NYACP Newsletter - Summer 2020

NYACP News ~ Summer 2020

Volume 2, Issue 1

In This Issue...

  1. President's Letter to our Members
  2. New Opportunities in During Difficult Times
  3. 2020 Highlights...So Far
  4. A letter to the NYACP Membership from Jessica Rothberg 

President's Letter to our Members

By Andrea Vacca

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead.

I often think of this quote when I think about the commitment that we share, as collaborative divorce professionals, to change how couples divorce and how their children experience that transition. This seemingly small act can have ripple effects that expand from the immediate family we’re helping, out to their extended family, and across generations. We can change the lives of so many people when we help our clients divorce in a way that helps them to maintain a sense of family.

But what families are we helping? When you look at the majority of your collaborative divorce clients, what are their economic circumstances? What is their skin color? How do they identify sexually? Chances are, most of us will answer those questions: Upper middle class to very wealthy. White. Straight.

Returning member Jessica Rothberg writes a powerful letter in this newsletter asking NYACP to look at the roster of our members and encourages us to bring more diversity into our organization. This is an important observation that needs to be addressed. This is the time of year when we start encouraging our members to let us know about matrimonial attorneys, mental health professionals and divorce financial professionals in their networks who may be interested in getting collaborative training and becoming a member of our organization. NYACP will not be offering our own live training this year, because of Covid-19, but we can let potential members know about virtual trainings that are being put on by members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. I ask you all to think as broadly as possible as you look at your networks for other professionals who might be interested in doing this work.

We also need to find a way to offer the collaborative divorce process to families with more modest socio-economic backgrounds. Brian Galbraith’s webinar on the Streamlined Collaborative Process has inspired a group of our members, headed up by MaryEllen Linnehan, Lauren Behrman and Steve Kaplan, to begin working on a way to bring this flat-fee process to our organization.  I’m so excited thinking about how many more families we will be able to help when this becomes a reality.

How else can we expand the diversity among our membership and our individual clients? Please share your ideas with Abby Curro or any of our officers and board members. Introduce us to other organizations that you think we can partner with to bring this powerful divorce process to a wider diversity of families. This is how we can truly change the world. 

New Opportunities During Difficult Times

While, certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented hardships for all, Zoom technology has been a silver lining for NYACP members. Thanks to Abby Curro, our Executive Director and Capitol Hill Management Services, our President, Andrea Vacca, and our Training and Education Committee led by Melissa Goodstein and Ken Novenstern, our members have had the opportunity to attend more programs than ever before. With geography (and tolls) no longer an obstacle, Long Islanders have been able to attend New York City and Westchester Pods and vice versa. Attendance at some meetings has almost doubled; and there has often been more than one program each week.

First, here are some of the programs our Training and Education Committee, led by Melissa Goodstein and Ken Novenstern have planned for the fall, 2020:

~ A two-part webinar program with the NYC LGBTQI collaborative group on divorce issues in same sex marriages and the CPSA and Assisted Reproductive Technology, Surrogacy and Family Formation. This will include a history and exploration of the emotional and psychological impact more particularly in divorce.

A joint program with the Northern NJ Collaborative Group with TED TALK speaker and author David Emerald on adopting a more empowering way of working with our clients.

A financial webinar facilitated by Michael McLaughlin with other NYACP Financial Professionals on financial divorce-related topics.

We are planning a fantastic likely-virtual training for our Annual December Meeting/ Day of Training.

Meanwhile, Northern Westchester Pod will be continuing to host biweekly Zoom meetings throughout the summer Wednesdays at 9AM.

NYACP 2020 Highlights ~ So Far This Year

Bankruptcy in Divorce

On January 16, 2020, the Northern Westchester Pod presented a program "Bankruptcy in Divorce." Their speaker was Nathan Horowitz, Esq. Attendees learned about how the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) made substantial changes in how a bankruptcy filing affects a divorce. The major changes gave special classification to debts arising from a divorce and actions that may continue despite the bankruptcy filing. That decreased the use of bankruptcy as a divorce litigation tactic. Nathan discussed different applications of BAPCPA, comparing different bankruptcy chapters (Chapter 7 versus Chapter 13) and Domestic Support Orders versus Property Settlements. The timing of a bankruptcy filing and the negative effect this may have on a divorce settlement was also explored. We learned that in a dispute, the Bankruptcy Court is supreme. Nathan also reviewed provisions in marital settlement agreements relating to bankruptcy that he has found to be either helpful or problematic. He recommended that if parties are considering bankruptcy, the proceeding should be commenced and finalized before a matrimonial filing whenever possible.

