Kasowitz Team Navigates Complicated Divorce Proceeding

At this year’s Above & Beyond Awards, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team from Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP (“Kasowitz”) for their compassionate and devoted pro bono representation of “Frannie” to obtain a judgment of divorce with a continued order of protection and a favorable settlement agreement. The team consisted of partners Sarah Gibbs Leivick and Cindy Caranella Kelly, and associates Léa Dartevelle Erhel, Marcellene E. Hearn, and Jillian Roffer.

Approximately ten years ago, Frannie moved to the United States where she met and married Jim. Frannie thought that Jim was kind and loving, but he quickly became both mentally and physically abusive. The abuse increased after Frannie gave birth to their two children, and often occurred in front of the children. Frannie fled the family home and, fortunately, found Sanctuary and obtained an order of protection.

After Jim obtained private counsel and filed for divorce, Sanctuary realized it needed to build a more robust team to support Frannie and joined forces with Kasowitz at the end of 2018.  After over two years of court appearances, extensive discovery from multiple parties, and complex negotiations, Kasowitz successfully secured a favorable settlement agreement.

Throughout the proceedings, the Kasowitz team remained highly client-centered and sensitive to Frannie’s needs. The team took the time necessary to ensure that Frannie, a non-English speaker, was fully informed of all issues during court conferences or negotiations.  When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the team smoothly navigated the transition to virtual hearings and continued to remain in contact with Frannie to resolve day-to-day issues while a final custody/visitation arrangement was being negotiated. To facilitate Frannie’s understanding of a complicated visitation schedule, the team got creative, preparing tools to help her visualize and adhere to the final schedule.

Sarah Leivick, speaking on behalf of the team, describes the experience as “extremely rewarding,” and stressed that the Sanctuary team was with them every step of the way. “It was a true partnership and team effort,” said associate Marcellene Hearn. Lauren Patel, Senior Staff Attorney in Sanctuary’s Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project, applauds the Kasowitz team for being graceful and proactive throughout the proceeding:

“The Kasowitz team remained constantly engaged, and was ready to pivot to meet every challenge. Whenever the Kasowitz team would come to Sanctuary to discuss an issue, the team had already thought of three possible solutions.” – Lauren Patel, Sanctuary Senior Staff Attorney

Frannie just recently received her judgment of divorce and is very happy to be done with the proceeding. She is relieved to have the custody and visitation issues resolved, and is thankful that Kasowitz was able to have her order of protection continued.


Join us at our Above & Beyond virtual celebration on Oct. 26, 2021, as we honor Kasowitz’s outstanding pro bono work. Click here to RSVP for free.

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.


Nicole Vescova is an associate in the Labor & Employment group at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP where she represents and advises businesses in all industries across the country. She is also a member of the Pro Bono Council.