divorce

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.


Chairing the Family Law Section of the ABA has been an honor

I have been so fortunate to have been able to serve as Chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association for the 2011-2012 term.  I cannot believe the year is drawing to a close.  To have been allowed to lead this section, has truly been an honor and the highlight of my legal career and bar service.  About 15 years ago I served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.  I have served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Bar Association and as Chair of the Family Courts Committee of the Family Law Section of the ABA, as well as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association.  This year has really been a culmination for me and I really know for sure now, that being a lawyer, and serving the bar and the community in ways beyond representing clients, is what makes ours a profession worth pursuing.  I have been fortunate enough to meet lawyers and judges from across the world.  And while there are many different personalities in our profession, like any other, there are so, so many people trying so hard to do good and to make the world a better place. 

I recently attended an event for Congressman John Lewis.  He explained how he has been getting in “good trouble” his whole life.  What an inspiration he was and is.  We should all get in “good trouble” and help make positive change in our world.  For me, it is in my limited capacity as a family law attorney, but for all of us there is a way.  My year has had it’s challenges just like any other year, but it has been quite an interesting one for Family Law.  DOMA seems about ready to fall.  Grandparent’s rights are evolving.  International custody issues have been given more attention.  We should all be helping ensure that these issues get the attention they deserve.  Family Law attorneys can and should continue to help legislatures and courts understand the law and the ramifications of poorly drafted statutes or poorly interpreted laws.  We should also help the public understand them.  Knowledge is power and we should all be as knowledgeable as we can about the laws which shape our country.

 Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and hope I can continue to contribute.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be so involved have a duty to continue to help and to ensure that ours truly remains a “profession” and not just a job.  Let’s keep trying to make this world a better place.


Tom Cruise and why we should care

I was interviewed a lot in the last few weeks about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes Divorce. People Magazine, CNN (CNN International, Headline News, etc.) and others asked me about it. Maybe I am biased because I know and respect Katie Holmes’ lawyers Jon Wolfe and Michael Mosberg, but I consistently suggested it would be worked out privately and quickly (see my blog posted June 30, 2012). Not only because there were good lawyers involved, but because frequently, when there is a lot of money combined with potential for a lot of negative public publicity, cases resolve quickly. They make news when they don’t. This one reached resolution quickly, and that is of course, beneficial to their daughter. Bravo to the parties and the lawyers. That’s how cases should get resolved and hopefully this divorce will be a good example of why it is good to get it done quickly.


Tom Cruise Divorce?

Tom Cruise is getting a divorce?  Why is this news? Why is it interesting?  Because he, superhero extra ordinaire, is going through what so many others have gone through, yet again.  No one is immune.  Perhaps that’s the appeal of the story?  I learned about it Friday when CNN called and asked if I could comment on the “breaking news” that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were getting divorced.  I didn’t have too much to add, except to say that rich or poor, famous or not, everyone should try to reach settlement of their own issues, and I am sure they will do their best to do that.  And the path should be open to them.  Jonathan Wolfe, one of the finest lawyers in the New York area is representing Ms. Holmes and I know he will do his utmost to resolve the matter amicably, while simultaneously representing his client zealously.  And that, is the test of a true lawyer.  To be professional and to obtain good results for his client.  I am hopeful that the next public statements, or at least a future public statement from either party, will reference the efforts each has taken to resolve the matter out of court.  I know good lawyers are crucial to the process and that may be the lesson.  If you can afford one, get a good lawyer.  Their job is to bring peace and resolution.  Yes they are able to do battle when needed, but for good lawyers, that is always the last option.


Divorce Hotel?

The New York Times recently ran a story on “Divorce Hotels”.  It’s not such a strange concept.  Click here for the NY Times story. A divorcing coupe stays at the same hotel to ensure the process moves forward. No delays. Lawyers there focus on that case. Paying attention to a case often helps “get ‘er done”.

Is this the wave of the future? Probably not.  Is there a place for it? Maybe.  The real bottom line is that once people are ready, emotionally and with all of the facts (an understanding of all finances/incomes/property values, etc.), divorcing parties should get together, be it for mediation or a settlement conference, or even a weekend at the “divorce hotel”, and they should not stop trying to reach resolution until it is done.  The alternative, trial, is expensive, costly and very, very imperfect.  Keeping hold of your own desitiny is vital.  Mediation, and maybe even the “divorce hotel” offers an opportunity to do that.


