Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

Stacy D. Phillips

An ongoing feature here is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, and other important accomplishments of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law attorneys from around the country.

Michelle M. Gervais Named to Tampa Style’s 2021 Attorneys of the Year

September 2021 – Michelle M. Gervais was named to Tampa Style’s 2021 Attorneys of the Year list. According to the magazine, the Attorneys of the Year, who were nominated by Tampa Style’s readers, “exemplify a standard of excellence in their profession and have garnered the respect and esteem of their colleagues.” This year’s honorees were profiled in Tampa Style’s September 2021 special issue. Michelle’s Attorney of the Year profile designated her as “The Fixer.”

Marilyn B. Chinitz Interviewed by The New York Times on the Recent Rise in Divorce Filings

September 2021 – Marilyn B. Chinitz was interviewed by The New York Times on how the return to normalcy, or at least semi-normalcy, could mean that couples are finally completing divorces they were forced to delay. Defending a divorced client now “is a lot more complicated and detailed than it used to be,” Chinitz explained. “I’ve had to work through the kind of custody issues that did not exist before COVID-19 struck,” she said. “I mean, who could have ever thought back then that we would be hearing plaintiffs and defendants arguing over whether or not the nanny should be vaccinated, or a request that only people wearing masks could play with their children. And then there’s ‘I do not want my child to be educated remotely — I want him or her in school.’”

Jacqueline Combs Speaks on UCLA Extension Course Panel

August 2021 – Jacqueline Combs served as a panelist for the University of California, Los Angeles (“UCLA”) UCLA Extension course “Women, Wealth and Wisdom: Legal Updates,” which was held on August 25, 2021. Jacqueline and her fellow panelists shared their experiences with and knowledge of important legal topics such as family law, including planning for marriage, divorce, minor children, and pets.

Continue reading

Partner Spotlight: Los Angeles

Stacy D. Phillips

This edition of Partner Spotlight highlights one of my Los Angeles colleagues and co-chair of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law Group—Kristina Royce. Kristina has dedicated her practice to advising distinguished individuals involved in high-stakes, complex financial and custody matters. Her work has involved valuations, tracings and cash flow analyses, move-aways, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and mediation. She is well-known for winning difficult cases, finding solutions to complex matters, and for her steadfast discretion. Please enjoy learning more about her.

Kristina Royce, Los Angeles

Kristina Royce is a natural leader who enjoys the challenge of putting together the pieces of tremendously complex financial puzzles as she negotiates sophisticated solutions to meet her clients’ goals. She followed in her father’s footsteps to become an attorney and fell into family law by accident, but it has been the perfect fit for her skillset. Early in her career, Kristina was mentored by attorney Glenn Buzard as she developed an acumen for complex financial settlements, learned how to question and cross examine accountants and tax experts, and honed her leadership skills. Kristina, Glenn, and three other attorneys joined Blank Rome together in 2019 from one of Los Angeles’ most prominent family law firms, Buter, Buzard, Fishbein & Royce LLP.

Now serving as co-chair of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law Practice Group, Kristina imparts to her team the important lessons and advantages of understanding the financial consequences of divorce. Her clients include high-net-worth celebrities, actors, musicians, doctors, lawyers, private equity managers, and other business owners with unique financial circumstances that require a deep understanding of royalties, residual income, and valuations. While Kristina is a fierce advocate for her clients in both settlement negotiations and in the courtroom, she has also recently become involved in serving as a mediator, bringing her strong financial background to designing unique financial solutions that meet the goals of both parties.

“Salt and Pepper” Divorces: The Fight for Control When Long-Term Couples Split (Part II)

Stacy D. Phillips 

This is the second in a two-part series examining how older couples experience divorce and separation differently through the prism of the six big issues that I identified in my book, Divorce: It’s All About Control—How to Win the Emotional, Psychological, and Legal Wars, as the main causes of divorce. 

As previously mentioned, I have seen much interest in so-called “gray” divorces, or marriages that end after 25 to 35 years. I personally prefer the term “salt and pepper” divorce because most often these couples are not considered elderly. With the COVID-19 delta variant causing renewed uncertainty, many older couples are once again facing exacerbated tensions. In Part I of this series, I discussed how “salt and pepper” couples approach three of the main causes of divorce—money, property, and wealth; children; and health. In Part II, I focus on loss of love/intimacy; growth; and fear. 

