November-December 2013 | Featured Article

Split Decisions

We canvassed people in the know to come up with the top 25-plus divorce lawyers in the area

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Heather Hostetter

Hostetter Strent, Bethesda
301-657-0010 |

In little more than a decade, Heather Hostetter, 41, has gone from the new kid on the block among divorce lawyers to one of the most universally recommended attorneys in the field of family law. In private practice since 2000, she is repeatedly named by colleagues as an attorney to whom other lawyers would most quickly refer cases. A Boston University law school graduate, Hostetter gained extensive experience as an assistant public defender in Maryland from 1995 to 2000, working with abused women and abandoned children through the juvenile court system, before she specialized in family law. Like Monica Harms and Linda Delaney, Hostetter excels in cases involving complicated family and custody decisions. Says a colleague, “Heather is a right-to-the-point kind of lawyer; she doesn’t waste anyone’s time and is very effective in getting her point across without being obnoxious.”

Carlos Lastra

Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein Lastra & Bouquet, Gaithersburg
301-869-1700 |

The most difficult part of dealing with Carlos Lastra, 45, might be finding his office, which is tucked into an obscure town house off Shady Grove Road. Of course, not being seen could be a good thing for a client. Lastra, whose father is Mexican and mother is Cuban, once worked in Miami for then-State Attorney for Dade County Janet Reno before she became the U.S. attorney general. Lastra’s rich trial background in Florida, his language skills and his familiarity with Central American and South American courts have contributed to his expertise in finding hidden stashes of money, especially if that money is deposited in Latin American or Caribbean bank accounts.

Cheryl New & Jeff Lowinger

New & Lowinger, Bethesda
301-907-7000 |

At $600 per hour, Cheryl New, 51, and Jeff  Lowinger, 56, top the charts in terms of an hourly rate, but both can be counted on to handle a case with efficiency, enthusiasm and a mountain of self-confidence. New, smart on her feet and fast-talking, and Lowinger, her numbers man, usually work together on cases. In recent years, their clients have tended to be women, particularly in cases where cheating husbands have used Internet dating sites to encourage affairs and to pay for them with money that angry wives might think is half theirs. New’s jaunty manner is interpreted by some courtroom foes as “too sarcastic,” and she has no interest in collaborative divorce cases. Lowinger gets high marks from those who have worked with him. Together they are a formidable team.

Ronald Ogens & Cheryl Lynn Hepfer

Offit Kurman, Bethesda
240-507-1700 |

Ronald Ogens, 71, and Cheryl Hepfer, 66, have been practicing for decades. Before becoming partners in January 2011, they had tried dozens of cases against each other. Ogens is respected for his knowledge and his efforts at perfection in his documents and prenups. “I am a stickler,” he admits. Hepfer, who was one of the first polio victims worldwide to receive and be cured by Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in the early 1950s, gave up her own firm to partner with Ogens at Offit Kurman. Hepfer’s character and work ethic have won the solid respect of the judges and attorneys with whom she negotiates. Her motto? “Prepare well and negotiate from strength.”

Joseph Paradiso

Paradiso, Taub, Sinay, Owel & Kostecka, Bethesda
301-986-7900 |

Joseph Paradiso, 62, isn’t going to make a client laugh or feel better about a bad situation. Comments from colleagues about Paradiso range from “deadly serious” to “dull.” He is a strategic planner who prides himself on predicting his opponents’ moves far in advance. Paradiso is willing to incorporate any of the divorce processes—litigation, mediation or collaboration—that suit a client’s goals. He tells clients exactly how he plans to proceed and what the case will cost. Paradiso is famously cost-conscious on behalf of his clients, among them numerous lobbyists, entrepreneurs and journalists. He may not hold a client’s hand through the divorce process, but there is no attorney in Montgomery County who will treat a case more seriously.  

John M. “Jack” Quinn

Ethridge, Quinn, Kemp, McAuliffe, Rowan & Hartinger, Rockville
301-762-1696 |

One of Montgomery County’s best known and most successful private attorneys, Jack Quinn, 65, has increasingly taken on high-end divorce cases in recent years. His experience in commercial litigation and personal injury law gives him a depth of courtroom experience that is matched by only a few other attorneys who do divorce work. Paley Rothman’s Glenn Cooper would be a logical choice to oppose Quinn. Divorcing couples prize Quinn’s judgelike stature and persona as a mediator.

Linda Ravdin, Anne White & Vicki Viramontes-LaFree

Pasternak & Fidis, Bethesda
301-656-8850 |   

Linda Ravdin, 65, is one of the pillars of the local family law establishment. Before coming to Montgomery County, she practiced in Washington, D.C., for nearly three decades. She has been at Pasternak & Fidis, a venerable downtown Bethesda law practice with a strong focus on estate and tax law, since 2002. Ravdin has a well-deserved reputation for writing ironclad prenups, but she will try cases, as well. Most of the firm’s active divorce cases are run through either Anne “Jan” White, 68, or Vicki Viramontes-LaFree, 56, both of whom are advocates of the less confrontational collaborative approach, in which the parties basically agree to settle their differences amicably and without resorting to recriminations or the hiring of private detectives. White, a Stanford Law School graduate who once worked in D.C. for what is now the white-shoe firm of Hogan Lovells, is particularly skilled in tax issues. Viramontes-LaFree is the one to call when pension issues are complicating a settlement.

Deborah Reiser

Lerch, Early & Brewer, Bethesda
301-961-6094 |

Peers describe Deborah Reiser, 62, as the consummate professional: “tough, but not nasty.” She’s primarily interested in mediation, the process by which a neutral party works out a settlement without the spouses’ attorneys being present. Although trained in the collaborative process, Reiser says she has reduced her role in that type of case. Under her expert leadership, the firm’s roster of seven family attorneys—six women and one man—rivals any in Maryland in its depth. Reiser’s partner, Deborah Webb, was singled out for excellence by several colleagues, as was Elizabeth Weisberg. Webb and Weisberg are more active than Reiser in the collaborative divorce movement.