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Health Care - The Village Mentality
By Alexis Muellner
(South Florida Business Journal)

Given societal norms, it was unlikely Debra Baer and Irene Schatz would become best friends, let alone business partners.

After all, Baer, a lawyer from Montreal, was the fiancee of Aventura psychotherapist Schatz’s ex-husband. But they quickly clicked.

Their business, Collaborative Divorce Consultants, is an outgrowth of that friendship.

The practice is focused on helping make divorce a positive experience by redirecting adults to resolve their issues so that the lives if the kids involved aren’t impacted.

Now the pair is expanding and has established a South Florida practice of the CoMamas Association, which is on the Internet at

CoMamas began three years ago when two Encinitas, Calif. women began a program with the help of marriage and family therapists. The gist: Stepmoms and ex-wives can co-exist peacefully by putting the needs of the children first. A web site was formed with input coming from all corners of the world, Schatz said.

That sounded familiar to Schatz and Baer.

"It’s another name for what we have always been doing," she said. The association has formed support networks of group and individual therapists, and even spawned a CoPapas branch of the network. Prospective clients, many of whom were unaware of such options, are coming in over the transom.

Baer, who doesn’t practice law in Florida, said that after many years as a family law litigator, she couldn’t continue the fight. She still maintains a practice in Montreal as an affiliate with the law firm Adessky Poulin.

"I felt too much loss from a custody and financial point of view," she said of her desire to stop her role in the adversarial parts of divorce.

In Baer and Schatz’s mediation process, the pair leaves nothing open for interpretation. Detailed agreements are hashed out, including specifics of the financials and shared parenting to contingency planning for future scenarios – like who pays for braces.

The charge for meditation is $250 an hour, and for financial shared parenting counseling, it is $200 an hour. For CoMamas groups, the $250-an-hour fee is split among the group.

"We try to help them understand each other’s insecurities," Baer said.

"We want them to learn what triggers the resentments and what the dangers are of disparaging comments – and then how to react," Schatz said.

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