Divorce mediator helps couples communicate

Divorce mediator helps couples communicate

Fair Lawn resident Martin Rosenfeld — rabbi, attorney, divorce mediator — says mediation works.

According to his Website, www.njmediationworks.com

"Mediation is an optimistic process, as it trusts people to rise to the occasion when the need to resolve contentious issues arises."

"Mediation allows you to close the door on your marriage rather than slam that door," Rosenfeld told The Jewish Standard, adding that it is particularly valuable for parents who wish to spare their children the "anguish and rancor" that often follow divorce proceedings.

Martin Rosenfeld is a rabbi, lawyer, and divorce mediator.

A pulpit rabbi for ‘5 years, Rosenfeld maintains a second Website as well. Called glattyashar.com ("yashar" means "proper" or "correct" in Hebrew), the site — targeted to professionals who may come into contact with couples considering marriage or experiencing marital difficulties — lays out proposals for dealing with these issues. It is "meant to serve as a vehicle for ideas and proposals as to how Jewish marriage and divorce can be more proper and consistent with traditional Jewish values."

Hoping to reach social workers, educators, attorneys, and professionals at agencies such as Jewish Family Service, Rosenfeld questions why the community is not putting more attention and resources into the issue of marriage — for example, he said, by offering pre-marital counseling

"They have programs for domestic violence but not for divorce," he said, noting that it can be a "battleground, where children suffer. We don’t give families the skills and resources" to deal with this. "Sometimes," he said, "people just need someone to ‘be there for them’ and guide them through the process."

On his site, Rosenfeld stresses three basic strategies: pre-marital efforts, including both counseling and the signing of a pre-nuptial agreement covering the possibility of granting a get in case of divorce; mental health referrals for couples encountering marital problems; and mediation, where a couple has decided on divorce.

"I’ve seen too much confrontation," he said, reflecting on his years spent in adversarial court proceedings. "I could practice divorce law, but I doesn’t believe in it."

Rosenfeld, who is trained in both general and divorce mediation, spent nine years as an assistant attorney general for the State of Connecticut. During that time, he said, he came to see divorce as something that was not only expensive but that caused "a great deal of acrimony, bitterness, and anger for years to come."

He noted that mediation costs less than a quarter of what a typical divorce costs and is more valuable because it "forces people to talk about the issues," making "healing much quicker. They hear different points of view," he said. "It’s win-win." Rosenfeld conceded, however, that mediation attracts a "self-selected population: those who are willing to communicate."

Winning does not mean getting the most money, he said, especially when there are children involved. Rather, he said, "winning means that everybody gets what they need." Citing the Talmud, he noted that the highest form of judgment is based on compromise.

Rosenfeld, who helps between ‘5 and 35 couples each year, said some people are referred to him by their rabbis, while others come to him because they are opposed to "an adversarial system." He pointed out that he often works in tandem with Teaneck-based Rabbi Howard Jachter. The mediator, who has prior experience as the administrator of a beit din (Jewish court), said he also helps couples obtain a get, or Jewish bill of divorce, making referrals where necessary.

"Some men are prepared to give a get but don’t know where to begin," he said. "They may have read about it but don’t know what to do. I can help find a rabbi who can work with them. It’s always handled discreetly."

He noted also that many mediators are people who have gone through their own divorces and, having "experienced the abuses of the system, now think there’s a better way."

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