We continue our series of posts introducing FamilyKind Consultants. Our consultants are experienced and accomplished professionals providing education and support services to empower children, parents and couples before, during and after separation or divorce.
Above: Catherine Canadé (second from left) served as a participant in the panel discussion Divorce Professionals: When Personal History Intersects with Professional Experience.
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FK: Describe the focus of your practice and the services you provide.
Catharine Canadé: I help couples separate and divorce outside of court through mediation and the collaborative process. I also draft prenups, postnups, cohabitation agreements, parenting plans, uncontested divorce papers and I serve as a consulting and review attorney for clients working in mediation. I work with many members of the LGBT community. I also teach the legal portion of FamilyKind’s parent education classes and train and mentor new mediators.
FK: How long have you been in private practice? What other related work experience have you had? Did you have a career prior to becoming a mediator?
CC: I was admitted to the bar in 1990 and after a few years at a large NYC law firm’s litigation department, spent many years in London and Singapore as an international trademark attorney, always working in family law pro bono. When I returned to the United States I refocused my practice on family and matrimonial law but reaffirmed the fact that I am not temperamentally suited for litigation. I dislike the “win/lose” aspect of litigation and the conduct of attorneys who take an “us vs them” stance. I feel that family members should not be position against each other but should work together to find a mutually beneficiary solution. I took my first mediation training at the New York Peace Institution in 2010 and that was it. I knew that this was the professional path I wanted to pursue. I took my collaborative law training thereafter and opened my own practice January 1, 2012. I continue to work pro bono and “low bono,” with FamilyKind, on the mediation panel of the NYC Family Court, and with the New York Peace Institute. I am the immediate past president of the Family & Divorce Mediation Counsel of Greater New York, am the co-founder and Assistant Director of the National Association of Divorce Professionals Brooklyn Chapter, and a founding member of the Long Island Collaborative Divorce Professionals.
FK: What has been the most satisfying FamilyKind case that you handled and why?
CC: Many of the FamilyKind cases are complicated and challenging, reflecting the realities of living and raising children in NYC and around the world. One case that stands out for me is a couple with 5 children: 1 lived with Dad in NYC and 4 lived with Mom in Europe. There were issues regarding spousal support for Mom and child support for the 5 children, which included reviewing complicated budgets, calculations of US sole proprietor income and European welfare and health care benefits, and modification and step downs that had to take into account a foreign exchange rate, and importantly, the parenting plan, which involved the costs of time differences in international travel, maintaining consistent and meaningful parent involvement, all with the backdrop of high emotion and conflict. The case had been filed in court two years before the couple found the FamilyKind mediation program and the litigation attorneys had gotten almost nowhere in terms of an agreement and had cost the clients a lot of money. Some of the sessions were conducted in person when Mom was in NYC, others took place via Skype. The mediation took almost two years and I got to know and care very much about the family. When the agreement was signed we hugged and talked about opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
FK: What are some new areas of challenge that parents today may face when they separate?
CC: Working and living in New York City, the cost of housing is a major factor in coming up with a parenting plan. I have had many couples who must remain living together, with an “internal separation” plan, and some even after divorce, who continue to share a home. Another challenge is working out the value of a rent controlled apartment, which is unique to NYC. It is in fact a priceless commodity but in divorce we need to put a price on it. Many couples end up relocating out of the city because of high costs, so I handle a good number or relocation cases, which are complicated and fact specific but are much better handled in mediation or through a collaborative process than in a courtroom.
FK: How do you see children benefiting from services that you provide to their parents?
CC: I always emphasize to my clients that it is not the separation or divorce that harms the children, it is the conflict between the parents. So I keep my processes “child focused,” using a variety of tools and techniques to keep the children in mind throughout the process, including discussing with the parents that while their romantic relationship may have changed they will always be co-parents and, later on, maybe co-grandparents.
FK: Are you involved in any volunteer pursuits that you are passionate about?
CC: Mental health issues are important to me. I see so many clients where the parents or the children need mental health support, and sometimes they are not getting it because they cannot afford it. Mental Health America has a mission to improve and increase the availability of mental health services across the country no matter the clients’ financial situation, Through their advocacy network, I support national legislative efforts to bring mental health treatment to all of those in need, including the homeless, trans youth and others who are often seemingly invisible in our society.