In the News

Below is a roundup of our attorneys’ recent awards, recognitions, media, and other accomplishments from around the country.

October Is National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month: My Appeal to You

October 19, 2023 – In this LinkedIn Article, Stacy D. Phillips discusses her thoughts and advice on National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Celebrity Divorce Lawyers Explain Why There Have Been So Many A-List Splits: ‘It Almost Seems Contagious’

October 19, 2023 – Brett S. Ward was interviewed by People Magazine discussing the numerous amounts of celebrity divorce cases. 

ASK STACY (Vol. 7) – Celebrity Decouplings and Getting Personal About My Likes

October 17, 2023 – In this LinkedIn Article, Stacy D. Phillips answers questions from her readers and podcast listeners and shares her “hot takes” and insights on the issues.

Blank Rome Partners Recognized in the 2024 Lawdragon 500 Leading Family Lawyers

October 13, 2023 – Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that 17 Matrimonial and Family Law partners have been named to the 2024 Lawdragon 500 Leading Family Lawyers.

The ‘Final Straw’ That Led to Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’s Divorce

October 6, 2023 – Michelle M. Gervais was interviewed by discussing the custody battle resulting from the separation of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner.

Attention New York Divorce Lawyers: Learn Insurance Law

October 4, 2023 – Alan R. Feigenbaum authored this New York Law Journal article discussing insurance law distinctions in divorced parent cases.

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Attorney Spotlight: New York—Norman Heller

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition of Attorney Spotlight highlights one of my revered New York City colleagues in Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law group, Norman Heller.

Norman S. Heller

A graduate of Haverford College and Boston University School of Law, Norm has been practicing law for over 40 years and does incredible work for his clients. Before entering the world of matrimonial law, Norm worked as an appellate attorney and later a trial lawyer in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, handling various felony cases and matters while making a name for himself in the profession. Norm then began to practice matrimonial law, where he found himself representing clients in complex divorce, custody, and equitable distribution matters in the states of both New York and Connecticut.

As a lawyer, Norm is and always has been the consummate professional. No matter the situation or client he is working with, Norm is the pinnacle of how a lawyer should conduct him or herself. Norm treats his clients and fellow lawyers with respect, always exuding confidence, and maintains his reputation for fairness with a good nature, even in the heat of a difficult legal battle.

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Protecting Children’s Safety: The Divorce Court’s Awesome Power

New York Law Journal, November 2, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

In 2016, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series released “Doc and Darryl,” a documentary profile of the former New York Mets legends Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

In that documentary, Bob Forrest—identified as an addiction specialist—delivers the following, harrowing words on the issue of substance abuse: “In the end, if you don’t realize how $%@! up you are being a drug addict, you’re probably going to keep $%@! up.”

Outside of divorce practice, some of us have lived the terribly sad experience of trying to help someone who succumbs to substance abuse who does not himself/herself come to the realization that Forrest spoke of in Doc and Darryl.

As divorce lawyers, many of us have crossed paths with this phenomenon as well, which often times manifests itself in the form of a client who, despite handwriting on the wall type evidence of a substance abuse problem, remains adamant that “there is nothing wrong with me.”

When children of divorce find themselves in a situation where one, or both parents, suffer from substance abuse problems, trial judges in matrimonial cases are faced with the daunting task of establishing appropriate protocols to ensure that those same children are kept safe.

Such was the case in the matter of SG v. MG, NY Slip Op 51063(U) (Supreme Court, Nassau County, Oct. 5, 2023) (Dane, J.), where the court had to confront how to address a party’s continued use of Adderall in the context of safeguards surrounding access with the parties’ children.

Read more on our website.

Escaping Fear. Going Through It, and Not Around.

Stacy D. Phillips ●

The Fall season is upon us, and October, in particular, can be quite beautiful. Perhaps not as much in Los Angeles, where I live. My neighbors and I are not always as fortunate to see all the fall foliage beauty. All the same, the scorching hot summer is behind us, and the trees are shedding their leaves, creating a new array of colors in the landscape (at least in many parts of the country), and letting us know that our seasons always change. October is also associated with fear. Halloween is the holiday where we celebrate scary things, adorning our walls with skeletons and ghosts and the like, even dressing up in monster costumes and having fun with all the things that can be frightening and go bump in the night. There is also the fear of the unknown and handling what’s next in life, and that is why going through a divorce can itself be scary. This is the type of fear that can be real.

