News and Publications VMM In The News

On January 15, 2020, VMM partner Joseph Milizio was interviewed by several news outlets regarding the new NY law allowing adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificate listing the names of their birth parents. Click below to watch Mr. Milizio and associate Meredith Chesler on NBC 4 New York, CBS 2 New York, News 12 Long Island, and WCBS Newsradio 880.

In November 2019, This is Queensborogh, the Queens Chamber of Commerce trade magazine, featured an article by Partner Andrew Kimler in the Expert Advice section. It can be read in full here.

On November 6, 2019, the National Herald (Greek Herald) featured the Greek-American Homeowners Association fundraiser. VMM was proud to cosponsor the event. Partner Constantina Papageorgiou (standing in picture) led a seminar about elder law-related matters.


On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, Vishnick McGovern Milizio founding partner Bernard Vishnick was honored for his eight years of service at the State of New York Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts.

Select, highly reputable attorneys are chosen to serve on the State Grievance Committee, accepting written complaints of professional misconduct concerning lawyers.

New Committee Chair Andrea E. Bonina presented Bernard with the honor at the Committee’s annual dinner, together with Chief Counsel Diana Maxfield Kearse, pictured.

John Gordon to lead division at law firm

January 5, 2017

By Noah Manskar

John Gordon started his career in real estate law in 2006, when the housing market was booming, he said.

The industry has seen big changes since the housing collapse in 2008, with the onset of new federal regulations and changes in how banks lend money, said Gordon, who is entering his third year as president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Willistons.

Now, the Williston Park resident is looking to lead his fellow real estate lawyers at Vishnick McGovern Milizio through some technological changes as head of the Lake Success-based firm’s residential real estate practice group.

“What we’re looking to do is continue to bring our processes into the technological age and make sure that we remain up to date on all of the best ways to do this in an efficient manner,” Gordon said.

A native of South Ozone Park, Queens, and a Fordham University Law School graduate, Gordon came to Vishnick McGovern Milizio in 2006, the same year he moved to Williston Park and joined the chamber, he said.

In the new role he took on Dec. 27, he will oversee all the firm’s residential real estate operations, working with a staff of two paralegals and one other attorney, according to Gordon and a news release from the firm.

Gordon will also handle cases involving estate planning and other types of real estate transactions, and will work with business owners who want to sell their businesses or transfer their assets, he said.

There was a big demand for real estate lawyers when Gordon first entered the field at a firm based in Richmond Hill, Queens, he said.

New York’s housing market was “more resilient,” so it weathered the 2008 crash better than many places, he said.

Gordon also advises nonprofit groups and charities, a skill that has come in handy as chamber president when legal questions come up, he said.

Leading the chamber has also led Gordon to better understand businesses and business owners, “which helps me with representing business owners in my practice,” he said.

“I’ve been able to get to know the people who own and run the local businesses, and they’re a great group of people,” Gordon said. “And it’s given me the opp to try to help them grow and get people to use their goods and services.”

While some longtime establishments have closed in the past decade, the business community in the Willistons has remained fairly stable, Gordon said.

The biggest change has been the many restaurants opening, Gordon said, which could help local business overall.

“I think it brings in foot traffic from surrounding areas and gives people an opportunity to see what other businesses there are,” he said.


The following article is an excerpt from Long Island Business News.

On Thursday, March 24, 2016, Long Island Business News presented the inaugural Excellence in Communications Awards. VMM Chief Marketing Officer Mindy Wolfle was recognized in the "In-House Marketing Professional" category for her leadership, dedication, creativity and the high regard she holds among the firm’s attorneys and support staff.

Annual performance review not enough, experts say

By Jamie Herzlich

March 21, 2016

For many managers and employees alike, performance reviews are a dreaded annual ritual.

They can be time-consuming and often don’t reflect an accurate picture of an employee’s performance — part of the reason 37 percent of respondents in a recent TINYpulse survey said the performance review process was outdated.

Millennials were more stressed by the traditional annual review process than their older Gen X and baby boomer counterparts, according to the survey. Younger workers want “continuous feedback and mentoring,” says Matt Hulett, chief product officer at Seattle-based TINYpulse, a provider of employee engagement surveys.

Nearly a quarter of Millennials said they fear going into their review, compared to 16 percent of Gen Xers and 14 percent of baby boomers, notes Hulett.

