The 7 Step Guide to Vetting Your Family Law Attorney

The 7 Step Guide to Vetting Your Family Law Attorney

Finding the Right Family Law Attorney for YOU

Choosing the right attorney for YOU is a critical decision. And unfortunately, you’re most likely making this decision under stressful and emotional circumstances…or you wouldn’t need a lawyer.

First finding and then vetting lawyers can be a long process but your due diligence will pay long term life dividends. Bottom line, finding an attorney that is your advocate and that meets YOUR needs as a client is absolutely critical.

I keep emphasizing the word “you” because your needs as a client will always be different than any other client that came before you. You need to find a family law attorney that meets your needs.

To aid you in your search for the right family law attorney, we recommend you review the following items to determine if an attorney is the right fit for you.

#1 Family Law Specialty and Passion

This may seem basic, but you MUST work with an attorney that specializes in the area of law you need. This does not mean that they simply list the fact that they practice “family law” on their website. When you review the attorney’s digital presence, look for signs that they are experts in family law. One great place to look is at their social media and blog. Are they thought leaders in family law?

Working with an attorney that is a specialist and expert in family law will help you get the results you desire. Think about it…practice makes perfect and repetition has allowed a specialist to hone their craft. And although specialists may cost more, they will be more efficient with your time and will have a better chance of achieving favorable outcomes.

At our law firm, we only practice family and matrimonial law. That’s because our passion lies in helping families overcome some of the worst obstacles in life. Make sure the attorneys you vet can say the same.

#2 Cost of an Attorney

How much you pay for your lawyer is an important variable in choosing the right lawyer. Generally, the cost will differ between firms depending on whether the firm and its attorneys are specialists in family law. If you go to a firm that “churns and burns” clients through the doors, you’re most likely to find that the hourly cost is lower. They make their money on volume.

Niche practitioners, although generally more expensive will be more efficient and will achieve better results than a generalist firm (see above section). The cost you pay for your lawyer can range from $300 – $1000/ hour depending on the firm, location, and who you are working with in the firm. If you are working with a partner (who has a ton of experience) you’re going to pay more per hour. If you work with an associate, you’ll see a lower cost per hour.

#3 Experience in Family Law

The number of years that an attorney has been practicing family law is absolutely critical to look at. They may bill themselves as a specialist in family law, but you need to look at the number of years they’ve actually been litigating. You can find this information on

Experienced family law attorneys have simply seen more. They’ve failed. They’ve overcome. They’re wiser to the court, it’s process, and the tactics used by other attorneys. Although you may save money using a less experienced attorney, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice quality for price. For some, it may not be an option, but if you’re serious about winning your case, finding an attorney with at least 8 years of experience in family law is crucial.

#4 Supporting Team

What does the firm structure look like? Is it a single attorney? Or do they have a support system internally of other lawyers, paralegals, and business managers? I’m not necessarily saying bigger is better but having a team to support you as an attorney can greatly increase efficiency and efficacy of litigation.

Lawyers talk. They strategize. Lawyers are problem solvers and as you’ve heard…”two heads are better than one”.

#5 Customer Service and Availability

You’re seeking legal counsel because you’re going through a tough time in your life. It could be divorce, child custody, or an alimony fight. No matter the issue, always ask your attorney about availability.

Are they going to be available when you need them? No matter the day or time? Sometimes you may not need to talk to your attorney, but you may still have questions. Do they have a business manager that you can call to ask those questions?

Although availability may not seem like a critical aspect of your relationship with your attorney, being able to call your attorney or an individual at the firm that is representing you when you have a need is priceless.

#6 Attorney Personality Traits

Remember, when you first meet with your attorney, that this is an interview for them. You are the hiring manager. Part of your job is to vet the personality and professional traits of your attorney. What you look for and need in your attorney may be different from another, but generally the following traits are critical:

  1. Articulate – Can your attorney clearly articulate what they think in a simple and easy to understand way?
  2. Confident – When your attorney speaks, are they confident in what they are saying? Do they make direct eye contact?
  3. Thoughtful – Does your attorney give thought to what they say before speaking? Or do they shoot from the hip?
  4. Listener – When you speak, does your attorney listen?
  5. Creative – Does your attorney provide creative insights or solutions to your situation?

