Join us at Everyday Law as we talk Family Law — from the set up of the divorce to its conclusion — including the psychology and the strategy behind the break-up of a marriage. Learn from two expert family law attorneys, Michael Strauss and Craig Mandell about how clients come to the decision to split up, and what they should be thinking about before, during and after choosing their attorney.

Family law practitioners, Mike Strauss and Craig Mandell, talk about the intricacies of family law from the set-up or breakdown of a marriage to its conclusion of a divorce judgment and its many moving parts including support of an ex-spouse and children as well as allocation of parental responsibility and property. Both lawyers enjoy the aspect of meeting people and working closely with their clients as many areas of the law do not lend themselves to working directly with clients. Additionally, the practice of family law involves delving into other practice areas such as bankruptcy, foreclosure and chancery.

Strauss is a partner of Libertyville firm, Schlesinger & Strauss, (847-680-4970). Mike initially studied psychology after college but ultimately went to law school, following in the footsteps of family members who are lawyers. His background in psychology was valuable training for a family law practice. Additionally, Mike serves as a child rep, guardian ad litem and a mediator.

Mandell is with Berger Schatz, a family law firm with offices in Chicago (312-782-3456) and Lake Forest (847-405-9500). Craig studied journalism and advertising in college and originally was interested in becoming an actor or director of films. These interests were a good fit for both law school and the practice of family law.

At the initial interview with a client, the family law attorney wants to know why the client made the appointment to see a lawyer. Both lawyers agree that there are 2 classes of clients who come to a family lawyer; the spouse who initiates and plans for the divorce and the spouse who did not see divorce coming. The issues that lead to a divorce may involve finances, disagreements regarding children or a spouse just wants out of a marriage. At this initial meeting, the lawyers will ask the client if they have tried marriage counseling or therapy.

Besides custody of children or allocation of parental responsibility, the other major issue in a divorce case is finances. Many times, one spouse is in charge of the finances and the other spouse has no idea of the financial status of the family. Also, in the case of a divorce, it is important to consider that the income of a family pre-divorce supported one household, while after the divorce, that income must now support two households.

Divorce involves the allocation of assets. A financial issue that comes up in some divorces is dissipation. Dissipation is the use of marital assets in a way that does not benefit the marriage. Examples of this would be one spouse using income for drugs, alcohol, prostitutes or even reckless trading of stocks without the other spouse’s knowledge. Identification of dissipation is important when dividing up assets as an even split of 50/50 would be unfair to the other spouse because of one spouse’s misspending. Alternatively, another issue occurs when one spouse who is planning to divorce, may tone down spending to make their lifestyle look less lavish so as to promote a smaller allowance for the other spouse.

Both Strauss and Mandell stress to clients that a divorce is a lawsuit and the divorce may potentially go to trial (though most do not). The process is not brief, and can take many months, if not years. They also tell potential clients that they will be required to attend parenting classes (if children are involved). Moreover, the divorce judgment is often not the end of the case as circumstances can change for the divorced family with the passage of time. For instance, if children are involved, schedules for parenting agreements change and modifications may be needed. Spousal or child support may need to be modified after the divorce is finalized. Also, one party may need to be compelled by a contempt charge to fulfil their part of an agreement.
Both lawyers stressed the importance of choosing a family lawyer with care. It is almost like choosing a doctor or spouse; chemistry is key as you are trusting this lawyer with sensitive information as well as spending a great deal of time with this person.