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The Year Concludes, but the Journey Continues

By Charles F. Vuotto Jr.

As my year as chair comes to an end , I wish to take this time to thank everyone who helped make this year a success, and consider what has been accomplished to further the mission of the section. As detailed in our recently updated bylaws, our mission is to serve as the statewide leader in the field of family law, protect the family (with special emphasis on the impact of  divorce on children) and serve our constituents.We must be sensitive to the needs of children and protect children from the negative impact of divorce or other involvement in the judicial system. For this reason, I created the Children’s Rights Committee, which will continue its work in years to come.

We must continue to promote and protect the concept of ‘family’ in all of its various forms.We must remember to provide an open forum to all members of the bar for the discussion and resolution of family law issues.The section should serve as the pre-eminent resource to judicial, civic, governmental and public organizations in matters affecting family law. Our duty is to serve, educate and enhance the skills of our members in various ways, including the publication of the New Jersey Family Lawyear, and involvement in continuing legal education programs. As the new editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Family Lawyear, Iam dedicated to furthering these particular goals now that my year as chair has concluded.

The section’s obligations also include the review of legislative and administrative proposals, rules and statutory changes, and, where appropriate, initiation of legislation and legal reforms in the areas of family law.

We must not forget to do all that we can to improve public and professional understanding of family law issues. As our society changes, it is incumbent upon all attorneys, but most impotantly the family bench and bar, to increase the diversity and participation of our member ship and to cultivative camaraderie among family lawyears. It furthers everyone’s best interest to improve professionalism of all participants in the administration of family law.

I have always believed that the adversarial process is very often illequipped to deal with the sensitive issues involved in family law. As such, we must always remember to promote and develop appropriate alternative dispute resolution approaches to family law issues.This is one reason I created the Arbitration Committee.

We cannot forget our relationship with the bench. Part of our charges is to encourage the NJSBA to engage in dialogue with the judiciary and/or the Administrative Office of the Courts with regard to family law issues.

I am pleased to report that in my year as chair the section has accomplished much to further the goals of our mission statement. Certainly, these accomplishments were not achieved without the assistance of many members of the executive committee,and some who were not members of the committee.

We have new bylaws, which incorporate a mission statement I drafted for the section. The new bylaws were adopted by the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 18, 2009. They were circulated to the entire Family Law Section and unanimously approved. Although many were involved in the process, I would like to make special note of Jane Alt man, who was dedicated to making sure the process concluded as the section intended.

This year I created the Arbitration Statute Committee, co-chaired by Larry Cutler and Notel Tonneman. The committee worked hard to issue a report containing a comprehensive Family Law Arbitration Statute, which was approved by the executive committee and was submitted to the NJSBA Board of Trustees for approval. Our Arbitration Statute Committee is now working with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section to address their comments and develop a unified position to be adopted by the New Jersey State Bar Association. I thank Noel, Larry and the rest of the committee for their hard work.

The Palimony Statute Committee worked tirelessly to develop a free standing palimony statute to combat the proposed amendment to the Statute of Frauds, which effectively eliminated palimony in the

 

I am pleased to report that in my year as chair the section has accomplished much to further the goals of our mission statement.

Certainly, these accomplishments were not achieved without the assistance of many members of the executive committee, and some who were not members of the committee.

State of New Jersey.The Palimony Statute Committee, and all members of the executive committee, should be commended for the hard work put into this project. Special thanks goes out to CheryI Connors and Rebecca Whit marsh, who were given the arduous task of doing the lion’s share of the initial research and writing with regard to the report and proposed statute. The section’s report and proposed statute. The section’s report and proposed statute were ultimately adopted by the executive committee and the trustees of the state bar. Although the amendment to the State of Frauds passed on Jan. 18, 2010, it was not without a significant battle on our behalf. I am sure that Tom Snyder, as our new chair, will continue the fight in the year to come.

We continued our outreach efforts this year in order to increase the involvement of local bars, expand our diversity, and seek the participation of others in our membership and cultivative camaraderie among family lawyear. Part of this process included the South Jersey Meet and Greet hosted by Kat Laughlin on June 25, 2009, and the Central Jersey Meet and Greet hosted by Brain Schwartz on july 15, 2009. Oraganizing these events is time consuming, and Kat and Brain should be commended for their work on these vgatherings.

Andrea White O’Brien did a phenomenal job in hosting the “Hot Tips in Family Law”” on Oct. 3, 2009. Andrea organized 42 speakers on as many topics, who presented to 106 registrants. The 2009 “Hot Tips in Family Law” continued a long tradition of successful Institute for Continuing Legal Education-sponsored programming for lawyears.

The Family Law Section made an incredible showing at the state bar’s Mid-Year Meeting in San Francisco, which occurred in November of last year at the St. Regis Hotel. Our immediate past president, Allen Etish, should be commended for an entertaining, informative and over all enjoyable Mid-Year Meeting.