Loss of Love/Intimacy 

A common cause of salt and pepper divorces is a waning desire for intimacy after many years together. Midlife crises and health issues are often at the root of these break-ups. A common divorce stereotype is that older men will ask for a divorce when they already have someone else who is more exciting and willing to take care of them. For women, the divorce stereotype is that their husbands have grown older faster than they have, and they have more energy later in life. For both men and women, there could be affairs that their spouses have suspected or known about for years, but have put off confronting or seeking divorce until they have built the confidence to do so. As the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than anyone anticipated, many people in marriages where one spouse is satisfied with a more celibate relationship and the other is not, may have realized that life is too short to live this way. They are propelled and compelled to seek a divorce in order to spend their remaining years either contently alone or in an intimate relationship with someone new. 

Continue reading

Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

Stacy D. Phillips

An ongoing feature here is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, and other important accomplishments of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law attorneys from around the country.

Los Angeles Business Journal Women’s Leadership Series & Awards 2021

June 2021 – Stacy D. Phillips moderated a panel that she organized for the Los Angeles Business Journal (“LABJ”) Women’s Leadership Series & Awards 2021, which was held as a multi-part virtual event series. Stacy’s panel, “Organization Inclusion,” included the co-chair of Blank Rome’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee James D. Kelly and took place online via Zoom on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. In addition to creating and moderating her panel, Stacy was honored to serve as a judge and award presenter for the live awards event held online via Zoom on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Stacy D. Phillips Named a 2021 “Most Influential Person” by Los Angeles Business Journal

June 2021 – Stacy D. Phillips was listed in the 2021 Los Angeles 500 Most Influential People by the Los Angeles Business Journal, marking her sixth consecutive year being honored in this prestigious listing of leaders and executives who are praised by the publication for having demonstrated “innovation and agility in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past year.” Stacy was recognized in the LA500’s Law category and was profiled on the significant accomplishments from her nationally recognized family law practice.

Michelle M. Gervais Featured as Panelist for American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Webinar

June 2021 – Michelle M. Gervais served as a panelist for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division’s webinar, “Representing Professional Athletes in Divorce and Paternity Suits,” which was held online on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Michelle and her co-panelists discussed the challenges of representing professional athletes in divorce and paternity suits, including keeping a very public person’s life private, dealing with unique contract issues, and paternity/support which could involve different jurisdictions.

Continue reading

Partner Spotlight: New York

Stacy D. Phillips

This edition of Partner Spotlight highlights one of my New York Matrimonial & Family Law colleagues and friends and a rising star at Blank Rome—Morgan Fraser Mouchette. Morgan has quickly built a reputation for her dedication to civic work, serving as co-chair of our BR United affinity group and as a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Women’s Bar Association. She has experience representing high-net-worth clients in all aspects of family law, including divorce, child custody, property distribution, spousal support, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, paternity agreements, and international child abduction. Please enjoy learning more about her.

Morgan Fraser Mouchette, New York
“A Rising Star”

Morgan Fraser Mouchette is a fiercely protective yet exceedingly practical attorney who is adept at listening to the needs and circumstances of each family and providing tailored support for each unique situation. Morgan joined Blank Rome after twice serving as a Summer Associate at the firm during law school. While she had no expectation of practicing matrimonial & family law, Morgan was drawn to the group because she enjoys making a positive difference in the lives of real people and helping them navigate and move on from the worst moments of their lives. After directly seeing the difficult circumstances that led to messy and drawn-out divorces, Morgan has focused her efforts on demystifying the stigmas surrounding prenuptial agreements, which are often perceived as horribly diabolical and unromantic. Her goal is to educate young professionals as to the benefits of prenuptial agreements and the importance of having one as part of a comprehensive financial plan if both partners are not on equal financial footing. She helps couples consider them as a protective measure and understand their practical purpose of helping avoid potential issues down the line in what is ultimately a legal union and merger.

To learn about Morgan’s tips for young professionals on protecting earnings and assets, watch the new on-demand webinar, “Protecting Your Assets 101: The Benefits of Wealth Management Strategies,” that she co-hosted with Blank Rome Trusts & Estates partner Sean R. Weissbart, along with Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick, Financial Advisor at O’Keeffe Financial Partners.

