Some of My Favorite Family Law Cases

Family law work is not easy, and the cases aren’t exactly fun, but over several decades of working as a divorce and family law attorney, I do have a few favorite cases – mostly because of how the cases unfolded or the outcomes we were able to achieve.

My primary goal above all else in divorce and family law cases is to see a client go through a transformation and be better off at the end than they were when they walked into my office.

I facilitated a mediation once where I had both clients in the same room, and we were talking about parenting time. It’s not a popular move to have both clients in the same room. Most mediators go from room to room to talk to each client separately. But I prefer to keep the clients together, and the wife was sharing her concerns with the husband about how to divvy up the parenting time.

The husband listened to her concerns, and actually understood. By having them talk to each other in a respectful way about their concerns and what was underlying any resistance, I was able to see a shift in the husband as he developed understanding for the wife. This happened because they were talking directly to one another, and not through attorneys.

When you can see people changing in front of you, and opening up their minds, it’s very satisfying.

Another favorite case was with an older couple who’d chosen to end their marriage through Collaborative Divorce. It was a very difficult situation because one spouse came out as gay and the other spouse felt deep betrayal for so many years of not knowing the partner’s true identity.

But they’d been married for so long, and he truly cared about her, which is why he stayed in the marriage for so long and denied his own identity. When he finally came out, the care that he felt for her didn’t change. However, her trust did because she felt blindsided by so many years of hiding.

Why I consider that case successful is that there were issues not just between them, but which affected the whole family. They were grandparents already, and they worked hard to develop renewed mutual respect for the sake of their family.

He said, “I know I have to give her time, and allow her to be angry,” and the team was able to help her process and resolve her anger. Collaborative Divorce features a team approach, which includes a therapist who can help clients move through emotions during the divorce process. In this case, the team could allow her to be angry in the room without judgment, and maintain mutual respect.

This was so helpful when issues arose that related to relationships with their children and grandchildren. A lot of people mistakenly think Collaborative Divorce means there’s peace and harmony during the divorce process—they couldn’t be more wrong!

Collaborative Divorce is my favorite way to practice family law because it’s just a more humane approach. And when you have a good team, like we did in that case, you can work well together to achieve the best outcome for all involved.

Divorce and family law is hard work. But I still enjoy doing it because I love helping people. I want people to feel good about their decisions, and every day I remember that I’m helping people move forward.

Even when a case is particularly difficult, I hope that at least the experience my client had was good and satisfactory and they know I did my best to give them the information they needed. That’s the first step toward making choices they can feel good about.

It’s when we go to court and the sides are just too far apart, that a case is disappointing. In those instances, I know it’s going to cost a lot of money, and nobody is going to be happy. My favorite cases are thoughtful, client-focused and thorough. Difficult divorce cases are stressful for every person involved, me included. So let’s celebrate the good ones and work hard to make sure they far outnumber the bad ones!

The Future of Divorce Is Not in Court

The Future of Divorce Is Not in Court

If the Covid pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the way we always thought we had to do things may not be the only way. In fact, when it comes to the legal system, and in particular, family law, the old way of divorcing may not be the best way at all. The future of divorce will look very different from the past.

I believe the future of divorce is not in court. We’ve already seen a shift to Zoom hearings, and while at the start of the pandemic, it felt difficult and strange and not ideal, this necessary switch taught us that we can, in fact, find better ways to serve couples seeking to dissolve their marriages.

The future of divorce will happen outside the court room – photo by Headway on Unsplash

I don’t want to say that I’ve known this for a long time, but I have. Since I started practicing Collaborative Divorce, and as long as I’ve been a Mediator, I’ve seen firsthand that when a couple breaks up, the court system can’t look out for what’s best for them or their families.

By definition, a system needs to move people through quickly, and not necessarily efficiently or with an eye toward individual needs and circumstances. But a good attorney or legal team can.

Driven by the Insight Approach to Conflict Resolution, I approach Mediation with curiosity. This approach makes me more effective when there is conflict between divorcing parties. But instead of giving direction, I have learned to ask questions.

