60 East 42 St. New York, NY 10165
(914) 499-0705 or (212) 485-9836
MESSENGER WWW.WESTCHESTERFAM I LYLAW.COM
MARCH 20 1 8
The Origins of Westchester Family Law
C oming from a family of therapists, I always had a keen interest in people. When it came time for me to choose my career field, however, I thought to myself, I’m way too bossy to be a therapist . So, I decided to pursue another passion of mine: justice. After starting law school, it didn’t take me long to realize that law school is not about justice, so I focused my education and career on the intersection where the law meets people in their everyday lives. My early career was at a firm where about half our practice was matrimonial work and the other half child welfare litigation. As I gained experience in family law, I quickly realized that there had to be a better way to help people settle divorces than what my colleagues and I were doing. When I took my first mediation training in 1990, I was hopeful that this was the solution I was looking for. By integrating mediation ideas and skills into my divorce negotiations, the possibility to find mutual solutions that didn’t create long-term division was much more likely. There was only one problem with this methodology: the other lawyer. Not that they were bad people or bad lawyers — they weren’t. The problem was that we just couldn’t get on the same page as to the best criteria to settle our cases. In these negotiations, it was hard to change the focus from strategic attacks and legal arguments toward discussions about mutually beneficial solutions. After 10 years of serving clients, I found myself going through my own divorce. I’d like to say I applied all the lessons I learned from going through this process so many times as a lawyer, but I did not. My former husband and I were unable to mediate our divorce and I felt a tidal wave of fear for the well-being of my son and daughter. As a litigator, my observation had been that it was impossible to keep children out of the middle, no matter how hard everyone said they wanted to protect them. More times than I want to admit, I’d seen children used as a bargaining chip — viewed without a voice or needs of their own. I was unwilling to take that risk, for if I have one flaw as an attorney, it’s my focus on kids in the process. When I saw what my children had to go through, and how little they were considered, it opened my eyes to this gigantic fault in the whole methodology — so much so, I got out of the field altogether. I quit my job and began taking an intent focus on investing in the one person I seemed to be ignoring my entire life — myself. I realized I had been going through life doing everything I thought I was supposed to, without being in touch with what I really wanted. I had become a guest in my own skin. By grabbing hold of my own reins, I found freedom and hope in myself. That’s what empowered me to take control of my life and my future.
and experience to help people more effectively, I decided to give it a try. After the first day of
training in January 2003, I felt like I had come home. All the faults in the old, traditional process were being addressed, and this more
modern approach had the best interests of the family in mind. The best part about it: The lawyers are disqualified from litigating. This rule completely removes the threats and arguments and gets down to the core of finding appropriate solutions. Collaborative law and mediation have been the focus of my personal practice ever since then. I fully endorse the way they help find solutions for families. It’s at the very center of what we do and who we are. As a firm, we always try to help our clients find the best solutions. We focus our practice on out-of-court solutions because these are more practical, more humane, and often less costly. When it’s necessary, we will go to court to protect our clients and we leave no stone unturned to advocate for the best solution. The process of divorce can strip you of your pride and your poise. Staying focused on what matters most to you, your core values, and how you want to live the rest of your life is hard, but that is how you reach the best result. Helping people divorce with dignity is our mission. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.
At this time a friend had reached out to me about a new process called “collaborative law.” After taking steps to find a different career outside of law, but still yearning to use my training
—K atheri ne Miller
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