Going through a divorce is like entering a new place; a place that is completely unfamiliar and unpredictable. It’s a scary place. You don’t know how things work there, you don’t know the language, mistakes can cost you—emotionally and financially, and choosing the wrong people to represent you could make a big difference in the outcome of your divorce.
When I was going through a divorce 14 years ago, I was clueless. I had never been to court for anything. I didn’t know what legal terms meant. I didn’t even know what an “order” was. I had never heard the terms, “dissolution of marriage”, “child support,” “maintenance,” or “decree.” I didn’t even know what “joint custody” really meant.
One day, after dropping off my two toddlers at preschool, I ran into one of the other moms. We started talking. She asked how I was and I just broke down. I started crying, as I told her I was going through a divorce.
Luckily for me, she happened to be an attorney. She referred me to the man who would become my divorce attorney. I think he did an OK job, but there were so many things I didn’t know back then. Had I empowered myself—taken the time to really do my homework before making hiring decisions on the professional support team I needed, I could have saved myself a lot of stress and heartbreak, not to mention money.
Back then, I needed connections. I needed recommendations from people I trusted.
So, that’s where I come in for you. Over the past 8 years of writing and managing Divorced Girl Smiling, I have met and interviewed hundreds of divorce professionals for articles I’ve written, and have learned a lot about their different styles, reputations, ethics, levels of professionalism, likability, trustworthiness, and most importantly, levels of success.
There are so many wonderful people filled with passion in the divorce industry, but there are also some unethical jerks.
For those going through a divorce, I want to introduce you with some of the wonderful ones—my Divorced Girl Smiling partners. To be fully transparent, yes, they are advertisers on my site. That said, from the bottom of my heart, I think these professionals are truly among the best in their fields. I would not affiliate myself with anyone I didn’t completely trust and respect.
Not only am I a client of many of these people, but I know each one personally, and have been referring them to those going through a divorce for years, only to get calls and emails from the people thanking me for the connections.
So, if you are going through a divorce and you need a place to start, here are some names you need and why:
1. Daniel Stefani, Principal, Co-founder, Katz & Stefani
I originally met Dan Stefani almost 20 years ago. We met through friends, we live in the same community, our kids go to school together and we belonged to the same gym for a long time. Dan, who has been practicing divorce law for 27 years, is extremely well-known and well-respected in the divorce law industry, and is known for his success in litigating divorce cases. That said, I find Dan to be extremely compassionate, kind and caring to his clients. Dan has immense respect for the law, and much dedication for servicing his clients.
I have reached out to Dan over the years for consultations for my own divorce, and he has always been extremely helpful. His co-Founder, Andre Katz, as well as the other 9 partners and associates at Katz & Stefani are all unique in their specialties, and all highly regarded in the industry. One person to whom I recently referred Dan sent me a really nice note which said, “I cannot thank you enough. I don’t know what I would have done without Dan.”
2. Elaine Moss, Vice-president and Wealth Management Advisor, Vestor Capital
It’s been five years since I met Elaine Moss at a breakfast place on the North Shore, where we instantly connected and became friends. Shortly after, Vestor Capital became a Divorced Girl Smiling partner and I became a client of Vestor Capital. Elaine and her partner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Peter Mullins completed an extensive, detailed financial plan for me that was eye-opening, and paved the way for my making good life and financial decisions moving forward.
In some cases, people going through a divorce have often never been “in charge” of the family’s finances, and therefore have no idea what to do. Other times, a person doesn’t want their money invested with the same financial person they used with their soon-to-be ex. This is why it’s a good idea to talk to a couple advisors, to see if you feel like the person is a good fit for you.
Elaine has this way of making people feel comfortable and calm, which isn’t easy for a lot of people when it comes to money! Both Elaine and Peter are wonderful listeners, and they always make you feel like they are there for you, and willing to spend as much time as you need. They go out of their way to make clients feel secure, comfortable and good about their portfolios. Over the past few years, I have referred many clients to Elaine and Peter, and they’ve gotten wonderful reviews.
3. Leslie Glazier, Real Estate Agent, Certified Divorce Real Estate Specialist, @properties
Elaine introduced me to Leslie Glazier almost four years ago. Dedicating a large part of her business to a niche in helping men and women going through a divorce, Leslie became a Certified Divorce Real Estate Specialist; one of only 100 in the country and the only one in the Chicago area. Why is that important?
When going through a divorce, using a Certified Divorce Real Estate Specialist has so many advantages, and there’s no additional cost. Leslie’s certifications have taught her how to look at the whole divorce picture, so that when it comes to selling the home or one partner keeping the home, everything is taken into account-not just current market value. Divorce is complex and most agents don’t have the training to make sure real estate transactions are done fairly. Leslie does!
Not only have I referred clients to Leslie, who personally has been through a divorce, but last summer, I decided to move, and I hired Leslie to be my real estate agent. She helped me sell my home and buy my new home.
I cannot say enough about what a wonderful experience it was! From staging my house to walking me through the process each step of the way to helping me get the home I really wanted, Leslie went above and beyond. One thing I will always remember was that she stayed calm and professional, even when things went wrong. She told me not to worry, fixed them, and moved forward. Leslie truly cares about her clients and seriously never stops smiling. You can also listen to Leslie on the DGS Podcast.
4. Jason Price, co-Founder, Affiliates in Counseling
I’m pretty sure Jason Price was my first advertiser. It’s been at least 6 years. I don’t even remember how I met Jason, but I will say this. With his wisdom, his caring, compassionate demeanor, and his passion for emotional wellness, Jason has helped build a practice that is so well respected in the Chicagoland area.
