The most defining moment in my career thus far was when, in law school, I decided I wanted to focus my legal career on family law because of the challenges it presents and the fact that it is an area where I could be an effective counselor for my clients. Family law litigation quite often touches on other areas of the law, allowing me to best utilize my diverse skill and knowledge. I view my practice as helping my clients through what will likely be one of the most difficult periods in their life in a way that allows them to effectively start the new chapter.
I have been involved in the Court system at every single level, having testified in hundreds of cases before I became a lawyer. I understand how to strategically position a case to maximize the client’s advantage, read and react to a courtroom to adapt to a changing trial environment, and I know what Judges find persuasive and what they don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time on.
Cases routinely can be narrowed down to issues where there is a real contest, either in fact or in law, and the superfluous noise which can lead to added expense and conflict. Telling the difference is only possible when an attorney has both the legal knowledge and practical experience to accurately access a case. With my 20 years of experience in family law, new twists may pop up in cases, but I have usually encountered a similar experience in a prior case and can adapt and address any surprises.
My Approach to a Case
Though all legal matters are unique, every case requires the same level of preparation and particularly difficult cases require more time. Case preparation is rarely a linear process and I try to start by determining the client’s view of the facts, what an impartial view of the facts may be, and what I can actually prove. I often use civil procedure to narrow the issues in a case and try to involve the client in the information gathering process so they understand why the information is needed and why it may be important to them and their case. The next step is to gather evidence and figure out ways to limit damaging facts. Finally, I’ll sit down with the client and critical witnesses to help them prepare for testimony.
I try to relate to clients in a manner in which they can understand complex and sometimes counterintuitive legal concepts and how these concepts might affect their case. I approach cases by making sure my client has a realistic expectation of what the case results may be. I try to stress that the legal system is not designed to heal the emotional wounds that regularly happen to people going through a family law case and I possess a unique skill of being calm during a crisis through situational assessment, multi-variate planning, and adaptability. This allows me to see the various paths through the chaos of a case and pick one that best serves my client’s goals, which, through a process of constant reevaluation, allows for improvisation and adaptation of the chosen path.
My job is to manage my client’s expectations and help them get to a resolution, either through negotiation or trial. If the client has to go through a hearing or trial, my role is to first prepare the client to be able to tell their truth without being intimidated by, or lost in, the court process. An equally important role is to help the client gather the information needed to fully present their case in a way that leads the Court to our desired outcomes.
Areas of Practice
I handle most any type of family law case in both the Circuit Court and in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. These matters include divorces, property distribution cases, support cases, child custody and visitation cases, adoptions, paternity cases, and cases involving allegations of abuse.
I grew up living in Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley attending High School in Shenandoah County and in McLean, Virginia.
- J.D., cum laude, from George Mason University School of Law, May, 1999
- B.S. in Economics from R.B. Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, June, 1987
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Member 2013-Present
- Winchester-Frederick County Bar Association, Member 2000-Present
- Bench-Bar Committee Chairman, June 2007 to May 2011
- Virginia State Bar, Family Law Section Board of Governors
- Chairman 2017 to 2018
- CLE Committee 2013 to 2016
- Virginia Family Law Coalition
- Ex Officio Member December 2017 to February 2019
- Winchester Fire and Rescue Foundation
- Board Member 2014 to 2018,
- Chief Justice’s Study Group on Expanding the Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of Virginia
- Workgroup on Guardian ad litem Practice, Court Improvement Program, Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia
- Shenandoah Valley Family Law Bar Association
- Continuing Legal Education Program Chairman, 2009 to 2012
- Collaborative Professionals of the Northern Shenandoah Valley
- “Is a Shot in the Arm, a Shot in the Foot for a Custody Case?” Virginia Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Summer 2015)
- Co-author “What Do You Mean It’s Not the Child’s Money? College Accounts in Equitable Distribution” Virginia Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer 2013)
- Co-author “Temporary Absence: A Continuing Obstacle to Clarity in Child Custody Jurisdiction”, Virginia Lawyer, Vol. 60, No. 7 (February 2012)
- Out of the Mouth of Babies: Admitting Statements of Children Alleging Sex Offenses, Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting, Virginia Beach, 2018
- Best Practices for the New Guardian ad litem, Virginia State Bar, Statewide Webinar, 2016
- Family Law Issues Impacting Children of Same-Sex Marriage, AAML, VTLA, and University of Richmond Annual Divorce Practice Seminar, Richmond, Virginia 2015
- Adam and Steve, Anna and Eve: Domestic Partnerships in Virginia after Perry and Windsor, Virginia State Bar Mid-Year Seminar, Paris, France, 2013
- Ethically Dealing with Difficult Clients in Divorce Matters, Virginia CLE, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2013
- UCCJEA – Jurisdiction and Finding the Home State, Shenandoah Valley Family Law Bar Association, 2011
- Creative Solutions for Equitable Distribution of an Underwater House, Shenandoah Valley Family Law Bar Association, 2010