The Rise of Gay Divorce in New York
We recently had the honor of interviewing one of New York City’s top divorce attorneys, Bruce Provda, about divorce issues and trends in New York from his office on Wall Street. If you are interested in contacting Mr Provda you can do so at:
Bruce Provda, Esq
Vangorodska Law Firm
741/A Madison Ave 4th floor
New York, NY 10065
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was Mr Provda’s take on the rise of the Gay Divorce in New York. Below is an excerpt of the interview:
Divorce Saloon: Hello, Mr Provda. Welcome to our Blog!
Bruce Provda: Thank you. I am pleased to have been invited.
Divorce Saloon: So you are a divorce and matrimonial specialist in New York. What is your area of specialization if any within the realm of your matrimonial practice ?
Bruce Provda: Contested divorces and child custody disputes.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. You must be pretty tough. How long have you been an expert in this area?
Bruce Provda: I have got my JD in 1973 and practiced matrimonial law since then.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. You have been at this a while. And what attracted you to this type of work?
Bruce Provda: My parents got divorced when I was a little boy, and I had to live through all the injustice caused by my father dumping our family. I decided to become a lawyer and serve the needs of those who cannot protect their rights.
Divorce Saloon: Aaw. I am sorry you had that experience but if it is any consolation, you certainly seem like you came out ok…. Well, so, you have been at this a while. Um, what is new and different in the last 5 years or so in the field?
Bruce Provda: I have been handling a lot of LGBT related family law cases. Even 6 years ago I would never think I’d be involved in getting an international gay couple split apart.
Divorce Saloon: Yeah, that does sound kind of exotic. Let’s stay with that subject for a bit. What is an “LGBT divorce” for those readers who may not know what that is ?
Bruce Provda: This is a term that is often equated with the divorce of gay marriages. LGBT is not all that accurate a term as while it is true that lesbians and gays can marry in many states ,the B (bisexual) and the T (transgender) in that abbreviation cannot as yet marry legally in the US.
Divorce Saloon: I see. And since the laws in New York State were changed to allow same sex marriages I imagine there was a flood of marriages in the State. Am I correct? You have said you have been seeing an increase of these cases in your practice.
Bruce Provda: From all news reports there were a flood of marriages when gay marriage became legal in NY. Certainly many of these couples were people who had lived together for many years without the benefit of marriage. Unfortunately as there are now legal marriages then gay couples also must divorce to end a legal marriage and that has of course risen from none at all before the law to a few in some areas or the state and more in others. Certainly all practitioners in NYC have seen this increase. It becomes more complex if a gay couple marry legally in one state and want a divorce after the have become residents of a state that does not recognize the marriage. In NY you must have lived in the state for 6 months to obtain residency for a divorce. The state will inevitably become popular as a state that recognizes gay marriage to become a state to divorce in.
Divorce Saloon: Do you anticipate the flood of LGBTs will strain judicial resources in the years to come?
Bruce Provda: There may be an increase of gay married couples seeking divorce in NY as not all the other states have recognized gay marriage yet. Many of the family courts are strained as it is with the divorce for all marriages being so high and then there is this new group of marriages that may (hopefully not) need legal divorces, so the courts could feel the pressure at least until all the states recognize gay marriage.
Divorce Saloon: True but here’s another question: Which would you say would most strain judicial resources and clog court dockets in the years to come and why? Same sex or straight divorces?
Bruce Provda: Well to use your terminology “straight” marriages will strain the courts the most as there are just more of them. When the initial excitement dies down there will still be more “straight” marriages and divorces in NY statistically than gay marriages and divorces.
Divorce Saloon: Aha. Do you anticipate that divorce lawyers in the future will create boutiques that handle only LGBT divorces? That is, will gay divorce become a specialty for practicing divorce lawyers sort of the way “father’s rights” firms have become almost ubiquitous? Or do you think successful firms will always need a mix?
Bruce Provda: A successful divorce practice should be professional and experienced in handling all areas of family law. Boutique practices of gay divorce may find this a good niche to start in, but to maintain a long term practice attorneys need to meet all client needs whether they be a gay couple or not.
Divorce Saloon: Do you think lawyers will have to possess any special skills to successfully navigate the LGBT divorce practice? Of course lawyers need to be empathetic and sensitive etc., no matter what their client base but do you think that the newness of gay marriages and thus divorces requires any special expertise in attracting and keeping clients and getting referrals from the gay community? How can attorneys best build a divorce practice that includes a robust number of LGBT divorces?
