Allison Stein is a Principal attorney at Griffin McCarthy & Rice LLP, a boutique family law firm with offices in Chicago, Lincolnshire, and Burr Ridge. She is a very effective divorce attorney and an excellent resource for important family matters.
Allison is the partner in charge of the Lincolnshire office. She has practiced law since 2001 and works with families who are going through a divorce to resolve complex family issues including valuations of businesses, parenting disputes, the determination of the marital and non-marital estate, and the calculation of income for purposes of maintenance and child support. She also prepares premarital agreements.
Allison graduated from Northwestern University where she majored in psychology and minored in Spanish. She attended law school at the University of Michigan. Allison has always been intrigued by family relationships and dynamics. While a summer associate at McDermott, Will & Emery she was introduced to the practice of family law. She was hooked! She feels very fortunate to have a career she truly enjoys and feels like she can help other people going through challenging times in their lives.
Allison is also a mother and a wife. Having experienced her parents’ divorce, she brings a unique and empathetic perspective to her clients’ situations. We Zoomed over coffee a few days ago and I had the chance to pick her brain about divorce, what has changed over the years, what she is hearing from clients as well as how to set young married people on a good path for a successful marriage. These are the questions I posed to Allison along with her responses.
What differentiates you from other family law attorneys?
I lead with compassion and empathy. Divorce is hard. When people visit with me they are generally stressed and sometimes are not sure of what they want. I am an advocate of Alternative Dispute Resolution approaches to divorce cases, including mediation and collaborative law. I believe this allows for more creativity in reaching a resolution while maintaining the parties’ privacy, and protecting the parties and their children’s best interests more efficiently and effectively.
Has the divorce process changed in the years since you started practicing?
Yes, for the better. In my practice, I focus heavily on alternative dispute resolution. While I go to court as needed, there are often better ways to resolve a case. For example, working through mediation can help avoid the hostility and confrontation that can result when only working through the courts. We are usually able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement between both parties. We also know that the better the relationship post-divorce, the better the parents are able to work together in co-parenting going forward.
I spend a great deal of time with prospective clients during the initial consultation. We discuss their goals, what is best for the family, and how to approach the divorce process. Oftentimes there are options the client may not have considered; for instance, I encourage couples who are unsure about divorce to consider discernment therapy prior to initiating the divorce to be sure that divorce is the desired outcome. Sometimes a marriage can be saved through this process because it allows each party to articulate their needs and objectives more clearly. Therapy is a great tool to get people talking productively again. If divorce is ultimately what one or both parties decide is best, having gone through therapy can make the divorce process more amicable.
What are the most difficult situations to navigate?
It can be challenging dealing with cases when one party is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. When children are involved, we must figure out how to manage the relationship between the children and the spouse with the addiction while also ensuring that the children are protected.
What do you consider a successful divorce?
When both parties leave feeling that their case was handled with dignity, and that they both feel ready to move forward with their lives. If there are minor children involved, it is when both parents are able to move forward united in the raising of their children and putting their children’s best interests first. It is essential to remember that with children you are forever connected to your former spouse. The more that a strong co-parenting relationship can evolve, the better off everyone will be.
Are prenuptial agreements still popular?
They are. I draft many premarital agreements, both for couples with significant assets and for younger couples who may not have assets but desire to have some protection in the event their marriage should end in divorce. Many individuals want to make sure if they leave the marriage, they leave with the assets and property they brought into the marriage. This is especially true if there is a family business or inheritance/expected inheritance. The law itself without a premarital agreement provides some protection, but some couples want more certainty. These days both women and men often earn income and may not want to be obligated for support. A premarital agreement, however, cannot address any financial issues related to children or parenting time.
How would you advise engaged or newly married couples?
It is important to get the important issues out on the table and discuss them early (hopefully before marriage!). Issues involving children are potentially charged, for instance in a mixed religion family, how will the children be raised and educated? What holidays will they celebrate? What schools will they attend, private, public, or religious? With respect to financial affairs, how does the couple view their finances, more separately or that everything should be titled jointly? It is important that couples understand there are as many ups as downs. Marriage is a journey, not a destination.
If someone is thinking about divorce, what should they know?
Divorce is hard. For many people, even those wanting a divorce, it can be a painful process. It is important to be realistic about what your future financial situation might mean. Pick an attorney you trust and whose values mirror your own.
Allison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org