And 41 percent of respondents overall said they’ve had an unfair or biased review, while 42 percent felt something important was left out due to “recency bias.” That’s when a manager remembers “things that happened 30 or 60 days ago, but tends to forget the things that happened six to 12 months ago,” says Christine Ippolito, principal at Deer Park HR consultants Compass Workforce Solutions.

• Regular feedback. She said performance reviews are still relevant, but more frequent, regular feedback is needed. “At the pace our society moves and business changes, only giving comprehensive feedback once a year is not sufficient,” says Ippolito.

That’s why ClearVision Optical in Hauppauge, a designer and distributor of eyewear, doesn’t do annual reviews. “We put a lot of emphasis on ongoing dialogue,” says Jen Trakhtenberg, ClearVision’s senior talent leader.

• Surveys, chats. Among its efforts, ClearVision distributes electronic surveys several times a year to gauge employee sentiment on various topics. Following a survey, the company conducts one-on-one “talent chats” between employees and their direct managers or a member of the talent management team to discuss topics in more depth, says Trakhtenberg.

• They also hold “living room chats” with eight- to 12-person focus groups at least once a year, to talk about various issues including overall performance expectations. ClearVision encourages managers to engage in open conversations about performance regularly, she notes.

• Fear factor. The problem with a performance review is “it creates this very big meeting that causes anxiety because you’re waiting for the verdict, rather than having a continuous flow of discussion,” says Trakhtenberg.

Still, most organizations aren’t doing away with reviews altogether, according to Brian Kropp, HR practice leader with Arlington, Virginia-based CEB, a research and tech company. Instead they are adjusting the frequency with which feedback is being provided and trying alternatives to the traditional scoring systems that companies use.

• Real-time insight. Some companies are even using real-time performance management apps or software. TINYpulse, for example, offers a mobile application that lets managers and employees rate and track performance and set goals weekly. Other performance management solution providers include Impraise and Workday.

The point is to provide feedback more than once a year.

“Ongoing feedback improves employee productivity and reinforces goals and expectations,” notes Kropp.

At the very least, managers should have quarterly performance reviews, says Andrew Kimler, a partner at the law firm of Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP in Lake Success.

• Details, honesty. When you discuss performance, be specific and honest and don’t engage in generalities, he advises, adding you should have specifics you can point to, both good and bad.

• Live in the moment. If a problem arises before your quarterly meeting, address it immediately and document it, says Kimler.

“Reinforce the positive behavior, and if people are doing something wrong, tell them in the moment so they can fix it,” adds Ippolito.

Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP Partner Andrew A. Kimler was invited by Dean Richard Bales of Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law to be the guest speaker at the 2016 Dean’s Lecture on February 11, 2016 at ONUL, Mr. Kimler’s alma mater.

His program, entitled, “Finding your Niche: Creating and Growing a Specialty Practice,” was presented to law students and faculty. Mr. Kimler addressed how Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP has expanded and redefined its practice areas to meet the diverse needs of its clients, including the LGBT community. He also covered client relations and other aspects of practice development.

Joseph Milizio / Photo by Bob Giglione


By: Joseph Kellard

December 8, 2015

(This post is excerpted from LIBN.)

Joseph Milizio, a partner and head of the LGBT practice at the New Hyde Park-based Vishnick, McGovern & Milizio who has worked with same-sex couples for the past 14 years, said increasingly more of these couples are preplanning, especially to have children, which is a marked contrast from the past.

Milizio said that he’s already seen a number of marriages that formed soon after same-sex marriage was legally recognized deteriorate to the point of divorce. He believes when the right to marry became legally available, many of these couples looked at it as more of an obligation rather than really thinking about the responsibilities that come with marriage.

“So it was done more as a celebratory thing than a rights and obligations type thing,” he said. “So that seems to have largely passed from a time perspective.”

What he sees now is more same-sex couples who have the benefit of contemplating marriage and are planning much more carefully, which has translated into more prenups.

“Many of them are seeking counsel with respect to what are their rights and obligations,” he said, “as well as whether or not they should have prenuptial agreements in place.”

New alimony guidelines taking effect

By: Joseph Kellard

December 2, 2015

(This post is excerpted from LIBN.)