Bruce Provda: Dealing with divorce and family law issues require that the attorney be very aware of how emotional these issues are for their clients. I think that clients are drawn to attorneys that have a solid grounding in the vagaries of divorce law and with whom they feel comfortable. Making a client understand that you are sensitive to their particular personal situation is vital in this area of law. The actual legal issues in a gay divorce should not be that different from any other divorce. Emotionally, however, there might be a stronger feeling of failure in something (gay marriage) that they have struggled so much to attain and the relationship did not hold up. A divorce attorney would need to be sensitive to this, but in general it is the personal and property issues that concern all divorce clients.
Divorce Saloon: What are the general trends with LGBTs? Are we seeing the same issues as with straight divorces? I would imagine not so many child support fights? Or could I be wrong. But the fact that we even have to specify “LGBT divorce” suggests to me that gay divorces are somehow “different.”
Bruce Provda: Property division and spousal support are the main issues in all divorces. Couples with children then of course have the very contentious custody and visitation issues which can go on a long time. This will be the same for gay couples many of whom have adopted children or have a child from a previous relationship the same as straight couples. The court will hopefully as always look to the “best interests of the child” when considering these cases. The law is not looking at these gay marriages differently just two people who have melded their lives together in a legal fashion and now have to separate them also in a legal fashion.
Divorce Saloon: Why do we subcategorize gay divorce? Besides the obvious gender issues, what is the reason for this do you think? We hardly ever say “Jewish divorce” or “White divorce” or “Asian divorce” or “Catholic divorce” so why do we say “gay divorce”? Why is this modifier used? And should it be used in your opinion?
Bruce Provda: These marriages are a sub-category because they are new and there has been a long legal battle to make their unions legal. All divorces have certain issues relating the culture of the people in them; certainly Jewish couples often fight over the “get” which is a religious form of divorce for their faith. An attorney needs to be sensitive to the culture from which the couple comes. A divorce attorney is only representing half of the relationship, remember.
Divorce Saloon: Recently Olympic medalist Johnny Weir and his husband announced their impending split and it was a circus pretty much. What do you think about that? From both a legal and social perspective?
Bruce Provda: All celebrity unions, gay, straight or otherwise fall into the large spotlight of publicity that can turn anything into a “circus”. While I don’t know the particulars of that particular case the “celebrity” undoubtedly turned into a circus before the “gay” aspect did.
Divorce Saloon: You have a point. Well, let’s switch gears a little bit if that’s ok.
Bruce Provda: Sure.
Divorce Saloon: What needs to be new and different in the field in your opinion?
Bruce Provda: Family law is a very conservative area of practice. The success as a lawyer is built upon a solid reputation. Reputation can be only maintained through a consistent track record. If I were a legislator, I’d introduce more severe penalties for parental kidnapping.
Divorce Saloon: How has technology and the digital revolution affected your practice, if at all?
Bruce Provda: The immense growth of the Internet brought a totally new approach to my practice. I do a lot of pro bono work online (i.e., answer legal questions, take cases foe less than their “face value” is), which in turn gets me a lot of traffic and attention, as well as positive reviews.
Divorce Saloon: Good for you. And would you advise young lawyers getting out of law school to specialize in matrimonial law? Why or why not?
Bruce Provda: This should not be a matter of money. Matrimonial law is time consuming and definitely not a get-rich-fast venture. You need to have a passion for family law. You have to have great communication skills- divorce or
child custody is one of the most stressful moments of the lifetime, so my job is more about making them happy rather than filing paperwork.
Divorce Saloon: What is the profile of your ideal client?
Bruce Provda: The lawyer would normally say, “a paying client is an ideal client”. However, for me any client is an ideal client. Problem clients give me an opportunity to learn, and “easy” clients provide me with the opportunity to make these lessons possible.
Divorce Saloon: What is the profile of your worse nightmare client from hell?
Bruce Provda: As I said I appreciate them all.
Divorce Saloon: OK last question: Which divorce lawyer to you most admire and why?
Bruce Provda: Oh that’s easy: Earle Lilly – for his settlement in A-Rod case.
Divorce Saloon: Thank you Mr Provda this has been very interesting.
Bruce Provda: Thank you. Have a great day.
Bruce Provda, Esq
Vangorodska Law Firm
741/A Madison Ave 4th floor
New York, NY 10065