A WHIPPANY AND MANHATTAN BASED ATTORNEY DESCRIBES THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF DIVORCE, BANKRUPTCY, AND OTHER AREAS OF THE LAW
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
For more than 25 years, Tanya Helfand has focused her professional energy on making the best out of bad situations.
“There is a general misconception about divorce lawyers; that we feed off the misfortune of others and try to earn a big payday from family hardships,” Helfand said. “But in truth, what my firm focuses on is taking difficult situations and turning them into something more peaceful. It is our job to ensure that couples can come to a diplomatic resolution and find a compromise that benefits their entire family.”
Helfand, a certified matrimonial attorney, handles all areas of family law, including custody, alimony, child support, complex financial cases, prenuptial agreements, and domestic violence matters. A qualified mediator and certified collaborative divorce lawyer, she also handles guardianships and bankruptcies. And with a client base that is 55% male, she is well versed in some common untruths surrounding parental rights.
“There is a myth that fathers can’t easily attain custody the way mothers can,” Helfand said. “The law in New Jersey is very clear; in court, fathers have exactly the same rights as mothers. If you are a phenomenal parent before your divorce, there is no reason why you cannot have that same relationship with your children after your marriage has ended. So many fathers enter my office afraid of losing their children, but if you’re a caring parent who desires an active role in your children’s lives, that cannot and will not happen with my firm’s representation.”
After concentrating on family law for more than two decades, Helfand should know. She earned her juris doctorate from Pace University in 1992 and handled divorce cases as an associate at the law office of Herman Osofsky in Passaic County before opening her first office in Rockaway, NJ in 1997. She opened a second office in Livingston in 2007 and hen consolidated to a larger location in Whippany in 2010, all while serving of counsel at the law office of Borstein & Sheinbaum in Manhattan. Helfand prides herself on a history of successfully representing both men and women in complex custody and financial matters via negotiation as well as in trial proceedings.
“Settlement is best,” she noted “But sometimes pursuing the matter in court is necessary.”
Serving on the Superior Court’s Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel in both Morris and Essex Counties, Helfand provides settlement recommendations to couples who have been litigating for an extended period of time. Direct and practical, she is often referred to by the courts as an economic mediator, and is an active member of the Matrimonial Inn of Court in Northern New Jersey.
“We do whatever we can to negotiate or mediate your matter first to resolve the case amicably,” she said. “However, if you cannot obtain a fair and reasonable settlement outside of court, my staff is prepared to represent you through the conclusion of the matter.”
And Helfand can relate on a personal level.
“I’ve been divorced myself, so I understand how scary these situations can seem,” she said. “But if you remain level headed and take a straightforward approach, you can expect a good outcome.”
Helfand, who also handles bankruptcy matters, including proceedings related to Chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, draws from her own extensive business background, which she says is extremely helpful within all the areas of her practice.
“Prior to opening my office, I owned several retail businesses and that experience has allowed me to help many professionals,” she said. “Plus, I feel that divorce is really a business transaction: I encourage my clients to put their emotions aside and treat it as such, because that makes the division of assets easier. If you are able to keep it business oriented, the entire process is much simpler.”
Helfand & Associates is comprised of three full time attorneys: Jacqueline Pivawer, who served as an assistant municipal prosecutor for the City of Newark; Diana Strlovski, who has a background in assisting clients with family based immigration petitions; and Valerie Wane, who served as judicial law clerk to the Honorable Terry Paul Bottinelli of the Family Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Herman Osofsky, for whom Helfand worked after law school, is also of counsel.
“He is a brilliant litigator with 50 years of family law experience,” Helfand said. “He is a tremendous asset to our firm, and I am so proud to have him on board.”
Helfand also serves on the board of directors of Jewish Family Services of Central New Jersey and the Board of Women’s Philanthropy for the United Jewish Appeal, and is on the planning committee for the Jewish Law Symposium. She is an active supporter of the Jersey Battered Women’s Service and the American Jewish Committee. She is a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and chaired a Women in Business event in 2012. She is also a member of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, Jewish Business Network, New Jersey Women in Business, and the International Association of Collaborative Lawyers. She speaks on the subjects of divorce and bankruptcy throughout New Jersey and writes a weekly column for Desi Talk, a newspaper focusing on the Asian community.
Her focus for the future of her firm is to keep pace with society’s ever changing laws.
“Our mantra is to be constantly on top of what’s going on,” she said. “We need to be informed for our clients, stay consistently up to date, and advocate accordingly. Society changes so rapidly; not so long ago, fathers did not have such an active role in child rearing, but today they are often the dominant caretakers. It’s our job to represent those types of changes, stay abreast of new laws, and earn our clients the benefits they deserve.”
And in order to provide those benefits, Helfand stays true to her values.
“We recently conducted a marketing survey and the words respondents used to describe myself and my firm were honest, confident, tough, and fair,” Helfand concluded. “And that’s exactly what we strive to be.”
Helfand & Associates
575 Route 10 East, Whippany / 973.428.0800
420 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan / 646.213.9053