VMM PARTNER BERNARD VISHNICK HONORED BY NEW YORK STATE
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
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
“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
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,”
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
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
MATRIMONIAL ATTORNEYS SEE CO-PARENTING, PRENUP TREND
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
“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,”
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
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
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
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
SAM ROBERTS SEPT. 27, 2015
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
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
“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
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
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
LeadGreatMeetings.com, 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.
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,
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,
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
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 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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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