Randy Kessler

From a Divorce Lawyer, The Questions We Get at the Dinner Table

(Reposted from my LinkedIn Blog): Certainly “divorce law” is not the most comfortable dinner conversation topic when out with friends. Often when the discussion turns to “How’s work?” or “Tell us about what you do”, there’s an uncomfortable pause when I explain that I am a family lawyer. I often get looks wondering if that means I handle divorces, or simply all sorts of law for families (like wills, etc.). I then explain that yes I am a divorce lawyer, but I prefer to call myself a “Freedom Lawyer”.

It breaks the ice and is certainly truthful, at least in the minds of many who have been divorced. But what happens next is almost always one of two things. Either the conversation moves right along to another topic, perhaps because people do not know what to say (which is fine with me, I do not want them to be uncomfortable), or more often someone starts to tell a story about their own, or a friend’s divorce. It still amazes me how many people are touched by the process. And it seems to always be a cathartic discussion.

People who could never discuss their own situation when it was happening, have now moved on and can have some perspective. They see the process in the broader sense and actually seem to enjoy discussing how it works, and how people each seem to handle divorce differently. And I realize that these discussions are much more pleasant than the ones we often have with people in the midst of a divorce. These dinner discussions seem to become a commentary on human nature, on how different people handle the same process differently. How some people put their head in the sand while others want to fight for “principle”.

And these discussions, this hindsight and retrospective, helps me improve as a lawyer. Because when I am in the middle of a divorce case, I must always think about how can I help them get to a place where they can reflect and be glad that moment is behind them, but also know that I helped them through it. No lawyer is perfect and certainly we get blamed for a lot, but we too must evolve and learn and grow and try not to just look at the moment, but to think ahead to that dinner discussion, and how we want our clients to look back at the process we helped them through. And hopefully, if we do our job well, the discussion will be a positive one and one that makes us proud of our profession and the difficult work we do.

This is a blog I wrote for LinkedIn

I just read an article about China now having 10,000 divorces per day (click for the article). That number astounds me. I know China has a lot of people, but gosh, the number of divorces here in the states is high and we wrestle with the insufficient resources we have to handle American divorces (not enough money to now support two homes, therapeutic involvement for the family, financial support for children, legal assistance to the parties, etc.).  We have been grappling with how to improve our family court system, whether it’s by having courts dedicated to handling family law matters, or guidelines for child support and alimony, it seems we are always playing catch up.  And some may say we should make it harder to divorce. I do not think that will solve things.  Rather, people may be forced to remain in bad marriages, and they will spend even more money and energy trying to get out of them, money and energy that should instead be used for their families.  Of course, if people decide to stay married, that may help, but like many other social trends, divorce may be something that is best addressed by social awareness.  Raising consciousness about how hard divorce can be on children may help.  But truly each case is unique and perhaps the explosion in the amount of divorces in China is not due to the laws making it easier to divorce (which of course play a role), but perhaps the explosion is due to the quantity of people that have been waiting to divorce, have been legally unable to divorce, and that see the new laws in China as a way to fulfill their hopes of a new and better life?  I am not saying they are right, but don’t all human beings have a right to choose their own fate?  We can promote laws that inhibit divorce, but we should be very careful when we pass laws that may confine others to situations that we would not want to be forced to endure, to force people to remain legally connected, if truly they think they and their children would be better of “uncoupling” as the recent flurry of articles surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce discuss.  Uncoupling a bad relationship to allow people to move on, may be a good or bad thing, but shouldn’t it be there, not our choice?

Happy New Year

We take this opportunity to wish all of our clients, fellow attorneys, friends and colleagues a happy New Year.  As family law attorneys, every year has its trials, tribulations and triumphs. But most importantly, in the long run, we hope we are able to help ease the burdens of our clients and smooth their transition into their post-divorce life so it will be more bearable and hopefully much better, once the issues that brought them to us are resolved. That is our goal. We particularly want to wish a happy and healthy New Year to those in the midst of family law litigation.  May 2014 bring peace and comfort.

