The Long, Slow Road of My Legal Career

The Long, Slow Road of My Legal Career

Choosing a divorce attorney

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, family law attorney and founder, Transitions Legal

When I reflect back on my legal career, I see two distinct phases.

As a young professional, I did a lot of growing. I learned the rules, learned to navigate the legal system, learned the nuances and details of the law. I learned to set my priorities and guide my clients to identify theirs.

I learned how to communicate well with clients, and I learned that communication is the root of all good or evil. Good communication can make a case – and a career – sail through with ease, while bad communication or lack of communication can slow things down and complicate the process, along with the outcome.

But the last ten years, from the time I went out on my own and created Transitions Legal law firm, I’ve grown in the role of business owner. I am now a seasoned attorney with decades of expertise and lived case studies to guide my actions and recommendations today.

My learning over the last ten years has been focused on managing my time between building a profitable business and a practicing lawyer. There is always so much to do!

Part of that learning curve has been finding the right professionals to help me – like my marketing expert and my business coach and a team of others who can supplement and complement my skills and balance my time so I am not constantly overburdened.

Having processes in place, establishing standard operating procedures, has helped prevent me from spending all my time mired in the tactics rather than achieving outcomes. I no longer spend too much time onboarding new team members – proven processes make it easy and streamlined so everyone benefits.

It’s never easy to be both a business owner and a practicing professional, but I am spending less time reviewing and correcting other people and more time riding the processes to wonderful outcomes.

I’ve learned that a legal career – any career, really – is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a journey, not a destination.

When you’re young and eager, just-graduated from college or law school, you think The Job will be the end-all, be-all. But then you get to work and you realize it’s all a learning process, all a one-step-at-a-time in building a satisfying and fulfilling life.

I could never have predicted way back when I set out to become a family law attorney that I’d be here one day. I just couldn’t see that far into the future. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that giving my full attention to the task before me will carry me to the next best place. One foot in front of the other, one client at a time. That’s the path to success.

Divorce According to Religion, Race or Socioeconomic Situation

Divorce According to Religion, Race or Socioeconomic Situation

While relationships have the same ups and downs no matter who or where you are, religion, race or socioeconomic situation can lead to major differences in how a divorce plays out.

Photo by Jason Hutchison on Unsplash

In Oakland and Wayne counties, Michigan, I see a variety of clients, but most who choose a private attorney must have some access to monetary means. That means that by definition, a person with lower socioeconomic access may be limited in who they might choose to represent them, or how far they can take certain claims in court.

Divorce According to Religion

Likewise, religion can affect how a divorce unfolds. I’ve had a fair number of Orthodox Jewish clients, and their religious observances dictate many parts of their divorces.

For example, many Orthodox Jews seek a religious divorce before pursuing the civil one, while Jews from Conservative and Reform traditions prioritize the civil divorce above all else.

A religious divorce occurs before a beit din, or religious court of rabbis, and in the religious world, a get, or Jewish divorce, is required if a woman wants to marry again.

Photo by Vitamina Poleznova on Unsplash

In some communities, men make it hard for women to divorce. There is an ongoing issue regarding agunot, or chained women, in the Orthodox Jewish world, when husbands refuse to grant the get, releasing them from the marriage.

A Chained Woman

Recently, I’ve had some female clients tell me that they were not allowed to retain a civil attorney until after they’ve gone before the religious court – even though her husband was permitted to do so.

Aside from religion, economic disparity can dictate the terms of a divorce, too. People with less money often bring more debt to a divorce, which can make it difficult to reach a settlement because both partners want to release the debt to the other.

But in all situations of divorce, expectations, emotions and desires are pretty much the same, and every person deserves to be well-represented.

When Divorce Bears a Stigma

Some communities stigmatize divorce more than others, especially more conservative or religious communities, and some with a high population of people from a part of the world where divorce is not common. In such communities, not only might it be difficult to obtain a divorce – divorcees (especially women) can lose friends or no longer feel like they belong.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

I’ve talked to Catholic people who have stayed together longer than they wanted to or should have because of their religion and fears of not fitting in or being penalized by the church due to divorce. I’ve known some who have chosen to divorce and ended up finding another church where they felt more accepted.

