In the News

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

April 19, 2023
Brett S. Ward was interviewed in this Variety article discussing the difficulties with public litigation cases of celebrity divorces.

April 19, 2023
Marilyn B. Chinitz, Kristina Royce and Brett S. Ward have been recognized in Variety’s Legal Impact Report 2023.

April 17, 2023
In this LinkedIn article, Stacy D. Phillips answers questions and discusses the Netflix reality show “Love is Blind.”
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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—Marilyn B. Chinitz.

Marilyn B. Chinitz

A graduate of New York University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, Marilyn has more than 35 years of experience in family law and arrived at Blank Rome in 2007. Marilyn focuses her skills as a lawyer to empower her clients to rise above the personal difficulty that they face in matrimonial disputes, and to gain their own perspectives on what is important in their lives. 

Marilyn is my reliable “bookend” at the firm. We are both naturally very driven professionally but we both also care deeply about community and giving back. Ironically, even though we are on opposite ends of the country, we have occasionally been referred the same client with different matters at the same time or even the same client for one matter. Marilyn finds that she can sometimes represent clients who are the kings and queens of their world, be they hedge fund managers or founders of global businesses. Nevertheless, no matter their accomplishments, divorce and emotional pain are something else entirely, and Marilyn is prepared to guide them through the difficulties in life that may be alien to them. 

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In the News

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

January 17, 2023
Stacy D. Phillips has been named one of the Top Ten Super Lawyers of Southern California.

January 11, 2023
Stacy D. Phillips answers questions from her readers and podcast listeners, and shares her “hot takes” and insights on the issues.

January 10, 2023
Alan R. Feigenbaum authored this article published in the New York Law Journal discussing Gary G. v. Elena A.G.

January 4, 2023 
Morgan Fraser Mouchette was interviewed by Stacy Francis for the Financially Ever After podcast, which provides tips and advice on how an individual can secure their financial future before, during, and after divorce.

December 21, 2022
Morgan Fraser Mouchette and Kristina Royce authored this Forbes article discussing how one can tackle their divorce like Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen did in 2022.
December 20, 2022
Ashley M. Silberfeld and David A. Thomas have been named 2022 Leaders of Influence: Thriving in Their 40s by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

December 19, 2022
Authority Magazine interviewed Morgan Fraser Mouchette in November, where she discusses how social media comes into play when couples are going through a divorce.

December 14, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this LinkedIn article discussing ways to keep family traditions going after separation.

December 9, 2022 
Alan R. Feigenbaum authored this article published in the New York Law Journal discussing the profuse backlog in the New York judicial system that has built up since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 6, 2022
Marilyn B. Chinitz authored this article published in Fatherly, in which she discusses your chances of a satisfying holiday for all parties when separated or divorced
December 2, 2022
Brett S. Ward served as a panelist at the New York State Bar Association International Section’s 2022 London Global Conference.

November 29, 2022
Marilyn B. Chinitz was named one of Hollywood’s Troubleshooters: Top 35 Lawyers for Death, Divorce and Other Disasters by The Hollywood Reporter.

November 21, 2022
Alan R. Feigenbaum and Sean R. Weissbart authored this New York Law Journal article discussing whether children of divorcing parents are recognized as third-party beneficiaries of their parents’ separation agreements, divorce decrees, etc.

November 15, 2022
Authority Magazine interviewed Stacy D. Phillips in November, where she discusses how social media comes into play when couples are going through a divorce.  
November 2, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the last of a three-part series.

November 1, 2022
Sophie Jacobi-Parisi authored this Authority Magazine article discussing New York’s law that extends child support until the age of 26 for kids who are the product of a divorce and have been diagnosed as having developmental special needs.

October 28, 2022
Sean R. Weissbart and Alan R. Feigenbaum and associate Kyle G. Durante presented “Cohabitation Agreements, Property Rights, Property Division, Custody, and Economic Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants Act,” a myLawCLE program in October.  
October 28, 2022
Michelle M. Gervais was named to The Florida 500 for the fourth year in a row, honoring her as one of the 44 attorneys recognized in this year’s “Law” category.

October 27, 2022
Sophie Jacobi-Parisi was interviewed by Ilyssa Panitz for The Divorce Hour podcast, which addresses issues that individuals may face when going through a divorce.  
October 26, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the second of a three-part series.  

October 24, 2022
Shondaland featured Morgan Fraser Mouchette in this article about having difficult financial discussions in a relationship. 

October 19, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the first of a three-part series.

October 19, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips was featured on JAM.AI, a new mini-podcast platform, where she shares her perspective on relationships, family law, and divorce in her series “Exes and Ohs with Stacy D. Phillips, Esq.”    

Navigating Financial Anxiety in Challenging Economic Times

Stacy D. Phillips ●

Recessions can take anyone by surprise. Many different economists have been predicting a recession for months now, though whether it is for a long or a short downturn, and when exactly it may fall upon us, is entirely up for debate. This is the cyclical nature of the economy. Although 2023 may be a challenging in various ways, your main challenge could be controlling your fear.

In my book, Divorce: It’s All About Control. How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars, I underscore just that: control. A spouse who can control their anxiety, even in financially stressful times, can control the outcome of their divorce. This mindset is key to avoiding long-term emotional damage and will help you (ideally sooner rather than later) move on in a positive light.