We also want to look back and reflect on the growth of our firm in 2013 with the addition of attorney Karine Burney and law clerks Taylor Statfeld and Jamie Beton. They helped make 2013 a better year for us.  We look forward to 2014 and the new additions of attorney Michael Deeb and paralegal Karla Ingold. We also look forward to our expansion to the 34th floor of our building in our downtown office as we will now be occupying parts of both the 34th and 35th floors.  We hope our growth and our investment in space and personnel helps us do an even better job for those who put their trust in us by having more resources on hand.

Family law is a difficult but often rewarding field. There are disappointments, delays and frustrations, daily. But in the long run, we hope the difficulties our clients experience will pass and that their burdens will be lessened. We truly wish them the best. And we wish them and all of our friends, colleagues and families a very good new year.  May 2014 bring you and them joy happiness, and most importantly, good health.

Divorce lawyer goes to New Orleans, why?

Why would I be going to New Orleans for the Super Bowl?  Well, even though there are certainly many business related benefits such as seeing clients, their agents and advisors, and while this is also the “place to be” this weekend, the honest reason is that it is home.  And New Orleans, where I grew up, is always having a party.  I have been asked why not go home when it’s quiet?  Well, New Orleans is never quiet.  And I do go at other times.  And there are business reasons to go, and introductions and connections to make, too.  But there’s something about not being in New Orleans when something big is happening there.

Will it be good for business? I imagine so. I will meet many people and make more connections and if and when a family lawyer is needed, maybe our firm will be called upon to help. But more importantly, it is home.  I will stay with my family, go to a parade or two, eat crawfish and King Cake and listen to great music.  And by the way, I may just happen to see a great game.  But no matter the outcome, a trip to New Orleans, is always fun, and this one should be as well.

Bar Mitzvah Year?

Bar Mitzvah year, 2013

2013, a future has arrived. Just the name of the year, 2013, still sounds to me like a science fiction title. While the number 13 has to many been a symbol of bad luck, it seems that 2013 is starting off right. 2012 (not 2013) was, per the Mayans, to be the end of the world and the fiscal cliff dilemma seems to have subsided. But whatever your superstitions or concerns may be, it really is a time and chance to move forward. 13 is a magical number. It is the year a Jewish child becomes an adult through a Bar Mitzvah. It is the first “teen” year. And it is a brand new year for all of us.

Despite the instability in the Middle East and many other troubles worldwide, we have still avoided a world war, even though after the first one, barely twenty years elapsed before a second one arose. We have found ways to work together, despite so many differences. And in my profession, that is the key, both for lawyers and litigants. People who sue each other obviously have differences. But even in litigation, we are all human and owe each other the basic respect and civility which makes us human beings. There will always be those who battle for every last inch. And when pushed, even the mildest mannered lawyer can return the favor. But as lawyers, as counselors, we must stay on task. Seek our clients goals, while advising them competently during the process. Help them decide which goals are unattainable, or will only come at too high a price. We must give them good, reliable advice that will help guide them to make good, informed decisions. Variables include not just the financial cost of litigation, but the cost in terms of lost time, damage to relationships with children and actual damage to children which expands the longer litigation lasts. Yes this is our duty and if done well, can help families and society.

I remain proud to be in a profession which has the ability to help in so many ways. If practiced well, the profession of law can and should benefit us all. Without laws, without civilization, we lose our unique characteristics that make us human. Might becomes right, and we become like any other creature on earth. Laws are valuable, perhaps invaluable, but the manner in which they are enforced, argued and used, is up to us. And it is this duty, (the duty to act civilly and ethically) which can make the law work for all of us.

Kids Rules

Again I wrote for LinkedIn and want to share it here as well:

Parents, even parents not going through a divorce, often ignore what is in their children’s best interests. I do not mean forgetting meals or not educating them, I mean basic, common sense things. I read a recent Huffington Post piece that made that clear and that I want to share. Click on the link in the next sentence to read the brief piece:

If Your Kids Could Make The Rules of Divorce http://huff.to/uY9K7g,

But generally, the piece is what parents are taught in most court-ordered parenting classes. Things such as “Don’t make children be the messenger”, or “Don’t tell them you hope they don’t grow up to be like, or marry someone like, their father/mother”. Even though this advice makes perfect sense, in the heat of the moment it is easy to turn to a child to complain about your partner; don’t do it! As divorce lawyers, our role is to be a lawyer, but ideas like these are part of why we are also referred to as counselors at law. Let’s take that role seriously and help remind people of the obvious: kids are innocent and their needs and desires, including their needs and desires to love both parents, should be respected at all costs. It is the least we can do for the ones we have brought into this world.

