David Hofstein doesn’t plan on resting on his laurels after being named 2013 Fellow of the Year by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; he said there are many AAML projects he is staying involved with.
Hofstein, president of the Philadelphia-based domestic relations firm Hofstein Weiner & Meyer, said he and the Pennsylvania AAML chapter are continuing to focus on many family law issues, most notably those related to special-needs cases and the role of guardian ad litems and counsel for children in custody cases.
Hofstein also lauded his peers and wife, who he said deserved much of the credit for his success.
“My being fellow of the year and the success I’ve had in large part are due to the people I picked to work with me. They’re great people who do a great job, and who make me look good,” Hofstein said.
Hofstein is a past president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AAML; current treasurer of the AAML Foundation, the organization’s charitable arm; and chairman of the academy’s continuing legal education committee.
Alton L. Abramowitz, the immediate past president of the organization, selected Hofstein as fellow of the year Nov. 8.
Abramowitz said Hofstein was chosen for recognition because “he’s been very, very active on the national level and in chairing committees. He’s promulgated standards for representing children in custody cases. He writes about matrimonial law issues. He’s been very active about raising funds for grants in helping children who are in need. … And because of the CLE programs he put on, we had the second-largest turnout we’ve had in our history.”
According to Abramowitz, the organization, which is headquartered in Chicago, has more than 1,600 fellows nationwide, and strives to promote professionalism and excellence in the practice of family law.
“It’s like an academy in the traditional Greek sense of the word,” Abramowitz said. “To provide training and education to lawyers in the profession, to educate the public at large, and to weigh in on constantly developing issues that impact the lives and families of our clients in general. It’s a constantly evolving area of law.”
Abramowitz said the foundation also submitted briefs in two same-sex marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.
One of the larger projects the academy will be embarking upon will be an examination of the impact of family law cases on special-needs children, Abramowitz said.
“This grew out of the Newtown massacre in Connecticut, where the perpetrator [had been] a special-needs child,” Abramowitz said. “We’re taking a long hard look at these issues, because when you have special-needs children in the family, the obligations to that child go well beyond adulthood.”
Hofstein said the issues his chapter will be looking at in terms of special needs include sensitizing the courts to what issues are unique to special-needs children in family court cases and allocating resources for representation in those cases.
“Defining best interest is not formulaic and the courts have tremendous discretion. The issue is trying to sensitize the court to those special needs,” Hofstein said. “Another issue is access to resources. In major cities, custody cases involve people of very little means. An excess of 80 percent of all litigants in Philadelphia don’t have the resources.”
In terms of charitable work, Hofstein said the academy’s foundation provides grants to children and families going through disruptive circumstances such as divorce proceedings and custody cases. The organization’s endowment has grown to roughly $1.3 million. Donations come primarily from fellows.
In Pennsylvania, grants have been made to the Support Center for Child Advocates, among others, Hofstein said.
In addition to his practice and AAML activities, Hofstein has spent the past 30 years as a frequent lecturer on family law and ethics, and as an adjunct lecturer in law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law for more than 15 years, teaching courses on custody, equitable distribution and professional responsibility. He is a graduate of New York University School of Law.