Although it may seem harmless enough to post those great photos from your beach vacation on Facebook, you might want to reconsider if you’re in the middle of a divorce. That’s the advice of attorney Margo Green, a partner in the family law practice of Green Cordonnier & House. “Social network sites are increasingly being utilized as evidence in divorce cases,” Green explains. “So we are advising our clients to close down their Facebook accounts during the divorce.” She also cautions against sensitive email communications on the family computer. “If your spouse has access to that computer, and it’s not password protected, your attorney cannot communicate with you, because there is no attorney-client privilege.”

    Technology is just one of the factors that has altered the face of family law in the past 20 years, Green says. The most striking difference is the comprehensive breadth of knowledge required of family law attorneys. “You have to be an expert in so many different fields today. Depending on the particular case, practicing family law requires us to have an understanding of real estate, or will and trust law, or contract law,” Green says. “If one of the parties owns a business, for example, we have to understand valuations in order to assess the value of the business interests. So we have to be well-versed in these areas, as well as family law, in order to adequately represent a client. It’s really amazing how many hats we wear.” Current economic conditions also play a role in the process, she adds. “You have to be aware of market conditions—how to defend them and how to use them to your advantage. Years ago you never had to think like that.”

    Divorces are resolved much more quickly today than in years past, Green adds. “Ten years ago, it might have taken two or three years to get divorced. Now, if a case isn’t settled a year after it’s filed, the judge can dismiss it and you have to start all over.” Although that’s good news for people who don’t want a prolonged process, Green says, it’s difficult for people struggling with what she describes as the three stages of divorce: Anger, mourning, and an acceptance accompanied by a willingness to settle. “The problem is, judges are pressuring attorneys to get divorce cases settled within 90 days, and many, many people need six to eight months to get through those stages,” Green explains. “So what we’re discovering is more cases are being litigated because couples aren’t able to get through their stages, and you’re in court a lot more than you used to be.”

    The past two decades have also seen dramatic changes in child custody decisions, Green says. Traditionally, mothers got custody and dads got visits. “It used to be very difficult for a father to get more than every other weekend and one night a week visitation. Missouri law has changed and you now start out with a 50/50 approach to custody. It’s almost impossible to change that ruling in St. Louis.” Not convinced that this is always good for every case, Green believes that each custody decision should be made based on the facts in that case. “It should not be automatic.” Relocation with children is also more problematic, she adds. “It’s very difficult to be able to move. Once you get married in Missouri and have children, you’re married to Missouri for the next 18 years, because you’re not going to move with your kids.”

    Like everything else, the cost of a divorce has escalated dramatically through the years. “People are horrified what contested divorces cost,” Green admits. “But it’s a lawsuit, and they’re expensive. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to hire an attorney who specializes in family and divorce law. You could hire someone who does one or two divorces a year, but that could be an expensive mistake.”  LN

On the Cover: Founded in 1999, Green Cordonnier & House LLP has seven attorneys offering representation in all areas of family law. The firm is located at 8000 Maryland Ave., Suite 400. For more information, call 726-0455 or visit Cover design by Dawn Streamlau