Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

Below is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, media, and other accomplishments of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law attorneys from around the country.


[WEBINAR] Cohabitation Agreements, Property Rights, Property Division, Custody, and Economic Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants Act

October 28, 2022 – Sean R. Weissbart, Alan R. Feigenbaum, and Kyle G. Durante will present “Cohabitation Agreements, Property Rights, Property Division, Custody, and Economic Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants Act,” a myLawCLE program being held Friday, October 28, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:40 p.m. EDT, as a live online webinar.

How to Talk about Money with a Partner

October 24, 2022 – Morgan Fraser Mouchette is quoted in this Shondaland article about how to talk finances with your fiancé, spouse, partner, or loved one when money matters can make or break a relationship.

On Addiction: So, You’ve Married an Alcoholic, Now What? It’s Two-Plus-One Interventions, Then Leave!

October 19, 2022 – Stacy D. Phillips published this first article of three on the topic of addiction in relationships in her new LinkedIn “Up Close and Personal” series. In this ongoing series, she will share candid experiences, tips, and advice from her personal and professional life.

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Attorney Spotlight: New York

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition highlights a very special Matrimonial & Family Law colleague in our New York Office: Sheila G. Riesel.

I have known Sheila for many, many years as she was a partner at my grandfather’s and my father’s law firm in New York, Phillips Nizer. She followed my career as I graduated from Columbia Law School, worked as a summer intern in the U.S. District Court in New York, moved to Southern California, and eventually launched my own family law firm. Sheila landed at Blank Rome following a merger in 2000. She called me in 2009 when she learned the firm was opening a Los Angeles office. Because of my respect for her, I seriously considered the prospect of joining Blank Rome, but the timing was not yet right. However, Sheila planted a seed with me that lay dormant for a few years but eventually sprouted when I joined Blank Rome in 2016. For that, and for her abundant calmness, wisdom, and caring, I will always be grateful to her!

Sheila practices in all areas of matrimonial law including pre-and-post nuptial agreements; separation agreements; actions for divorce, custody, and equitable distribution; and complex valuation and custody disputes. “The essence of what I do is to help my clients through one of the hardest experiences of their lives,” says Sheila. “For me, helping people is the most gratifying part of my job.”

She has represented clients in the entertainment industry, including Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Howard Stern, Geraldo Rivera, and Alec Baldwin, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, and hedge fund and financial institution c-suite executives.

Sheila is a proponent of an early consultation and being informed, which she believes will alleviate fear. “Information is power.” Significant decisions in a marriage with problems, like changing jobs or purchasing or renovating a home, can have a major impact if the couple then divorces. New York is an equitable distribution jurisdiction, which means that, without a pre-nuptial agreement, any asset acquired during a marriage is subject to “equitable division” upon divorce. In New York, “equitable distribution” is determined by more than a dozen criteria, including length of the marriage, children, and who enhanced assets during the marriage. The only asset typically not divided relatively evenly is business interests, which normally benefit the person holding the business interest more than their spouse.

One way to protect an asset when a marriage is on the rocks, says Sheila, is to “have a frank discussion with your spouse about the asset and consider a post-nuptial agreement.”

Significantly, prior to practicing matrimonial and family law, Sheila was a criminal defense lawyer who argued three times before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Outside of work, Sheila enjoys spending time with her husband and two grown daughters (one a New York prosecutor and the other a cranial-facial pediatric surgeon) and has raised three American Brittany Spaniels. She enjoys hiking, travel, and reading non-fiction, having recently read The Code Breaker, by Walter Isaacson, about the first woman Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Jennifer Doudna.

5 Tips for Staying in Control of Your Online Reputation

Stacy D. Phillips ●

Did you hear the recent buzz caused by the leaked video of Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin dancing at a party? While her actions have absolutely nothing to do with her ability to lead her country, the court of public opinion weighed in heavily—splitting her constituency between those who called for her resignation and those who supported her progressive persona.

This is not unlike many situations that I have encountered in my divorce and family law career. While an individual may have every right to engage in certain activities—and to share such on their social media and other communication channels—the “court of public opinion,” and the actual court, can be a harsh judge and can cause ripple effects that undermine their end goals.