The entertainingly macabre holiday of Halloween actually has many roots in ancient Celtic culture. Halloween’s origins lie in the pagan festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-win). That festival, meaning “summer’s end,” ushered in the Celtic new year and welcomed a time of death and rebirth. It signaled the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the cold and dark winter months that would present many challenges and tribulations for the people living in the ancient world. During the festival of Samhain, to appease the various deities during this time, sacrifices (most often of animals and crops) were burned in large bonfires, not only to appease the gods worshiped at the time but also to ward off other visiting or more mischievous spirits that could come haunting. Though theatrical in ceremony, people knew it was time for the past to die and time to survive the bitter winter ahead.

Be they in ancient times or today, if dark emotions are about us in our personal lives, if a divorce is making one shiver from both the cold and the fear, then the decision is ours to either cower before all the scares or celebrate the death of the old and rebirth of the new.

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Attention New York Divorce Lawyers: Learn Insurance Law

New York Law Journal, October 4, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum and Marilyn T. Sugarman* ●

By a show of hands, how many matrimonial lawyers practicing in the state of New York have heard of the “Age 29 Law”? Anybody? We didn’t think so. Neither of these authors had ever heard of it either.

All of that changed, however, on July 27, 2023, when the Appellate Division, First Department, issued its decision in B.D. v. E.D., 2023 NY Slip Op. 03971.

Before exploring the facts of B.D. v. E.D., we must understand, as best we can, the contours of the Age 29 Law which was enacted almost 15 years ago.

As we are living in a time where, sadly, reading has become passé, rather than dig into the annals of insurance law texts, we elected to find out what the Age 29 Law is through—what else—a Google search.

In order to obtain health insurance coverage under a parent’s policy pursuant to the Age 29 Law (L 2009, ch 240) the “young adult” must satisfy certain criteria: (1) be unmarried; (2) be 29 years of age or under; (3) not be insured by or eligible for comprehensive health insurance through his/her employer; and, (4) live, work or reside in New York State or the geographic area of the health insurance company’s service. In addition, the parent must be covered under the applicable policy, or, pursuant to a right under COBRA or state continuation coverage law. We note that the “young adult” does not have to reside with either parent, be financially dependent on either parent, or be a student.

At issue in B.D. was the mother’s 2022 motion to direct the father to pay for continued medical insurance coverage under the Age 29 Law for the parties’ then 26-year-old daughter until she turned 29. At the trial court level, the Honorable Ariel D. Chesler denied the mother’s motion, and the mother appealed.

Read more on our website.

*Marilyn T. Sugarman serves as special counsel at The Mandel Law Firm.

Daughters of Divorce Must Pay Sorority Expenses—Sometimes

New York Law Journal, September 1, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

Do you, in 2023, believe that you have your finger on the pulse of what it means to go through the process of sorority “rush”?  If your answer is “no,” head on over to the immersive world of #bamarush, #bamarushtok, #bamarushtok2023 and/or #RushTok.

Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes observing the lengths to which sorority rushers prepare for the rush experience, not to mention the lengths to which parents bury social media with this TikTok and that TikTok about how they are lending a helping hand in filling their daughters’ rush “bags.”

Data on the cost of being in a sorority varies; you will find some outlets claiming that, for example, it costs students more than $4,000 per semester to belong to a sorority at the University of Alabama. Other outlets show that cost to be between $7,465 and $9,445 at the same university. A general range of costs can also be found on the internet, suggesting $1,000 to $4,750 per semester. In any event, to be blunt, sorority expenses are not cheap.

Which brings us to this question: in a New York divorce, who pays for sorority expenses? We can look to Judge Sondra Mendelson-Toscano’s decision in C.A.B. v. D.S.B. (Family Court, Nassau, NYLJ 7/11/23), for guidance.

Read more on our website.

In the News

Below is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, media, and other accomplishments of our attorneys from around the country.

Chambers High Net Worth 2023 Highly Ranks Blank Rome Matrimonial & Family Law Group and Attorneys
July 20, 2023 – Chambers High Net Worth 2023 has highly ranked Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law practice group in California and New York as well as co-chairs Kristina Royce and Brett S. Ward and partners Marilyn B. Chinitz, Norman S. Heller, Lois J. Liberman, Morgan Fraser Mouchette, Stacy D. Phillips, and Mary T. Vidas.

