Two young children squeal with delight as Oreo, a black and white Chihuahua bounds happily after them through the dining room of a majestic, 116-year-old Raleigh Victorian home. The aroma of home-baked cookies wafts through the air. In the study nearby, Raleigh divorce attorney, Mary Gurganus, is consulting with one of the children’s parents.
This old house in the Glenwood South neighborhood is the new home of Triangle Divorce Lawyers. Built in 1903 for about $6,500, most of its original interior is still intact including coal-burning fireplaces, with ornate tiles, oak and pine floorboards, and the original wood trim.
“You can feel like you are in a home, even if you are in a conference room. It’s more relaxed,” said Gurganus, who owns Triangle Divorce Lawyers. “We’ve been in office complexes and now we are in this home setting. It’s comfortable. Clients feel like they are visiting, not being questioned.”
Gurganus said the house embodies the firm’s goal of achieving traditional family values during and after a divorce. “You want to parent your children. You want to have enough money to live on. You want to be okay. You want to live a quiet, comfortable life. That’s what enriches many family’s time together.”
When children come to the office because their parents have a meeting or a courtroom appearance with their attorney, there is a playroom with toys, a TV, snacks and a place to nap … and, of course, there’s Oreo.
“We make the kids feel like they are at home, not going to an office,” said Gurganus.
She described the furnishings as “elegant” and “modern eclectic” which imparts the firm’s slogan: “Helping Navigate Your Modern Family.”
“Modern families can be a one-parent home, a stepparent’s home or grandparent’s home. The modern family may have two parents living in the same neighborhood. Today, both parties are typically college educated, understand complex finances and investments and both parents actively parent the children. We help you get an idea of what you want your family to look like in the future, then we navigate the case from there. We actually give our clients a compass to symbolize the journey,” said Gurganus, with a smile.
We help you get an idea of what you want your family to look like in the future, then we navigate the case from there.”
The term “modern” also speaks to using cutting edge technology. “Most of our clients have never been divorced and don’t know what technologies they can use to make their lives easier, to parent better or control their money better. We teach them how to use these tools.”
THE PAIN OF A DIVORCE
Mary Gurganus has first-hand knowledge of the pain children experience in a divorce from her childhood in Salisbury, Maryland.
She was 15 when her parents divorced. “It was very hard on me and my brothers and sister. It made a mark on my life. My parents were always involved with us. I experienced the pain of rarely being able to see my father. I saw the inequity of my father ending up with more assets than my mom,” remembered Gurganus. The experience inspired her to practice family law.
She earned her Juris Doctor from NCCU School of Law and then Gurganus launched Triangle Divorce Lawyers in 2014. Most of the team has experienced divorce as children or with their own marriages.
The firm with ten staff members, including three attorneys, has offices in Raleigh, Cary and Wake Forest. It represents clients in 12 counties in the Triangle and across the state.
BRAVE, INTREPID, TOUGH
Mary Gurganus said her opponents have called her ‘a pit bull in a skirt’. I’m determined to get what’s right.” she said with a smile. “I prefer the terms brave, intrepid and tough. I have an air of confidence because of my courtroom experience. I try to forecast what’s going to happen and I already have my game plan in place.”
“I know which client priorities I will push, and I am considerate to the opposing parties. Sometimes, I actually embody a few of those names I have been called. In negotiations, I often show the other side how they benefit because of the concessions my client made. And sometimes, I have to push my clients to make those concessions themselves. I traditionally do that by discussing their best case, their worst case and what could happen in court.”
DOES SHE WIN?
Director of client services Natalie Lee said the question most often asked by potential clients is, “Does she win?”
“I like to win,” said Gurganus. “When I first meet a client, we identify what their priorities are on time, money, their relationship with their family or reputation in the community. We then determine which things they really need. Next, we then choose the things they desire, and finally, we pick the things they could or could not do without. In no case is a client going to get 100% of what they want.”
“If I can get them what they need, the main priorities that they want, and it is at least what we expected to be awarded if we went to court; that’s a win. That’s my joy. That’s my job.”
“When that happens, I stroll into my office with a happy dance,” said Gurganus.