Know Your Neighbor: Stacey Silpe, Divorce/Family Mediator, Armonk

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Stacey Silpe
Stacey Silpe

Stacey Silpe grew up believing that marriage is forever. Reality can be much different.

About two years ago, Silpe returned to work to partner in a divorce and family mediation practice to assist families in need. The practice, Goodstein & Silpe, now has four offices, including three in Westchester and one in Manhattan.

“Not everyone has these perfect lives,” said Silpe, who took a variety of courses to prepare for her new career. “Every family has problems. So many families have financial problems. Their houses are under water or they’re in debt. Now they have to come up with a way to split everything in two–two houses and two mortgages. Everything is double. People are really suffering.”

Silpe’s professional and personal experience is well-suited to helping families wade through some of the most difficult times in their lives. For the first 10 years after graduating from Fordham Law School, she worked for two of the biggest corporate litigation firms in Manhattan. She didn’t care for a lot of what she saw, witnessing firsthand the waste of time and financial resources when more effort should have been focused on compromise.

“All the fighting that went on, all the money that was wasted on these lawsuits and I figured if I could get the decision-makers together from the two sides and have them sit down and talk, things can be reached much quicker and less expensively,” Silpe said. “I thought that was a better way of doing things.”

Soon after she married, she gave up her career to raise her children. She and her husband, Stuart, moved to Armonk from the city and began what she thought would be the next long and happy chapter in their lives. A Brooklyn native and lifelong city resident, Silpe was at first hesitant to make the move to the suburbs yet recognized the advantages of Armonk.

But in 2005, less than a year after they settled in to their new home, Stuart, an investment banker, died suddenly of a heart attack while playing basketball. Silpe, 42 years old at the time, was left to raise her four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter on her own.

“I was left in the middle of nowhere, in a place where I particularly didn’t want to be, without a career, no job,” she recalled.

Silpe devoted her life to raising her children. Fortunately, between her and her husband’s careers and proper planning she didn’t have to be concerned about making ends meet. But her children have almost no recollection of their father. While both are thriving today, Silpe was forced to be both the mom and dad. That has been tougher on her son because of the lack of a true role model.

“I became the man in (my son’s) life, really,” she said. “I watch sports with him, I go to scary movies with him.”

Silpe turned her attention to a couple of short-lived ventures, then to help others, joining the North Castle Public Library’s Board of Trustees and the town’s Democratic Committee, the latter because she has long been interested in politics. In 2009, she was tabbed by the committee to run for town board as a replacement candidate. While she enjoyed the experience, she realized she wasn’t cut out for “the ultimate salesmanship job.”

In the years following her husband’s death, Silpe noticed people she knew came to her seeking advice. In particular, she heard about all the troubled marriages and the toll it was taking on their lives and finances.

Silpe noticed that divorce mediation had become increasingly popular. Instead of both spouses each hiring an expensive attorney and placing their fate into the hands of a judge who doesn’t know them, sitting down and talking is a superior alternative.

“Most of the couples that I’ve talked with, they don’t have the resources, they don’t want to spend the money,” Silpe said. “They’re not fighting over that much. They just want to end the marriage in as peaceful way as possible.”

She sits with couples who have made the decision to divorce for an average of six to eight sessions that last one to two hours each. During the sessions assets are equitably divided and custody and visitation schedules are negotiated.

The practice also helps families by mediating elder care and mental health issues. Since passage of the Marriage Equality Act, there is a need for mediation involving issues surrounding same-sex marriage.

As her children get older, Silpe plans to slowly merge the practice into a full-time venture.

“Right now it’s part-time, not full-time, which is great for me because I’m there for them,” she said. “But the older they get and the less time they need with me, I’d like to grow the practice.”

For more information, visit www.westchesterfamilymediation.com.

 

 

 

 

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