Raleigh attorney Lauren Hinzey worked at a family law clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during her second year of law school and the lessons she learned there became a guidepost for her family law practice. “It really opened my eyes,” Hinzey said.
Hinzey was paired with the organization KidsVoice through her law school’s Civil and Family Justice Law Clinic. KidsVoice represents abused, neglected and at-risk youth in the Pittsburgh area. Under attorney supervision, she served as a guardian ad litem for children. She received a fellowship through the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program to continue working with these youth after her time in the clinic concluded. In her current practice, Hinzey does pro bono work for abused and neglected children as an appellate advocate for the guardian ad litem program and is also a volunteer with the Wake County domestic violence custody court.
“I discovered that no matter what the situation, a child almost always wants to be with their parents, especially when they’ve been removed from a parent’s care. I would never tell a client to withhold a parent’s access to their child unless there were safety issues. It’s best when a child has contact with both parents,” Hinzey said. “Some parents want to keep the other parent from visiting. And while that may be in the parent’s best interest, it’s rarely in the best interest of the child. It’s an awful thing to do, to cut a child off from a parent.”
A Tailored Approach Lauren Hinzey joined Raleigh Divorce Law Firm in 2010 after graduating from Duquesne University School of Law. Her family law practice includes child custody, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution, domestic violence and the negotiation of separation agreements.
“I like working for a small firm. I like the ability to work closely with our clients,” said Hinzey. “I tailor my approach to each client so I am able to react to whoever comes through the front door. Within the first few minutes, I normally know the kind of person I am dealing with.”
“If I have a very emotional client, I’m more nurturing through the process. If I have a client with unreasonable expectations, I move to the tough love approach and help them be more realistic. It could start as nurturing and end up with tough love as the client gets used to the separation.”
The Clock is Ticking When Hinzey begins a child custody case, if a quick settlement is not on the horizon, she files for a court date. In the mean time, she and the other attorneys still work toward a settlement. “The longer we wait to file litigation, the longer it takes to get on a court calendar. It can take three to six months or more to get a court date so it’s best to file, get a court date, and then work toward resolving the matter in the interim,” Hinzey said.
“When someone knows a court date is on the horizon, it puts pressure on both parties to settle. They know that if they don’t resolve it, it’s going to be heard by a judge who is going to hear two hours of testimony before making a decision for them,” said Hinzey.
There are still many common obstacles that prevent parents from settling a case. In Hinzey’s experience, the major reason a case is unable to settle is because the parents are unable to reconcile their opinions on what is in the best interest of the child. They also seem to struggle with putting aside their personal emotions toward the other parent and focusing solely on what is best for the child.
“KidsVoice opened my eyes to the horror that children and families can go through when their case is in abuse, neglect, dependency court. While I do not currently practice in that area, I have a great deal of compassion for families coping with this new reality,” said Hinzey. “At the end of the day, if a child is involved in a divorce case, knowing that they are safe and well taken care of physically, mentally and emotionally is extremely important to me.”