needs.  If you and the Coach agree that a Collaborative DIvorce is best for your family, then each party will meet with their own attorney to prepare for the first full Team meeting. 

    The Divorce Coach will participate in the meetings to the extent that you, your spouse and your attorneys agree.  Rather than increase the cost of a divorce, having a Divorce Coach minimizes conflict and reduces the length and number of meetings necessary to resolve all issues.  The Team meetings are more productive, the divorce proceeds more quickly and you and your spouse are able to make sound decisions in a relaxed, non-adversarial atmosphere.

    For more information about Collaborative Divorce, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or

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  • Reasons to Mediate Your Divorce

    August 17, 2012

    There are many reasons why mediation is a great option for resolving divorce issues.  Here are a few:

    1. Mediation allows you to design a customized settlement that works for you and your family.

    2. Mediation is confidential.  All discussions take place in the mediator’s office and the mediator can never be called to testify about those discussions.

    3. Mediation promotes communication.  Talking through divorce issues provides a model for working out issues that may arise after the divorce.

    4.  Mediation is faster than litigation.  The couple sets the schedule and often cases are finished in just a few months.

    5.  Mediation is cost effective.  With no court apperances, no formal discovery and no waiting for court schedules, clients save on their counsel fees.

    6.  Mediation is guided by a trained mediator — a neutral professional who helps clients by suggesting options, alternatives and solutions.

    7.  Mediation is voluntary.  If, for any reason, the process doesn’t work for you, you can opt out at any time.

    8.  Mediation encourages both parties to get independent legal advice which helps them negotiate their agreement.

    9.  Mediation is convenient.  Sessions are scheduled with the mediator on your time schedule.

    10. Mediation is less stressful.  With reduced cost and time, a calmer atmosphere and assistance from a trained mediator, stress is significantly reduced.


    To obtain more information or to schedule a mediation session, contact Risa A. Kleiner at her Princeton office at 609.951.2222 or by email at

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  • Mediating Custody Issues in Same Sex Couples

    May 16, 2012

    Same sex couples with children face an uncertain outcome if their custody issues go before a judge.  There is a saying among mediators that “uncertainty is the friend of mediation.”  When the outcome in a court is not predictable, most people prefer to work out a settlement that they can live with rather than risk an unfavorable result.  This is never more true than in cutting edge issues involving civil unions, same sex marriages and parenting issues where only one or neither party is a biological parent.

    All couples have similar concerns when their relationship breaks up.  Where will the children live?  Who will be the primary parent?  Who will support the children?  What sort of parenting time will the non-custodial parent have?  But these issues can take on more complexitiy when the law is less clear. 

    Mediation allows parents to work out an individual plan that fits their needs and the needs of their children.  As in any “divorce”, the goal is to preserve a relationship with both parents and to avoid allowing the anger and hostility that may exist between the adults to infect the environment of the children.  Mediation allows the parties to work out a parenting plan in a safe and calm space, free from the pressures of courtroom deadlines.  Parenting alternatives can be “tried on for size” before any commitment is made.  Even the children’s voices can be heard if the children are of sufficient age.

    There is no “one size fits all” in parenting arrangements.  The parents are in the best position to set the arrangement that will work for them and their children.  And the mediator — whether lawyer or mental health professional — can help the parties to craft the best plan for them and their family.  The plan can also be flexible, allowing for modifications as the children mature or as needs change.

    For more information on mediating custody issues, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or by email at


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  • Divorce With Children: Making Custody Decisions That Work

    April 23, 2012

    Adults who divorce eventually move on.  But studies have shown that when parents fight, children may suffer long term effects.  The last thing you want for your children is to have them brought to court so a judge can interview them or have them sent to one or more specialists for an evaluation.  Parents can avoid putting their children in the middle.  They can make joint decisions about custody and parenting time with the help of a mediator or collaborative lawyer.

    In New Jersey, most couples share joint legal custody of their children after a divorce. This means that they commit to making joint decisions about the health, education and welfare of their children.  This includes decisions about their healthcare, their schooling, religious upbringing and college. 