Behind Closed Doors

On Thursday February 13, 2020, the NYACP Training and Education Committee presented "Behind Closed Doors ~ Domestic Violence in the Context of Divorce," presented by Robi Schlaff, Esq., Director and Darlene Reda, Esq., Program Coordinator, for the Westchester County Office for Women. The program was facilitated by Alayne Katz, Esq. Our Collaborative professionals were given an overview of domestic violence, including the risk factors/lethality indicators, and how we can identify and support clients who may be victims of domestic violence.

Domestic abuse is defined by any behavior that seeks to deprive the victim of independence and respect that the abuser demands in the relationship in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and psychological abuse. It is about doing whatever it takes to gain and maintain power and control. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. Many victims are reluctant to reach out to police or victim service agencies and in this way the collaborative professionals may be a gateway to safety.

The collaborative process provides a unique and important opportunity for us to offer assistance and connect the victim/client with other services to keep them safe and to put us in contact with those who may potentially harm their families. Working with police and other professionals, we can collaboratively mitigate the risk of domestic violence and save lives. The panel also included a domestic violence survivor who shared her experience adding valuable context to the presentation.

Monica Kaiser

On February 18, 2020, the NYC Pod honored member Monica Kaiser, who died on January 26th from a burst brain aneurysm. Monica was a practicing family law attorney and mediator, remembered for her warmth, generosity, enthusiasm, wisdom, and kindness.



Long Island Pod Uses an Owl 

Weeks ahead of COVID time, Neil Cahn used Zoom to live broadcast the February 25, 2020 of the Long Island Pod using an Owl Labs 360E camera. It enabled members who could not physically attend the session to attend by internet or phone and get a view that both focused on the speaker while also providing a 360E view of the meeting room. Five members attended in person, six by Zoom, as we addressed the questions of Hofstra Law student Ernest Lasen, guest of Teresa Ombres, on how Collaborative Divorce handles issues relating to children.

The Owl was again used in what appears to be NYACP's last live meeting, when Nancy Kaye and Harriette Steinberg led Long Island Pod's March 12, 2020 meeting, discussing the SECURE Retirement Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement).

Financial Stimulus Programs Discussed at the Northern Westchester Pod Meeting

On April 8, 2020, the Northern Westchester Pod hosted a Zoom meeting at which Barbara Bel and Steve Kaplan, spoke about the financial stimulus programs and opportunities.

Boosting your Immunity and Stress Reduction During COVID‑19

At the April 15, 2020 meeting Plaintiff the Northern Westchester Pod, Chiropractor Steve Goodstein (husband of member Melissa Goodstein) presented, the topic, "Boosting your Immunity and Stress Reduction During COVID‑19."  Steve discussed stress reduction strategies, including breathing exercises and steps we can take to boost our immune system.

 Long Island Pod Financial Presentations

On April 21 and May 14, 2020, members Nancy Kaye and Stephen Linker made a PowerPoint presentation over Zoom for the Long Island Pod covering how to find financial information using the different schedules in tax returns and other available documents.


QDRO Tips Webinar

The NYACP Training and Education Committee presented, "QDRO Tips: How to Avoid Malpractice, Draft a Correct Settlement Language," led by Denisa Tova, CFP, of Klein, Liebman Gresen, LLC, and our own Ken Novenstern. Denisa discussed the pitfalls of certain QDRO language contained within Stipulations of Settlement as well as the areas where practitioners are most vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. Denisa also covered the most common ambiguous or incorrect language that attorneys mistakenly place within their agreements as it pertains to QDROs which can expose their clients to further litigation post‑judgment. At the second session, Denisa and Ken covered, "How to Use a QDRO to Collect Past‑Due Child Support."

