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Fresh Start for a New Year

by Sharen Nocella; Photography by Jeff Anderson
Lord Tennyson said of the new year, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘It will be happier.’” Perhaps that best describes the motivation of someone in an unhappy marriage filing for divorce as the calendar turns to January.

Often after the holiday celebrations are over, many married couples decide their marriages are over and file for divorce. Needless to say, most attorneys who practice family law are usually very busy during this wonderful time of year. The attorneys in Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP’s Family Law Practice Group are no exception.

For the third consecutive year, Obermayer’s family law attorneys David L. Ladov, Robert I Whitelaw, Michael E. Bertin, and Stephanie H. Winegrad were selected for Suburban Life magazine’s Top Attorneys list. Of note, all four are admitted to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, each serving as one of 1,600 fellows in the United States and less than 80 in Pennsylvania. All are also admitted to the Ten Leaders list of distinguished professionals. They also have been named to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® list as seen in both Philadelphia magazine and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine.

These seasoned attorneys have seen it all when it comes to dealing with the influx of cases the New Year ushers in. They offer some insight and advice on how to handle breaking up after the holidays.

Ladov, chair of Obermayer’s family law group, says, “There are a lot of tensions that build up over the holidays due to visiting relatives, getting large credit card bills and feeling that once again your spouse has been insensitive to your needs that finally make one party pull the trigger and file for divorce.”

Ladov, who practices out of the firm’s Conshohocken office, is a past chair of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee, which oversees the implementation of all new legislation affecting family law issues including the new Pennsylvania Child Custody Act. He has also been named to Best Lawyers in America since 2013, Pennsylvania’s Top 100 Lawyers and Philadelphia’s Top 100 Lawyers by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers®.

“There are also a lot of custody issues we have to deal with both before and after the holidays,” Ladov says. “For example, one parent refuses to follow the holiday schedule and doesn’t return the child according to the agreed upon time.

“One can always file an emergency custody order in extreme situations,” he continues. “Both parents, however, should stick to the agreed upon arrangements. If a parent is unhappy and wants a change, she can call her attorney to modify custody.”

“Family law is different from any other area of the law,” states Winegrad, who practices out of Obermayer’s Conshohocken office. “First and foremost we’re focusing on resolving problems in our clients’ personal lives. So consequently, there are a high number of inquiries and consultations before and during the holidays. A lot of people know what they want to do before the holidays but want to wait so the kids don’t have a bad memory associated with the holidays.”

For anyone considering a separation, Winegrad advises them to gather all financial information and documentation, especially if they are the dependent spouse. Winegrad, who is honest and straightforward, always advocates for what’s best for her clients. She is finishing her term as chair of the Montgomery County Bar Association’s Family Law Section.

Whitelaw adds, “If there is an issue about running up debt, a stop should be put on credit cards, lines of credit and other debt instruments if in both spouses’ names as this could negatively impact credit ratings.”

A self-described “straight shooter,” Whitelaw prides himself on being direct and honest. After 40 years, he has heard all the stories, so nothing surprises him anymore—except maybe social media. “I tell clients all the time to stay off social media! A party claims to have no money but then he posts a photo of the new diamond necklace he gave his girlfriend. It is crazy what people post and it is all admissible in court.”

Whitelaw has been named in Best Lawyers in America from 1995 to the present and he has been named to Pennsylvania’s Top 100 Lawyers and Philadelphia’s Top 100 Lawyers by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers®.

“As the calendar flips into the New Year, people turn a new page on their lives,” says Bertin. “People want to get their holiday bonuses or year-end distributions. They then feel more able and ready to move forward with the divorce.”

Bertin, known for his strong representation in the courtroom, is also very sensitive to the difficulties his clients are experiencing. He wrote Pennsylvania Child Custody: Law, Practice and Procedure, which consists of carefully condensed law and forms that keeps attorneys and the courts current on all areas of Pennsylvania child custody law. The 2017 edition will soon be released. Bertin, who is also named in Best Lawyers in America, is a vice chair of the family law section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Obermayer’s Family Law Group is one of the largest family law departments in Pennsylvania. The group consists of attorneys: Whitelaw, Ladov, Bertin and Winegrad, as well as Cara A. Boyanowski, Samantha J. Evian, Amanda W. Figland, W. Frank Johnson Jr., Michelle Ringel, Thomas A. Roberto, Amy L. Rokuson, Shari B. Veisblatt and Maris J. Weiner. Their clients primarily reside throughout eastern Pennsylvania including Montgomery County, Chester County, Berks County, Bucks County and Delaware County, as well as New Jersey and Delaware.

All members of the group devote 100 percent of their practice to family law. More importantly, though, is the group’s tradition of advocating for resolutions rather than courtroom battles. As Bertin explains, “Our philosophy is to bring cases to realistic resolutions. We want our clients’ families to remain as cordial as possible as they go through the emotionally taxing divorce process so they can move forward with their lives and continue to enjoy their holiday and family traditions as amicably as possible—for years to come, just in a different structure.”

For more information about Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP locations visit www.obermayer.com.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, December, 2016.
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