A new state bill nixes a long-standing legal precedent, effectively holding that an academic degree earned by a spouse during a marriage is no longer an asset.

Part of the bill puts an end to a court calculating “maintenance,” or alimony, as an asset, discounting a spouse’s enhanced earning capacity due to a license or degree that was earned during the marriage.

The legislation, which the New York State Legislature passed in June, sets forth formulas and guidelines for both temporary and post-divorce maintenance, the latter of which was previously determined entirely on the discretion of the courts.

The new statute, which essentially revised existing temporary maintenance guidelines, went into effect Oct. 25, and created post-divorce guidelines, which will take effect Jan. 23, 2016.

Calculating a professional license or degree as an asset rests on a state case from 1980. That year, New York doctor Michael O’Brien, whose wife, Loretta, supported him when he attended medical school, filed for divorce shortly after he received his degree. In 1985, the state Court of Appeals upheld her claim to a portion of the value of his medical license as compensation for assisting him. The judge in the case set precedent when he devised a means for calculating the future worth of the husband’s earnings.

The new legislation, though, changes the formula for calculating alimony payments and supporters of the bill say it will more consistently and predictably determine temporary and post-divorce maintenance awards in divorce proceedings, while giving courts the flexibility to exercise discretion where strict application of the guidelines are deemed unfair.

Under the new bill, when a court determines maintenance awards, it is required to apply two child support-related formulas based on the parties’ respective incomes, with a cap on the payer’s income at $175,000. This represents a significant reduction from the previous cap, at $543,000, which pertained only to temporary maintenance guidelines. The new cap applies to both temporary and post-divorce spousal support.

The amended legislation allows flexibility for the courts to deviate from the formulas, when and if a judge deems it unjust or inappropriate, and can give additional or less maintenance than the cap, according to various factors. These factors include the age and health of the parties as well as their present and future earning capacities.

The legislation also addressed the length of support. It features a non-mandatory, advisory durational formula that provides percentages based on length of marriage, such as 15 to 30 percent for up to 15 years and up to 50 percent for more than 20 years.

Joe Trotti, an attorney at Vishnick, McGovern and Milizio in Lake Success, believes the amended bill at least provides a framework that allows attorneys to speak with more clarity and consistency about their cases.

“The court still has some discretion to deviate from the formula, but at least you now have a jumping-off point when you plug in the numbers,” Trotti said.

What needs to be determined, he believes, is whether the courts will really be flexible and deviate for special circumstances, or whether they will just apply the formula because it is easier.

Trotti also anticipates legislation regarding whether the enhanced earning capacity will still need to be valued.

He envisions cases in which the court will still need to value it.

“What if it’s a long-term marriage and the spouse sacrifices their career and helps the other spouse with four years of college, three years of law school and post-graduate school and then building up a business?” he said. “In that circumstance, although no longer required to value that asset, I don’t think the courts will say no 100 percent of the time.”

NYC demands $5M ‘refund’ from family of dead 8-year-old

By Julia Marsh and Kevin Sheehan

November 17, 2015

New York officials overpaid nearly $5 million to a Manhattan hospital after a young Medicaid patient died — then demanded a “shocking’’ refund from the child’s family to fix their accounting error, new court papers show.

Merrick Lee was just 8 years old when he died in 2010 after a lifetime of struggling with an immune-deficiency order.

His parents, Korean immigrants who live in Syosset, LI, said a botched stomach X-ray at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in November 2003 left the then-17-month-old boy severely disabled — and in a hospital room nearly the rest of his life.

“He passed away five years ago. We lose our whole life,” Merrick’s father, Chi Young Lee, told The Post on Monday as his wife sobbed.

The family sued the hospital and won a $6 million settlement in April 2008.

As part of the deal, the hospital agreed to “assume full responsibility for any . . . [money] due to Medicaid in connection with [Merrick’s] . . . hospitalization,” according to court papers.

But officials with the city’s Human Resources Administration disregarded notices they received saying their agency did not have to pay the Medicaid bills — and unnecessarily shelled out millions of dollars to New York-Presbyterian.

When they realized their mistake, they went after the family.

In a recent ruling against the city, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger noted that the HRA officials acknowledged they received notice of the settlement but simply “lost” the paperwork.