Blank Rome’s Linda Kornfeld and Stacy D. Phillips Named 2023 Top Women Lawyers by Daily Journal
June 22, 2023 – Linda Kornfeld and Stacy D. Phillips have been named 2023 Top Women Lawyers by the Daily Journal.

Marilyn B. Chinitz Named Notable Woman in Law 2023 by Crain’s New York Business
June 21, 2023 – Marilyn B. Chinitz has been named a 2023 Notable Woman in Law by Crain’s New York Business, which recognizes “leading female attorneys in New York who are furthering justice and keeping the cogs of commerce spinning.”

Stacy D. Phillips Named a 2023 “Most Influential Person” by Los Angeles Business Journal
June 6, 2023 – Stacy D. Phillips was listed in the 2023 Los Angeles 500 Most Influential People by the Los Angeles Business Journal, marking her eighth consecutive year being honored in this prestigious listing of leaders and executives.

Stacy D. Phillips and Kristina Royce Named 2023 Top 100 Lawyers by the Los Angeles Business Journal
May 22, 2023 – Stacy D. Phillips and Kristina Royce have been named 2023 Top 100 Lawyers by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Marilyn B. Chinitz and Lois J. Liberman Recognized in Spear’s 500 Legal Indices 2023
May 11, 2023 – Marilyn B. Chinitz and Lois J. Liberman were recognized in Spear’s 500 Legal Indices 2023 Family Law Index.

Michelle M. Gervais Recognized in Tampa’s Top Women in Law by Tampa Style Magazine
May 9, 2023 – Michelle M. Gervais was named one of Tampa’s Top Women in Law by Tampa Style Magazine.

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Attorney Spotlight: New York

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition of Attorney Spotlight highlights one of my honored New York City colleagues in Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law group—Lois Liberman.

Lois J. Liberman

A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Buffalo Law School, Lois boasts more than 30 years of experience in family law, and that experience is proven through the incredible work she does for her clients. Lois is an absolutely exceptional attorney, with a personality that displays a brilliant and empathetic nature, along with an exceedingly practical approach that supports her clients within each individual situation they are facing. 

Lois began working in family law fairly early in her career and has always found herself to be the type of person that anyone could tell their full life story, and Lois would be there to listen. The practice of family law comes naturally to her and the qualities of Lois’ character shine through her legal practice. 

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Deposition Skills 101: A Lawyer’s Behavior Matters

New York Law Journal, August 3, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

There is a line at the tail end of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker that regrettably carries meaning in the profession of law, year after year. That line, delivered by “Rudy Baylor” (played by Matt Damon), was as follows:

“Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross. It just happens. And if you cross it enough times, it disappears forever. And then you’re nothing but another lawyer joke, just another shark in the dirty water.”

This author started taking and defending depositions in the early 2000s. My training was laser-focused on the content of the questions, witness preparation, and above all else, the insatiable—and short-sighted—quest to box in the witness to the point where a “gotcha” moment is achieved and you can pat yourself on the back for being the second coming of Perry Mason.

Absent from my training was a discussion about how a lawyer should behave himself or herself at deposition, and why that behavior is relevant. Can you recall a deposition skills training course, be it a CLE or otherwise, where you were taught about the implications of your behavior?  I cannot. Any lawyer that has taken or defended depositions has likely received an education in how to behave (and not behave) at deposition.

Read more on our website.

Friends Matter. Must We Divorce Them Too?

Stacy D. Phillips ●

Having friends, at any given point and time in life, is a gift. Most really are remarkable people. After all, we cannot choose our family, yet we can choose our friends; and if we are fortunate enough, those friends can become our family. This will not be a minor factor in life if we come to the crossroads of a divorce. It is then we may find out how much our friends really do mean to us, and who really is a lifelong friend.

The very concept of having friends is something we can take for granted. It may be a universal truth that it is more difficult to make friends, or true friends, as we get older. As time goes by, we see that making friends and having friends is not as ubiquitous as it was in the days of the playground, in the halls of high school, or even in college. We so often, all of us, come to a point of realization that those days are behind us, and what we may miss most about the past are our friends.

A new adventure awaits, and as your marriage comes to the crossroads of divorce, it would be no small question as to what will happen to your friendships. Will you have to split the friends as you split the pension, silverware, and furniture? Like the divorce, the answer may not be so pleasing to your heart and soul. Yet regarding friends, you may discover just who is and who is not there with you on your new journey.

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