“Salt-and-Pepper” Divorces: The Fight for Control When Long-Term Couples Split (Part I)

Stacy D. Phillips 

With the recent announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the wealthiest couples in the world, were divorcing after nearly three decades of marriage, I have seen an increase in interest in what the media refers to as “gray” divorces, or marriages that end after 25 to 35 years. Personally, I prefer the term “salt-and-pepper” divorce because most often these couples are not considered elderly. After more than a year of limited mobility and social distancing, many couples have felt that they have spent practically another lifetime together at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many couples closer together, but for others it has exacerbated tensions that have existed under the surface, often for decades. With time and soul-searching over the past year and especially now that COVID-19 restrictions are now being relaxed and lifted across the U.S. and much of the world, many older couples are building the courage to address the six big issues that I identified in my book, Divorce: It’s All About Control – How to Win the Emotional, Psychological, and Legal Wars, as the main causes of divorce. In Part I of this two-part series I discuss how salt-and-pepper couples approach three of these issues—money, property, and wealth; children; and health. Part II will focus on loss of love/intimacy; growth; and fear.

Money, Property, and Wealth

One of the biggest distinctions of salt-and-pepper (and gray) divorces is that couples in long-term marriages are more likely to divorce at or near the end of accumulating income from their prime working years. When older couples approach divorce and separation, each spouse is acutely aware that after the split, whatever assets are left may have to last them the rest of their lives. In particular, a spouse who was the non-earner during the marriage may not be able to force the other spouse who is at or past common retirement age to continue working to pay spousal support. What may be more likely to be left for salt-and-pepper couples that are no longer earning income from working is passive income from assets that are subject to capital gains tax if sold. In light of the impact of COVID-19, there are many couples who have income tied to previously cash-producing real estate assets that have taken a hit due to rent abatement, rent freezes, and eviction moratoriums. When the lockdowns began at the beginning of the pandemic, I noticed that many people either held off on initiating a divorce or filed for divorce because lower asset valuations were to their advantage. Now that the pandemic restrictions are ending and businesses are reopening, I am still seeing a good number of people waiting to see if the economy and the value of their assets will fully stabilize before pursuing a divorce, or they are jumping on the depressed economy to try and extract a valuation advantage.

Continue reading

Defining your Marital Lifestyle in Divorce Post-Pandemic: Longing for (or Moving on from) the Life that Once Was

Alan R. Feigenbaum

In one of its hallmark songs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band AC/DC proclaimed, “money talks.” For better or for worse, those two words find a way of ringing true in many facets of life, and contested divorce litigation is no exception. Yet during the year-long, or perhaps longer now, pandemic, if you find yourself in the middle of a divorce proceeding you might be questioning whether or not money talks anymore or has instead been tucked away until a time when normal life resumes.

The subject of your lifestyle during a marriage is bound to come up in divorce when you are quarreling over issues of child support and/or spousal support. For example, in the child support arena, when considering whether or not to award support above New York’s statutory cap for combined parental income, the law in New York considers the standard of living that a child would have enjoyed had the family unit not dissolved.

Then there is spousal support, which your lawyer will tell you, if being up front can be an ocean of uncertainty. You may have heard that New York, some years ago, established formulas for determining spousal support. But in high-net-worth cases, with incomes above and beyond the statutory cap for spousal support, those formulas can quickly give way to a focus on many factors including, you guessed it, the marital lifestyle (a fancy way of describing how you and your family lived economically during your marriage).

What do we mean by living, or lifestyle? What type of residence do you have and in what neighborhood? Do your children attend public or private schools? Does your family vacation, and if so, how many times per year and at what cost? Where do you dine out, and how frequently? At which stores do you buy clothing for you and your children? Do you belong to a gym or other private club, and if so, is it “high end”? Or, maybe you have a personal trainer at home?

Continue reading

Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

Stacy D. Phillips

Another new feature here is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, and other important accomplishments of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law attorneys from around the country.

Lois Liberman on New York State Bar Association Panel

March 2021 – Lois J. Liberman spoke at the New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”) webinar A Day in the Life: Personal Perspectives from General Counsels and Partners, held Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Lois and her co-panelists provided their personal perspectives on what it takes to excel in the GC and Partner roles, the paths one can follow, and the challenges that may come along.

