Why should a person hire an attorney that specializes in divorce?
Family law can be a very complicated area of practice, requiring not only knowledge of the law including taxation, employee benefits, real estate law, corporate law, intellectual property, and, sometimes, bankruptcy, but also disciplines beyond the law including accounting and psychology. After three decades in practice, and two decades as a State Bar-certified family law specialist, devoting 100% of my practice to family law, I feel like I’ve got a handle on most of it; someone who handles one family law case a year can’t possibly do so.
How can a potential client be best prepared for their first meeting with you?
My first question to most of my clients is “How can I help you? It’s not unusual for clients not to have a clear answer to this question; the answer is often a “work in progress”. A client can get the most bang for the consultation buck by thinking through the answers(s) to that question, and thinking of, and writing down, all the questions which their own answer to that question triggers.
What type of questions should a client ask of a potential attorney?
A. How many of these specific sorts of cases have you handled, ever? How many have you handled in the last year?
B. If there’s another lawyer already involved: do you know this other lawyer? Can you work with him/her?
C. If the matter is already set for a court hearing: In how many of this sort of court hearing have you been involved? What do you know about this judge? Have you appeared before this judge before? How many times and how recently? What’s going to happen at this sort of hearing?
D. What are the fee arrangements to hire your office? Do you have junior associate attorneys or paralegals working for you, and what sort of work is assigned to them?
What type of questions do you ask your potential client during the first meeting?
As above, my first question is generally, literally, “How can I help you?” I also often ask, after first discussing what legal options are available, and what can (and can’t) be accomplished in the legal process: “If I am the world’s best lawyer, and I can get the judge to order anything she’s allowed to order, what would you want her to order?” Finally, particularly in cases involving long-term relationships with children, I’ll often ask: “What do you want your and your children’s life to look like in five years?
What should a woman do if she is not getting a response from her attorney and feels as if the attorney does not care about her case?
I’ve been a volunteer attorney fee dispute mediator for two decades, and lack adequate of communication is the most frequent complaint clients have about their attorneys. If your attorney is not communicating with you adequately, let her know, immediately, and take steps with her to fix the problem. On the other hand, if your attorney communicates with you, pay attention to the communications. If your attorney asks for information, then provide the information. It’s not unusual for a client to call me and ask a question which I’ve previously answered for them in a letter or e-mail, without having gone back to look at the letter or e-mail.
Is it possible for a woman to stay on her spouse’s health insurance if it is listed in the divorce decree? If not, do you recommend having the spouse pay for her health insurance, and if so for how long?
As a general rule, a divorced spouse cannot continue to be covered under the other party’s health insurance, after the marriage is actually dissolved, particularly where the insuring spouse’s coverage is employer-provided. While the Affordable Care Act may have some effect on the availability of coverage for otherwise “un-insurable” spouses, after divorce, that’s not clear yet. Certainly, insurance coverage is a significant part of the post-dissolution financial planning which cannot be overlooked.
Many women report that their husbands are narcissists and trying to bully them into settling for nothing or hiding assets. What advice would you give these women?
A. Talk to an experienced family law attorney early in the process, even if only for a consultation, so you know your rights, responsibilities, and the range of possible outcomes. It’s scary in the dark, and information, often is power. It’s far easier and less expensive in the long run to do this right the first time, rather than trying to undo a bad deal after the fact.
B. If your spouse says “I’ll treat you fairly, just as long as you don’t ask too many questions, or get lawyers involved”, then kick the tires, raise the hood, and take a LONG look at the transmission; you’re being sold a bad used car.
C. At least in California, the rule since 1993 has been “All the financial cards go on the table BEFORE you start negotiating finances in a divorce”; if they’re not on the table, look out!
Do you recommend mediation to your clients and can you explain what mediation is and how a person can best prepare for it?
A. Mediation is a wonderful tool, and can assist some clients in solving some problems far less expensively, and less painfully, than litigation. I have acted as a neutral mediator, and have referred clients to other mediators, including attorney mediators, mental health professionals, and in some instances, clergypersons or other trusted advisors. Litigation is among the worst, and most expensive ways to resolve problems.
B. It’s not, however, a tool which solves all problems; sometimes, when facing an actual nail, a hammer may be the cheapest and fastest way to drive it.
C. The single most important question to answer before undertaking mediation is, again, “How can this help you?” A key to an effective mediation is knowing what you’re mediating; what issues are you asking the mediator to resolve, what time and efforts will be spent in mediation to resolve them, and what will happen if they’re not resolved?
Are demographic and socio economic stats pertinent when a woman wants to relocate with her children?
Relocation custody cases are among the most complicated cases we handle, and we’ve handled many. Often, when there are long distances involved, there’s no “best” resolution, only a “least bad” one. Demographics and economics are not the critical facts in most relocations; the nature and extent of each parent’s relationship with the children, and how to preserve the, m is the critical information.
Is it wise for a woman to date before her divorce is final?
The lawyer’s answer to this non-lawyer question: “It depends…” A dissolution can be one of life’s greatest stressors, and it’s one which may continue for months or years. Whether or not someone should undertake to start a new relationship during this time will depend on many things, few if any of them having anything to do with the legal system. Since I DON’T have a therapist’s license, that’s the most I’ll say.
444 S. Flower Street, Suite 1700, Los Angeles CA 90071
Years in Practice: 34
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
I married a family law attorney, and we’ve been married 25 years. We were law partners for thirteen, until she received a judicial appointment.