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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

Stacy D. Phillips

A 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.

U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers® Highly Ranks Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law Group

November 2020 – The 2021 “Best Law Firms” survey by U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers® has highly ranked Blank Rome’s Matrimonial and Family practice group in Los Angeles and New York City.

Stacy D. Phillips Named 2020 “Top Women Lawyer in California” by Daily Journal 

November 2020 – Stacy D. Phillips has been named to the Daily Journal’s 2020 list of Top Women Lawyers in California, which recognizes regional women attorneys who have made a difference to their clients, their firms, and their profession. Stacy has been recognized every year since the list’s inception in 2003.

Nicky Rooz Receives Certification of Recognition at New York State Courts Pro Bono Awards Event

October 2020 – Anita (Nicky) Rooz, an associate in New York, received a Certificate of Recognition for dedicated service to the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program at a virtual pro bono awards event on Thursday, October 29, 2020. The certificate was presented by the New York Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York County Lawyers Association.

Michelle M. Gervais Named to List of “500 Most Influential Executives” by Florida Trend

September 2020 – Michelle M. Gervais, a partner in Tampa, has been named to the “Florida 500” for the second year in a row. Published annually as a special supplement of Florida Trend magazine, the notable “Florida 500” list highlights the most influential executives in different economic sectors throughout the state.

On behalf of the Blank Rome family, I wish you and yours a healthy and peaceful holiday season.

 

Partner Spotlights: Los Angeles

Stacy D. Phillips

Blank Rome has one of the top Matrimonial & Family Law practice in the country, with 10 attorneys in Los Angeles, 20 attorneys in New York, one attorney in Tampa, and two attorneys in Philadelphia. In this new feature, I will spotlight some of my partners from across the Firm. In this edition, I wanted to highlight two of my Los Angeles Matrimonial & Family Law colleagues—Ashley Silberfeld and Kevin B. Martin. Many of you reading this know that I was very close to my father. It struck me that Ashley and Kevin are also close to their fathers, who are also ethical, learned attorneys like my father. Their fathers also created children that are similarly ethical people (mensches). Please enjoy learning more about them.

Ashley Silberfeld, Los Angeles
“A go-to person for anyone who has a thorny issue.”

Ashley Silberfeld is an experienced civil litigator and fierce advocate with trial skills that are unique among family lawyers. Ashley followed her father’s footsteps into the legal profession, beginning her career as a toxic tort defense attorney at Steptoe & Johnson. She later decided to transition to matrimonial & family law to help fight for the vulnerable and protect the things most important to them. As the child of a divorce herself, she knows firsthand what families are going through during difficult times. What Ashley finds most rewarding is when she gets to see her clients and their children thrive in their new lives. And as the single mother of a toddler, she also deeply understands the challenges that families with young children are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis. Ashley even recently conducted a successful argument at a virtual hearing while her daughter sat on her lap.

Kevin B. Martin, Los Angeles 
“Attacks legal problems like a dog with a bone.”

Kevin B. Martin is a dynamic litigator who is also skilled at forensically analyzing balance sheets and other financial and business records. Kevin began his legal career at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan, a boutique civil litigation firm, before following in his father’s footsteps to practice law at the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in its enforcement division. He later left the SEC to return to Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan and then Bingham McCutchen where his practice focused on SEC defense and corporate internal investigations. Kevin then started his own, first of its kind, litigation insurance program that he eventually sold to a publicly traded insurance carrier. After Stacy Phillips represented him in his own custody battle where, together, side by side, they succeeded in obtaining 50-50 custody of Kevin’s two daughters (who are now in college), he decided to help other families in crisis by “paying it forward” and returning to practice with Stacy as a family law attorney. His unique set of professional and personal experiences allows him to see cases with a different lens that is uncommon in the family law bar. Kevin also brings insights and understanding of the financial side of divorce, while, at the same time never losing sight of the emotional toll this type of litigation has on his clients. Although he always prefers amicable resolution, where the parties retain most control over their own destinies, if the need arises due to unsurmountable legal disputes, Kevin fights tenaciously side by side with his clients, as Stacy did for him.

Promoting Peace during the Holidays

Stacy D. Phillips

There is almost nothing else that brings underlying family tensions to a head quite like the holidays. For separating, separated, divorcing, and divorced families, this time of year can be highly emotional and stressful. The primary reasons that personal relationships break down—mismatched value systems and power struggles over things big and small—are often on display at the Thanksgiving table or when planning Christmas/Hanukkah gifts for your children or in deciding which side of the family to visit at which time.

We can anticipate that, much like everything else 2020 has impacted, this year’s family in-person and virtual gatherings may be uniquely high on tension and disagreement. Many people are anxious about their health amid another rise in COVID-19 cases or uncertainties surrounding their personal financial situations in the current economy. Add in the political and social unrest in this country and you have a recipe for feeling like you have a lack of control over what is happening in your world.

Like addressing the emotional, psychological, and legal wars of separation and divorce, finding peace during the holidays often requires responding rather than reacting, positive thinking instead of negative strategies, and finding new peaceful solutions to ongoing differences. Despite the political, cultural, and public health uncertainties, there are many opportunities to making the 2020 holiday season a peaceful one.

Reach Out & Be Kind

At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, people were more likely to empathize with each other, make sacrifices, and reach out to each other with a heightened sense of humanity to say: “we are in this together.” Now that we are nearly nine months into the pandemic, many people, especially those that are separating and divorcing, are fighting over things that are not quite earth-shattering and hating each other with a vengeance.

This holiday season remember that people are struggling, whether impacted by COVID-19 or those who lost work. In addition to focusing on what you can do for others by making that extra donation to the food bank and expressing gratitude to doctors, nurses, first responders, and essential workers, call and check in on family and friends. They may be having a tougher time with loneliness than anyone realizes. When you look back on this time many years from now, you will want to remember the holidays as a positive time when you could focus on others and set aside the strife.

Cooperate to Make New (or Simplify Old) Traditions

If there was ever a year to be flexible and cooperate with your ex for the good of your children, 2020 is it. Many of us will experience frustration that, because of COVID-19, we cannot have the same large family gatherings or have our children easily split time between both parents.

Although nobody knows when the pandemic will end, we will all have to find patience and adapt to the current circumstances. That does not mean old traditions need to end and we should resign ourselves to being alone. Instead, there are new opportunities to see relatives from both your and your ex’s families via Zoom and find creative ways to share time with old friends and family members and carry out old traditions together virtually. Make time for your ex’s family and in-laws if you can, even if only online. When deciding who to have at your table (safely!) or which relatives to invite to Zoom, be as inclusive as possible.

Take Care of Yourself COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on us physically and psychologically. Not only has the disease directly impacted many of us, but we have all been hit with fatigue and stress. Many of us have been rightfully concerned about others and may be caring for someone else during this time, but do not forget that your physical and mental health matters too. Find time to engage in more of what you love about the holidays. Continue to get regular and proper exercise to vent frustration, tune up your mind and body, and give yourself more energy to face challenges. When you have taken care and control of yourself, it is that much easier to let the happiness and positive energy from the holidays happen.