For a long time I thought of myself as a unicorn. Solo parent of three kids five and under. Divorced. Single. Attorney. Entrepreneur. Law firm owner. Employer. Lessee of car. Nursing mother. Vegan. Lover of coffee. Player of pretend on the weekend, reader of legal treatises during the week. It’s not the life I always imagined I would have, but it is a rich existence.
The shortest answer to why I practice family law is, as I mentioned, that I am divorced myself. However, there are lots of divorced people out there who don’t practice family law, and lots of family law attorneys who are not divorced. The real answer is that I believe that family law is important and that great advocacy in family law is both an art and a science.
A pep talk for the miserable
If you are miserable in your marriage but are nevertheless feeling afraid of divorce, I’ve been there. If you have had to, or need to, start life over due to a ruptured relationship, I’ve been there. If you are not the primary breadwinner and you have young children and you are worried about your financial future, I’ve been there. If you don’t understand what your life experience adds up to in the eyes of the court, I’ve been there. If you feel like your life is hanging in the balance of how the court will view your role in the marriage, I’ve been there. If you are out of good reasons to stay married, I’ve been there. If you are scared anyway, I’ve been there.
When I was going through my divorce, I had three children under kindergarten age, no home, and no job. I had no idea what the legal backdrop to my goals and needs were. I had to start over. I landed on my parents’ doorstep, children in hand, and worked my way forward from there. It was a slow process. I have a firsthand understanding of how scary and disruptive divorce is.
If you have consulted and even hired an attorney, but don’t feel like that attorney understands your case, I’ve been there. If you have an attorney who doesn’t seem to believe you, I’ve been there, too.
Great family law advocacy is both art and science.
I come to this work because I had fantastic and compassionate legal help while my divorce was pending, and it changed my life. I still shudder to think what might have happened if I had remained a client of the first attorney I hired. He was experienced and capable, but did not believe what I had to tell him about my marriage. Because my future depended on his advocacy and I felt that I needed to advocate for myself with him, I didn’t trust him to be the champion of my story. I am glad every day that I followed my gut.
I have tremendous compassion for my clients because I have walked in their shoes. I have felt frustration with the process. I have been uncertain of the outcome. I have even been uncertain of the possible outcomes. I also understand that the right attorney is just that: the right fit for that client. The attorney-client relationship is one of trust. That trust should be mutual. An experienced and knowledgable attorney is not a one-size fits all solution for all clients. I have watched very seasoned attorneys mishandle an issue and overlook advantageous points of law because they are not adequately invested in their client’s case. For that reason, I make it my mission to be dedicated to my client’s interests, compassionate towards my clients, professional and ethical in my practice, and capable of great advocacy.
I also believe that as a culture, we have divorce all wrong. There was a point in my life when I felt a lot of shame around divorce. It felt like a failure to me. I thought that it would mean something about me, something bad – that I was unlovable, incapable of love, and incapable of solving a problem I wanted to solve. Being on the other side, I can tell you that it does mean something about me. It means a lot of things about me. It means that I am a problem solver. It means that I can see things for what they are and not what I wish they were. It means that I am able to prioritize my interests and live with the consequences of my choices. It means that I can make difficult decisions. Most of all – and this is really important – it has made me into a principled person. I am a better parent and a better attorney, friend, entrepreneur, and person because I decided, and keep deciding, that something was more important to me than someone. The truth about divorce is that, while it is painful and disruptive, it is the right solution for some marriages. I feel very proud to serve clients who are bravely rebuilding their lives in the presence of great difficulty.
If you need to discuss ending your marriage with an attorney, set up a free phone consultation here.
About the Author: Elizabeth Dann, Esq. is a family law attorney practicing in Natick, Massachusetts. She is a divorced, single mother of three children who loves soy cappuccinos, plant-based food, and karaoke.