It’s like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, and I hope to eventually see it settle in some middle ground with the focus solely on what is best for the children.
This change began when I started my career in family law in the early 1990s. I cannot remember a case where it was an automatic win for the mom. Yes, moms were still favored, but it wasn’t automatic.
Over the last 20 years, it’s really intensified, as newly-elected judges brought their perspectives on the idea of parenting time to the bench. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what the law says.
You can walk into one judge’s courtroom and know that they are a “50/50 judge,” which means they start from an assumption of equal parenting time and if you want it to be something different, you better show a good reason why. It is really difficult to get them to move.
Litigation in such a courtroom is quite challenging when you know there is a good reason to skew the amount of time children spend with one parent or another, or even just where they will lay their heads at night. Sometimes it’s as simple as the roles parents played while they were married. You can’t draw a sharp line in the sand when you split, making everything change immediately.
Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash
When one parent has been the primary caregiver, it’s uncomfortable not only for the parent but for the children, to suddenly be ousted from their job or role and the whole family thrown into a very different routine.
It’s challenging, too, for the non-primary caregiver, who may have no idea about a lot of what goes into taking care of a toddler or school schedules or carpooling and they’re forced to step into a very different role without guidance or transition. They may be too proud to ask for help.
A divorce is often not the most collegial of processes, which means parents on both sides may feel uncomfortable asking the other for guidance in their new role. Which is exactly what they need.
When you get into court, you’re positioned against each other so instead of recognizing these natural human elements, it becomes a fight, where they won’t talk about or look at options.
If we want to move towards promoting more equal parenting time, then depending on the real life situation, it may be best to move toward that point in stages.
That way, it’s less disruptive for the children, while giving time for both parents to transition into new roles.
Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash
Depending on the ages of the kids, I recommend giving six months or a year to make a change, giving both parents space to learn about their new role. The kids also can gradually transition into the changes.
In the divorce world, most attorneys fail to and some even refuse to talk about the impact of all of this. The focus is instead on the outcome . I wish we recognized how kids bear the brunt of adult decisions. For instance, they’re the ones shuffling back and forth between two homes – not the adults who initiated the divorce!
I yearn for a time when divorcing parents can put their hurt and anger aside in exchange for a focus on their children, who didn’t ask for any of this. This means not just talking the talk, but showing it by the compromises and agreements they make. Parenting time must be about the children – not about the parents!!
I prefer to look at parenting time as the parent’s opportunity to spend time with that child, on the child’s schedule. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, you can and should be more involved in school, spend more time with your children doing things of interest to them, and cherish this time, even if it’s not an overnight.
It takes humility on both parents’ parts to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and cooperation to work together, but in this model the focus is completely on the children. Which is how it should be.
Today, Transitions Legal includes a core team of three (soon to grow bigger!) – and all of us are women. In honor of Women’s History Month and the recently celebrated International Women’s Day, I’ll introduce the team below, but first, let me share a bit about our culture.
When I founded Transitions Legal in 2013, it was just me and an office manager. I was new to leading a law firm, and at the beginning of defining my corporate values.
Over the years, I’ve hired associate attorneys and legal assistants, and they’ve always been women. I didn’t set out to only hire women. I just happened to get a majority of female applicants, who were talented, experienced, and eager to work for a law firm led by a strong woman lawyer.
We are definitely different from a traditional law firm.
First is our branding – we see divorce and family law as a step on a person’s life journey, not an ending nor a beginning. This perspective is compassionate and understanding as well as nuanced. We bring that complex perspective to our cases, and to caring for our clients.
But it’s more than that. My colleague, Sara Gorman Rajan, worked at an all-male-led law firm before she joined the Transitions Legal team. She’s mentioned how working for a firm founded by and operated by a woman promotes a markedly different work culture and environment.
Looking back at her previous experience, now Sara is noticing the benefit of being able to have an open dialogue with the leadership of the firm and of being included in and a part of firm development. Additionally, in the past, her case load, schedule and availability were shaped by client and partner requests; whereas now Sara appreciates the encouragement and understanding that being an attorney is not a 24 hour a day job.
My daughter Leah and me
Me with my daughter Hope and son-in-law Andrew
I made sure to create a more understanding and balanced tone for Transitions Legal. After all, I am a mother who juggled family life with my legal practice while I was raising my daughters.
We can’t always be serving clients. We must have downtime, family time, quiet time. I understand this personally, and so I make sure my team has ample balance between the demands of our work and the fresh air of their personal lives.
While money is important – we bring valuable talents and expertise to our clients for which we should be properly paid – it’s not everything. We have a process and procedures, so we can serve our clients and act from our values – which guide us to stick to knowing and understanding the law, advising in accordance with the law, having empathy and the compassion to understand a particular situation.
We believe every person deserves legal representation no matter how big or small their case. We let people be human while also being professionals. We have understanding and compassion and respect – for each other, and for our clients.
Hi! I’m Alisa, founder of Transitions Legal. I’ve been practicing family law for more than three decades. I am a strong and compassionate leader with an open mind, and I teach others to cultivate strength to endure difficult times.
I like to make change and to see change – and one of the ways I am hoping to accomplish both in my area of practice is to mentor newer attorneys and to bring insight to attorneys and clients alike about the benefits of alternative processes to dissolve a marriage and to resolve conflict.
I live with my cat, Sunny, (and my Peloton bike), and am the mother to two strong, independent and beautiful daughters and a wonderful son-in-law.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
Sara Gorman Rajan
Sara joined Transitions Legal in 2021 as an associate attorney, bringing 17 years of experience in family law. A resident of Shelby Township, Mich., Sara has worked at law firms throughout metro Detroit, served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Hon. Helene J. White at the Michigan Court of Appeals, and, in law school, interned with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office under the tutelage of Nancy J. Diehl.
Sara is passionately committed to ensuring that people experiencing family law issues have proper access to the legal system. She understands that this area of practice is all too often where people need attorneys the most and can afford them the least. As such, Sara makes sure that all of her clients are aware of alternatives to transitional divorce proceedings and helps them make the best choice for their particular situation.
The mother of three boys, and with a grandchild on the way, Sara spends her free time reading and with family and friends.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
As Legal Assistant and Office Manager, Zoe brings five years of experience in family law and a lifelong fascination with the legal system. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wayne State University in 2016 and will finish law school in 2023.
Zoe considers herself a “legal geek;” she loves watching the Michigan Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube and claims she hasn’t missed one since Justice Richard Bernstein assumed his position on the bench. Zoe is passionate about serving less privileged individuals and hopes to pursue a career focusing on appellate work defending wrongfully accused indigent clients.
Zoe lives with her boyfriend, two cats, and a rabbit, and spends her free time cross-stitching, reading post-modern American fiction and legal opinions, doing puzzles, and, of course, watching Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube.
Photo by Melanie Reyes
Although Lynne doesn’t work in my office, she is definitely part of my team!
Understanding that engaging a publicist for marketing was a monumental leap for me to take professionally, when we began our work together, Lynne told me to think of her as one of my “employees,” she was there to do the work for me that needed to be done to grow my solo practice into a thriving, boutique family law firm.
Lynne continues to be my right-hand at maintaining the public image of Transitions Legal! After creating our branding and helping to establish the story for my law firm, Lynne has managed all marketing for Transitions Legal since 2013. She’s also become one of my best friends.
Lynne is founder of Your People LLC, a marketing company that grew out of her experience as a nationally-known journalist. She is the author of eight books, a revered writing coach, and the mother of four.