From wiretaps to gathering evidence to reasons why family lawyers quit practicing, here are Family Lawyer Magazine’s top 10 most-read articles of 2020.
By Family Lawyer Magazine Staff
2020 was a year to remember (and then, hopefully, to forget) for family lawyers all across the globe. From adjusting to working remotely to handling emergencies when the courts were shut down to seeing a rise in domestic violence and divorce rates, it has been a year when the only constant was change for family lawyers.
Family Lawyer Magazine is dedicated to helping family lawyers and other family law professionals in the U.S. and Canada excel in their fields. When the COVID-19 lockdowns came in 2020, many law firms were scrambling to get their remote offices up and running, and Family Lawyer Magazine mobilized to help fill the knowledge gap with articles ranging from how to appear in court when that appearance is virtual to hot tips for divorce settlement strategies during COVID to gaining market share during and after COVID-19.
(Find more content related to managing your family law practice during the pandemic here.)
Our writers are seasoned professionals in the family law arena who were able to offer insights and advice on managing a law firm remotely, dealing with new technology, handling complex financial issues during COVID, and more.
In case you missed them the first time around, take a look at what your colleagues have been reading this year. Below, you’ll find an interesting and eclectic mix of articles on reasons why some lawyers quit practicing law, social media in divorce proceedings, how to locate bugs and wiretaps, and everything in between. We hope they pique your interest.
Family Lawyer Magazine’s Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2020
10. How to Locate Bugs and Wiretaps: A Guide for Family Law Clients
“A “wiretap” is a device attached to the telephone or telephone line that either records both sides of the conversation, or transmits the conversation to a listening post, where it can be recorded. A wiretap always involves the telephone.
A “bug” is a listening device placed in a room or vehicle. One of a bug’s components is a microphone. The microphones in these devices are usually very small. Some bugs transmit their signal to an external listening post. Video cameras can also be a type of bug.”
9. Gathering, Organizing, and Presenting Evidence
“At one time, getting documentary evidence was a cumbersome and time-consuming task: you would ask the client for copies of bills, receipts, tax returns, etc. and when the client eventually found them, they would either bring the documents to your office or mail them to you. Now, clients usually respond to a request for documentary evidence with a scanned version of the document within minutes.
What about evidence regarding court rules or the law? Instead of going to the library and looking it up, most rules and laws are available to be printed online. What about evidence from commonly consulted sources? Again, the answer is online. The same applies to many things such as auditors’ valuations of real estate, purchase prices for real estate, stock prices, incorporators of companies, statutory agents of companies, and prior marriage, divorce, dissolution, or custody records.”
8. 9 Reasons Why Lawyers Quit Practicing Law
“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.”
7. Private Investigators Share Some Tricks of the Trade
“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.”
6. 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.”
5. Taxes and Military Pensions: The Long and Short of It
“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.”
4. Divorce Liens: An Alternative to Splitting the Family Home
“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.”
3. Custody Evaluations and Parental Alienation: 10 Questions Answered
“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.”
2. When Clients Fail to Change Beneficiary Designations After Divorce
“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.”
1. Social Media in Divorce Proceedings
“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.”
If reading one or more of our top 10 most-read articles of 2020 has inspired you to submit a story proposal – or finished article – to Family Lawyer Magazine, we are most interested in relevant content that can help family lawyers manage their practices more efficiently, learn about financial tips and traps, discover new technology and trends, and offer better service to their clients.
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