Trained To End Disputes, Not Families
By Dan Baldwin
“Victor Hugo wrote, ‘Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come’ and I believe his quote fits perfectly with the status of collaborative divorce in the state of New Jersey,” says Linda Piff of the Law Office of Linda L. Piff, LLC.
Piff is also the founder of a unique practice group, the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, an association of independent, interdisciplinary professionals committed to fostering the growth of collaborative divorce. The philosophy behind the group is to help clients move forward with their lives in a non-adversarial manner to create an outcome that helps clients reach their goals while achieving the best outcome for their children.
Piff says, “Too often divorce results in a declaration of war that can tear families apart and cause lasting damage to the children. As collaborative lawyers, we are committed to providing divorcing clients with the tools needed to reach a settlement with minimal antagonism in a setting outside of the courthouse where legal costs can be contained and agreements reached more efficiently.”
NINE ATTORNEYS – ONE GOAL
At present, nine attorneys of varying ages, experience levels and perspectives have united to practice and promote the philosophy of mediation and collaborative divorce. For various reasons and through different means, they have each found their way to collaborative divorce.
C. CATHERINE JANNARONE, ESQ.
C. Catherine Jannarone, Esq. formed her solo practice in Monmouth County in 1982 with offices in Matawan and Wall Township. Her two biggest practice areas are real estate law and matrimonial law, focusing on matrimonial family law, collaboration, mediation and some litigation. Her real estate practice complements her family law practice. With it, she is able to aid her clients in selling their home, relocating or finding new homes for couples or individuals.
In addition to herself, Jannarone’s practice is supplemented by associate Barbara Downs McNulty as well as a staff of four legal assistants/paralegals and a receptionist.
“I opened up a practice in my hometown more than 30 years ago and started doing a lot of municipal court defense work and then a lot of family law work and was good at it,” Jannarone says. “It’s gratifying to help people, to help them get through divorce. When they come in they’re confused, they’re upset, they don’t know what’s going on, and they’re emotional. To be able to break it down for them and show them how it’s going to proceed and talk about solutions is a wonderful process.
“The firm has almost grown with a life of its own, and it comes with my great staff. Th is is such a wonderful collaborative group. We trust each other and we know that at the end of the day we’re here to take care of the families, our clients. It’s really very satisfying.”
Jannarone has what she calls a “bit of a detoured past” in her journey to becoming an attorney. Although her degree is in criminology, she took a paralegal class while living in Lake Tahoe. She took to the discipline and moved to the Washington, D.C. area and became a certified paralegal at George Washington University. After closely observing the attorneys in her area, she determined that she could do it too, so she enrolled in law school.
Her legal experience includes being a municipal court judge in Keyport for nine years, for three years in Atlantic Highlands, and in Hazlet for another three years. She is an affiliate of the Jersey Shore Collaborative Law Group, International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the New Jersey Bar Association, Monmouth County Bar Association and Monmouth County Women’s Bar Association; a former matrimonial early settlement panelist for the Superior Court of New Jersey Monmouth County; former member and past president of the Monmouth County Municipal Court Judges Association; a member of the Mid-Jersey Collaborative Law Alliance and of the New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups.
“I really love being an attorney. I’ve been a solo for most of my career. It’s a great opportunity to help people. I like the variety of work I do. Litigation for me has gotten a bit old. There are better ways for our clients. There are better results. I embraced collaborative law and it’s been a joy to do it. It’s very gratifying when I leave the courthouse and I see two clients who wish each other well, who can deal with each other and deal with their kids’ issues because of the way we did the divorce,” she says.
LAURA M. D’ORSI, ESQ.
Laura M. D’Orsi, Esq. of the Law Offices of Laura M. D’Orsi, LLC says, “I think in the future we’re going to see more clients and the public becoming more aware of collaborative divorce. In the event that the Uniform Collaborative Law Act passes in 2014 we will see more attorneys who are trained in the area because I believe the public is going to drive the market. The public is going to keep going to individual attorneys and requesting collaborative divorce and attorneys will finally realize that it’s an area they have to pursue to meet the demands of the marketplace.”
D’Orsi is a divorce attorney who handles collaborative divorce cases and litigated divorce matters. She graduated from Lehigh University with a Bachelor of Arts in government and foreign relations and from Emory University School of Law with her Juris Doctor. After working for a prominent Washington D.C. law firm for six years, she relocated to New Jersey and joined one of the state’s pre-eminent matrimonial law firms.
D’Orsi has been a licensed attorney since 1990 and has been practicing matrimonial law in Monmouth County since 2007, forming her own firm in 2011. She is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a matrimonial law attorney. She is a member of the bars of the state of New Jersey, the state of New York and the District of Columbia. She is a member of the Monmouth Bar Association, and the family law section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. As a certified mediator by the State of New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, she has served as an economic mediator for the courts in Monmouth County and Ocean County. She is co-chair of the Monmouth County family law section and is a trustee of the Monmouth Bar Association.
She is a trained collaborative divorce attorney and is a member of the Jersey Shore Collaborative Law Group, the Collaborative Divorce Professionals, the International Association of Collaborative Practitioners and the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators. As the president of the Unity Group, an advocacy group for battered women, in Essex County from 1996 to 2002, she was instrumental in the establishment and operation of a shelter for battered women and children.
She notes that collaborative law has multiple benefits for clients. It’s more efficient. The time that is spent is focused on the individual’s case, so a client is able to use his or her attorney’s time wisely. Additionally, the collaborative law process maintains a higher level of privacy. In a court case, the client’s information becomes public documents.
“I’ve seen the practice of law from two different sides, being at a large law firm and now in my own firm,” D’Orsi says. “Starting your own practice is extremely satisfying—it’s your business and it allows you to take control over your life. I enjoy practicing matrimonial law, as I enjoy helping people through an important transition in their lives. With collaborative divorce we’re able to help people reach a fair resolution from the beginning of the process. No client is completely satisfied; there is a compromise in every case. At the end of the case, however, my clients can walk out of the courtroom relatively satisfied with the outcome and able to maintain a relationship with one another. Plus, the attorneys are still on good terms. It’s a nice way to make your living if you have to be a lawyer.”
JESSICA N. MAZUR, ESQ.
Jessica N. Mazur, senior associate in the family law department of Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas enjoys family law “because this field touches on so many different issues from psychology to the division of businesses. There is never a dull moment.”
She is a firm believer in the benefits to clients and attorneys found in mediation and collaborative divorce law.
She says, “I’ve been practicing going on 10 years and in speaking with other attorneys and mentors, specifically in family law, the burnout in matrimonial law is very high. The unhappiness and stress that clients face as their marriage comes to a conclusion affects everyone involved. Collaborative law enables a family to separate without being broken into pieces.” It is the way to go not only for the client, but also for the attorneys.
Mazur is an AV rated attorney by LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University and her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in New Jersey; the United States District Court, District of New Jersey; and the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit. She practices family law with a focus on separation, child custody and parenting time, child support and alimony, spousal support, separate maintenance, equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, prenuptial agreements, mediation, arbitration, and other alternatives to litigation.
Going through her own divorce made Mazur appreciate what her clients go through, which has confirmed her commitment to collaborative law. She enjoys helping people get through what is often a traumatic and sometimes heartbreaking process as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
I do enjoy litigating as well, but I think each case benefits from a specific model – be it mediation, collaborative law or litigation. For the purposes of everyone coming out of the process satisfied and not traumatized, the collaborative law approach is best. It helps me sleep at night knowing that I’m helping people close a chapter and start a fresh one with dignity and privacy,” Mazur says.