Staying the Course

Ultimately, a person can face pressures from a variety of directions if they decide to divorce. It’s a reality of going against the grain of what our society considers appropriate and acceptable.

But divorce is not indicative of something wrong with a person or even with their relationship. It may have just run its course. With people living longer, many are finding that a relationship that served them early in life may not as they age.

At Transitions Legal, we emphasize that divorce is a transition from one phase of life to another. We don’t judge, and we believe every person deserves attention, support and the best representation they can find.

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!

If I had a resource like Our Family in Two Homes (OFTH) when I was getting married and raising children, I would have been so supported!

It never occurred to me way back when, nor does it to most people, to think through and articulate my values, my perspectives, and my beliefs on parenting, partnership, finances and more – and if I had, I bet I could have avoided many marital arguments or parenting disconnects.

Most people don’t really think through these things when it comes to the most important relationships of our lives because it’s just not embedded in our culture to do so. Think about all the romantic movies you’ve enjoyed in your life, which painted a picture of relationships as easy, automatic and synergistic. That rarely happens in real life.

Of course, I see couples when things have gone so wrong, they’ve given up hope that they can stay together. Nonetheless, I am excited to offer OFTH as a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.

They begin by going through pages 1-13 of the workbook, where they’ll find questions to help them get in touch with what is important to them for the divorce process. These pages cover communication, trust, emotions, values, expression tendencies and more.

It goes so much deeper than the kids or the house. What I love about this resource is how it helps clients discover their personal and collective core values and decision-making preferences. There is a lot of work people can do on their own before they come to an attorney, and this work helps them be more efficient with their attorney, which can sometimes reduce overall legal costs and time spent negotiating.

An example of this is when a client comes to me and insists they want to keep the house, but they’re not sure they can afford to do so, I have to dig deep with them to determine first what is important to them about the house. Then we explore the feelings behind it. That can take a lot of time at billable rates! I enjoy doing this kind of work with my clients. I am also aware that some clients are watching their money. This can save them on fees that might be needed further down the road, or better yet for their kids’ college education.

But if the same client worked through this on their own with the workbook, they would save time spent with me, their attorney, and get moving on the actions required to facilitate their breakup.

I use OFTH in Collaborative Divorce cases and also in Mediation. Individuals can purchase the workbook directly from Transitions Legal, and in doing so, they also get three consulting hours with me as they work through it.

The goal is for people to understand themselves better and understand the divorce process more. Also, they gain insights in how they interact and communicate, which helps an attorney know what they are dealing with in the case. They can draw out an introverted spouse or respectfully ask an extroverted spouse to give the other person some time to speak.

There are, of course, instances where using this workbook might help a couple to identify some of their nagging problems and decide to work on resolving them in an effort to stay together. That’s a lovely outcome when it happens!!

Regardless of the situation, anyone who uses this resource will gain clarity. They’ll understand elements of divorce like parenting time and custody, and know how these are established in the state of Michigan, where I practice. They’ll also know the background of the law to help them reach their decisions.

People often say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This resource gives you what you want to know.

To learn more about Our Family in Two Homes or to purchase the workbook-consulting package, click here.

Reflecting On What Matters

Reflecting On What Matters

An essential first step when people decide to divorce is figuring out what matters most to them.

 In fact, I decided to offer my new workbook package, Our Family in Two Homes, to help people articulate their priorities before starting the actual divorce process. It’s that important!!

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

For couples with children, I hear time and time again that their kids matter most. Often, they’re not worried about money or property because their primary concern is their kids. And people are willing to give up a lot for what they perceive as their kids’ well-being.

But that can only get you so far. There are child support guidelines in the state of Michigan (and in every state), and parties can deviate from the guidelines, but only if there is a good reason to do so. Ultimately, divorcing parents must be able to provide a home and everything their kids need, so making too many financial sacrifices during a divorce won’t help as much as it may hurt.