To view the webinars, CLICK HERE visit the Member Only Video Library!

NYC Pod Shares Marketing Information

At its April 28, 2020 Zoom meeting, the NYC Pod further considered marketing options for the Pod. Various marketing approaches were discussed, some learned from the Northern Westchester and Long Island Pods.

"The Impact of the Coronavirus on Mortgages, Refinancing and HELOCs"

The April 29, 2020 at meeting of the Northern Westchester Pod, Dean Curtis, a Mortgage Loan Originator at loanDepot LLC servicing Westchester and the NY metro area, presented "The Impact of the Coronavirus on Mortgages, Refinancing and HELOCs" and recap of "Loan Processing as it relates to Divorcing Couples."

We're Selling. Who's Buying? 

On May 7, 2020, the NYACP Training and Education Committee presented Part 1 of its marketing series, "We're Selling. Who's Buying? How to Get More Collaborative Cases," led by members Shari Bornstein and Katherine Miller. They discussed how to present the Collaborative process to new clients so that they see the advantages and sign on, and also touched on marketing to bring receptive clients into your office.

To view this webinar, CLICK HERE visit the Member Only Video Library!

Wayne R. Quint on "Health Insurance Options for Divorcees"

The topic of the May 13, 2020 meeting of the Northern Westchester Pod was "Health Insurance Options for Divorcees," led by Wayne R. Quint, CFP. Wayne is a member of the Hudson Valley Collaborative Divorce & Dispute Resolution Association, who provided information on COBRA, Individual Direct to Carrier, NYS of Health Marketplace, Essential Plan, Medicaid, Medicare, and Small Group and Sole Proprietor Plans.

NYACP Presents "The Single Most Effective Activity for Building Your Collaborative Law Practice"

For Part 2 of its marketing series, on May 22, 2020, the NYACP Training and Education Committee presented Elizabeth Ferris, of Ferris Consulting, a legal marketing firm, on "The Single Most Effective Activity for Building Your Collaborative Law Practice in Uncertain Times."

Elizabeth and her team created the original brand for Collaborative Law, significantly increasing awareness and demand for this dispute resolution process across the globe. Elizabeth's major focus was on the use of videos, well-crafted to maximize its ability to draw an online audience; attuned to the way people search for professionals or the divorce process.

To view this webinar, CLICK HERE visit the Member Only Video Library!

New Member Presents "Taxes and Divorce" to Northern Westchester Pod

NYACP Member, Sallie Mullins Thompson, CPA, led the May 27, 2020 meeting of the Northern Westchester Pod, presenting, "Taxes and Divorce." This program covered the various tax impacts that divorce professionals should consider when working with their clients and creating marital separation agreements. Topics discussed include real property, retirement/pension plans, investments, business interests, spousal/child support, filing status, dependency claims, survivorship options, and tax incentives/credits. The goal was to present the tax issues to know about so that divorcing families avoid future negative consequences.

Dealing with a Narcissist

Members Roxane Polak, Neil Grossman, and Bob Raymond led what became a two-part meeting of the Long Island Pod on June 2 and 16, 2020, on "Dealing with a Narcissist." The meeting began with discussion of the Narcissistic and other Personality Disorders; identified behaviors associated with NPD; and considered the impact on the spouse of a person with NPD. They then considered the need to assess whether the person with NPD would be suitable for the Collaborative Process; whether he or she could perceive their spouse's point of view and want the Process to work. Suggestions were made on how to deal with the person with NPD, both as spouse and as parent, as well as how to deal with the spouse in the Collaborative Process. Attendees then got to raise their particular experiences, questions and issues.

Long Island Pod Attendees from June 16, 2020 Zoom Meeting

Streamlining the Collaborative Process

On June 5, 2020, the NYACP Training and Education Committee presented Brian Galbraith, Esq., who talked about "Streamlining the Collaborative Process" and shared the streamlined collaborative model his Toronto collaborative group has successfully adopted.

To view the webinars, CLICK HERE visit the Member Only Video Library!