The Insight Approach helps me educate and empower clients to help them evolve through the course of their divorce. It’s a more holistic approach, which might sound touchy-feely and hard to understand, but now I have tools to make it way more concrete.

The more I get involved in this approach, the more I see how different it is from how typical family law practitioners do divorce. From the beginning with a client, I talk to them from a place of curiosity, so their experience is going to be different from the start all the way through the completion of their divorce.

Another tool that my Transitions Legal team employs with our clients is the Our Family in Two Homes workbook, which we give to every client before they begin their divorce to help them articulate their values and goals.

If you start with their values and concerns and ask questions that help reflect on their partner’s values and concerns, you can help divorcing clients change the narrative of their past, skip the arguing part and move on to their future. Doing the work beforehand helps me guide clients to the outcome they’re happy with.

Once you know how to do divorce with these thoughtful approaches, you can’t help but use it everywhere. It’s already built into Collaborative Divorce, which by definition seeks to divorce through a team approach that brings not only the spouses to the table with their attorneys, but also with the support of a team that includes mental health professionals, certified divorce financial advisors and more when needed.

I approach each divorce case with curiosity – photo by Hasse Lossius on Unsplash

The idea of Insight is not to tell people what to do. In the moment, when they’re going through their divorce, they might want to be told, but ultimately, it’s up to the client. I know how overwhelming and futile it can feel to be going through the end of a marriage you didn’t expect to end. No one does! But that doesn’t mean it’s OK for a lawyer to make decisions for their clients.

I can make suggestions or recommendations, but if the ideas come from the clients themselves, then they’re more likely to be happy with the outcome.

There are so many stories of court-based divorces where a client agrees to settle and then comes back to the lawyer months or even years later, unhappy with the settlement. The lawyers say, “But you agreed to this.” And that may be true. Or maybe they felt exhausted and pressured to just finish the darn thing or agree in the moment, but ultimately it never aligned with what they’re most concerned about and what they value.

A court is designed to make decisions for people. To put people in positions of power to apply the law as objectively as possible.

But a divorce is anything but objective. Which is why I don’t see the future of divorce remaining in the courts.

If we want families and individuals to thrive, we must approach each divorce with curiosity and questions to guide the people involved to their ultimate best destination. Every single client is unique, with their own interests, desires and challenges. A court can’t see that, but you we can. And that’s the only way to achieve the dissolution of a marriage with concern, care and compassion for the people most affected by it.

Why I Practice Family Law

Why I Practice Family Law

Why I practice family law - because I can help people at a difficult time of their lives, and support their families through the transitionWhen I chose family law as my specialty, it was because it was a more focused and high-level way to help families during difficult times of their lives. Originally, I thought I might go into social work but I learned that through law, I could empower and support families in meaningful and long-lasting ways.

Of course, I’ve been practicing law for decades now, and the reason behind why I do what I do has changed and evolved over the course of my career.

My career was inspired by the experiences of my own childhood – as happens with so many people. I grew up without a lot of stability in my family, and I wanted to help both children and parents not have to go through that.

So I became a lawyer, learned the nuances of family law, and recognized that even when a marital relationship breaks down, the family doesn’t have to fall to pieces. That’s the beauty of family law.

While there are many divorce lawyers around, not many focus on helping people. The natural inclination is to get the job done – file for divorce, go through the negotiations, see it through to completion and wish your client well.

At Transitions Legal, we focus on big-picture goals and the health of the family as guiding forces. And, we offer many ways to go about a family law case, from Mediation to Litigation to Collaborative Divorce.

However, even when a client must go through the litigation process – which I’ll always say is my very last choice for a divorce because it takes the power away from the couple and puts it in the hands of people who are not impacted by the outcome – we use Collaborative and Insight-based approaches.

We approach conflict with insight - that's why I practice family law

Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash

Many clients come to us because we specialize in Collaborative Divorce and also because I am trained in the Insight Approach to Conflict Resolution. But not every divorce can be Collaborative. However, we can and do use those principles and ideals to guide our case no matter where it ends up.

If we end up in litigation, don’t litigation clients also deserve a compassionate and insightful attorney that would guide them in the same way that I would guide a client in non-adversarial process? Absolutely! So that’s what we do.