Stacy Phillips Panel Moderator for Margaret J. Weber Distinguished Lecture Series 

March 2021 – Stacy D. Phillips was selected to serve as panel moderator for Women in Leadership: Navigating through Power Structures, Personal Challenges, and a Pandemic, part of the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology Margaret J. Weber Distinguished Lecture Series. The program was held online via Zoom on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

The Art of Schmoozing

March 2021 – Morgan F. Mouchette served as a panelist for the New York City Bar Association New Lawyer Institute program, The Art of Schmoozing. She joined the other panelists in discussing how to develop schmoozing skills, providing tips on how to effectively and professionally speak to new contacts, colleagues, and even potential mentors in the virtual landscape as well as in person.

Podcast: Divorce During Covid

February 2021 – Stacy D. Phillips served as a guest speaker on America Connects, a podcast hosted by radio host and public relations professional Rob Dalton. In the episode, Stacy discusses the legal issues and difficulties with navigating through a divorce during the pandemic.

Ernestine Mings Selected as 2021 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder 

February 2021 – Ernestine J. Mings, an associate in New York, has been selected to join the 2021 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (“LCLD”) Pathfinder Program. This hallmark program is designed to provide diverse, high-potential, early-career attorneys with practical tools for developing and leveraging professional networks through relationship-building skills, foundational leadership skills, and an understanding of career development strategies applicable to both in-house and law firm practice. 

Alan Feigenbaum Featured as Speaker for Celesq® AttorneysEd Center Live Webinar

February 2021 – Alan R. Feigenbaum, of counsel in New York, was a featured speaker for the Celesq® AttorneysEd Center live webinar, “Parenting Amidst Divorce in New York—Will Parenting Ever Be ‘Routine’ after 2020?” which was held on February 26, 2021. The hour-long CLE program explored the complexities of contested custody proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will the Law Firm Diversity Push Falter as Protests Fade? 

February 2021 – Morgan F. Mouchette was interviewed by Bloomberg Law on whether law firms will follow through on pledges to improve diversity and inclusion, months after the mass protests over racial justice and equity. “What has helped me to stay in this industry and at my firm has been strong relationships with advocates. They consistently look out for me and ensure that I have the things I need to succeed in this corporate environment,” Mouchette said. 

Michelle Gervais Named Among America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators 

January 2021 – Michelle M. Gervais has been named to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators, an annual directory that recognizes the nation’s most exceptional attorneys in high value, high stakes litigation matters. To be considered for selection to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®, an attorney must have litigated (for either plaintiff or defendant) a matter with the fate of a business worth at least two million dollars at stake.

Article: A Decade Later: Are We Far Afield From ‘Fields v. Fields’? 

January 2021 – Alan R. Feigenbaum authored a New York Law Journal article looking back over the ten years since the Fields v. Fields decision: “It has been just over a decade since the Court of Appeals issued its decision in Fields v. Fields, 15 N.Y.3d 158 (2010). Fields ignited a discussion about how courts would, going forward, assess separate property claims. More specifically, the decision in Fields indicated at least to some degree that perhaps some assets (namely, a marital home) are so fundamental to the concept of marriage as an economic partnership that a spouse’s separate property claim to an asset of that sort—no matter how strong—would have its limits.”

Ory Apelboim Among 13 Attorneys Elected Partner at Blank Rome 

January 2021 – Ory Apelboim, an attorney in New York, has been elected partner at Blank Rome LLP effective January 1, 2021. He concentrates his practice on complex matrimonial and family law matters for high-net-worth individuals, including divorce, property distribution, child custody, spousal and child support, and marital agreements.

Podcast: Maintaining Wealth in Divorce with Michelle Gervais, Partner at Blank Rome 

December 2020 – Michelle M. Gervais served as a guest speaker on In House Warrior, a daily podcast presented by the Corporate Counsel Business Journal. In the episode, Michelle discusses the complex nature of maintaining wealth in divorce and other setbacks with host Richard Levick of LEVICK. She also shares her wisdom to our inclination to engage the triumph of hope over experience.

