What are high net worth divorces and high profile individuals? Beermann Divorce and Family Law Partner, Morgan L. Stogsdill and Associate, Kaitlin M. Post, educate us on the distinction of both. As they touch on the difference between a private case and a public case, and how they are achieved, grasp the value of confidentiality in keeping the case of high profile individuals private from the press. Likewise, learn how attorneys deal with the press and aggregate information needed for a high profile case.
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High Net Worth Divorces
Our CMO, Sandra Napoli-D’Arco, asks questions that get the attorneys talking about everything they know and have experienced throughout their years of being divorce lawyers.
We’re speaking with divorce and family law partner, Morgan Stogsdill and divorce and family law attorney, Katie Post. Our topic revolves around high net worth cases and high-profile individuals. Before we get started, I’d like to hand it over to Katie and Morgan so they can share a little bit about themselves.
Morgan: I’ve been with Beermann for over ten years and before that, I grew up outside of Chicago. I came from a divorced household where my parents had a nice divorce and got along well. I’ve been in the city for many years with children of my own. I know all about divorce through my work but also my life.
Katie: I am Katie Post. I’m an associate at Beermann. I’ve worked here my entire career. I started back when I was a student working for Morgan. I grew up in Wilmette. I just had a baby boy.
Morgan, how do you define a high net worth case and high-profile individuals?
Morgan: A high-profile individual would be somebody who the media has interest in, whether it’d be business interest or celebrity status or potentially an athlete. A high net worth case I would describe as something with substantial assets, complex assets or even complex business interests.
I know Beermann has handled many high-profile and high net worth cases. For the most part, high net worth individuals want to keep their case private, and they don’t want it to appear on the front page of the newspaper. Katie, can you tell us a little bit about the difference between a private case or a public case?
Katie: Honestly, everyone probably goes into it with the expectation that you’re going to have your information be private and they want discretion from their attorneys, but some people don’t realize that everything that goes into the court file is public record. The way that we distinguish between the cases that we really make an extra effort to keep private is by keeping different documents out of that public file. There are different ways you can go about doing it. You can request that the court seals that file so that only certain people have access to it but that is difficult to do. In other instances, because we have relationships with the other divorce attorneys that we work with frequently, we make agreements not to file certain things, to hold hearings in chambers so that if the press or other members of the public are present, they’re not hearing exactly what’s happening day-to-day.
Morgan, I know you have handled many high-profile cases as well. There have been cases where they’re announced to the public and the case is already over, but the truth is that it’s been going on for a long time. How do attorneys make that happen?Although attorneys are there to give advice, it's the client’s case and they get to make the call. Click To Tweet
Morgan: The best way we can make it happen is to know that a case is going to start and have an agreement with an opposing party, an opposing counsel, that we are not going to file anything in court until the case is finalized. Certain high-profile clients that we’ve handled in the past, we have essentially negotiated an entire divorce or child custody issue outside of the court so that the public does not even know that it’s going on behind the scenes until the date that we go in and finalize it. This is really important because it keeps all of the information out of the court file and we don’t have the press calling us so that at the end of the day, we can issue a statement if that’s what the client wishes and the whole matter is over.
Even in the best-case scenarios, we know that the press somehow some way will show up in the courtroom or outside of the courtroom. How do attorneys deal with the press and how do you counsel your clients to deal with the press?
Morgan: There are a lot of different ways we can go about it. My motto is that we don’t talk to the press if we don’t need to unless the client directs us to do so. In my opinion, the best thing we can do to shield the children from any media and the best way to do that is to not talk to the press. However, it’s inevitable that if the press gets wind of a high-profile matter coming through the courthouse, they may show up. In that instance, the best thing to do is to talk to opposing counsel in advance and ask them to have some sort of an agreement about what information goes to the press and if they’re going to speak to the press. It’s best not to speak to the press but in certain cases where we know the other side may, we want to get an agreement on that.
Katie, how do the attorneys aggregate information needed for a high-profile case?
Katie: In many of these high-profile cases, their assets are diverse. Maybe they have different business interests but typically they already have a team of people in place. It may be an accountant, an entertainment attorney or their corporate counsel. In order to relieve the stress on the client and utilize all of those people that are really the experts in their information, we go to them directly. In that case, we can put them in touch with experts that may be necessary, whether it’s a business evaluation expert, someone who’s going to speak to the children’s therapist and give a recommendation but in all of these, we put a team in place and we operate and cooperate with their team.
Morgan, if a high-profile individual meets with you for an initial conversation about their case contemplating whether or not they should hire you, is that meeting confidential?
Morgan: All meetings with us are confidential. Nothing will leave this office, whether it’d be information obtained in the meeting or the fact that the client comes through our doors.
What do high net worth clients expect and what can Beermann deliver?