Calling the mix-up “negligent,” Schlesinger characterized the city’s refund demand to the Lees as a “shocking request for relief.”

The family’s lawyer, Andrew Kimler, added, “It’s really just a tragedy, and all this does is bring back the horrors.”

A spokesman for the HRA admitted, “Errors were made five years ago by all parties to this unfortunate situation.”

But the spokesman, David Neustadt, also blamed the state and the hospital, saying that New York-Presbyterian “was paid $4.8 million in state Medicaid money it was not owed.

“As the local social-service district, HRA is legally required to recover taxpayers’ money from the hospital for the state,” Neustadt said, adding, “We are no longer seeking to recover any funds” from the Lee family.

Marla Krolikowski, Transgender Teacher Fired for Insubordination, Dies at 62


Marla Krolikowski, who was fired from her job as a teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Queens for insubordination after acknowledging in 2011 that she was transgender, died on Sept. 20 in Oceanside, N.Y. She was 62.

She collapsed and was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where she died, her wife, Thea Krolikowski, said. A cause of death had not yet been determined.

Ms. Krolikowski’s firing prompted her to file a well-publicized lawsuit that ended in a confidential settlement. She and her allies saw the outcome — as well as a state judge’s decision to let the suit proceed in the first place — as a victory.

Ms. Krolikowski had been teaching for three decades as Mark Krolikowski — “Mr. K” to students — at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, when the parent of a ninth-grade student complained about the teacher’s earrings, shoulder-length hair and French manicure.

“His long track record of spectacular teaching seemed to carry no weight when a lone parent complained about his ‘feminine’ appearance back in 2011,” Cristina Guarino, a former student, recalled on a Facebook page dedicated to the teacher.

Ms. Guarino added: “Mr. K, for as long as we have known him, has always donned several gold hoop earrings, dyed hair, fashionable (but appropriate and professional) clothing, and well-manicured nails. This was never an issue amongst his students or their parents until that one student’s mother complained to the school.”

In the lawsuit, which was filed in 2012, the teacher’s lawyer, Andrew Kimler, said of the plaintiff: “Although his appearance was unconventional, he always dressed in a suit and tie and his dress and personal grooming had never been an issue.”

Court documents in the case referred to Ms. Krolikowski throughout using the honorific Mr. The suit noted that in 2008, Mark Krolikowski had co-directed the school orchestra when it performed for Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the city.

But Ms. Krolikowski, who was described in the court papers as anatomically male, recalled that at a meeting in October 2011 school officials had said she was “worse than gay” and had barred her from public events.

Ms. Krolikowski agreed to “tone down” her appearance, the suit said, but eight months later was told by the officials, who continued to regard her as a man, that she was insubordinate for not altering her appearance to their satisfaction, and they demanded her resignation.

“She was fired for appropriate nondiscriminatory reasons,” Philip Semprevivo, the school’s lawyer, said at the time. “She was insubordinate.”

But Justice Duane A. Hart, who was hearing the case in State Supreme Court in Queens, appeared skeptical and urged the parties to settle.

“Insubordination after 32 years of teaching?” the judge asked. “And the insubordination seems to coincide with the expression of being transgender?”

The settlement was reached in December 2013. The terms were not disclosed.

Alex Maureau, who graduated from St. Francis in 2004, said that more than 14,000 people had signed an online petition supporting Ms. Krolikowski. While employed by the school, she taught music at first, and later, courses called Social Justice and Human Sexuality and Love.

After the suit was settled, Mr. Maureau said, “We declared victory.”

Mark Francis Krolikowski was born in Brooklyn on May 30, 1953, the son of Frank Krolikowski and the former Constance Milker, and grew up in Stony Brook, on Long Island, before earning a bachelor’s degree in music education from Nazareth College in Rochester and a master’s degree from the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University.

Ms. Krolikowski lived in Bellport, N.Y. In addition to her wife, the former Thea Siebold, she is survived by her mother and a brother, David.

After leaving St. Francis, she went to work at Estée Lauder, the cosmetics company, training new employees. She retired a few weeks ago, her wife said.

For her funeral, which was held on Friday, St. Francis provided a bus for faculty and staff members who wished to attend.

Small business: Conference calls that achieve goals

September 13, 2015 by JAMIE HERZLICH /

A survey in 2014 by InterCall found that 65 percent of people do other work during a conference call, and 27 percent even admitted to falling asleep. Just like endless meetings, conference calls can be major time suckers.

