I have spent a large portion of my 20+ year legal career representing families in difficult domestic relations matters. Those domestic relations matters include divorce, support, distribution of the marital estate and child custody matters. Domestic relations law is one of the most challenging areas of the law for the practitioner. People going through divorce, support and child custody issues are emotionally racked by a fundamental change in their lives. They are frequently frightened about "life after marriage." They fear the economic impact of living alone. They are concerned about the impact of divorce on their children. Perhaps they are angry about the factors leading up to separation. In a nutshell, clients are frequently dealing with a myriad of emotions they have never experienced.
It has been my experience that too many domestic relations lawyers enflame situations instead of diffusing them. I routinely ask new family law clients the following questions: "Where would you like to be twelve months from now?" and "Would you like to be in a happier place?" Invariably the answers to those two questions are "In a better place" and "Yes." Therefore, I focus my pursuits on providing these clients with sound legal advice devoid of emotional content.
At its core, the division of a marital estate is a business decision. I focus on accurately quantifying the nature and extent of the assets and the liabilities of the couple, identifying their respective income sources and working towards an equitable resolution.
Support is another matter requiring diligent analysis of income sources and expense needs. Support calculations are a matter of statute. Our legislators have set support levels that are a function of income. So in that respect, the calculation of support should be simple. Frequently it is not. The wild card in the analysis is ensuring that all income sources are accurately identified. This exercise is vital to a fair support determination.
The emotional element of child custody issues is perhaps the most dynamic there is in any area of the law. In my experience, most parents honestly believe that they have the "best interest" of the child at heart. However, the best interest of the child is a fact specific determination. Where will the child flourish? What resources do the parents provide to the child? How can a former couple best co-parent their child? What custody/visitation arrangement will provide the safest, most secure and happy environment for the child? The answers to these questions are not easy, but by focusing on minimizing the negative impact to the child, my clients end up doing what is best for their children.
In some instances, there is a good faith disagreement by the parties as to what is in the best interest of the child, or what constitutes a fair division of the marital assets or the proper level of spousal or child support. In those instances, I am a zealous advocate for both my client and, correspondingly, the best interest of the child. I do not shy away from disputes and litigation in this area of the law, but I do believe that the effective lawyer first must look at negotiated avenues for resolution. Otherwise, the lawyer becomes "part of the problem." It is my goal to become part of the solution for my clients and their families and to do so economically.