I hadn’t hit the steps of my office on the way back from a speaking engagement before the phone rang with a resulting referral.
My speech addressed the intersection of bankruptcy and family law. What a fruitful pairing.
While my presentation to a bar section of family lawyers was entitled When Worlds Collide, it could have been Vinegar & Soda, or Matches & Paper.
When the two intersect, the interaction is chemical and startling.
Even if you aren’t ready to face a room full of other lawyers with prickly facts and complex questions, mastering the family law issues in bankruptcy is an essential step to broadening the range of clients you can serve well.
What you need to know
Create a chart of family law issues of the divorce issues
- Division of property
- Non support debts owed by spouse to spouses
- Marital debts owed to third parties
Then for each of the divorce concepts, look at bankruptcy concepts:
- Property of the estate
- Priority for payment of claims
You can see the number of different combinations of issues. Then add that the result of your analysis may be different depending on whether the divorce is anticipated, pending, or concluded. Is your mind throbbing yet?
The family law/bankruptcy intersection also highlights the role of state law. State law controls the characterization of the property that comes into the bankruptcy estate. So, you may get different answers to any fact pattern depending on whether you are in a community property state, an equitable division state, or a state that recognizes tenancies by the entirities.
The take away
The legal market cannot support for the long haul the number of lawyers who have flocked to bankruptcy. If you expect to survive and thrive, you need to expand your skill set so that you can take on more complex cases. Family law, along with small business cases and tax issues, are the sub specialities that will grow your practice.
The second point is that family law can be complex. Don’t plunge in without adequate thought, and line up a mentor, an experienced lawyer on whom you can call for a second opinion.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.