Steve Kaplan presents at June Pod Meetings

Member Steve Kaplan led the both the June 3rd discussion of the Northern Westchester Pod and the June 9th discussion of the NYC Pod on "Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Forgiveness and Tax Implications," giving guidance on the new guidelines for forgiveness of the PPP loan.

June 9th Northern Westchester POD Attendees

Parenting During COVID-19

Meg Sussman led the June 10, 2020 discussion of the Northern Westchester Pod about issues related to parenting during COVID-19. Topics included: parenting schedules, how to deal with parents who disagree about safety precautions, and the importance of minimizing conflict in front of children. They also talked about how to help children manage their anxiety, lowering expectations for academic achievement during this time, and maintaining open communication with children. They agreed that the collaborative process is beneficial to families as it allows for the support by the team, which may be particularly beneficial at present.

The Northern Westchester Pod's June 17, 2020 meeting was entitled, "When is the Time to Return to the Office?"  Participants shared their understanding of what the NY State guidelines require and what steps they are taking to comply with them. They discussed how the size of one's office space and number of employees affects these decisions, as well as the practice discipline and individual comfort level. They also agreed that clients' feelings about meeting in person vs. video conferencing must also be taken into account.

NYC Pod Discuss Collaborative Practice and Racism

Elana Katz and Barbara Rothberg led the June 23, 2020 meeting of the NYC Pod discussed "Working While White ‑ Collaborative Practice and Reflections on Racism." Attendees were asked to answer the question, "When you were growing up, what do you recall being told about race?" The members rose to the occasion, opening up about their past, making for a warm and lively discussion. The Long Island Pod continued the discussion at its June 30, 2020 meeting.

Answers To Collaborative Professionals' Frequently Asked Estate Planning Questions

Free to our members, estate planning and elder law attorneys, Jaime D. Lewis and Moira Laidlaw, partners of Hollis Laidlaw & Simon, provided "Answers To Collaborative Professionals' Frequently Asked Estate Planning Questions" on June 26, 2020. They gave us an overview of some of the basic tools of estate planning as well as the roles and authority that come with being the executor of a will or the trustee of a trust. Additionally, they covered the special spousal status, including the elective share, waiving that share and protections during the divorce/separation process. The session also touched on the special issues that come into play where minor children are involved including guardianship, oversight of child's inheritance, beneficiary designations and special needs planning.

To view the webinars, CLICK HERE visit the Member Only Video Library!

Northern Westchester Pod Discusses Streamlining Collaborative Process

MaryEllen Linnehan, Steve Kaplan and Lauren Behrman led some 18 participants at the July 1, 2020 meeting of the Northern Westchester Pod in a discussion about the Streamlining Collaborative Process. They shared ideas and addressed concerns and questions regarding this model All attendees expressed an interest and excitement about this model. Many saw this as an opportunity to market the collaborative model more effectively given the flat fee structure and resulting cost containment for our clients. A working committee is forming to implement and include the streamlined model in our Protocols.

An Open Letter to the NYACP Membership from Jessica Rothberg

Dear NYACP Members:

To provide some context, I was asked what inspired my recent renewal of membership with the NYACP after a multi-year hiatus.

After well over a decade of membership in what is now called the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals, I thought long and hard before I decided not to renew my membership a few years ago. Around this time, I was navigating an extremely busy practice as a mediator and collaborative attorney, running an apprenticeship program, raising kids, participating in my various communities in different ways and, frankly, I was not feeling the benefit of my membership in NYACP. With a hefty annual fee and stringent meeting requirements, I let my NYACP membership expire in 2016. As important as collaborative work was to me, being a member of NYACP was not.

In order to understand why I came back, I think it’s important to understand why I left.

After some reflection, it became clear that work-life balance was not at the root and I left the NYACP because I did not feel “in community” with many of my collaborative colleagues. Since the inception of this organization, time after time, I entered spaces filled with (predominately) straight, white, male-focused people who at times made me question my dedication to the organization. I didn’t have the energy to deal with this beyond casual conversation and instead chose to distance myself and put my energies into other projects and organizations.

So why join now, what’s changed?

