The Evolving Landscape of Family Law

​A roundtable discussion with the founders of one of California’s preeminent divorce firms, Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers, LLP.

Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers

Sean Stonefield

October 21, 2016 12:00 AM

With more than 100 years of combined legal experience,
the founders of Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers—Lisa Helfend Meyer, Doreen Marie Olson, Dana Lowy, and Felicia R. Meyers—are a force to be reckoned with in the area of family law. They recently sat down with Best Lawyers for a candid conversation about their work in the field and the most pressing issues facing family law today.

As family law strategists and trial attorneys who have worked in this field for decades, what’s different now versus 20 years or even 10 years ago?

Lisa Helfend Meyer: There has always been a great need for family law attorneys, given that more than 50 percent of the population gets divorced. In recent years, that need has only continued to grow, with custody cases involving all different kinds of families and the legalization of same-sex marriage increasing the population of people who require our services.

Doreen Marie Olson: I think in the past family law was seen as the ugly stepchild area of law—as a bleak field to practice in, or even as an area lacking in sophistication. But in truth, it encompasses all aspects of law, and it’s only increasing in its complexity.

Dana Lowy: Many of the family law cases that we see now involve complicated and serious issues, whether they’re substance abuse problems or custody arrangements for children with special needs.

Has that complexity and also the sensitivity of these cases affected the approach you take in your practice?

LHM: First, we recognize that there are no garden-variety solutions to these matters. You have to consider both the facts and the personalities involved, and come up with novel solutions, because a strategy that works for one person might not work for someone else.

DMO: One of the unique aspects of our practice is that we integrate the expertise of different professionals to help in the process, such as mental health professionals, tax and estate planning experts, and forensic accountants. It’s a holistic approach, and I think it differentiates us from many law firms.

Felicia R. Meyers: Our approach benefits our clients, because often in cases with complicated issues, the court might not know what to do, so then it becomes incumbent on the family law practitioners to propose creative and practical solutions for the court.

Is that common, for the court to rely on the attorneys for guidance?

DL: Increasingly, yes; as more judicial officers are rotated in and out of the family law department, there’s a higher chance of having a family law judge who just started from traffic or criminal court, and who may not have an expertise in these particular sophisticated issues. That’s why doing your homework
on the presiding judge is so important.

FRM: It’s also why in high-asset cases where clients can afford it, many choose to retain private judges, because with a private judge it’s a much more efficient process, and clients are guaranteed to have a judge who is experienced in family law.

Have you found that clients are more interested in alternative resolution methods, and when do you recommend that option?

LHM: When prospective clients call, they already have the word mediation in their vocabulary; but in family law, there’s many ways to mediate a case, so our first step is usually determining what mediation means to them and suggesting the best approach based upon their specific needs.

DMO: We also strive to educate clients about their options. Often, people will call and say, “My spouse suggested mediation.” But mediation isn’t for everybody, and especially in cases involving domestic violence, traditional mediation—where you have to be in the same room as your spouse and there is an imbalance in financial power—might not be the right approach.

DL: Everything ultimately comes down to communication, which is why we make a point of listening to clients, keeping them in the loop, and empowering them to make decisions. This is a practice built on relationships, and we’ve found that taking a team approach is the most effective way to make a difference.

Is that what you’ve enjoyed the most about working in this area—building those relationships?

FRM: With family law, you’re playing a pivotal role in someone’s life, so we definitely get a lot of satisfaction from representing clients through a very difficult time in their lives.

LHM: As long as we can improve our clients’ lives, that’s all that matters.

Related Articles

The Top 7 Things to Know Before Filing for Divorce

by Best Lawyers

Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations when filing for divorce. Here are 7 things you should know.

Two golden wedding bands with a crack down the middle

Split Decisions

by Jonathan Merel

Divorce is inevitably fraught with a torrent of emotions on both sides. Don’t let this occlude your ability to plan rationally and dispassionately to ensure as smooth a process as possible. Here are five common pitfalls to avoid.

Two people standing on either side of a heart made out of curving roads

What If Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Had a Premarital Agreement?

by John M. Goralka

Oh, the gritty details we’re learning from the latest court battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. This unfortunate airing of dirty laundry may have been avoided with a prenup. Should you think about getting one yourself?

What If Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Had Prenup?

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers: Family Law Publication

by Best Lawyers

Featuring the top legal talent in Family Law and Trusts & Estates.

Announcing Best Lawyers Family Law 2022

Crossing the Line

by Joseph Trotti

Divorce can be difficult, complicated and emotionally exhausting. Divorcing across state lines ups the jurisdictional complexity significantly.

