By BECKY GILLETTE
Men can be at a disadvantage with it comes to divorce custody agreements and property settlements, says Joseph E. Cordell, co-founder and principal partner of Cordell & Cordell. He said that is why the law firm has come to specialize in representing men in divorce cases.
Cordell said in the past even though he had clients who were the better parent, they still couldn’t get across the finish line in the courts.
“The more frustrated I became, the more incentivized I was to help them,” Cordell said.
Cordell & Cordell, which bills itself as the largest family law firm catering to male clients in the world, is now opening a law office at 1000 Highway Colony Parkway, Suite 5203, Ridgeland. Cordell & Cordell CEO Scott Trout, said with Jackson one of the top 100 cities in the U.S., it was a logical step for them to open an office in the area.
“We had already been servicing some clients south of Memphis in Southaven, and felt there was a need elsewhere in Mississippi for our services,” Trout said. “We will have two attorneys servicing the needs of Mississippi clients.
Trout said their law firm sort of “fell into” specializing representing men in the early 1990s when they had a number of high profile matters representing fathers dealing with international custody disputes.
“We found that guys faced a much more uphill battle in their pursuit of custody and financial matters,” Trout said. “That is really what we saw. Guys didn’t have anyone who would stand up for their interests. For Cordell & Cordell, it evolved into we were getting more and more men coming to our firm, and we began to focus on representing guys in divorce.”
The law firm, however, does not exclusively represent male clients. About 5 percent of their clients are women, a lot of times referrals from former clients.
Although things have gradually been changing in family law, Trout said there can still be bias in favor of women in family court matters.
“You find pockets of gender stereotyping,” Trout said. “We tend to fall into old stereotypes that dad should work and mom should stay at home. Those rules have changed. Often both mom and dad work. There is a significant increase in the number of women breadwinners who are bringing in the majority of the income for the household. That is what has changed factually, so we want to break the stereotypes to meet facts.”
He said it is not unusual for courts to hold to old stereotypes that women are not making more than men, which is not true in many circumstances. That is coupled with the gender stereotype that men can’t be nurturers.
“But the courts have come a long way since we started this in the 1990s,” Trout said. “There has been a lot of positive movement. I think a lot is related to the attention we bring to help guys. We have a lot of material on our websites (cordellcordell.com, dadsdivorce.com and mensdivorce.com) that educate not just guys, but the public.”
Trout said that they don’t just focus on representing men, but being pro-family.
“There are studies that show that kids are far better in divorce when both parents are involved equally,” Trout said. “While there are cases where we are trying to get primary custody for guys, there are many other cases where we are just trying to keep both parents involved in their children’s lives.”
Joint custody can have its challenges. Trout said all kinds of variables affect a visitation schedule like distance between parents and their ability to communicate.
“That is what makes family law so unique,” Trout said. “Out of ten cases, you could have ten different factors affecting the schedule. It requires more attention by the practitioner and the judge to create a schedule that accomplishes the best interest of the child to maximum time with parents.
Trout said their representation of clients is also about education and information in their business assets and the property they have acquired because men face particular challenges not only in custody, but in property division, especially in light of the new tax law related to spousal support.
“The new tax law eliminates the deductibility of spousal support in divorce by the payor and removes the requirement of including it as income by the recipient,” Trout said. “This particular windfall for spousal support recipients creates an unexpected hardship for many guys who face the real likelihood of being obligated to pay spousal support. No longer will they receive the tax benefit of a net lower payment after tax benefits. Instead, what is ordered will be real/actual dollars to guys.”
Trout said now the challenge for practitioners in domestic relations, like Cordell & Cordell, is to create new negotiating opportunities and avenues to help offset the new dollars spent in spousal support.
“Particularly, attorneys will need to focus on better and more favorable property divisions to men facing divorce to offset the large loss of deducting spousal support,” he said. “For business owners, this is a very important opportunity to try and offset the loss of a tax deduction by focusing more on keeping more of what they have in assets.”
Cordell & Cordell now has 95 offices across the U.S. and in London, and more than 250 attorneys. For more information, call 866-323-7529.
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