Teens v Parents, at what age to cut the cord?

I wrote the following for LinkedIn as an “Influencer”:

I was asked to comment on HLN last week on the story about the young actress (14 years old) from the TV show Modern Family who wants to be out from under her mother’s care. Apparently her mom doesn’t like catching her in bed with boys and is very protective. Well that may be the best evidence of good parenting I have seen in quite a while. But young stars, like most young people, want to spread their wings. But they have more ability, more resources, more money, more friends (her older sister, in this case, took temporary guardianship of her) and more “supporters” making them feel powerful.  But they are kids and need guidance. Soon enough they will have the freedom to make many of their own mistakes, but even though some parents are not great at parenting, the natural parent seems to be the one most likely to want what is best for the child. Sure there are some parents who abuse this situation, but unless it is clear that such is the case, why shouldn’t they be given every chance to guide their child that they brought into this world as they deem best?

Stewards of Children Training

I have the honor of being the Co-Chair of the referenced CLE (continuing Legal Education program) scheduled for September 14, 2012 (8:30am-Noon) at the State Bar of Georgia Headquarters.

Stewards of Children Training is a revolutionary, child sexual abuse prevention training program. It is the only adult-focused, evidence-based curriculum proven to increase knowledge and attitudes about child sexual abuse and to change behaviors promoting protective factors.

As a parent and member of our community, I hope that your attorney friends and colleagues will participate and take affirmative action to put an end to this epidemic.

Please register using the link below. As an added incentive, the course fee is substantially less than other CLE seminars.

Information and full brochure: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8030.html

Please share this with any attorneys you know and encourage them to attend.


Thank you for your support!

Humbling, the story in Attorney at Law Magazine

I was recently honored by being featured as Lawyer of the Month in the Premier Edition of Attorney at Law magazine in Georgia last month. It was truly an honor, especially considering who the next Lawyer of the Month is (Joel Katz, the top entertainment lawyer in the country). I am grateful for the selection but honestly and humbly know there are so many more deserving potential honorees. They wrote such a flattering article about me that I really was struck (click here for a link to it). I have been very lucky in my career and my life. I am blessed to have a career I love. Being a divorce lawyer has it’s down moments for sure. But more often there is a feeling of being able to help. And that is the most rewarding part of all.

Final thoughts on my year as ABA Family Law Chair

I recently “passed the gavel” to the new Family Law Section Chair, Maryann Foley of Alaska.  It was a heartwarming ceremony and many of the leaders in family law were there.  But perhaps more important than that ceremony, was our final Council meeting the day before.  While it was the last one I will preside over, it was a meaningful one.  We surveyed the status of our section’s efforts, including our great publications, CLE programs and other endeavors, but what was also nice, was that we reviewed and revised our Family Law Section’s Mission Statement.  While the changes were not extreme, they did force us to again review our Mission Statement and to think about what we do and what we want to do and be, as a section.  So with that, I say farewell as Chair, and leave you with this, the newly revised Mission Statement of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association:

Mission/Goals of American Bar Association’s Family Law Section.

The mission statement of the Family Law Section follows:

The mission of the American Bar Association Family Law Section is to serve as the national leader in the field of Family Law.  To accomplish its mission, the Council has adopted the following seven goals for the Section:

I.          To improve the family law system.

II.         To be the pre-eminent voice on family issues.

III.       To serve our members.

IV.       To improve public and professional understanding of family law issues.

V.        To increase the diversity and participation of our membership.

VI.       To educate the public about family law and the professionals involved in family law.

VII       To improve professionalism of all participants in the administration of family law.