Jurisdiction and Divorce Across State Lines

Trouble at Home

by Brittney M. Miller and James J. Vedder

Decisions about custody and parenting time after a separation or divorce are never simple. Family violence of any kind makes the process all the more complex—and the victim isn’t always the beneficiary.

How Domestic Violence Complicates Custody

Prenuptial Peril

by Laura Wheatman Hill

Prenups aren’t always bulletproof, but there’s hope if you end up exposed in a divorce.

Why Your Prenup Might Not Save You

My Husband Didn’t Want to Stay Married…But He Didn’t Want a Divorce

by Jennifer Billock

Patience—and the law—prevails when an uncooperative partner avoids divorce proceedings.

Divorcing an Uncooperative Partner

My Lawyer Failed Me as an Advocate in My Parents’ Divorce

by Rebecca Rush

Here’s how to ensure your children are respected during a custody battle.

Representing Children in a Divorce

Marriage, Mortgages, and Millennials

by Angelica Rolong Cormier

More and more couples nowadays are cohabitating before marriage. But how does reimbursement claims work if a divorce happens?

Reimbursement Claims for Properties During a

What Happens to Credit Card Debt When I Get a Divorce?

by Hossein Berenji

In a community property state like California, credit card debt may be shared between partners.

Credit Card Debt After Divorce

New Year Ushers in New Formulas for Calculating Maintenance Payments in Divorce Proceedings

by Timothy E. Weiler

The anticipated outcome of the adoption of the increased income threshold is to reduce litigation about the amount of maintenance to be paid by simply applying the statutorily mandated calculation to more individuals with a much higher annual income.

Maintenance Payments

Illinois’ Pet Owners Can Now Seek Custody of Their Pets in Divorce Proceedings

by Weiler & Lengle

PA 100-0422 now requires a divorce judge to award one party or the other possession of and responsibility for the family pet or pets based upon a careful consideration of the animal’s “well-being.”

Pet Custody in Divorces

Top Five Tips for Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

by Miles & Stockbridge

Tips on minimizing holiday stress for divorced families.

Co-Parenting Holidays

Important Considerations in Determining What Is in the Best Interest of a Child

by Hossein Berenji

When courts make determinations about child custody they will make the decision based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

Best Interest of a Child

Clients Should Understand Basic Financial Consequences of a Divorce

by Steven Fernandez

Spouses who get divorced will have to adjust how they file their taxes, what income and liabilities they must report for tax purposes, and even how they approach discussions about alimony and spousal support.

Divorce Finances

Trending Articles

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023

by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

The Best Lawyers in New Zealand™ 2024 Awards

by Best Lawyers

The Best Lawyers in New Zealand 2024 awards include an elite field of top lawyers and law firms.

Auckland, New Zealand Skyline at twilight

Presenting The Best Lawyers in Singapore™ 2024

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers offers the most prestigious awards for lawyers and law firms in Singapore for 2024.

Singapore skyline at night

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees

by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2024 Launch

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce The Best Lawyers in Australia™ for 2023, including the top lawyers and law firms from Australia.

Australian Parliament beside water at sunset

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2024

by Best Lawyers

We are proud to present the 2024 edition of Best Lawyers awards for Japan which include the top lawyers and law firms in the country.

Mt. Fuji in the background with fall leaves and structure in front


Paulson & Nace, PLLC: A Pioneer in Personal Injury Law

by Best Lawyers

Since its inception more than 40 years ago, Paulson & Nace, PLLC, a Washington D.C., Maryland and West Virginia-based personal injury firm, has always led with compassion first. Here are some key insights from the firm on how to go about filing a personal injury claim.

Group of lawyers meet around a conference table

The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers proudly announces lawyers recognized in South Africa for 2023.

South African flag


Salvi & Maher, LLP: Illinois and Wisconsin's Personal Injury Firm

by Justin Smulison

For more than 35 years, Salvi & Maher LLP has defended their clients throughout Illinois and Wisconsin in various areas of personal injury law, including medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability and trucking litigation.

Skyline of Chicago with green river and blue background


Athea Trial Lawyers

by Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a nationally recognized firm who has received record-breaking victories throughout the country on behalf of personal injury victims.

women with shades of blue in mass arrangement

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect

by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some

by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom

by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

Could Reign Supreme End with the Queen?

by Sara Collin

Canada is revisiting the notion of abolishing the monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, but many Canadians and lawmakers are questioning if Canada could, should and would follow through.

Teacup on saucer over image of Queen's eye


Mastering the Art of Trial Practice

by John Fields

With its billion-dollar track record, Morelli Law Firm has earned a reputation as one of the country's most successful trial firms.

Morelli and team at table in office with windows