With over 20 therapists, all with different specialties, Affiliates in Counseling is a practice that truly puts the client first. I have personally been a client of the practice, and know several other people who see therapists there, both for them and their children. When people are going through a divorce, therapy, both for parents and for kids is so important. I truly trust Affiliates in Counseling to meet this need.
5. Tiffany M. Hughes, Principal, Founder, The Law Offices of Tiffany M. Hughes
Tiffany contacted me last year at the start of the pandemic. The first time we talked, I felt an instant energy and passion from her for helping men and women going through a divorce. Since last April, I have gotten to know Tiffany pretty well, and the more and more we talk, the more respect I have for her work ethic and her track record of success. It’s easy to see that Tiffany is devoted to her clients, and to making sure they walk away feeling really good about the outcome of their cases. I have recommended clients to Tiffany, and have gotten the nicest phone calls thanking me for doing so. You can also listen to Tiffany on the DGS Podcast.
6. The Center for Divorce Education’s parenting class, “Children In Between Online.”
Children in Between is a four-hour program designed to help children cope and thrive through divorce. It is the required parenting course by the court system in several counties across the U.S., including Cook, and Lake counties.
The course, which can be done online, was developed by Don Gordon, Ph.D. Gordon is the Executive Director of The Center for Divorce Education, the company that produces Children in Between and other classes to benefit divorced men and women and their children.
Dr. Gordon is internationally recognized as one of the top experts in the field of parent/child relationships. For more than three decades his research and work has focused on developing and refining evidence-based family and parenting interventions. He is a past professor at Emory University and is currently an Emeritus professor at Ohio University. Dr. Gordon received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama. Sign up for Children In Between here. You can also listen to Dr. Gordon on the DGS Podcast.
7. Ellen Feldman and Brian James, Divorce Mediators, C.E.L & Associates.
I have known Ellen and Brian for over a decade, and will tell you firsthand that they have a wonderful reputation. The two are a team of divorce mediators, who are experienced and passionate about helping couples get divorced in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable fee. They co-mediate for a low hourly rate so the couple gets the benefit of two professional opinions on every issue.
Before becoming a divorce mediator, Ellen spent 15 years working as a commercial litigation attorney. Brian, who is also a parenting coordinator, spent over a decade working as a probation officer helping families resolve conflicts in the court system.
The best part about Ellen and Brian is that they are trained to help couples think about and express what is truly important to each in a divorce settlement agreement. Then they facilitate agreements between the parties and help them create a plan in which both parties walk away feeling like they are pleased with the plan they will have after the divorce. The chance for post-decree litigation is also lower because the couple came to the agreements themselves versus having a judge make decisions for them.
Mediation serves to empower couples to make decisions based on their wants and needs-not what “other” people do, and it helps them divorce much more amicably, which is better not just for them, but for their kids, as well. Brian and Ellen do mediation beautifully. You can learn more by listening to Brian on the DGS podcast.
8. Marjorie Jacobs, Divorce Mediator, Alternative Strategies, Inc.
I first met Marjorie several years ago at a local boutique where we were both shopping. We started talking and I learned she was a divorce mediator. Since I was newly divorced, we had a lot to talk about!
Over the years, I have attended events and have run into Marjorie several times. Turns out, we have lots of mutual friends!
Marjorie got into the mediation business over 20 years ago, before mediation became so well known. I find her to be knowledgeable, organized, and very very dedicated to her clients and the outcomes they get in their divorces.
If you want to learn more about Marjorie and her team, visit her website.
9. Anna Krolikowska, Divorce Attorney, Anna K. Law.
Anna and I have belonged to the same networking group for the past several years. Which means, I have been seeing Anna, getting to know her all this time, and watching her grow her practice. Always full of energy, positivity and smiles, Anna has the ability to feel immense compassion towards her clients, which fuels her drive to fight for them.
One thing I found extremely impressive is Anna’s involvement with the Illinois State Bar Association, the prestigious organization of which she is now President! Her efforts to be elected are remarkable, as this is not an easy accomplishment.
Anna is such a caring person, warm and empathetic. Yet she is also very very smart. Many people I know have recommended Anna to friends, and the feedback has always been wonderful.
If you want to learn more about Anna and her practice, visit her site.
10. Tami Wollensak, Mortgage Banker and Certified Divorce Lending Professional, Mutual Federal Bank.
Tami and I met this summer on LinkedIn, believe it or not. We had a nice conversation, and then I invited her to have lunch with me and another DGS partner, Elaine Moss. A couple weeks later, when I walked into the restaurant, the two of them already seemed like they were good friends, talking and laughing about Lollapalooza, and the fact that every mother in the world hates that weekend because we spend it worrying about our kids!
A couple weeks later, I ended up meeting Tami again, this time with her manager, who heads up Oak Leaf Community Mortgage, which is a division of Mutual Federal Bank. Wow, I cannot even tell you how impressed I was with their knowledge, professionalism and business model. Tami, who has worked in the mortgage industry for two and a half decades, is so passionate about helping people going through a divorce get a mortgage or refinance. Having gone through a divorce herself, she really understands the mindset and has compassion and empathy for others in this situation.
I am not only proud to call Tami a DGS partner, but I am also enjoying her friendship so much. I love Tami’s energy, positive outlook, and warm, caring nature. I know her personality shines through with her clients. Getting a mortgage or refinancing can feel overwhelming and stressful, especially during a divorce. Tami takes that stress away with her calm nature, her warmth, and her expertise. She has done extensive training to help address mortgage issues that might come up during divorce. I am thrilled to be partnering with Tami, and would highly recommend her!
To learn more about Tami, visit her website.
In closing, these people are a great place to start, in my opinion. If you want to talk to me about any of them, or you have questions, feel free to reach out to: Jackie@divorcedgirlsmiling.com.
Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”