I do not remember a time when I did not want to be a lawyer. Even before I knew what a lawyer was my family told me I would be one when I got older. I apparently argued relentlessly as a child and I always wanted to be right! My parents afforded me a good education and I was well suited for to the practice of law academically. My experiences in law school in Washington DC led me to pursue litigation in a smaller sized firm.
While I originally chose a career in litigation, circumstances brought me to family law and I discovered that I possessed both the personal and professional skills to help clients to determine and achieve objectives in this often emotionally charged area of the law. I was a criminal defense lawyer who represented a man who was charged after he discovered his wife with her paramour in the “act” in their marital residence. He shot the paramour five times in the groin, shot the phone (pre-cell phones), and shot the vehicles to disable them before he grabbed their children and vanished for two weeks. At the end of a two-day jury trial, the jury found him guilty of assault and battery and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. Elated at the results, he told me that he wanted me to represent him in his divorce and that began a long career in family law.
My Approach to a Case
My experiences in practice have taught me that every client has a story. They need to be listened to, validated, and given direction and help to reasonably determine their objectives. I try to be both empathetic and directional and encourage a partnership with the client where they are the experts of the facts and I am the expert of the law. Together we can achieve their reasonable objectives.
I want clients to be certain about what they want. I have been credited by some as saving their marriage just because I had them reflect on why they felt they needed my services. I am willing to refer people to other resources to try to resolve their issues without ending their marriage. At the same time, I want to reassure clients, once they have established reasonable objectives, through an often long and arduous process. I want to encourage resolution outside the courtroom, if possible, especially when there are minor children of the relationship. I want to understand the client’s story and help them through the process, but I will also be firm with them as necessary to help them attain their objectives. I do not tolerate conduct from clients which is harmful to their children or to meeting their reasonable objectives.
I like to think that I am a good listener and can be empathetic to all of my clients. I am also experienced enough to help my client define reasonable objectives in their case. I believe in preparation at every stage of a matter and I am not afraid to work hard to meet my client’s reasonable objectives. I seek to establish the facts from both sides’ perspective, and then analyze the facts in light of the law to help the client determine reasonable objectives. I will always attempt to resolve the case through negotiation, and sometimes mediation, if possible. If not, I prepare the case for trial, particularly in assisting the client to prepare for their testimony. I am a “less is more” litigator, trying to make the case as simple as possible for the judge to understand and seek to deliver the information necessary to achieve the client’s objectives. I prepare my defense as thoroughly as my offense. I believe my cross-examination skills are a unique strength to my trial presentation.
Areas of Practice
I handle all types of family law cases at all levels of the Virginia judicial system, from custody and support cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, to divorce cases in the Circuit Courts to appeals to the Virginia Court of Appeals. My practice includes litigation and mediation of divorce, property division, child custody and visitation, support, and international issues.
I measure my rate of success in my ability to achieve my client’s objectives. By helping the client understand the law and frame reasonable objectives, I can help them achieve their goals regardless of the process. I use my negotiation, mediation, and litigation skills to frame matters in a way that increases the client’s opportunity for success.
This has led to many accolades, the ultimate being receiving the Betty A. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar. To be recognized with such an honor by my peers is both humbling and a testament to years of hard work. Becoming a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers are true honors which I cherish. The latter has allowed me the opportunity to know and befriend the highest quality family lawyers across the U.S. and the world. These contacts allow me to assist my clients who may have legal issues involving other jurisdictions, both domestically and internationally.
Background and Family Life
I was born in a Brooklyn and grew up in Queens, NY. I am the product of Catholic education from grade school through college. My parents sacrificed to secure for me and my brother a good moral and academic foundation. They provided me the opportunity to succeed. I married a woman who I met on my first day of college. We have been married for 40 years this year and have raised four children. We have three grandsons.
My wife and I have been very involved in our church community over the years. We spent over 20 years of our marriage involved with Christian Family Movement, including many years in local and national leadership. I have been a member of the Knights of a Columbus since 1984 and have been involved in various service projects in both organizations. I have worked soup kitchens and run fundraisers. I have been involved in several political campaigns over the years, for both Democrats and Republicans.
My wife and I enjoy time spent with our adult children and grandsons, domestic and international travel, and time spent with our friends. I enjoy playing golf, smoking cigars, and drinking single malt scotches.
