To commemorate the start of a new year – and to introduce you to a few articles you may have missed – here’s a collection of our top 10 most-read articles of 2019.
Since our 2012 debut, we have been dedicated to helping family lawyers and other family law professionals in the U.S. and Canada to excel in their practice by having seasoned professionals in the family law arena share their best practice-management and client-relations advice. But we know our readers have wide-ranging interests and needs, so we offer cutting edge articles about new technology, complex financial issues, advice to help them grow their firms, and resources to help them cope with this high-stress profession and ward-off burnout.
In case you missed them the first time around, take a look at what your colleagues have been reading. Below, you’ll find an interesting and eclectic mix of articles on divorce liens, social media in divorce proceedings, how to draft a winning closing argument, tricks of the trade from private investigators, and everything in between. We hope they pique your interest.
Family Lawyer Magazine’s Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2019
1. 9 Reasons Why Lawyers Quit Practicing Law
One lawyer’s personal perspective on why lawyers quit – or want to quit – and how to handle feelings of loss, inadequacy, and failure.
“When I quit practicing law in 2004 after 27 years of being an attorney, I felt like I had failed my parents, my family, and myself. I couldn’t take it anymore; the practice of a general trial lawyer had ceased being the adventure of a white knight and had become the nightmare of a palace dwarf.
As a third-generation trial attorney with a father who the New York Times once called a “legendary trial attorney,” the expectations for me were set incredibly high. I had started spectacularly with honors and accolades but had ended with lawsuits and ethical complaints. I was eventually vindicated of all of the charges, but it was too late in the game to change my mind.”
2. Social Media in Divorce Proceedings
The only thing that does not change is change. Lawyers must modify and change the way they prepare for highly conflictual cases in these changing times. To do so, they need to understand and know the right questions to ask about social media.
“According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80% of divorce attorneys surveyed reported an exponential increase in the amount of evidence collected from social networking opportunities in the past five years. The purposes and consequences of social media searches produce rich information that can be used by and against litigants on trial or in settlement negotiations. This article will review the where and what can be procured, how we as advocates can delve for treasure on the social media websites and in digital communications, as well as protect our clients from the pitfalls to which they may expose themselves in being modern in our new world.”
3. Custody Evaluations and Parental Alienation: 10 Questions Answered
Family lawyer Allison Williams and forensic psychologist Erik Dranoff speak with Family Lawyer Magazine Editorial Director, Diana Shepherd, about the role custody evaluations play in the divorce process.
“One thing that I will always tell a client when they ask me, “Do I have to have a custody evaluation?” is that in a divorce proceeding, judges really want to have information beyond the space of the parties to help them make decisions about the children. It is particularly important where you have two people that are waging allegations at each other. Sometimes the allegations, if proven true, are very serious, and so, judges really want to get a sense from the perspective of a mental-health professional of what is the functioning of these people. Can they co-parent together? Is the child going to be harmed by being placed with either or both of the parents? If the parents are both functionally fit, what is their capacity to deal with each other as parents and is the child going to be better served with one or the other? That really is what the role is of a custody evaluation.”
4. Private Investigators Share Some Tricks of the Trade
Family Lawyer Magazine asked four leading private investigators to share their experiences, insights, and tips on their practices and strategies, the latest technology in their field and their work with family law cases.
“Rulings in New York and other states support the right of a spouse to obtain any and all information from family computers, smartphones, and other devices. However, this is very different from the real-time interception made possible by spyware. Using spyware that monitors and records the activities of anyone without their knowledge and consent constitutes a Class E Felony in New York, punishable by up to four years in prison. Under the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, any information obtained in this manner, no matter how relevant, is inadmissible in court.”
5. Helpful Advice to New Family Lawyers
There are a few common mistakes that most family law attorneys make starting out. Here is some advice for new family lawyers.
“Development of your social skills and your ability to empathize with your clients is the cornerstone of any family lawyer. But this is not something a lawyer can do once and forget about. These skills are continually added upon. You must refine your talents and expand your knowledge. Putting in the essential work will allow you to have the practice of your dreams.”
6. How to Draft a Persuasive Closing Argument in Five Easy Steps
There are very few times when practicing law feels like artistry; closing argument is one of them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task — here’s how to draft a persuasive closing argument in five easy steps.
“As trial lawyers, we all dream of drafting a beautifully crafted, compelling closing argument — a solid summary of the evidence that leaves the Court breathless to draft an opinion in our favor, and our clients clamoring to pay our bills in gratitude for excellent advocacy. We have big hopes about closing when we hear bits and pieces of our client’s and other witnesses’ comments, the judge’s rulings and thoughts, and the other lawyer’s arguments. And we can practically taste how wonderful our closings will be as we view the trial during each of these stages. Oh, yes, we think, I must remember to include the judge’s comment during that evidentiary ruling.”
7. When Clients Fail to Change Beneficiary Designations After Divorce
What happens when clients fail to change their beneficiary designations after divorce? Here’s an analysis of state and federal law, and some practical suggestions for how to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.
“At some point in a family law attorney’s career, a current or former client calls to tell you that his/her spouse or ex-spouse has died. The primary reason for the call will be that the deceased ex-spouse has failed to change some type of beneficiary designation/survivorship election on a nonprobate asset or has named someone other than the living ex-spouse as the beneficiary/survivor of a nonprobate asset as required under a property settlement agreement and/or final decree of divorce. The most common situation is that a deceased ex-spouse has failed to change the beneficiary designation/survivorship election for a nonprobate asset to either his/her new spouse or to anyone else – e.g., the parties’ children –and the living ex-spouse remains as the designated beneficiary on the nonprobate asset.”
8. Lessons Learned from the Jeff Bezos Divorce Filing
The Jeff Bezos divorce case captured attention around the globe. What lessons can divorcing parties and their legal teams learn from this high-profile, high-stakes divorce?
“With a net worth of $137 billion, Bezos is currently the richest person in the world and his divorce from wife MacKenzie Bezos could be the most expensive of all time, beating out celebrity split-ups like Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Tiger Woods. When looking at this high-profile divorce, several questions that all parties should ask themselves before filing for divorce come to mind.”
9. Taxes and Military Pensions: The Long and Short of It
Taxes and military pensions are not simple subjects; they require understanding alimony and income — and tax issues specific to military pension garnishment.
“In a military divorce case, the nonmilitary spouse is often concerned about pension-share payments and taxes. They will invariably want to receive pension division payments direct from the retired pay center – which for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) in Cleveland, Ohio. Pension garnishments for the Coast Guard and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are handled by the Coast Guard Pay & Personnel Center in Topeka, Kansas.”
10. Divorce Liens: An Alternative to Splitting the Family Home
A divorce lien can avoid the usual turmoil of selling the house and splitting the money – especially since the home is often a divorcing couple’s largest single asset.
“With a divorce lien, one party keeps the house, and the other gets a note and deed of trust (or mortgage) secured by the property. One gets real estate and the other gets paper. In this arrangement, the spouse who keeps the home – often the wife – has the same familiar environment for herself and the children. The children don’t have to change schools, and there are no divorce relocation costs. She retains a fair share of the equity, and the hope that the price of the home goes up. She has the obligation to pay the departing spouse according to an agreed-upon schedule.”