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Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

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


Stacy D. Phillips Served as Moderator, Presenter at the Los Angeles Business Journal Women’s Leadership Symposium & Awards 2022

June 2022 – Stacy D. Phillips moderated the panel, “Invention and Reinvention of Yourself,” and presented an award at the Los Angeles Business Journal Women’s Leadership Symposium & Awards 2022, held June 29, 2022, at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. Blank Rome is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of the event.

Marilyn B. Chinitz Interviewed by the New York Post on Estate Planning

June 2022 – Marilyn B. Chinitz was interviewed for the article, “Where There’s a Will,” which was published by the New Yok Post on June 17, 2022. Marilyn stressed that people should consider a medical directive. “That sets out the extent of the care for the parent or loved one, should they become ill or incapacitated,” she said. She also recommended getting a power of attorney for health care. Then, “fast and effective decisions can be made on behalf of the patient,” she said.

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Attorney Spotlight: Los Angeles

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition of Attorney Spotlight highlights one of my Los Angeles colleagues—Pauline Martin. Pauline has more than two decades of litigation experience, handling all areas of family law, as well as a range of clients’ other legal needs. Her commercial litigation experience, especially in partnership dissolution and employment-related matters, adds a unique perspective to her family law practice. Please enjoy learning more about her.

Pauline M. Martin is a relentless litigator who focuses on passionate advocacy for the families she represents so they can move their lives forward with dignity, security, and grace. Pauline took a circuitous route to the practice of family law, beginning her legal career as a commercial litigator with time at national law firms as well as aggressive boutique litigation firms before taking some time away from law firm life as a new mom. She also helped develop a groundbreaking insurance program, which covers the risk of paying an adversary’s attorneys’ fees in a contract dispute. The product was hailed by the legal community as a “game changer” in contract litigation and was eventually sold to a publicly traded insurance carrier.

After her then-three-year-old son suggested she go back to work so he could stay for afternoon pre-school with his friends, Pauline found a new professional home practicing family law with Stacy Phillips. Pauline has developed a passion for resolving the intimate issues of custody cases, where her background as a general litigator has been an asset as she crafts specialized and sophisticated solutions to each client’s unique issues and family needs. Pauline acts practically to find common ground with the opposing party without resorting to the kind of knee-jerk scorched earth litigation tactics that she believes many times do more harm than good. She also uses her skill and tenacity to fight in court when necessary to advance the goals of her clients when it is clear amicable resolution is no longer an option.

4 Conversations to Have before Tying the Knot

Stacy D. Phillips

I love a good wedding, and even more than that, a strong, healthy marriage where both parties feel fulfilled and share control. I am going to two weddings in August, including a COVID-delayed wedding where the couple has already gotten married and had a child but are finally able to celebrate with family and friends, and the other one a new wedding.

After two years of pent-up demand due to COVID-related cancellations, rescheduling, and waiting, 2022 is predicted to be the busiest wedding season in many years, according to The Wedding Report. A good number of these may be receptions for already married couples whose weddings were derailed in 2020 and 2021, but still signify the beginning of a lifetime commitment.

While successful wedding days take months of careful planning and coordination, many couples put surprisingly smaller effort into charting out the fundamental elements and plans for their marital relationship. Having honest pre-wedding conversations with your partner about the big subjects will not only help you gain an understanding of what the rest of your life may look like, but can help mitigate, bypass, overcome, handle, or otherwise cope with control issues that could wreck your marriage. I recommend that engaged couples have open, two-way conversations surrounding their goals and expectations for family, financials, careers, and lifestyle. Ideally, these discussions should have taken place long before the engagement.

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Blank Rome Matrimonial Recognitions Roundup

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


Stacy D. Phillips and Kristina Royce Named 2022 Top Family Lawyers by Daily Journal

March 2022 –Stacy D. Phillips and Kristina Royce, who also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Matrimonial and Family Law practice group, were named 2022 Top Family Lawyers by the Daily Journal. In this inaugural listing by the Daily Journal, Stacy and Kristina were two of 20 family law attorneys based in California recognized as leading attorneys on matrimonial and family law matters, including marriage, adoption, divorce proceedings, child custody arrangements, and family court proceedings and related negotiations.

