Between college and law school, Raleigh divorce lawyer Heather Williams Forshey worked in family services for Head Start in Sanford, NC. “The experience definitely influenced my decision to go into family law,” said Forshey.
Forshey explained that she worked in family services at a center with forty kids. While the main focus of her job was to work with families to develop goal plans, the most rewarding part for her was the opportunity to spend time with children in the classrooms. For Forshey, it inspired a belief “that we have a duty to try to make sure that every child has an opportunity to have an education and an opportunity to be a part of a family that loves them.”
Heather Williams Forshey was born in Boone and was raised in Sanford. She graduated from Elon University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and earned her Juris Doctor at Wake Forest University School of Law.
Forshey launched Raleigh Divorce Law Firm in 2010 after practicing family law with several other firms. Her firm has continued to grow since then, and the four-lawyer firm currently handles divorce, adoption, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and property division as well as family law mediation services and parent coordinator services.
She is a board-certified family law specialist, certified as a family financial mediator by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission and is also a certified parenting coordinator.
WORKING WITH FAMILIES
“I really enjoy the personal side of working with families,” said Forshey. “And I definitely feel like my skill set involves being able to manage people in all different types of life situations. For me, it’s about finding the right solution for each client in that particular family and that’s different in every case.”
Forshey is low key, soft spoken, and even keeled. She guides the conversation with a steady hand and a penchant for listening.
“There are some cases where I do need to take a very neutral approach, or I need to try to take a softer approach and try to go to mediation. Then there are cases where I’m dealing with personality dynamics of a high-conflict family and really the only way to get results that are beneficial for that client and for their family is to take a more aggressive approach and to litigate,” she said.
“I still do a lot of domestic litigation, but I am starting to do more family law mediations and more parent coordinator work, and I really enjoy that part of it because it allows me to use my experience in a different way. I try to relate to people no matter what their situation is, which helps me build a connection with them and better manage their expectations and emotions. I think that’s a strength that I bring to the table.”
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE
Many of the cases the firm handles involve child custody matters. Forshey brings first-hand experience as a mom and a stepmom to the conversation.
“I’ve learned a lot of things from my own experiences and through making my own mistakes. When I met my husband, my stepson was 4 and my stepdaughter was 1. Now they are 14 and 11 and we have a daughter who is 6 and a son who is 3. So I’ve been through the situation of being a stepmom but also being a mom. I understand the challenges in high-conflict families and high conflict divorces and also the dynamics of a blended family. I know firsthand the issues that frequently come up.”
“It makes me more compassionate towards people, but it also lets me speak to them from a voice of experience and encourage people to deal with those emotions and try to channel that into something positive. I can relate to how you sometimes have to make compromises and do things that you don’t want to do but that you need to do. Clients appreciate that I’m able to give them guidance and feedback instead of just talking at them and telling them what they need to do.”
WHAT WE DO REALLY MATTERS
On an evening last November, the firm was the host and one of the sponsors of an inaugural gala to benefit the Friends of the Wake County Guardian Ad Litem program. Forshey looks forward to the firm hosting the second annual gala this fall.
“The Guardian Ad Litem program is the government agency that is legally representing the needs of abused and neglected children in the legal system, but The Friends of the Wake County Guardian Ad Litem program is a non-profit agency filling the needs of foster children that are not met within the legal system,” Forshey said.
Forshey further identified that the organization’s focus is supporting the educational needs of foster children by funding tutoring services, backpack drives, computer programs, and summer camp tuition, but they also assist with an Angel Tree Christmas program, and have recently partnered with an orthodontist to provide orthodontic care to kids in foster care.
Forshey, who is currently serving on the board of directors for this nonprofit, went on to say, “What we do really matters because these children don’t have a sense of belonging. They’re going through really traumatic things in their lives. The mission of this organization is really to plant a seed of hope in their heart and give them a chance at a better life.”
UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN SIDE
Part of Forshey’s comprehensive approach is ensuring that all aspects of a case are addressed and that loose ends are tied up when a case concludes, which may mean providing referrals to mental health, financial or estate planning services.
“I’ve worked with a lot of professionals in these areas and try to provide referrals to people who are going to take care of our clients the same way we would,” said Forshey.
While many family law attorneys find the profession emotionally draining, Forshey has a different perspective.
“We meet people when they’re in a crisis or at their worst and at the end of their time with me, many people are much happier or are moving on to a better life situation, and I find that inspiring. Everything I do is very personal to me, and I try to understand the human side of what the client is going through in managing my approach with the client and their case.”