In The War of the Roses, a 1989 black comedy, Danny DeVito plays a divorce lawyer who tells a potential client a cautionary tale about a bitter divorce: A wealthy couple played by Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas end up nearly killing each other as they fight over who gets what.
At the end of the story, DeVito advises the client that he has two choices: Prepare for a bitter court battle or go home and patch things up with his wife. The man heads home.
Top Divorce Lawyers
Divorces don’t have to be as bitter or chaotic as the one endured by Oliver and Barbara Rose in the movie. Choosing the right approach is important, because every case requires a specific strategy, says Scott Strickler, head of the family law section at Shulman Rogers in Potomac. Professionals in the field say that strategic planning skills, knowledge of the laws in Maryland and adjoining states, and a willingness to provide cost-effective service are three important qualities to look for when seeking a divorce lawyer.
On average, clients can expect to pay $450 for an initial, hourlong consultation. Costs can range from about $15,000 per spouse for a simple divorce involving few assets and no children to hundreds of thousands of dollars for more complex and acrimonious cases, local divorce lawyers say.
To find the top lawyers in Montgomery County, we contacted the people in the know: family law practitioners, psychologists and social workers who are involved in the divorce process. Then we narrowed the field to the top 25-plus who practice mainly in the county. In cases where two or more top lawyers work closely with each other, we have listed them together. All are listed in alphabetical order.
Paley Rothman, Bethesda
301-951-9335 | www.paleyrothman.com
A 1995 graduate of Howard University, Bibi Berry, 40, was a single mother when she began her law career as a paralegal at prestigious Arnold & Porter in downtown Washington. She attended Georgetown University’s law school, going to classes at night and working during the day. After her 2001 law school graduation, Berry came to Montgomery County as a family lawyer because “I had personally experienced the hardship of having little to no financial or other assistance from my daughter’s father, and felt that I could lend my own personal perspective to clients who might be struggling with the same issues.” A decade later, her practice handles all aspects of divorce, including alimony, child-related issues, business valuations and the untangling of finances.
Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, Rockville
240-399-7888 | www.jgllaw.com
With four daughters and a marriage that has lasted 27 years, David Bulitt, 52, epitomizes stability and old-fashioned common sense. For those reasons, he is popular with couples—and fellow attorneys—as a neutral mediator, especially when the interests of children are involved. Colleagues say Bulitt can “shift gears” from collaboration to mediation to litigation as a case demands. He is a counselor in the traditional sense: easy to talk to and a hand-holder if need be, but has little tolerance for intransigent clients. Bulitt is at his best when the primary focus is on children. “I click pretty well with parents,” he says.
Paley Rothman, Bethesda
301-951-9322 | www.paleyrothman.com
Going to court? Glenn Cooper, 64, is a colorful, sophisticated and skilled courtroom lawyer. He makes opponents smile, and jurors eat out of his hands. His specialty is handling divorces with complicated financial tentacles, and valuing large stock or bond portfolios. His flamboyant professional style almost seems at odds with a consistent and principled man who has been devoted to the same wife, and the same law firm, for more than 40 years. Rivals are quick to note the contradiction: “Glenn is outstanding and charming, and will cut your throat very nimbly and cleverly,” a competitor says.
Linda Delaney & Margaret McKinney
Delaney McKinney, Chevy Chase
301-913-5236 | www.delaneymckinney.com
Linda Delaney, 54, is a nationally recognized expert in the field of child custody who has represented clients in some of the biggest and best-known custody battles in Washington, D.C., including serving on the team that handled the 2003 divorce of billionaire industrialist Steven Rales and his wife, Christine Plank. The sleek, well-appointed office that Delaney shares with partner Margaret McKinney is the largest female-owned firm in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The daughter of a New York City police officer, Delaney is firm and persuasive with clients. The practice promotes the idea that achieving joint custody is the best resolution for families, and Delaney says she may reject clients who are adamant about obtaining sole custody. McKinney, 45, who often has been the subject of speculation as a local judicial prospect, capably works the financial and business side of the firm’s cases and handles prenups. Delaney McKinney makes good use of its talented associates; Robert Weinberg, in particular, is repeatedly cited by his peers as one of the top up-and-comers in Montgomery County divorce law.
Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, Rockville
301-340-9090 | www.draggalaw.com
If a popularity contest were to be held for local divorce lawyers, jovial Patrick Dragga, 63, certainly would come out a winner. Loved by clients and universally respected by peers, Dragga has built what is arguably the most influential divorce firm in Rockville. His highly regarded team of eight divorce lawyers would be even more impressive if three of his partners hadn’t left over the years to become Montgomery County Circuit Court judges. Peers often mention all three of Dragga’s current name partners—Jeffrey Hannon, Kevin Hessler and Vincent Wills—as among the most effective divorce lawyers in Montgomery County.
Oakley & Eckstein, Rockville
301-424-8081 | www.oakleyeckstein.com
Suzy Eckstein, 52, is the daughter of Harvey A. Jacobs, who was one of Montgomery County’s best known attorneys before he retired. Eckstein, who worked with her father for 10 years, absorbed his considerable legal wisdom and insight about family law. “It was from him that I learned how important it is to work with other lawyers, and how much you can win by honoring your word,” she says. Colleagues praise her ability to practice collaborative law, which she prefers. But versatility is her strength. She was the winning attorney in a landmark appeals court ruling that made it easier for a short-time spouse to collect indefinite alimony. “Suzy is bright, funny, patient and smart,” says recent courtroom opponent Geoffrey Platnick. “I couldn’t begin to say enough wonderful things about her.”
Darryl Feldman & Anne Marie Jackson
Ain & Bank, Washington, D.C.
202-530-3300 | www.ainbanklaw.com
The main offices of divorce lawyers Darryl Feldman, 44, and Anne Marie Jackson, 44, are in downtown Washington, D.C., and their firm is one of the city’s best known and most successful. But Feldman and Jackson constantly appear in Montgomery County courts. Both lawyers receive high marks from their peers and have trained under two of the best in the D.C.-area divorce business: Sanford Ain and Rita Bank. Trained as a certified public accountant, Feldman is renowned for his financial acumen and is recognized by peers as one of the better attorneys for writing unbreakable prenups. The versatile Jackson is an excellent litigator who also can go the collaborative route. She has written and lectured on the rights of grandparents in divorce situations.
Mary Ellen Flynn
Andalman & Flynn, Silver Spring
301-563-6685 | www.andalmanflynn.com
There’s more than just a classic New York City accent to Mary Ellen Flynn, a Queens native who arrived in Silver Spring after graduation from American University’s Washington College of Law about 30 years ago. Experienced in finding assets and collecting alimony from deadbeat former spouses, Flynn also specializes in what she calls “clueless spouse” cases, in which one party has no idea about the couple’s finances. In handling a divorce, she is all business in her signature New York style. “I like to pick people up, dust them off, and send them on their way again,” she says. “If they want to stay in their house, I can find a way to make that happen. If it has sour memories and they want to get the house sold, we can do that, too.”
Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, Rockville
240-399-7900 | www.jgllaw.com
Jeffrey Greenblatt, 66, is not a go-along-to-get-along attorney. He is combative, difficult and feisty, but passionately devoted to getting the best deal for his clients by whatever method possible. His refusal to settle cases on terms that opponents believe are “reasonable” is often frustrating to his legal foes. “I defend my clients’ rights to the fullest extent of the law and will litigate any case if I feel the other side is trying to take advantage or bulldoze my client,” he says defiantly. Some sense that an acrimonious departure from his old firm and his recent divorce have mellowed Greenblatt, a perception he doesn’t encourage.
Stein Sperling, Rockville
301-838-3230 | www.steinsperling.com
A California native, Monica Harms got interested in becoming a lawyer while watching Perry Mason reruns as a child and has never wanted to be anything else. The daughter of two educators, Harms came to Rockville after graduating from The George Washington University Law School, and interning with a Montgomery County judge where she gained experience supervising the Domestic Violence Assistance Project for the Montgomery County Circuit Court. She won a hard-fought custody case for a father whose year-old son was moved by the mother to the Midwest without his consent. Harms is among those in the elite tier of private attorneys who are known for their skills in handling thorny custody issues.