Also, your kids may be the most important thing to you, but it’s likely they are also top priority to the other parent and you want to be careful not to create a power struggle over your children.

When older couples divorce, they often also emphasize that their family is their priority, and that might include grandchildren, children-in-law and more. Again, preserving those relationships is primary, and if the divorce becomes bitter, that can be hard to do.

I’ve lost count of how many times the adult children of a divorcing couple field hurt and nurse wounds from their parents’ split – and the older couple did not realize this could happen because their children were already grown!

When adult children take sides, it really hurts because not only are you losing your child, but you may lose access to the grandchildren. Be careful not to burden your adult children with your woes or inadvertently make them take sides – it will only hurt everyone in the long-run.

It’s always wise to consider engaging in family counseling when going through a divorce. That way, all parties can have the support they need, and everyone can work toward preserving their prized relationships as they adjust to this new family norm.

Reflecting On What Matters

The end of a calendar year is a good time to reflect on what matters to you. Whether you’re going through a divorce or not, checking in with your priorities and how they inform your life decisions is always time well spent. I recommend doing so once a year at least, to make sure you are in touch with your inner needs and living your life to the best of your ability.

The Freedom You’ll Find After a Divorce

The Freedom You’ll Find After a Divorce

The Freedom You’ll Find After a Divorce


For many people, divorce means freedom.

Freedom from an overbearing or underwhelming relationship. Freedom from the obligations to please a person they just can’t please. Freedom from the trappings of a go-nowhere relationship. Freedom to become who they feel they are at this point in life.

That freedom can be exciting, and it can be scary, too. Having both of those feelings is absolutely to be expected and 100% normal. 

I encourage divorcing clients to create a plan for what they will do with the time, space and quiet post-divorce. So often, they see only the leaving and not what life will be like after they’ve left.

They don’t see the potential loneliness, only the open calendar. They don’t see the way a Sunday can feel long and empty when there is no one to share it with. And they certainly can’t see that even if they initiate a divorce, they, too, will experience loss, pain and sadness as they mourn the death of the relationship.

Of course, they also can’t see what comes after that, which is beauty, possibility, and a new sense of self.

The plan you can create to guide your post-divorce freedom should include a small circle of go-to friends that you’re comfortable calling if you need to talk or want to hang out. These are friends who don’t judge your relationship’s end or your newfound singleness.

Some friendships will end because those are the people who only knew you in the context of your relationship. That’s ok. Perhaps they served their purpose, just as your marriage did. Make your peace and give yourself permission to move on.

You’ll make new friends, too. Friends who are in similar circumstances. Friends you’ve been wanting to know but your prior relationship prevented that from happening. Friends you don’t expect to discover but suddenly stumble upon happily.


Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

At first, though, the people who respond strongly to your breakup – saying, “Oh no!! How are you handling it?” Or making comments about how they never liked your partner anyway. Or other things that just don’t help – these reactions can make it harder to be alone.

You have to be ok with your breakup so they will – and surround yourself with people who support you.

In the aftermath of a divorce, start by getting to know yourself again. Use the free time without your kids or without a partner to explore what you want with your life.

Try new modes of exercise. Take a solo trip. Eat in a restaurant or go to a movie alone. Discover your neighborhood through your eyes. Get a pet. Write a letter to an old friend you’ve missed. Buy yourself an indulgent gift just because you can.

Court your relationship with yourself before you ever begin to go in search of others. Ponder and reflect on your relationship and see what you can discover about yourself and how you relate to a partner. Try to articulate what you could have done differently or what you want to do in a future relationship. And celebrate the successes, because surely there were some.

Once you become solid on your planted feet, you’ll be in a great position to start anew – with dating, with friends, perhaps even with new work. Anything is possible if you take it slowly and map it out.

The biggest mistake newly divorced individuals make is rebelling against the relationship by partying hard, hooking up with too many partners, and basically numbing the pain of the loss. Embrace the uncertainty, and the fear. It’s the only way to move through it to what is waiting on the other side.


Photo by ABDULLA M on Unsplash

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