#7 Attorney and Law Firm Reviews

What are others saying about the attorney you are considering working closely with? Reviews are a great way to get insights and to learn from others. Generally, reviews are a good indicator on whether an attorney is a good fit for you. Places you can find reviews of your attorney include the below.

Make the Best Decision for YOU

Choosing the right attorney for you is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. So, take your time, ask the right questions, and grade you lawyer on these 7 criteria. If you intentionally do this, you’ll see the cream rise to the top. And you’ll undoubtedly make the best decision for YOU!


– Mia Poppe

Interstate & International Equitable Distribution Issues

Interstate & International Equitable Distribution Issues

Can You Go to Court in New York State to Divide Property?

Clients frequently call the Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC, inquiring whether, after they are divorced in another state or country, they can go to court in New York State to divide property.

The answer, generally, is yes.

By statute in New York, following a decree or judgment of divorce in another state or a foreign country, one or both parties can bring an action for equitable distribution in New York. This usually happens when only one party appeared or participated in the divorce action outside of New York (called an “ex parte divorce”).

For example, in the past it was not uncommon for one party to move to Nevada and obtain a Nevada divorce, ending the marriage, without resolving “ancillary issues” such as division of property, alimony (maintenance), child support or child custody.  Either party could then pursue ancillary relief in New York, provided that New York had “jurisdiction,” or power under the federal and state constitutions, and New York state statutes, to hear the matrimonial action.

Jurisdiction is proper in New York if the court finds that the state has sufficient connection with the parties and the marriage to have an interest in ruling on the dispute.

In deciding whether New York jurisdiction is proper over the marriage, the court analyzes such factors as the past and current residence of the parties, their residence during the marriage, and whether the marriage was solemnized in New York, or the conflict between the parties that led to the divorce arose in New York.  The equitable distribution claim will be time-barred six years after the granting of the divorce.

Geographic Location of the Property

When New York takes jurisdiction over an equitable distribution suit, the New York court can divide property no matter where the property is located. The court issues an order which binds the parties with respect to their marital property, including assets held in a foreign country. The courts of the foreign country will usually honor the disposition by the New York court.

Where both parties appear and participate in the matrimonial suit in another state or foreign country (in other words, where the divorce is not ex parte) the other domestic or foreign court will usually divide the property, and when doing so will decide what law, whether the law of New York, or another jurisdiction, should apply to the case.  Sometimes parties can simply agree on the law to be applied.

Full Faith & Credit / Comity

Where the parties jointly divorce in another jurisdiction, but choose to have a New York court rule on equitable distribution, the foreign court in its judgment or decree should state that it has declined jurisdiction over the property division. Otherwise, under a 2003 decision of the Court of Appeals (the highest court of the state of New York), New York courts will refuse to address the property distribution if that issue could have been presented in the foreign action that decided the divorce. 

Where both parties participate in the divorce in another jurisdiction, and the court rules on the ancillary issues, New York will usually decline to address those issues.  The decisions of the courts of another state are usually given “full faith and credit” in New York (or whatever state to which the party or parties choose to submit their ancillary claim) under the federal constitution of the United States, and New York will only very rarely disturb the decision of the other state’s courts.  Foreign countries are usually given “comity:” their matrimonial decrees will be honored and enforced, unless the foreign decree for some reason seriously offends a significant policy of the state of New York.

The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates is experienced in handling cases involving interstate and international Family Law issues, and will be happy to handle your interstate or international matrimonial dispute, as well as any other aspect of Family Law in which you may be involved.

Five Collateral Benefits Of Divorce

Your divorce is not necessarily the end, it could be your beginning.

