Family law is not an area of practice that every lawyer can handle. Any lawyer can look up the statutes and look up the case law. My view of family law is one of guiding a client not only through the legal maze of custody, property division, alimony, child support, and other issues — it is helping a client through the emotional arc of the ending of a relationship that was thought to be forever. A separation or divorce is like a death. People go through a grieving process: anger, sadness, denial, bargaining and acceptance. This is true both for the spouse who leaves a marriage and for the person who was left by a spouse. Understanding that a divorce is like a death (in reality- it is the death of a family unit as it once existed) helps a client get through the painful process of disengaging emotionally and financially from their spouse. At the end of a marriage or relationship where there are children a new family structure is developed which can benefit not only the parties but the children as well if it is done with sensitivity and awareness of the needs of the children.
Whether it is through mediation, collaborative law, or a traditional court process, I try and get to understand my client's emotional and financial needs. By doing so, both the client and I can decide the best process to move forward in trying to come to an agreement concerning minor children, financial issues, or both.
In some cases, an agreement is simply not possible. Whether it is because one spouse is still grieving and showing it through anger, or simply because the objectives of the parties are too great a divide, a mediation or collaborative process can break down. In these instances, a court trial is necessary. As a former Family Court Judge and Magistrate in Vermont, I guide clients through the judicial process with strategic representation and knowledgeable insight so there are no surprises.
I have practiced and enjoyed family law for almost 30 years. Most lawyers get burned out from the emotional strain of dealing with people "at their worst." There is an old legal adage that in criminal law lawyers see bad people at their best and in family law lawyers see good people at their worst. One of my goals is to get clients to a place where they can get a good outcome without the extended and costly process that can occur when marriages break up. This is something I continue to enjoy. When a client can come to the conclusion of the divorce process and believe that the outcome can be a benefit to both parties and their children, it brings me satisfaction professionally, but more importantly, to the parties as well.