FAQs and Resources

Dealing with divorce and its subsequent effect on your life can generate many questions.  The Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC is here to help you every step of the way.  Some questions Helene often receives from clients include:

Contact the Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC

The Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC assists clients with all their divorce and family law needs in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Ms. Bernstein keeps flexible office hours—including evening and weekend hours by appointment—to help work around your busy schedule. Reach out to her online for knowledgeable, solutions-driven legal assistance from an experienced lawyer.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that allows parties to work through their differences without going to court.  While mediation is not for every couple, it is an effective, confidential tool many use when they are willing to work together to create mutually satisfactory decisions.  It reduces the mental hardship, stress, and financial strain going through a lengthy courtroom battle can cause, and often takes much less time than going to court.  Couples attending mediation sessions are able to talk about their concerns in a neutral environment, giving them the option to voice all their thoughts and opinions in a timely fashion.  It also allows you to take a child-focused approach to your divorce, ensuring your children’s needs and interests are addressed.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation has many benefits.  It saves you money and time, and it gives you the ability to control the outcome of your legal matter.  Many who go through mediation find that their relationship with their former spouse is better than they expected—because the mediation process is less adversarial, parties have the opportunity to work together toward a solution that satisfies everyone involved.

Do I ever have to go to court during a divorce?

It depends on the circumstances of your divorce.  While mediation is sufficient for some couples, divorces involving contentious issues are often best handled in court.  Your family may benefit from more formal proceedings if there are problems related to substance abuse, domestic violence, or complicated financial issues.

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What if my spouse or former spouse fails to fulfill our mediation agreement?

You have two options if a mediation agreement is breached: you may go back to mediation or you can go to court and have a judge decide the issue for you.

How do we pick an amount for child support or maintenance in mediation?

As of October 2010, New York modified the law governing child support and spousal maintenance granted in a divorce, establishing a set formula for maintenance.  However, you have a right to deviate from the formula as long as you show you have knowledge of the law.

Helene Bernstein has a thorough understanding of New York’s new divorce laws and can help you understand when it is best to make your own decisions about child support and maintenance through mediation.  Additionally, she can help determine if your children need more support than state law provides because of special needs.

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative law is a tool divorcing parties can use to finalize the details of their divorce without going to court.  Each spouse has his or her own attorney acting as an advocate for their rights.  A collaborative divorce can follow the legal model, where a participation agreement sets protocol to help the parties reach essential decisions, or an interdisciplinary team model, where attorneys, financial consultants, and mental health professionals are employed to provide counseling and help guide parties toward making mutually acceptable decisions.  Parties who agree to try the collaborative divorce process must conduct themselves politely and treat their former spouse respectfully.

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What if collaborative divorce attempts fail?

Sometimes divorces are simply too contentious for the collaborative divorce process to succeed.  While it may seem as if giving up is the easiest course of action, you should take a step back to evaluate whether you can truly reach an agreement in this way.

Should you decide to opt out of the collaborative divorce process, you and your former spouse must each hire a new attorney to act as your legal representatives in court.  Helene Bernstein has extensive experience litigating cases in Family Court and Supreme Court in New York, and may be the right choice for you if collaborative divorce efforts have failed.

Can you be my review attorney?

Yes.  Parties who mediate agreements are recommended to hire a review attorney prior to submitting their agreement to court.  Helene Bernstein has been practicing family law for more than 20 years and has a thorough understanding of all aspects of family law.  She is also available to help parties file their uncontested divorce in court.

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Can I get a no-fault divorce in New York?

New York now allows no-fault divorces.

What are the new changes to New York divorce laws?

There have been numerous changes to New York divorce laws recently.  Under the new laws:

  • Spouses can obtain no-fault divorces
  • Maintenance is determined based on a set formula
  • One spouse can now apply to have the monied spouse pay counsel and expert fees
  • The income threshold for child support has been increased to $141,000
  • Same sex couples may legally marry in New York
  • Intimate partners may obtain an order of protection in Family Court

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My child has special education and behavioral needs.  Can you help me?

Yes.  Helene Bernstein has a thorough understanding of special education and behavioral needs some children have.  She provides valuable advice to parents of elementary, middle, and high school children on:

  • How to plan for effective Individual Education Programs (IEP)
  • How specific laws may impact your child
  • How to effectively advocate with school administrators concerning educational needs

Please contact the Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC for help if you have a child with special needs—each family’s situation is unique, and you deserve to work with an attorney who is devoted to protecting your child.

We are considering adopting a child.  How do we learn more about this?

Call the Law and Mediation Offices of Helene Bernstein, PLLC to make an appointment with Ms. Bernstein. As your attorney, Helene Bernstein can advise on the process and particulars of domestic adoption, second parent adoption, foster care adoptions, or adopting stepchildren or grandchildren.

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Additional resources


Parent Education and Parent Coordination

Collaborative Law

Special Education

New York State

Reading List

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After our initial consultation, Helene immediately jumped into action and, in a few weeks' time, she and her assistant made more progress in my case than my prior attorney did in two and a half years!
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