Personal Note:

Prefacing this post with, divorce is not easy. I have chosen to work in this profession for many reasons and of the thousands of divorces I have represented, many if not the majority of my clients move on even better than before. No matter where you are in the divorce cycle, if you’re just beginning or it has been dragged out in the court system, your life will move on for the better.  Below are a few anecdotal benefits I have witnessed both from my divorce and of my clients. Keep your head up, it will get better!

Five Collateral Benefits of Divorce

Recently, during a cardio kickboxing class, I noticed that I can actually land a mean uppercut, followed by a quick, and powerful hook.  While in pursuit of a stronger, and more efficient cardiovascular system, I received the collateral benefit of developing real punching skills.  Divorce too, has collateral benefits.

While I am a divorce practitioner, I am not “pro divorce”.  I believe in marriage, and as a mother of eight, I certainly believe in family. As a New York City divorce attorney, I receive the collateral benefit of seeing that circumstances that came to destroy my clients’ lives, like divorce, can and often are the stairway to their new and improved life.  Despite the difficulty of divorce, more often than not, my former clients contact me to provide updates on the collateral benefits of having gone through a divorce. My clients’ cite many collateral benefits achieved in the aftermath of their divorce, following are five (5) benefits often cited by my clients:

  1. Free to be me
  2. New and fulfilling romantic relationship
  3. Feeling years younger
  4. Enjoying parenthood
  5. New physique, and new wardrobe

If your marriage was going poorly for a while, divorce allows you to not only leave behind your partner but leave behind your old self: the person that was unhappy, who fought, didn’t feel put together, etc. Being single again opens you up to new experiences, and you might find that it helps you with all sorts of things you didn’t see as directly related to the divorce, like putting together a new wardrobe.

Divorces can be long, tough, and draining, but once they’re over, you may as well reap the collateral benefits of a divorce: a new you.

10 Tips On How To Choose A New York City Divorce Attorney

Personal Note

I uprooted my life, quit my job as a Senior Business Leader for Bank of America, walked into New York and started my own incredibly successful Family Law Firm In New York City. It was not easy. If there is one thing I learned from the 11 years of practicing Family Law in New York City is there is nothing like in the world  that compares to New York City. It’s filled with the most diverse group of people, with the most unique set of needs and a unique set of challenges which you will only find here.

10 Tips On How To Choose A New York City Divorce Attorney

By: Mia Poppe

When grappling with a divorce, selecting the right divorce lawyer is crucial in helping you obtain a favorable outcome.

The following are 10 tips to consider when choosing a divorce lawyer.

(1) Decide on your top 2 – 4 desired outcomes and write them down. Before meeting with any lawyer, determine and write down 2-4 desired outcomes desire out of the conclusion of your matrimonial action.

(2) Conduct a basic Internet “Plain English” search on the law regarding each of your outcomes. 

A simple Google search can provide you with useful information on key issues to consider during a divorce. Additionally, doing a simple Internet search can give you ideas of topics to discuss while interviewing your potential divorce lawyer.

For example, you can search: “can I have my divorce legal fees paid by my spouse?” or “in a divorce can I keep my house until my kids graduate”.  You likely will not get a direct hit, but you will gain information that will assist you when you begin interviewing lawyers.

(3) Interview multiple lawyers.  Using the information obtained from your online search, and your 2-4 desired outcomes, schedule initial consultations to interview several experienced lawyers. During your consultation with each attorney determine:

(a)   Whether they seem to understand the nuances of your case,

(b)  Whether there is interpersonal chemistry between you and your potential lawyer,

©   Hourly rates / costs associated with your potential divorce action, and

(d)  Whether the attorney has a strong support team.

A word on chemistry: The relationship between a lawyer and client is a very personal and even intimate one.  In the course of a divorce, lawyers will get to know, or should know, a lot about their clients. For these reasons make sure to hire a lawyer, who is firstly qualified and experienced, but also someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your personal details.