Blank Rome Named a “Most Admired Law Firm” by Los Angeles Business Journal

December 2020 – Blank Rome LLP has been named a “2020 Most Admired Law Firm” by the Los Angeles Business Journal as part of a special supplement recognizing the “top law firms to work for in Los Angeles.” The annual list honors regional law firms that excel in key workplace factors, including company culture, employee compensation, benefits, programs, diversity and women’s initiatives, and work-life balance. The Firm’s Los Angeles office has grown significantly over the years and boasts a robust team of 10 Matrimonial & Family Law attorneys, including four partners.

Michelle Gervais Featured as Speaker on Hot Topics on Prenups and Postnups December 2020 – Michelle M. Gervais served as speaker for the session, “Hot Topics on Prenups and Postnups,” at the 28th Annual Nuts & Bolts of Family Law Seminar, presented by the Dade County Bar Association’s Family Courts Committee and the Dade Legal Aid / Put Something Back Program, held Friday, December 4, 2020.


On behalf of Blank Rome, I continue to wish you good health and safe surroundings. As always, my colleagues and I stand ready to assist you with all of your legal concerns.

Partner Spotlight: Tampa

Stacy D. Phillips

In honor of her city’s recent string of professional sports championships over the past year, this edition of Partner Spotlight highlights my Tampa Matrimonial & Family Law colleague and friend—Michelle M. Gervais. Michelle is a trusted adviser to high-profile individuals, athletes, and celebrities, as well as businesses and financial institutions, in the areas of sports and entertainment, matrimonial and domestic relations, commercial and business litigation, and consumer finance. Please enjoy learning more about her.

Michelle M. Gervais, Tampa
“She Likes Being Known as ‘the Fixer.’”



 

Michelle M. Gervais is a fiercely loyal and tenacious advocate for her clients with a uniquely wide range of experience across the worlds of sports and entertainment, matrimonial and domestic relations, commercial and business litigation, and consumer finance law. Growing up in rural Michigan, Michelle always knew she was destined to be a lawyer and has found fulfillment in the legal profession’s ability to help people both in business and relationships by bringing them together when they are happy and keeping them apart when it no longer works. She began her career in Miami at a boutique matrimonial law firm before moving to Carlton Fields and then Duane Morris. In 2015, Michelle joined Blank Rome’s Tampa office shortly after several of her former colleagues founded the Blank Rome’s Pittsburgh office. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle has been surprised by the emotional dynamics that have led to less cost-benefit litigation decisions and more relentless fights to the finish. However, Michelle has found that the recent transition to remote video hearings has allowed her to be more effective and efficient for her clients because she no longer must travel to appear in person in court cases around the country. And because she can also more easily take pro bono cases outside her jurisdiction, she appreciates that access to justice has become stronger than ever.

To learn more about Michelle and the role football has played in her personal and professional career, read her feature article, My Winning Playbook: Fading into the Fix, in the 2021 edition of NFL THREAD’s The Playbook (Volume 3).

Keeping Your Sanity during a COVID Custody Fight

Stacy D. Phillips

As we mark one year since the first shelter-in-place orders were imposed, there is practically no part of divorce that the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted. In too many ways, the frustration at our lack of control over the events of this last year and now well into the first quarter of 2021 has exacerbated the emotional, psychological, and legal wars of separation and divorce. A particularly active battlefield where control becomes a constant tug-of-war has been the highly charged disagreements that come with fights over child custody.

With tensions as high as ever, I have taken note that many of my divorce cases that would normally settle are not settling—not just the ones involving custody. Moreover, as tensions are higher than usual, parents who are separating or divorcing are now, all too often, using disagreements over their children to score points against their ex-partner. Making matters worse, these unhappy couples have often been stuck in the same household without the normal boundaries between life and work or they may be living in separate homes but do not look at COVID-19 protections the same way, causing an accelerated unraveling.

Keeping sane during a custody fight is not easy, and especially so during COVID-19. It requires positive thinking, setting aside pettiness, and finding creative solutions that are in the best interest of your children. Despite the ongoing uncertainties of managing this school year, securing vaccine appointments for loved ones, and worrying about our health and safety, there are many ways to keep your cool during one of life’s most stressful and unfortunate circumstances.

Continue reading