30th Annual Family Law Institute this week in Amelia Island!

The 30th annual Georgia Bar, Family Law Institute is this week in Amelia Island, Florida. There are already over 500 people signed up. This is the final seminar for my year as Chair of the Family Law Section in Georgia and I must thank Kelly Miles for putting together such an outstanding program. Click here for the entire agenda.  The whole seminar is filled with Cutting Edge topics in Family Law, Hot Tips, case law update and a surprise speaker at the end.  There will be ample opportunity not only to learn, but to network and meet other family law attorneys whom you may have litigated against, or with andothers who you certainly will meet for work in the future.  Why not come to the program and try to meet them now, while you have no cases against them.  It will make it much easier to handle cases together if you develop that relationship independent of any client directives or litigation which may make for a rougher start to a relationship?

I look forward to seeing those of you who have signed up and those of you who still may.  Let’s learn and have fun together.


“Handling” the Media (in Family Law Matters)?

On Wednesday January 18, 2012 I will be presenting a Webinar for the ABA. It is one that is interesting to me. The title? Handling the Media in a Family Law Matter. I am sure I don’t know all the answers, but preparing for it and thinking about it has been educational and enjoyable.

While there certainly is more than one way to work with the press, I have found that being forthcoming with the media, even if my answer is “I don’t know”, or “I know but cannot and will not say”, has been the best. The media have much power, but in the end, they, like we, are people making decisions and judgment calls so why make them second guess your honesty or integrity.

I am looking forward to the program. If you have any helpful tips, resources, insights or suggestions, please pass them along. It can only help improve the presentation.


Winning Settlement Strategies

On January 12, 2012, Dennis Collard and I will be presenting at the State Bar of Georgia on “Winning Settlement Strategies. The seminar brochure can be accessed by clicking here (click for brochure). We are the final speakers for this fine seminar being put on by the General Practice and Trial Law section of the State Bar of Georgia. Other fine speakers include Pete Law and Judge Gino Brogdon among others.

Too often the focus on lawyer education is on how to go to trial. While our particular presentation does indeed cover preparing for trial, our overall point is that by preparing well for trial, you make it more likely you will achieve an appropriate settlement. As with most seminars, the best part of the day will be listening to and watching the other speakers so that I may learn from them. If you are able to join us, please do. And if you have any suggestions for us to consider incorporating into our presentation, please let us know.


Holiday Season puts brakes on divorce

Divorce filings always seem to decrease around Christmas time. There may be many reasons, including some that we hear such as wanting to keep the family together for one last holiday, or feeling guilty about filing around Christmas time. It is a nice reprieve and it is always nice to see people really give their marriage one more good effort.

But then filings seem to always increase after the holidays. People want to make a fresh start. New Year’s resolutions often include a commitment to finally divorce or separate. Or people realize that the goodwill of Christmas was not good enough to make them want to stay forever with their spouse.

Divorce lawyers across the country experience slowdowns in December and increases in business in January every year. This has been a constant in good economies and bad. And again this year, we have seen our share of December consultations which end with clients saying they want to wait until after the holidays, or they want to see how the holidays go. If only that time of good will was year round in their relationships, divorce rates would permanently decrease? Maybe if Christmas lasted all year?


ABA Family Law Section plans for South Beach Seminar in full swing

“SoBe”…South Beach in the Spring, what could be better? Please consider joining us April 18-21, 2012. After a very successful CLE program in Vegas this past October, we are on a “CLE roll”. The programs scheduled for Miami include:“How to Impress Judges: Analytical Steps to a Well Organized, Concise, and Engaging Trial”, “Social Networking for the Family Lawyer..” and “If you love me, put it in writing.” The full tentative schedule can be accessed by clicking here.
And one more time, the location…the Eden Roc Hotel in South Beach, in the heart of Miami Beach, is old style Miami art deco, but fully renovated and hip. It’s a great place to learn and to mingle with family law attorneys from across the country. There will be family law discussed not only indoors, but pool side and at the beach. Isn’t that better than your conference room? I hope you will consider joining us for this fun filled educational meeting. See you in the sun!. – Randall M. Kessler