Arlington, VA—Over forty years of practicing law have given divorce attorney Jim Korman a unique perspective on trends in marriage and divorce.
“Years ago, there was a stigma attached to divorce cases,” Korman recalled in a recent interview with laws.com. “There is far less of one, now. Another thing that has changed is that fathers are now more involved in the custody of minor children.”
Some time ago, Virginia state law actually stated a preference for mothers in custody disputes when children were very young, but Korman explains that this so-called “tender years” doctrine has since been replaced by more egalitarian laws.
Going to trial in divorce proceedings is far less common today, and Korman says that it's generally an option to pursue only if all other options have failed. “Litigation is uncertain,” he explains. “You don't know who the presiding judge who will be. Beyond that, you don't know how he or she will feel that day, and the judge does not know your history. By going to court, you have them make decisions that will affect the rest of your life.”
This can often have unintended consequences, like divorce judgments in which both parties are dissatisfied. “A judge cannot saw a house in half and will order that the house be sold and proceeds divided between the parties,” says Korman. “This kind of situation can be catastrophic for kids and parents who now have to pick up and move their life when a properly mediated session could have avoided this kind of trouble.”
Finding an attorney, according to Korman, is a matter of finding a good fit—and that's something that he says simply can't be done by just doing research. “You can't select a lawyer by looking at a website or some printed page. There has to be personal compatibility,” he says. “If you narrow it down via online search, then you have to meet them in person to see who you'll have confidence in and rapport with.”
Often, Korman believes that people are best served by seeing a divorce attorney before they're certain that divorce is imminent. “You make the worst decisions when your emotions are at their highest. People who come and see me are grownups. They will come to me and talk to me to understand the breadth of the law and the rights that they have. Before going ahead with a divorce, you should exhaust all reasonable efforts to preserve the marriage. But life isn’t always plan A. Sometimes you have to go with plan B. My job is to try to get my clients to the best possible plan B.”
Pre-nuptial agreements are another reason that clients come to see Korman and the other attorneys at his firm. “There are a number of things that pre-nuptial agreements can resolve,” he says. “Assets that parties bring in will remain separate during a divorce. There are ways you can engineer that without a pre-nup, but a pre-nup makes it absolutely clear. Some can even take care of spousal support.”
Still, there are some limits to what a pre-nuptial agreement can do. Korman explains: “While a pre-nup covers most things, it does not sort out issues relating to children. You cannot enter a binding agreement when it comes to kids.”