This post is first in a series to introduce FamilyKind Consultants, team members who provide support services empowering children, parents and couples before, during and after separation or divorce.
FK: Describe the focus of your practice and the services you provide.
Helene Bernstein: I manage a litigation and mediation practice focusing on family and divorce law. I handle matters such as child custody, child and spousal support, family offense, and child protective matters in the Family and Appellate Courts. I offer my divorce and family law services as a mediator, collaborative attorney, and as a litigation attorney. Mediation is also a wonderful option for couples who are in need of a preuptial agreement or a separation agreement.
FK: How long have you been in private practice? What other related work experience have you had?
HB: I have been practicing law for over twenty-five years. I became a mediator close to ten years ago after feeling that many families were not being served properly in the court system. I began my career as a lawyer representing the Administration for Children’s Services prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases. I also continue to represent children in contested custody matters.
FK: What has been the most satisfying FamilyKind case that you handled and why?
HB: The most rewarding case I mediated as a FamilyKind consultant involved a Brooklyn couple who divorced and effectively managed to co-parent and financially support their children after full disclosure of their income, assets and liabilities. The couple learned to communicate their own needs more effectively, and to focus on the needs of their children in a more productive way.
FK: What are some new areas of challenge that parents today may face when they separate?
HB: Parents separating today in NYC face greater financial challenges as the costs of living in NYC continue to skyrocket. In mediation we encourage the parents to be realistic about their budgets and the basic needs of the family. Many times the residential parent requests to relocate with the children out of NYC for financial reasons, which may have an impact on the parental access of the nonresidential parent.
FK: How do you see children benefiting from services that you provide to their parents?
HB: Children benefit when parents learn to effectively communicate with one another and not place their children in the middle of their disputes. I often recommend to clients that they participate separately in a parent education class, which helps them realize the enormous impact their ongoing conflict places on their children’s emotional wellbeing.
FK: Did you have a career prior to becoming a mediator?
HB: I went to Brooklyn Law School directly after college at SUNY-Binghamton, where I earned a B.A. in Political Science. My interests and pursuits always leaned toward working with children and I worked as a camp counselor, babysitter, and as a library aide in the children’s section of my local library.
FK: Are you involved in any volunteer pursuits that you are passionate about?
HB: My volunteer pursuits for many years involved strengthening the parent special education group in my children’s school district. Both my twin boys were diagnosed with learning differences at a young age. As a result of my advocacy and support from parents, teachers, and administrators, my boys and many other wonderful children have grown up to be self reliant and successful young people who are pursing college careers.