- B.A. in Government and Sociology, magna cum laude, from St. John’s University (New York), 1979
- J.D. from Washington College of Law, American University, 1982
- Interest-Based Negotiation and Mediation Skills for Collaborative Professionals (30 hours), Virginia, 2010
- Collaborative Process and Practice (11.5 hours), Bridgewater, Virginia, October 2008
- Three Day Core Interdisciplinary Team Training, Collaborative Divorce Team Trainings, LLC (17 hours), Roanoke, Virginia, September 2008
- Interest Based Negotiation: Harvard Project on Negotiation, 2006
- Fellow, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (2004 - present)
- Chapter Delegate (2012 - 2014)
- Member, Budget and Finance Committee (2014 - 2016)
- Member, Spousal Support Committee (2014 - 2016)
- Member, Legislation Committee (2013 - 2018)
- Member, Membership Committee (2013 - 2018)
- Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Past-President (2020-2021)
- President (2018-2019)
- President-Elect (2015 - 2017)
- Vice-President (2013 - 2015)
- Secretary-Treasurer (2011 - 2013)
- Membership Chairman (2008 - 2011)
- Board of Managers (2007 - 2010)
- Fellow, International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, USA Chapter (2012 - present)
- President-Elect (2020-2021)
- First Vice-President (2018-2020)
- Vice-President (2015 - 2017)
- Board of Managers (2014 - 2015)
- Member, Executive Committee (2014-present)
- Virginia State Bar
- Chairman, Family Law Section (2009 - 2010)
- Board of Governors, Family Law Section (2004 - 2011)
- Mid-Year Seminar Committee (2009 - 2012)
- Virginia Family Law Coalition
- Shenandoah Valley Family Law Bar Association
- President (2011 - 2013)
- Vice President (2007 - 2011)
- Continuing Legal Education Chair (2007 - 2010)
- Collaborative Professionals of the Northern Shenandoah Valley
- Winchester-Frederick County Bar Association
Awards / Accolades
- Betty A. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award (Virginia State Bar Family Law Section) 2019
- Fellow, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Fellow, International Academy of Family Lawyers
- Virginia Super Lawyers (2006-present)
- The Big Picture (a video project of the Virginia State Bar) Episode 7 (2009)
- 1999 Family of the Year – Virginia State Council, Knights of Columbus
- 1st runner-up 1999 International Family of the Year – Knights of Columbus
- “Temporary Absence”: A Continuing Obstacle to Clarity in Child Custody Jurisdiction. Virginia Lawyer, Vol. 60, No. 7 (February 2012)
- When Drafting Contracts, Consider Family Law Consequences. Virginia Lawyer, Vol. 58, No. 1 (June/July 2009)
Professional Speaking Events
- Education Program, USA and Canadian Chapters Joint Meeting, International Academy of Family Lawyers (Chair and Moderator, San Francisco, 2019)
- An Attorney’s Perspective on: Mediating Family Law Cases; Writing Effective Agreements; Avoiding UPL, Mediation Training Coalition, LLC (2018)
- Revisionist History: Controversy, Celebration & Context: A Global Perspective, International Academy of Family Lawyers (Moderator, Savannah, 2018)
- When Law, Psychology and Religion Collide: A Critical Discussion of a New Tennessee Code Title 63, Chapter 22 – Broader Implications and International Views, International Academy of Family Lawyers (Panelist, Nashville, 2017)
- International Law Issues, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Panelist, Chicago, 2015)
- Attacking and Defending Premarital and Marital Agreements, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Cancún, 2014)
- Waste Issues in Light of Wright v. Wright, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (2013)
- Approaches to Prosecuting a Divorce Case in Virginia, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (2012)
- Ethics – Technology & Family Law, State of the Family 2011, The National Center for Family Law (2011)
- Using Collaborative Skills in Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation and in Litigation, Virginia Bar Association (2010)
- 26th Annual Advanced Family Law Seminar, Virginia CLE (Moderator, 2010)
- Divorce Law in Virginia (presentation to Virginia General Assembly, House Courts of Justice Committee (January 2010)
- When Lawyers Divorce, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (2009)
- Judges' Panel: The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Family Law, Virginia CLE (Moderator and Author of Hypotheticals, 2009)
- Family Law Matters: When Family Law Intersects with Other Practice Areas, (Including Ethics), Virginia State Bar Mid-Year Seminar (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2008)
- Family Law: Performance Based Trial Advocacy, 27th Annual Family Law Seminar, Virginia CLE (2008)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution, Shenandoah Valley Family Law Bar Association (2008)
- Top Tactics in Using Vocational Experts, 23rd Annual Advanced Family Law Seminar, Virginia CLE (2007)
- Protective Orders, Jurisdictional Issues and New Developments in Family Law, 26th Annual Family Law Seminar, Virginia CLE (Moderator, plus Insights from the Bench, 2007)
- Domestic Partnerships in Virginia, 22nd Annual Advanced Family Law Seminar, Virginia CLE (2006)
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Lay Advisor, Committee on Marriage and Family Life 2003-2005)
- Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocese of Arlington, 2009-2011
- Christian Family Movement (USA), President 2001-2005