Morgan: They expect a certain level of performance but also service. Most people expect a high level of service, which is what we deliver, but when we’re talking about a high-profile individual, they have unique needs such as maybe different time zones that you have to cooperate with or their schedules. They also may need referrals, which is exactly what we have. We have large networks here. In the past, I’ve had high net worth individuals need placement for personal assistants and nannies. Maybe they need a concierge doctor to come to their house or an aircraft to go somewhere the next weekend. Those are all referrals that we have in-house that they are happy that we give them at a drop of a dime.
What are some questions high net worth individuals should ask an attorney prior to hiring them?
Katie: It’s important to know what the expectations are, how long the case will typically take, and what their options are depending on what the issues are. One thing that we specialize in is offering those options up front. We want the client to know that although we’re here to give advice, it’s their case and they get to make the call. Whether something is necessary to litigate, whether you go through mediation, all those types of things we can handle, and we want to make sure that it fits the needs of that person and their family.
Are there any other items that you think they should be asking their attorneys or any issues that you’ve experienced that they should know?
Morgan: A person who is interviewing divorce attorneys should ask what the divorce attorneys’ capability is, not only within the firm but also outside the firm. What I mean specifically there is we’re getting into a new era where people are on the go. You need to know, “Does your law firm have the ability to video conference?” Will they video conference? Should you need that? Not everybody has the time or schedule to come into the office but a lot of times you need face to face time with your divorce attorney. Here at Beermann, we have video conferencing, state of the art and we are ready to go at any moment’s notice. On the flip side, you need to ask your attorney, what are their capabilities? If things are going amicably and we’re going to mediation, that’s great but what if things take a turn, are they ready for court? What’s their courtroom experience? Whereas here, before coming into Beermann, I litigated over 60 jury trials. We’re not afraid of court if that goes that route but I always advocate for the most amicable and cost-efficient option for the clients.
About Morgan L. Stogsdill
Morgan L. Stogsdill focuses her practice primarily in the areas of Matrimonial Law and Family Law and counsels clients on the various aspects of dissolution of marriage and paternity proceedings, including child custody, support, visitation, property division, financial issues related to divorce, post-dissolution matters, prenuptial agreements and civil litigation related to orders of protection. Ms. Stogsdill focuses her practice on complex matters and counsels high profile clients that require the utmost attention and confidentiality.
Ms. Stogsdill has litigated over 45 jury trials and has settled hundreds of cases. While Ms. Stogsdill’s trial record speaks for itself, when costly litigation can be avoided, her approach to matters includes mediation to settle cases efficiently and expeditiously. Ms. Stogsdill tailors a specific strategy for each of her clients, on a case by case basis.
Ms. Stogsdill was named one of the “Most Influential Women Lawyers in Chicago” by Crains Chicago Business in 2017. In 2016, Ms. Stogsdill was selected for the prestigious award of one of the 40 Under Forty Attorneys to Watch in Illinois by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.” Click here to view the official announcement video. Additionally, she has been named a Rising Star in the area of Family Law by Super Lawyers Magazine, a designation reserved for the top 2.5% of all Illinois attorneys under 40 and named an Emerging Lawyer by Leading Lawyers, a designation given to fewer than 2% of the attorneys in Illinois. She has also been featured in Chicago Lawyer, “Lawyers with Style.” In 2006-2007, the Jury Verdict Reporter listed and published Morgan L. Stogsdill as an individual attorney who had the third most jury verdicts or jury trials in all of Cook County, including, Chicago, IL.
Ms. Stogsdill has been a guest lecturer on many issues related to Family Law and she has written articles on the topic of family law that have been featured in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. In 2018, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin featured an article written by Ms. Stogsdill titled “Has Domestic Relations Gone to the Dogs?” and in 2015, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin featured an article written by Ms. Stogsdill titled “Parental Alienation- the new elephant in the courtroom during child custody cases.”
Ms. Stogsdill has served on the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Illinois Eye Bank and was a mentor for the program, Metro for Girls. Currently, Ms. Stogsdill is donating her time giving back to at-risk children by serving as a board member of the Lawyers Lend a Hand to Youth organization. In 2018 & 2017, Ms. Stogsdill co-chaired the awards dinner for the entire organization at the Four Seasons Hotel. The event brought in thousands of dollars to the charity, which directly benefits at-risk children.
About Kaitlin M. Post
Kaitlin M. Post is an associate attorney at Beermann LLP. Ms. Post counsels clients on the various aspects of dissolution of marriage and paternity proceedings including child custody, support, visitation, property division, financial planning, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, domestic violence and post-divorce issues.
Ms. Post received her law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2013. Prior to graduating law school, Ms. Post began her career in family law as a law clerk at Beermann LLP in 2012. As a law student, Ms. Post earned a pro bono notation for her work as a board member of the Prisoners’ Rights Research Project and volunteer for Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
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The content of Beermann LLP podcasts is intended for general information only, and is not intended to be construed as legal advice regarding any specific case or situation. If you have any questions regarding the content of this podcast and you are currently represented by counsel, we recommend that you address your questions to your attorney. If not, we suggest you contact our offices.