The holiday party at the PNC Art Center, organized by Lizanne Ceconi, was a huge success. I again congratulate the Honorable Melvin S. Whitken, JSC(Ret.) for his receipt of the Sepentelli Award at our holiday party. It was and is much deserved. I wish to tank Kimber Gallo and Megan Murray, co-chairs of the section’s young Lawyers Subcommittee, and its members, for their excellent work on the silent auction, which raised $12,665 for court-appointed special advocates.

We had record-breaking attendance at the 2010 Family Law Symposium, hosted by Frank Louis of 150 attended the Friday night program and 685 attended the Saturday program. The 2010 Saturdat program was the largest ICLE-sponsored seminar in the history of the state of New Jersey!

The 2010 Annual Family Law Section Retreat in Aruba was a blast. Approximately 190 pepole attended. It says something about our section that so many would travel so far to enjoy each other’s company in this unsteady economy, I wish to thank John Paone for Mcing the karaoke at the welcome reception. We all enjoyed the sunset dinner at La Tratorria near the California Lighthouse. I wish to applaud all of the players who participated in the 3rd  annual Caroni Volley Ball Tournament hosted by Ceconi & Cheifetz (congratulations to Team Monmouth). Friday was capped with a great beach party and fire works.

There are many people to think, and we don’t have space in this publication for me to thank everyone, but I would be remiss if I were not to expressly mention Kimber and Megan for their great work with the seminars and the Aruba Bowl; Sheryl Seiden for organizing the give-aways, Jerry D ‘Aniello for the excursions; Jeralyn Lawrence for the program booklet and, last but not least, Lizanne Ceconi for her almost daily efforts in all aspects of the trip. Thank you all!

This year represents one of the heaviest years for legistation in recent memory. Without the extreme dedication and hard work of our legislative co-chairs, Amanda S. Trigg and Jeralyn L. Lawrence, the executive committee would not have been able to handle the high volume of proposed new laws. Their work and organized approach has set the benchmark for future legislative co-chairs.

The young Lawyears Subcommittee of the Family Law Section is our future. I appland all of the working members of the aubcommittee, with special attention to Kimber and Megan, I have rarely seen two attorneys work so hard and so well. If my year is viewed as a success, I can safely say that a large amount of the credit goes to Kimber and Megan.

We honored Mike Stanton as this year’s Saul Tischler Award recipient. The Saul Tishler Award is an annual honor conferred upon an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to family law in the state of New Jersey. It is the highest honor the Family Law Section gives to a matrimonial attorney. The recipient of the award should be a role

I will never forget this year, and the people I have come to know in the bar community. I wish to thank all of the members of the section, the executive committee and my fellow officers, who have supported and assisted me throughout this year.

Model for all matrimonial practitioners. Mike is that role model. First, he satisfies all of the criteria in spades. He has advanced the development of all family law in this state by publishing articles, participating in seminars and serving the community. He has promoted the goals of our profession by contributing his time to the Family Law Section as a member and as its chair. He continues to serve the New Jersey State Bar Association as a trustee. He has participated on committees and volunteered his time as an early settlement panelist. He is actively involved in various family law activities at the local and state bar levels.

In my opinion, however, Mike goes beyond the standards of the Tischler Award. There is more to being an exemplary family law attorney than simply writing, speaking and bar participation. Mike is a genuinely good person. You know this if you have any dealings with him, either as an adversary or in the course of his many bar activities. He truly cares. Further, he is able to advocate strenuously for his clients while maintaining a cordial, collegial and professional demeanor. These qualities raise Mike to a level that should be emulated by all matrimonial attorneys. Congratulations Mike!

It was an honor to attend the NJSBA Annual Meeting in May of this year and participative in the swearing in of our new chair, Thomas J. Snyder, of Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito, & Frost, PC. Tom has already demonstrated his leadership qualities in the face of difficult decisions. I have no doubt he will continoue to lead the section in accordance with its bylaws and most particularity, our new mission statement.

I will never forget this year, and the people I have come to know in the bar community. I wish to thank all of the members of the section,the executive committee and my fellow officers, who have supported and assisted me throughout this year. I also must thank my assistant, Monica Pfeiffer Without her; I could not have gotten through this year. When I missed something (and I did from time to time) she would catch it. She kept me organized and on track. Thank you, Monica. I wish to especially thank the immediate past-chairs, Ed O’Donnell and Lizanne Ceconi. Without their sage and almost daily advice, this year would have been much more difficult and less productive (including their calming me down on more than one occasion). Last, but surely not least, I must thank my wife, Rosemary. She was there for me at every stage with support, advice and every kind of assistance. Thanks, Cookie.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. I thank the entire membership for the privilege to serve in this capacity, and hope to continue such service in my role as editor-in-chief of this incredible publication.

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