    Similarly, in New Jersey most couples share physical custody of their children in a structured arrangement.  The parent who has the children more than 50% of the time is called the Parent of Primary Residence.  The other parent becomes the Parent of Alternate Residence.  Each parent makes day-to-day and minor decisions for the children when they have the children.

    Parenting arrangements vary from  family to family.  Children often live with one parent during the week and are with the other parent on alternate week-ends and sometimes on one or two nights during the week as well.   Parents who reside near each other after the divorce may have a more flexible arrangement during the week.  Most parents alternate or share major holidays and set aside at least two weeks during the summer to spend with their children.  Some parents share equal parenting time on alternate weeks, but this is less common.

    No one size fits all.  The key is for the parents to actively work with their mediator or collaborative attorneys to structure a parenting arrangment that is workable for them and appropriate for their children.  Cooperation is the key.  The children will mirror that cooperation, accepting a two-home arrangement as a part of their routine. The ultimate schedule will be incorporated into a Settlement Agreement and, if the parties divorce, will become part of their Judgment of Divorce. 

    Parents are free to adjust the schedule as the children grow and mature.  This, too, can be accomplished at the mediation or collaborative table through cooperation, thereby saving financial and emotional resources and maintaining a peaceful life for their children.

    For more information about mediation and Collaborative Practice, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or

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  • Low Cost Divorce Mediation

    August 15, 2012

    For divorcing couples who may not be able to afford the hourly rate of many mediators, the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators (NJAPM) is offering divorce mediation at a reduced cost.  The program pairs a qualified couple with an Accredited Professional Mediator and an apprentice.  For $150 per hour, about half the usual cost, couples can have their divorce issues mediated.  At the conclusion of the process the couple will have a written Memorandum of Understanding which summarizes the agreement they have reached. 

    To qualify for this program, a couple must have a combined annual gross income of less than $120,000 and no history of domestic violence.  Most mediations take between 2 and 5 sessions and cost far less than a litigated divorce.  Issues of custody, parenting time, division of property and support are addressed by the mediator.  Sessions are held in the mediator’s office and are completely confidential.

    Applications may be found at  Look for the box on the right side of the Home Page that says “Divorce Clinic.”  Or you may call NJAPM at (800) 981-4800 for further information.


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  • Arbitrating Custody Issues

    September 3, 2009

    Arbitration has been commonly used in many types of court cases, but until recently, was never viewed as a method for resolving custody disputes.   However, as more and more parties seek alternatives to litigation to save time and money, it was inevitable that eventually someone would want to turn over their custody decisions to an arbitrator.

    Unlike mediation, in which the mediator is only there to facilitate a decision that the parties themselves make, arbitration allows the selected arbitrator to be the “decider.”  And, since most parties who are using arbitration are trying to save time and money, they commonly agree that the  arbitrator’s decision shall be binding. 

    But recently, when one litigant did not like the custody decision that the arbitrator made by granting residential custody of their child to his wife rather than to him,  he appealled.  The resulting opinion by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Fawzy v. Fawzy has cleared the way for many more couples to use arbitration in their custody disputes.  The court went so far as to raise the “choice of forum” to a constitutionally protected right of parental autonomy. 

    Mr. Fawzy lost.  He argued that no one can deprive the court of its parens patriae obligation to oversee the best interest of the children.  The court disagreed and allowed the decision of the arbitrator to stand, thereby reversing the decision of the Appellate Division.  So, custody matters may be submitted to arbitration.  But the court reserves its right to review the decision if it can be shown that it threatens harm to the child.

    Whether custody decisions are submitted to the court or to an arbitrator, the parents lose the ability to determine what is in their children’s best interest.  In both mediation and Collaborative Divorce, the parties remain the primary decisionmakers on these issues.  The importance of putting aside differences to make these decisions jointly cannot be overemphasized.  Disagree as they may, the parents know their children far better than any judge or arbitrator will ever know them.

    For more information on Collaborative Practice and Mediation, click on the corresponding Tabs on the left side of the Home Page or contact our office at 609.951.2222.

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