(4) Figure out what you can and cannot afford.  Don’t be shy when it comes to discussing payment terms and amounts.  It is also important to remember that your divorce is not a used car purchase; this is not a good time to bargain shop.

(5) Ask for references and or read online reviews.  When considering hiring a lawyer, make sure to search for client reviews online to

Frequently, former satisfied clients would offer to discuss their experience with potential clients.  While a lawyer cannot disclose client lists, or client information, they can, with express permission, connect potential clients with former clients.

(6) Find a lawyer whose main core practice is matrimonial or family law.  In New York, using a generalist may invite more costs.

(7) Refer often to your 2-4 desired outcomes.  During your interview and during your representation (once you hire a lawyer), refer often to your desired outcomes to make sure that

(8) Take time to think about it.  Retaining a divorce lawyer is a big decision.  After meeting with some potential lawyers, don’t be afraid of taking time to think about your options before making a final decision.

(9) Consider taking a trusted confidant to meet with the attorneys you interview.  Remember, if you bring a third party into your consultation, you are waiving privilege of the discussion held in the presence of that person.  Make sure you are comfortable with this third party before you bring them into your consultation.

(10) Trust your gut.  In addition to a following a thoughtful rational process, it is essential to trust your gut in making the final decision for selecting a lawyer for your divorce.

How To Lose A Guy In 15 Days- Exclusive Occupancy in Same Sex Divorce Proceedings

A Personal Note

“There have been a few pinnacle times throughout the United States judicial system when legislation has been passed that has dramatically freed an oppressed group of people, and the New York City Marriage Equality Act passed on June 24, 2011 is one of those. I am both excited and honored to represent same sex couples and their unique legal needs. To learn more about my firms Sam Sex Family & Matrimonial practice click the link”.

How To Lose a Guy in 15 Days- Exclusive Occupancy In Same Sex Divorce Proceedings

By: Mia Poppe

“This is not the precedent that I want to set for my community,” stated my client, Dan Ragone (@danragone), the “monied” spouse in a same sex divorce.  Honorable Laura Drager of the New York County Supreme Court replied, “You’re not the first.”

In this same sex divorce action, Mia Poppe, Esq. (@miapoppe_esq), of the Law Firm of Shaw & Associates, P.C., successfully obtained exclusive occupancy of the marital residence in 15 days.[1]

Less than six years after New York’s passing of The Marriage Equality Act, same sex couples are divorcing and facing the same issues as traditional couples.  One of the more commonly faced issues is Exclusive occupancy. Exclusive occupancy (See: Exclusive Occupancy Defined) is a tough and critical part of divorce.

Under New York State law, you can’t lock your spouse out, or otherwise prevent him or her from residing in the home. The two tried and true pathways to getting exclusive occupancy are (1) domestic strife or violence, and (2) the establishment of an alternate residence. (Factors Considered in Exclusive Use and OccupancyDomestic Strife or Violence in Exclusive Occupancy and Alternative Residence in Exclusive Occupancy).

In sum, many couples, for economic reasons, are forced to live together during the entire pendency of their divorce proceedings.  In New York, Kings, Queens, or Bronx counties, this likely means living together for 18 months or more, while waiting for either a judge’s signature on a judgment of divorce, or your spouse’s signature on a settlement agreement containing a move-out provision.

Four (4) Steps towards exclusive occupancy in a same sex divorce:

(1) Hire a qualified matrimonial lawyer, with experience in same sex divorces.

(2) Avoid domestic strife or even the appearance of domestic strife.

(3) Understand that settlement means that both parties are settling for less than what they deserve.

(4) If you are the “monied” spouse, be willing to offer payment in exchange for a quick vacancy by your spouse.

Mia Poppe, Esq., and The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates are able to assist you in addressing the specific issues involved in your same sex divorce matter or gay marriage and nuptial agreements.  Please contact the Firm to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your same sex divorce issues.