Many people wonder why I would concentrate on men’s and father’s rights in divorce, family law and custody matters? After all, they say, isn’t divorce and family law specific enough?
Many are surprised that we would turn away 50% of potential clients when we already turn away about 90% of the possible legal work a law firm can get; we don’t handle personal injury, criminal and municipal court, landlord-tenant or even business and corporate law cases.
Well, that decision was made a long time ago…
It was 1980. Jimmy Carter was president, the Rubik’s Cube just made its debuts and Pac-Man was the most popular video game. I was 9 years old. I lived in Richboro, Pennslvania in a neighborhood called Deerfield North. My parents were married for about 18 years at this time.
I had two older brothers, Alan and Andy, and a twin sister, Andrea. I was technically Andrea’s older brother by ten minutes. She and I still debate whether it was 8 or 10 minutes, which is pointless since neither will ever remember it, and my mother wasn’t exactly timing the event.
My father was in his early forties. He didn’t graduate high school and had no special education or experience. He owned a bar in Philadelphia, about 40 minutes from our home, that my grandfather helped him purchase. He had some health conditions that required him to rest at times during the day when he was home. His long work hours, commute, and medical condition didn’t leave him much time for us. Needless to say, he wasn’t father of the year.
My mother was a stay-at-home mother, raising me and my brothers and sister. She was educated as a medical assistant following high school but never worked in that field because she got married and decided to raise a family.
We lived on a half-acre lot with nice landscaping in the front and a rusting basketball net next to the driveway. I think my brothers used it the first month it was installed and then never again. We couldn’t remove it, even after it rusted, because it was cemented into the ground.
We had a spacious backyard with only a single large tree. It sat at the end of the yard by a fence that served as a border between our house and the miles of woods behind it.
Everyone in my family thought it was strange to have such a large lot and only one tree, especially since the tree was at the very end of the lot and practically left the entire back yard wide open. My father talked about putting in a swimming pool and claimed he wouldn’t want to have to rip up landscaping.
That pool never came and this was day I would shortly learn why.
It was summer. I remember it was a sunny, hot, and clear day. This was long before cell phones, internet, and social media, so you couldn’t contact anyone unless they were home. At nine years old, I wasn’t in the habit of memorizing phone numbers. So, I was in our backyard running around by myself. I must have been out there for hours because I have no idea what time it was when my mother called out from the top window of her bedroom for me to come in. She had something she had to tell me.
My mother was lying on her bed and my sister next to her. My sister was looking down, staring at the comforter, not saying a word. My mom was propped up against the bedpost. Both were crying. She said, “Your father wants a divorce.” It doesn’t matter how old you are; that moment is unforgettable.
I stood there. Silent, still, emotionless, and scared.
I said nothing. I did nothing. I just stood there.
My mom asked me why I wasn’t crying? I looked at her and simply said, with as much maturity as I could muster up at nine years old, “If he would leave us, he isn’t worth it.” I was angry. What else could I say at that moment?
Like most people, when they learn their spouse wants a divorce, they go through a period of hurt and upset. My mom was no different. I remember times shortly after the separation that she couldn’t get out of bed. She would sit in bed and even eat her meals there at times. Plain hot pizza was her favorite. I remember a time when the cheese was so hot, it burned her chin.
But this was short-lived. My mom picked herself up, got a job, and worked hard. Real hard.
The years that followed were challenging. My mother was a stay at home wife who never worked. She didn’t even know how to write a check or budget finances. My oldest brother, Alan, was a senior in high school and on track for college, but my mom had no idea how she would pay for it. My other brother, Andy, was close behind, being only two years younger than Alan. Then there was my sister and me; we still required a lot of supervision and parenting.
Fortunately for us, her hard work paid off: she was able to raise us, launch us from the nest, send us to school and put us on the path to get married, find careers, and start our own families.
Today, we are all happy, healthy, successful, and happily married. My oldest brother, Alan, is a board-certified cardiologist in Delaware. My other brother, Andy, is an award-winning attorney in New Jersey, and my sister, Andrea, is a professional business analyst in Pennsylvania.
We often sit discuss what life would be like if dad stayed. He didn’t make a good living. He had no education and he was never around. He would never have had money to send us to college assuming we would have been lucky enough to graduate high.
Would we have had the opportunity to go to college? Would we get stuck working in his bar? What would our lives look like today?
We can’t answer these questions with certainty. But we are all certain that our parent’s divorce was the best thing that could have happened to us.
Concentrating on Men’s and Father’s Rights
When people hear this story, they are shocked that I would now lead a law firm that concentrated on men’s and father’s rights. My experience as a young child shaped my desire to help clients through the difficult and emotionally challenging divorce and custody cases. My desire to focus on men’s and father’s rights rise from two beliefs: one, you can be good at many things but only great on one thing and, two, the world has not changed that much.
What I mean by the world has not changed that much is I still see traditional beliefs and arrangements in many of the divorce and custody cases that come into my office. Men remain the main breadwinner and woman tend to take primary care of the children and receive alimony. Now, before everyone starts screaming at me, I am not saying this is everyone. I know that are countless exceptions and the definition of marriage and family grows in our society and under our laws every day. But, if were are being honest about it, the situation I described above remains prevalent.
Under this traditional arrangement, I have seen in my 23+ years as an attorney that men more commonly pay alimony and enjoy less custody and parenting time. It is this imbalance that I hope to avoid by concentrating on men’s and father’s rights.
What About Women?
The next question I get, which normally comes from a woman is, do we still represent women? Yes, a few. Having a focus on men’s and father’s rights helps some women by having such a powerful understanding of what men and fathers want in litigation helps guide our female clients tactically and in settlement discussions better. It’s almost like we are already in the minds and thoughts of their spouse.