During his 40-year legal career, trial attorney Jeffrey P. Weinstein has watched the practice of family law evolve tremendously.
Having represented thousands of clients in casesbefore the trial and appellate courts of the State ofNew Jersey, Weinstein has been called upon by othermatrimonial attorneys to serve as an expert in almost allaspects of family law.
The former chair of the New Jersey State BarAssociation’s Family Law Section, Weinstein was one of twolawyers who assisted the Supreme Court committee of NewJersey in establishing the Family Part in the New JerseyCourt system. In addition, the Superior Court of New Jersey,Family Part, appointed Weinstein as a standing master toassist in the resolution of complex matrimonial matters.
Early in his career, Weinstein wanted to become apublic defender or prosecutor. But after serving as a lawclerk to Morris County Judge Edward F. Broderick, whopresided over criminal matters, Weinstein decided to gointo family law.
“Judge Broderick was a fantastic mentor. He taught mehow to deal with people, because he was such a goodpeople person,” Weinstein says. “He told me that the highestcompliment you can receive is when a client comes to youfor advice. It’s not only the highest compliment, it also givesyou a tremendous amount of responsibility.”
When Weinstein first started practicing family law(known then as divorce law), it was not regarded ashighly as it is today. He began working in family lawjust as equitable distribution (the division of the assets thatwere acquired during the marriage) became the law.Weinstein became the first attorney in New Jersey andprobably the United States to obtain alimony for a man,back in the early 1970s.
“Prior to the equitable distribution statute being enacted,assets were generally given to the person who owned ormade the assets, which gave no value to the contributions ofthe spouse to the success of the businessperson,” Weinsteinexplains. “Family law practitioners were at the forefront ofgender equality in the 1970s.”
“When you and your client begin workingtogether, you really form a partnership with the client.” —Jeffrey P. Weinstein
The sophistication of family law has also increasedthroughout the years, especially when it comes to dividingassets. Practitioners must first identify the assets by means ofdiscovery, value the assets using business and accountingtechniques, and then allocate percentages of each and everyasset to the injured party. The litigation of a complex caserequires a good knowledge of the rules of evidence and trialtechniques, as well as the ability to advocate for a client.
“When you and your client begin working together, youreally form a partnership with the client, although you aredissolving another partnership, namely a marriage,”Weinstein says.
Family law also changed in respectto custody issues.
“Way before I started practicing,children were considered to be chattelbelonging to the male,” Weinstein says.“Later, children of a tender age wouldbe given to the mother. Today, it’sreally about what’s in the best interestof the children.”
In 1977, Weinstein and a clientwho happened to be a mental healthprofessional coauthored an article,“Joint Custody: A Viable and IdealAlternative,” which recognized jointcustody as a viable alternative toone parent becoming the solecustodial parent.
“Both parents should have an equal say in what is in the best interest of the child and in all matters affecting the child’s health, education, and well-being. In addition, both parents should have a right to be with the children as much as is possible. It is absolutely imperative that each parent be given the right to be as good a mom or dad as possible. These changes happened over time,” says Weinstein, who was serving as chair of the Family Law section when the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 went into effect, which protects a spouse from physical and/or emotional abuse.
Weinstein has been selected for inclusion in The BestLawyers in America® 2012 and Martindale-Hubbell’s The Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and he is a member of the Matrimonial Lawyers Alliance, an organization comprising the top matrimonial lawyers in New Jersey.
He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as a member of the Essex County Bar Association, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Yet, perhaps Weinstein’s proudest professional accomplishment is also a personal one. That’s when hisson Evan R. Weinstein told his father and mother, Ronnie, that he wanted to become an attorney.
“We didn’t push him in that direction but were veryhappy to hear his decision,” Weinstein says of his son andnow fellow firm partner. “Hopefully my grandson, who is6 months old, will follow us, too.” Weinstein hastens toadd that he is equally proud of his older son, Michael, ateacher at Essex County College.