But with meetings there's a certain level of engagement because you can actually see if you're losing your participants' interest.

With conference calls it can be harder to keep people engaged. A survey last year by InterCall found that 65 percent of people do other work during a conference call, and 27 percent even admitted to falling asleep.

"So much of what's happening is irrelevant to the audience," notes Dennis Collins, director of marketing at InterCall, a Chicago-based conferencing services provider. "If you can send a memo telling everyone what they need to do, then you don't need a call."

Participation. "A conference call should be for a dialogue," he notes, but it often ends up as a monologue, causing people to lose interest.

In fact, aside from falling asleep or doing work, 55 percent of people admitted to eating or making food while on a conference call; 47 percent admitted to going to the restroom; and 25 percent admitted to playing video games, according to the InterCall survey.

Many managers feel compelled to have everyone on the entire conference call, notes Collins. Instead, stagger attendees so when they get on, they're there for a reason, he says.

"Oftentimes no one really cares about conference calls until something 'wow' happens," says Byron Van Arsdale, CEO of Austin, Texas-based, a training and coaching firm, and co-author of "No More Lame Conference Calls" (eBook; $9.97).

For Van Arsdale, one such "wow" was meeting his wife, Bernice, while leading a class via a conference call she was on 18 years ago.

Contact. Conference calls often become dreaded and boring because the leader is pushing his or her agenda on everyone else, he explains. It's fine to come into the call with an agenda, Van Arsdale says, but before getting into that agenda, try to touch on something important to each person on the call.

Get on the call early, and while attendees are waiting for others to call in, ask each participant a short question such as "What is one challenge you have around x?," he suggests. That question should relate directly to the topic of the call, he notes.

"This way, before the call even starts, you can get an immediate read of what people want on the call," says Van Arsdale.

Agenda. Joseph Milizio, managing partner at the Lake Success law firm Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, circulates an agenda to participants before a call. For a meeting of one of the boards he sits on, he might have a pre-call with committee chairs to set the agenda.

The agenda, listing topics for discussion and the person presenting each one, helps with engagement, but also prevents people from talking over each other or at the same time, says Milizio, who is on at least three conference calls per week.

Punctuality. Always be on time for your call, advises Clark Desmet, marketing manager at Southampton-based AT Conference, a conference service provider. Optimally, you should be on the call five to 10 minutes early if you're the host, he advises.

And be cognizant of people's time. The average length of a call among AT Conference users is 35 minutes, he notes.

Definitely take no more than an hour, or you'll lose people's attention, says Milizio.

Also be sure to pick the right device and location, advises Desmet. Call from a landline if possible; it offers better clarity than a cellphone. If you're calling from an airport, try to find a quieter spot, he notes.

"What your surroundings are will be projected throughout the entire call," says Desmet.

Judge Rejects NYC's Bid to Recoup $4.9M Medicaid Payments

Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal

July 22, 2015

A judge has denied a "shocking" request from New York City to recoup nearly $4.9 million in Medicaid payments it said were mistakenly made to New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell for the care of a disabled child for several years before his 2010 death.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger said the city was given ample notification of the death of Merrick Lee in an order to show cause, which was filed by the co-trustees of the boy's estate. She said the city's Department of Social Services (DSS) cannot seek now to recover the money from the trustees that it "negligently" failed to request five years ago.

She refused to vacate the final accounting order she issued for the boy's estate in 2010.

"To the extent the agency failed to comprehend the import of the [order to show cause] and the underlying facts, the failure was caused by its admitted lack of due diligence," Schlesinger wrote in Lee v. Osorio, 116651/04. "Frankly, the claim that the agency and its counsel failed to comprehend a plainly written [order to show cause] is shocking. Accordingly, DSS is not entitled to relief under CPLR §5015(a)(2)."

Schlesinger came to the same conclusion as Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos in a parallel action that the city brought against New York Presbyterian seeking almost $4.9 million from the hospital and the trustees.

Ramos ruled in that matter,Commissioner of Department of Social Services of City of New York v. New York Presbyterian, 450714/14, that the effect of res judicata prevents the city from raising the issues that it failed to raise when the final accounting and discharge order of the Merrick Lee estate was proceeding before Schlesinger. Ramos held his order in abeyance, however, until Schlesinger ruled on the city's motion to vacate her accounting and discharge order.