The Many Effects of an Economic Downturn on Divorce

If any spouse is considering a divorce in a potentially harsh economy, they must look at their specific situation to determine if they should proceed with a divorce or wait until better economic times return. 2020 was the last significant economic downturn we experienced. Many Americans became unemployed or underemployed. However, divorcing in a weak economy could mean fewer assets for couples to divide. It could also mean you could pay less in spousal support, also known as alimony, or child support because your income has diminished. You could also buy out your spouse’s interest in an asset for a small fraction of what that asset would be worth in a healthier economy. The flipside is also true – you could receive lower spousal and child support than you otherwise would, and you could receive far less in an asset buyout than you would in a healthier economy. There is certainly no definitive circumstance. How the economy affects your potential divorce is entirely unique to you. There is no model template to know when the best time is to file for divorce. The wisest thing you can do is to talk with an experienced attorney.

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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

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.

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Until Death Do Us Part

Jacqueline Combs

At the altar, you make hopeful and sincere vows to love and cherish each other until death do you part. Your goals for your long and successful marriage include many milestones: opening your first joint savings account, buying your first home, having a child, getting a dog for your child, having another child…another dog…travel and adventure…planning for a comfortable retirement. Then, out of nowhere, you get an unexpected and devastating phone call. Your spouse of 15 years has dropped dead of a heart attack. An emotionally jolting, dark cloud descends.

As you start to pick up the pieces of your life and shield your children from the unknown, the financial setback of your loss begins to set in. You remember your spouse had a life insurance policy, but can’t remember the name of insurance company or where the policy is located. While your life turns upside down both emotionally and financially, you turn the house upside down to find the vital information you need to move on. Where is the list of user names and passwords for your bank accounts and investments? What is the name of the financial planner we saw? Are the pink slips for the cars and deed to the house in the safe deposit box? Where are the keys to the safe deposit box? If only you had sat down together to get organized.

It makes you think: what vows do you promise to keep if death does part you and your spouse?

Imagine if your bank froze your assets because the only person with the combination to the vault had died. Incredibly, in a widely reported case earlier this year, the wife of the CEO and co-founder of a Canadian crypto-currency exchange (along with the company’s investors) found herself in exactly that position. This CEO, who died unexpectedly while traveling in India in December 2018, was the sole keeper of the password to accounts valued at $190 million in U.S. dollars. Forced to file for creditor protection with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, his widow said his death left the company unable to access the bulk of its cryptocurrency funds.

While your individual portfolio might not include cryptocurrency investments, this is a cautionary tale for every married couple. Complete transparency during the marriage is the key to not leaving your family in a lurch. As unpleasant as it may be to think about, and as difficult as it may seem to find an extra hour to put together, organizing your family’s financial life benefits you now and in the future. It is a way for you to minimize the financial agony your spouse and children may face after your death. It may also prompt important financial discussions to have now with your partner, as uncomfortable or unromantic as they may seem at first. At the very least, this process will give you a clear picture of your financial wellbeing.

There are dozens of workbooks and resources for organizing available in print and online. No matter which one you select, this process will educate both you and your spouse about each other’s finances and records. Start by compiling a complete list of passwords. Take some extra time while you’re focused to identify all your assets and liabilities (those in your name, your spouse’s name, jointly held), and note when and how these assets were acquired. List your family’s insurance coverage (medical, dental, property, auto, life, umbrella) and take steps to fill in any coverage gaps you may find. Talk about making an estate plan if you haven’t already, or updating the one you have—including medical directives for each of you.

While all of this may take you away from Sunday football or Tuesday night Real Housewives, consider the long-term benefits that your short-term sacrifice will have for those you love and cherish.

International Women’s Day

Stacy D. Phillips

Today is International Women’s Day, a worldwide initiative by U.N. Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year’s campaign is #BeBoldforChange. Individuals and organizations around the world are celebrating bold ideas and actions to advance gender parity. Please join us in being catalysts for change–helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge bias, and take more leadership roles.

There are so many ways, large and small, public and personal, in which you can participate and make a difference. We hope these suggestions will spark your interest, and ignite your involvement:

  • Take a junior woman to a client or sales meeting.
  • Launch a purposeful female-focused initiative in your company or community.
  • Start conversations to educate boys about stereotypes and violence against women.
  • Nominate women for senior jobs.
  • Encourage female colleagues to serve on corporate boards.
  • Donate your time and talents to a female-focused nonprofit organization.
  • Mentor a woman or girl.
  • Form a support network or commit to advancing an existing one.
  • Encourage outstanding women to run for elected local, state, and federal positions.
  • Celebrate individual women’s journeys and the barriers overcome.
  • Include more women on expert panels.
  • Raise women’s visibility as spokespeople in the media.
  • Drive fairer recognition and credit for women’s contributions.
  • Showcase the success of women leaders in your company or community.
  • Applaud social, economic, cultural, and political women role models.
  • Launch or fund a women-focused scholarship.
  • Encourage more girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and careers.
  • Support women inventors of new products and services.
  • Celebrate women researchers discovering new knowledge.

Each one of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash their limitless potential the world over. #BeBoldforChange.