Life’s demands have not waned but, like many of you I’m sure, this re/evolutionary time has opened up space for self-reflection. What has changed are recent conversations among many of our peers that highlight a new understanding around race and identity. This tidal wave of awareness sweeping our country has opened up the possibility that perhaps I can be in authentic connection to the NYACP community in ways I have not historically been able. I look forward to understanding how we, as a community, might grow and thrive.

Since I was handed the mic, I offer a challenge. I ask that we, as a predominately white (and straight and financially stable – but that’s another conversation) community, not only "acknowledge" our whiteness, but own it. It is not an accident that our community of professionals is overwhelmingly white. This community was formed and continues to be built by real people who make real decisions about who is in the room. We let this happen and we, as a community, have to live in that reality - understand how our whiteness as individuals and as a group impacts our work, in terms of the people we aim to serve, the processes we choose, and the issues we prioritize. Perhaps the entire field of collaborative divorce in NY would have grown differently had there been a diversity of voices at the table from day one. And that is not to take away from all the tremendous efforts of our founders and all of us (myself included) who work tirelessly to nurture and improve our professional community in all kinds of important ways. It's about owning who we are and our own agency. It's about reflecting on what it means to live in our identities -- not from a place of guilt or shame or apology, but from a place of ownership and consciousness.

What changed and why I joined now is that a confluence of events has brought me to a moment where I am forced to live authentically and where I am prioritizing connection to people and communities that matter to me. My collaborative professional community matters to me.

I’ve recently been reading a fabulous author – Rhonda Magee – here is something she said which I think is an appropriate close:

Take a moment to pause and see each other’s faces, take each other in—behold each other… And then, if you can, draw back the lens just a bit, and see if you can behold this space and the characteristics of: who’s here? Who is represented, and whose groups might be represented, and whose might not be? It’s not about blaming; it’s about seeing.

I look forward to future clear-eyed collaborations!

Jessica Rothberg



As we continue to deal with the "side effects" of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives, while following recommendations from the CDC about social distancing and good hygiene to save lives and flatten the curve, it’s important to find safe ways to connect. The NYACP wants to connect with you, and hear how you are working and surviving.  Please send us an update, a story, or just well wishes to your fellow colleagues.

We want to hear from you, please write!

And remember to follow these tips to ensure that social distancing doesn't turn into self-isolation.

  • Harmonize your home. For many of us, decluttering can relieve stress. It also may help to make room for more important things to come. Replace your bed sheets and dinner plates with brighter or more soothing colors.
  • Connect with your community. Download an app called Nextdoor to communicate with your neighbors. Volunteer or join a support group, or offer your skills and talents remotely to a senior center or charity.
  • Don’t forget friends, family...and colleagues at the NYACP! Virtual platforms like Zoom, Houseparty, and Skype help us connect with each other If you have a special event like a birthday, wedding, or anniversary, let us know, we would like to celebrate with you...virtually.
  • Love the ones you’re with. To counter any tensions that arise with so many of us working at home, try to be more grateful, forgiving, and apologetic—because life is precious. Look through photo albums or cook together. Call friends, or watch movies or a TV series together while on a virtual platform.
  • Tap into your soul. Create and listen to joyful or soothing music playlists. Learn about art or cultivate a creative talent. Start a meditation practice. These practices can help silence your mind and calm your worries.
  • It's Summer! Get outside. Being out in nature will lift your spirits and getting sun helps boost levels of vitamin D, which has important immune functions.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise. Stay hydrated. Sleep at least seven to eight hours a night. Avoid processed foods and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Flex your mind. In 1665, during the Bubonic plague when the University of Cambridge was closed, Sir Isaac Newton worked from home where he developed his theories on calculus, optics, and gravity. William Shakespeare likewise sequestered at home and many of his subsequent plays made reference to the plague. Challenge yourself to be more creative and inventive. Better yet, work collaboratively with each other. Maybe you'll come up with the next big "thing"!

Most of all, know that your colleagues and friends at the NYACP are here for you and hope to see you soon!

The New York Association of Collaborative Professionals
230 Washington Avenue Extension, Suite 101, 
Albany, New York  12203
Phone: 518-313-0420 | Fax: 518-463-8656