The city argued that CPLR §5015(a)(2) applies to its argument in the Lee case because the statute allows a court to grant relief based on newly discovered evidence. But Schlesinger said no new evidence has emerged to justify the city's entitlement to her either vacating or modifying her order.

Schlesinger said the evidence of the city's need to act was placed "squarely" before the Department of Social Services in May and June 2010. That's when the agency received written notice by the co-trustees of Merrick Lee's estate, with the first page in all capital letters announcing the document was an "ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE FOR SETTLEMENT OF FINAL ACCOUNTING AND DISCHARGE OF TRUSTEES." It made clear, the judge said, that the boy's March 20, 2010 death was precipitating the order.

The record reflected that Jay Sangerman, then the lawyer for the co-trustees of the boy's estate, sent a fax in June 2010 to DSS at the court's request inquiring whether it intended to take a position on the order, as it had failed to do so by the deadline to file papers.

The city eventually produced a claim of an unpaid Medicaid lien of $7,133, and the estate paid the lien, according to Schlesinger's ruling.

The judge said the city's additional contention that CPLR §5015(a)(3), which applies when "fraud" or "misrepresentation" was involved to justify her possibly revisiting the final discharge of the Lee estate, must be rejected. She said she was not persuaded that fraud was involved because, as the DSS argued, the order from the co-trustees was served by overnight courier and not by certified mail.

"The co-trustees had no duty to do more than they did to notify DSS that the infant had died and that the co-trustees sought to proceed with a final accounting and discharge," she wrote.

Schlesinger called the incapacity and death of Lee "extremely sad," but noted that the medical malpractice case which gave rise to the case before her was not at issue in the city's motion to vacate her order for final accounting and discharge.

The family claimed that Merrick Lee became incapacitated during treatment at the hospital in November 2003, when he was 17 months old. He required hospitalization for the remainder of his life, the judge said.

According to Schlesinger's ruling, the family's suit against the hospital and individual doctors was settled in April 2008 for $6 million, with the hospital agreeing to pay the full amount as well as "indemnification against any and all Medicaid liens from the date of subject hospitalization to discharge."

The Lee family's attorney, Andrew Kimler, said the city's suit against New York Presbyterian continues before Ramos on the claim that the hospital has assumed responsibility for the boy's medical expenses and should not be seeking any reimbursement through Medicaid.

Kimler said the litigation has been a "nightmare" for the Lee family and said he hoped the family's involvement is now over in light of Schlesinger's ruling.

"I have a family that wants to put this behind them," said Kimler, a partner at Vishnick McGovern Milizio in Lake Success. "This is a horror. They should never have been embroiled in this litigation. It is sinful."

A trust was established using the settlement money, with the boy's father, Chi Young Lee, and the Bank of New York as co-trustees. It was the final accounting sought by that trust that prompted the city's motion.

Richard Dreyfuss, special assistant New York City corporation counsel, represented the Human Resources Administration.

"There were errors made years ago by all the parties to this unfortunate situation," David Neustadt, a spokesman for the city's HRA, said Tuesday. "But the bottom line is that New York Presbyterian Hospital was paid state Medicaid money it was not owed and it is HRA's responsibility as the local social service district to try to recover that money."

Divorce neutrality

By: Joseph Kellard

May 22, 2015

When attorney Maren Cardillo meets with couples that seek a divorce but harbor acrimony toward each other, she believes her profession, divorce mediation, can uniquely create a non-adversarial atmosphere in which reason can rule over divisive emotions.

A partner at Divorce Mediation Professionals in Garden City, Cardillo finds there is a general misconception that couples must be amicable in divorce mediation – a process by which they work together to compromise on crucial matters, such as division of property and child custody, with a neutral mediator rather than through litigation.

“We do have a lot of couples that we work with that do have a lot of anger and animosity toward one another because betrayal and terrible things have gone on,” Cardillo said. “And amazingly they do this because they are still able to hear that it’s common sense – that they still have to be parents together and don’t want to spend two or three years of their lives entrenched in this bitterness and anger.”