Morgan Fraser Mouchette Interviewed by Shondaland on Discussing Privacy with Your Partner

March 2022 –Morgan Fraser Mouchette was interviewed for the article, “How to Have the Privacy Talk with Your Partner,” which was published in Shondaland on March 23, 2022. “People have different definitions of privacy and different expectations,” she said, “and making sure that you’re on the same page about what you expect from your partner in terms of how you’ll be treated and what you consider to be private is a conversation people usually don’t have until sometimes too late.”

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Partner Spotlight: New York

Stacy D. Phillips

This edition of Partner Spotlight highlights one of my New York colleagues and co-chair of Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law group—Brett Ward. Brett concentrates his practice in all areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, paternity, custody, and child protective matters. He has extensive experience in negotiating prenuptial, separation, and settlement agreements. Brett has significant litigation and trial experience in New York’s Family and Supreme Courts and has also successfully appeared before the appellate courts. He also has experience with international custody and child support matters. Please enjoy learning more about him.

Brett S. Ward
New York

Brett Ward is a visionary leader who is motivated to help people navigate their way through the stormiest emotional and financial situations of their lives. He has spent his entire legal career in family law, where early on he was fascinated by how it takes not only legal analysis, but also support, sympathy, and empathy, to help clients solve difficult issues. Brett is adept at assessing a client’s situation and tailoring his approach to what they need—whether it be strength, compassion, or a calming force. He delivers results for clients by combating unreasonable positions from the opposing party through his willingness to take the case to trial where the evidence, and not rhetoric, controls the day. As co-chair of the firm’s Matrimonial & Family Law Practice group, the bedrock of Brett’s leadership philosophy is a willingness to listen and build consensus for the good of the entire group. He focuses on expanding the practice of the current partners as well as building a path for the next generation of attorney talent to ensure they have the support, opportunities, and skills to build their own successful practices for the department’s long-term success.

Divorcing in an Expensive Housing Market

Stacy D. Phillips

One of the economic aftershocks that stubbornly remains more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began is the simultaneous spike in residential real estate prices and rents, and the plummeting inventory of available housing. In fact, between March 2020 and February 2022, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area’s median single-family home value spiked 31.4 percent to $936,546, according to Zillow.com’s median home value and market rent reports.

Whether the immediate causes of the expensive market for single-family homes are snarled supply chains, historically low interest rates, or a higher demand for larger houses with more space for an office as a by-product of more flexible remote work arrangements, the market has had a significant impact on clients in the divorces we handle. In some instances, I have witnessed house sellers receiving between 30 and 40 bids during their first (and only) weekend on the market, while in other cases I have engaged in heated court battles over how high or (how low!) to price houses in this difficult-to-gauge market.

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Develop Financial Intimacy in Your Relationship: Tips for Newly Engaged Couples

Kristina Royce

Valentine’s day has come and gone, and in its wake, newly engaged couples are preparing to embark on one of life’s great journeys—marriage. But having a successful marriage in 2022 involves more than falling in love and finding your soulmate. It requires familiarity with the innermost workings of your partnership, including your finances. While this may make your relationship feel more like a business arrangement, couples are wise to have their eyes wide open when it comes to money. There are tremendous financial consequences that can arise during a marriage, and establishing financial intimacy is key to a healthy relationship. Couples who are getting ready to wed will benefit from making this a priority. Keep in mind these key points if you’re looking to develop your financial intimacy.

1. Communicate Openly and Honestly

Financial intimacy requires an in-depth understanding of your unique financial circumstances as a couple. It is impossible without one relationship pillar: communication. Initiating open lines of communication early on in your relationship can help build a strong foundation of trust for the future, but it’s never too late. The more you know, the more prepared you are in marriage to handle any challenges or changes that can come down the line. Discuss your assets, expenses, financial goals and wealth-building strategies. Be aware of who has access to certain records, accounts and financial documents in the marriage, and whether that access is equal. By doing so, even if you were to wind up divorcing your spouse, you are less likely to feel blindsided by the financial implications.

“Develop Financial Intimacy in Your Relationship: Tips for Newly Engaged Couples,” by Kristina Royce, was published in Worth on February 15, 2022.

You can read the full article on our website