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!

A Compassionate Approach to Family Law

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I read an interesting blog on LinkedIn recently quoting an entrepreneur named Bruce Kasanoff who said he believes compassion and boldness can coordinate.

Of course they can!! This is one reason I practice family law, and one reason I am known for being different than other divorce attorneys.

It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be both compassionate and an achiever – and I’ve always believed that divorce can be a compassionate process! Most people don’t, I know, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to show up with both capacities and weave it into my work with clients.

One of the ways an entrepreneur can stand out from the competition is by listening to her instincts and living out her values. That’s what I try to do every day. And it’s not easy, believe me.

That post by Bruce, whom I don’t know but would like to meet, said, “Compassion creates meaning in our lives. Combine that with a drive to achieve big things and you will make the world a much better place.”

True, true.

I chose to build a career in family law because I wanted to help people. Particularly, families.

People come to me at a difficult time in their lives, wrapped up in emotions but with real needs to make a change and move forward productively. It’s imperative for a family law attorney to recognize the emotional state of their clients even as they proceed in a professional manner.

The truth is that any professional should bring compassion to their work. I don’t believe in separating personal and professional entirely. Of course, we don’t need to blur lines or take things personally when they’re really just business. But we don’t stop being human when we get to the office.

And in this line of work, you see good people at bad moments. There must be not only room for compassion, but a concerted effort to lead from your values and get your clients to do the same.

That’s one reason we use a fantastic tool called Our Family in Two Homes with every client who comes to Transitions Legal. It’s a resource that guides clients to articulate their values before they go deeper into their divorce process, preparing them for the decisions they will need to make and for the work they will do with us. That way, they can proceed from a place of values and clarity and minimize the number of mistakes or hurdles along the way.

Think about where you might be able to infuse your work with compassion – and what the impact might be on the success of your work, and also your connection with your clients.

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.

The Inspiration to Create Transitions Legal 10 Years Ago

my legal career has grown over the years

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, at the beginning of Transitions Legal

When I embarked on entrepreneurship a decade ago, it seemed the next logical step in my legal career. I created Transitions Legal because I wanted to practice family law in my own way, according to my own perspective.

But I had no idea at the time that I’d build a growing, thriving firm with a talented team that continues to evolve as we receive more interest from potential clients!

It’s been a great and steady ten years. Sure, I’ve had some difficult moments and there were more instances than I’d like where I felt like I was faking it until I made it. But make it I did!

Looking back, I realize that I was inspired to hang my shingle and create my own company because I saw so many original, inspiring attorneys do the same when I was coming up. Talented lawyers who wanted to escape the protocols and bureaucracy of big firms could create a law firm that represented their approach to legal practice and map out my unique legal career.

While the law is pretty straightforward, how we interpret it varies from person to person and situation to situation. And in family law, no two divorces look exactly alike.

In the same way, no two law firms are identical. They differ according to the approaches, perspectives and experiences of the lawyers.

Transitions Legal grew out of one woman’s desire to practice on my own terms, in my own way, with a set of beliefs and values, and a perspective that I bring to family law that may not be like anyone else.

my legal career has grown as my firm has grown

A more recent picture of Alisa Peskin-Shepherd

In fact, when I branded the firm as Transitions Legal, I went my own way, with an original firm name because I wanted to communicate my values in the name of the firm. Simply put, I see divorce as a transition between one stage of life and another – not good, not bad, no judgment. So, we help clients legally transition from married to divorced.

At the time, I described my approach as “mediative” – a word I created to convey the idea of bringing my Mediation expertise and training to every family law case. Now, In Mediation, and in every one of my cases, using what I’ve learned through my study of the Insight Approach to dispute resolution, I listen carefully to the people or person in front of me, and we determine a course of action and the details of a separation or divorce that reflects their values.

When I look back at my legal journey, it makes me smile. I am inspired by the freedom I’ve had to put my mark on the practice of family law and offer clients in Michigan an unprecedented approach to divorce!

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.