Partner Spotlights: Giving Back to Our Communities

This edition of Partner Spotlights highlights the importance of making a difference in our communities. Personally, I have enjoyed serving as the Founder and Chair of the Blank Rome Adopt-A-Center Program (which was formerly the Phillips Lerner Adopt-A-Center Program) for more than two decades. I also have the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors, as Board Secretary, and Executive Committee of Public Counsel, the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, utilizing an innovative legal model to promote justice, hope, and opportunity in lower-income and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the nation. If you would like to make a donation to Public Counsel, that would be greatly appreciated: justgiving.com/fundraising/stacy-d-phillips.

I also encourage each of you to find ways in 2022 to help those in need in your communities, whether it be through donating to a worthy cause, volunteering your time, raising awareness of a local need, or even making a simple gesture of kindness for a neighbor. Please enjoy learning about how my colleagues Ashley Silberfeld and Morgan Fraser Mouchette have worked this past year to make an impact in their communities.

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Healing After Divorce

Stacy D. Phillips

As we head into a new year, there once again is renewed hope that we are finally ready to heal our collective wounds from this pandemic that has overstayed its time with us. For the recently separated or divorced, those newly empty seats that were seen around the table at the holidays resonated, making this time of year especially difficult. Like any other stressful experience, many have “white knuckled” their way through a divorce and have not been able to process their feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, and angst in a healthy way.

For the recently separated or divorced who have children, the holidays were an especially emotional time. We had grown accustomed to full family gatherings. Now, the children may have shuttled between two gatherings on the same night or perhaps split Christmas Eve/Day or the days of Channukah. As parents, we have our own emotions to contend with but also need to be attuned to our children who may be sad and act out because of a separation or divorce.

For those who were particularly impacted by psychological battles with their ex-spouse, I offer a short list of tips that I first identified in my book, Divorce: It’s All About Control—How to Win the Emotional, Psychological, and Legal Wars, which can help minimize the residue from divorce and allow you to begin the healing process.

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Mastering the Art of the Holiday Pivot

Lois Liberman

It may feel like Scrooge had something to do with the Omicron variant, as many of us are finding long-awaited vacation plans and holiday gatherings scuttled—due to a positive test result, exposure to someone with COVID- 19, or the sudden onset of symptoms. The current reality this holiday season is that you will need to be prepared to pivot on the fly. Some tips and best practices are below.

Wishing everyone (minimally stressful) warm and happy holidays!

MASTERING THE ART OF THE HOLIDAY PIVOT

  • EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Even the boosted are getting sick, so try to manage expectations for you and your kids.
  • SET CO-PARENTING CONTINGENCY PLANS WITH YOUR EX. Have 2–3 scenarios mapped out for vacation division (travel insurance, agreed upon make-up time, and how potential quarantine obligations will be handled).
  • LIMIT THE NUMBER OF FRIENDS AND RELATIVES THAT YOU’LL ENCOUNTER. Take into consideration each person’s health and risk tolerance before trips or in-person celebrations.
  • TEST AND TRACE. Keep tabs, take at-home tests in advance of and the day after each social gathering and ask your co-parent to do the same.

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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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. 

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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.

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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