And that’s why I continue to practice family law. Because not only can I help good people through one of the worst times of their lives with grace, dignity and compassion, I can bring a big-picture, insight-based approach to any divorce.

Insight into the Insight Approach in my Practice

Insight into the Insight Approach in my Practice

I’ve spent years honing my legal practice and the way I approach family law for a reason: I want to make my client’s divorce experience comfortable and more productive for them; and I want the process that my client invests so much energy in to have a greater purpose and more positive impact than simply getting to the end – dissolving their marriage.

That’s why I embrace the Insight Approach for conflict resolution in my practice and use it in Mediation, Collaborative Divorce and even in Litigation cases. (Well, frankly, I use it in everything I do, personal and professional. Once you are steeped in the Insight Approach, you take it with you everywhere!)

But I sought out this training, and became an expert in Collaborative Divorce, because I believe both of these wise methods pave a path that makes it easier to move forward after a breakup, for all involved.

For parents, the Insight Approach causes them to pause and reflect to consider what they know about themselves, the other parent and their children, and then to make decisions with this knowledge as their north star. It encourages clients to let the other parent lead, if necessary, to achieve a satisfying outcome for both parties. It embraces a learning process driven by what is truly best for the kids and not let ego get in the way – which happens way too often in divorce.

Basically, I want to limit the drama and expand the possibilities for co-parenting with success.

And for clients whose children are adults or who never had children, using my Insight Approach training, my client will also understand what is important to them and what they value at a deeper level to help guide their decision making throughout the process.

As attorneys skilled in the Insight Approach for conflict resolution we facilitate discussions between parties in the direction they want to take their family post-divorce. Thoughtful, productive, respectful and mutually beneficial conversations.

Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

It’s not without challenge – not by a long shot! Divorce is a breakup. There are emotions, hurt feelings, old wounds and those can certainly create obstacles, but the right process deals with them.

When we set out with a deliberate desire to keep it peaceful and productive, we can and do achieve this! And the Insight Approach is the best way I’ve found to make this happen.

In the end, everyone gets to a good place. With this method, I can bring out the underlying ability everyone has deep within, to respect the other person and bring them to a healthy compromise where they are both happy and ready to move forward.

It’s important to understand why a particular family law attorney practices in the way that they do. When a client meets with me for an introductory meeting, I explain my perspective, my approach, my track record, and why I offer the specific methods for divorce that I do. I hope potential clients ask these questions of ALL lawyers they interview.

I’m sure not everyone does. And that’s why I’m writing about it here. Because the more we know, the more possibilities we have to end up content, empowered and ready to move on.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Collaborative Divorce here at Transitions Legal, and this blog will tell you why.

First and foremost, Collaborative Divorce is the most humane approach to the legal process of ending a marriage. It’s in the definition! Professionals trained in Collaborative Practice come together to facilitate the dissolution of a marriage.

Collaborative Practice is a way of resolving disputes without ending up in a courtroom and asking a judge to decide how you’ll move forward. This approach originated in the Midwestern United States in the mid-20th century and the movement, and it popularity are growing every day.

Both people must agree to the Collaborative approach to divorce. And then, once they do, each spouse hires a collaboratively-trained lawyer to represent them.

Photo by 2H Media on Unsplash

But there’s more. Joining the lawyers and the clients on the Collaborative Divorce team are mental health professionals, financial professionals, business and tax experts, and sometimes even advocates for the children. Whichever professionals will be most helpful in the case.

All participants in the Collaborative process sign a contract agreeing to this approach. Today, there are about 22,000 lawyers trained in Collaborative Law worldwide, with more than 50,000 cases already completed according to this method.

Even judges are on board with Collaborative Divorce, according to the American Bar Association. That’s because the process keeps courts from being cluttered with needless litigation.

Other benefits of Collaborative Divorce include…

  • A high level of privacy and confidentiality
  • More client control over the process
  • An opportunity to be creative and innovative with settlement details
  • A focus on building positive, fruitful post-divorce relationships
  • Prioritizes the children
  • A variety of productive perspectives and guidance

Learn more about Collaborative Divorce the Transitions Legal way here.