Corrine Cooke, a family law attorney and shareholder at Stark & Stark, helps her clients achieve the best possible outcomes in their divorce cases through litigation or settlement negotiations. She also enjoys helping other women succeed in their careers and volunteering her time to give back to the local community.
In New Jersey there are two ways to get divorced: you either negotiate a settlement on all of the issues in your case or you go to a trial, where a judge makes a decision on all of the issues.
There are opportunities for the parties to reach a settlement in litigated cases. “In every county in New Jersey there is an Early Settlement Program (‘ESP’), and participation in the ESP is mandatory for all divorce litigants,” Cooke explains. The ESP program involves experienced matrimonial attorneys who volunteer their time to serve as a panelist on a regular basis, who make recommendations to the litigants regarding how all of the economic issues should be resolved in each case. Cooke herself volunteers her time to serve as an Early Settlement Panelist in both Mercer and Burlington counties.
In addition to traditional divorce litigation, Cooke is also trained in collaborative divorce law and in mediation. “In collaborative law, both parties hire collaboratively trained attorneys. They sign a participation agreement where they agree not to go to court,” Cooke explains. “They meet at a series of meetings and the goal is to reach a settlement on all of the issues. In order to reach a settlement, however, both parties must be willing to compromise.”
Mediation is a process where the parties meet with a neutral mediator, whose job is to facilitate an agreement between the parties. The mediator does not give legal advice to either party. In many instances, the parties are each represented by attorneys, who educate each client on New Jersey Family Law and counsel them during the mediation process.
“In both collaborative divorces and mediation, settlements are usually reached faster than in traditional divorce litigation. In addition, both are usually significantly less expensive than litigated divorces,” Cooke says.
In addition to her family law practice, Cooke is also the chair of the Women’s Initiative at Stark & Stark. Cooke also volunteers her time to several local non-profits. She is on the board of Dress for Success Central New Jersey, which provides professional attire as well as a network of support and development tools. Cooke is also on the inaugural NEXT GEN Board of the Princeton YWCA.
Balancing work commitments and other commitments, whether they are volunteer or personal, can be challenging. “Finding a good support system and building a strong professional network are some of the keys to a successful career,” says Cooke.