As an attorney, Cardillo can draft and formalize a legally binding separation agreement and file divorce papers for couples who seek her services. To reach that point, though, especially with warring mates, she meets with both parties together, listens to their concerns, and tries to get them to recognize that, no matter the issues dividing them, practical problems need to be resolved.

Cardillo works to reach a sensible agreement that both parties can live with, as opposed to a divorce litigator whose role is to advocate for and obtain the best outcome for his individual client. When children are part of the equation, Cardillo’s main goal is to get the couple to preserve the ability to function appropriately and effectively as co-parents.

“So much of why this process works is because the parties themselves are making decisions about what they are or aren’t willing to compromise over, and they’re not delegating those decisions to a court or a judge or the opposing attorneys,” said Cardillo, who noted that her firm has a social worker who helps couples work through emotionally charged matters.

Cardillo, of course, recognizes cases in which mediation simply won’t work, as does Jacqueline Harounian, a partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, a mediation and litigation law firm in Great Neck. Harounian cites two general cases that she believes mediation can’t solve.

One involves allegations of domestic violence and threats, wherein one party feels intimidated by the other or there is an order of protection, creating an atmosphere unconducive to communication and agreement.

“If one party is legitimately afraid of the other or feels that there’s going to be retaliation if they speak up in front of a mediator, then you can’t really have an even playing field,” Harounian said.

The other case involves a party that has too much financial information and control. Harounian has seen many cases in which the husband is a business owner and the wife lacks financial sophistication and is not in a position to figure out these matters.

“As a mediator, I turn those cases down, because I don’t feel the wife is going to get a fair outcome and I don’t think in that situation I can be neutral,” she said.

Of course, the lure of mediation for couples is the general lower costs and shorter time it takes to finalize a divorce relative to the standard litigation process. Harounian said that mediation tends to attract simpler cases, in which people come without a high level of animosity toward each other and are ready to agree. Under such circumstances, she can generally mediate a case for a flat fee of $3,500 and finalize it within a matter of months, whereas a litigated case can drag on for three years and cost an average of $25,000.

However, Harounian cautioned that she has seen cases in which people went through mediation and lived to regret it.

The more complicated the case becomes financially, she said, the more risk people take through mediation.

“That’s because a lot of times there are documents that can only be obtained by subpoena or that really need to be reviewed by your own advocate that is going to look out for you,” she added.

Joseph Trotti of Vishnick, McGovern & Milizio, a litigation firm in Lake Success, said he refers cases to mediation when both sides have decided they want to try it. He finds the results of mediation are often mixed and the process can work when both parties are close and they can trust the mediator.

Trotti said some clients will still have their attorney review a mediator-drafted settlement to make sure it is fair and legally sufficient for filing.

“Maybe it was fair, maybe it wasn’t, maybe their attorneys are going to rip up the agreement, but I think mediation does work in a certain number of the cases,” he said.

Cardillo said that while every client in mediation has the right to consult with an independent attorney to review the agreement, a good mediator knows the law and informs couples if they are agreeing to something that may deviate from normative standards.

“Many individuals in mediation feel they are capable of determining what fair means to them,” she said. “After all, it is their reality.”

Papageorgiou Elected To HANAC Board Of Directors

February 25, 2015

Constantina S. Papageorgiou, an attorney at Vishnick McGovern Milizio (VMM), based in Lake Success and a resident of Astoria, has been elected to the board of directors of HANAC (formerly known as the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee). Papageorgiou stated, “Working with HANAC has been a goal of mine for some time. This is an organization that truly cares about the many challenges faced by the elder generation and immigrant population in our city. As an Elder Law attorney and first generation American, I personally know how important human service programs are for seniors and immigrants who strive for independence and meaningful lives.”

Papageorgiou is an associate in the Trusts and Estates department at VMM, assisting individuals and their families with asset protection and long term care planning; she also provides legal counsel to individuals and families with the administration of estates and the liquidation of assets after a relative’s death.

Papageorgiou frequently conducts educational elder law and estate planning seminars for community organizations in both the Greek and English languages, with the goal of enlightening and motivating individuals to begin estate and tax planning for the protection of themselves and their assets.

HANAC’s programs and services include Affordable Housing, Counseling Services, Senior Programs, Senior Transportation, Employment and Education, Weatherization Programs, Immigrant Programs, Youth Programs and Extended Services Programs.

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