Allison Maxim: Global Approach to Family Law

Allison Maxim
2024 Feature Nominations

Allison Maxim, Managing Partner of Maxim Law, PLLC, has dedicated her career to helping families in crisis. After earning her master’s degree in clinical psychology, Maxim believed she could make the greatest difference by attending law school and utilizing her skills as a family law attorney. She began her legal career working with a family law firm, and then founded her own practice with an emphasis on providing personalized representation tailored to each family’s unique circumstances. Maxim has since developed a wide-ranging practice that includes friendly divorce; interstate and international family law; mediation; collaborative law; domestic violence law; and general family law representation.

A bold advocate with more than a decade of litigation experience and the insight of a trained mental health professional, Maxim has the versatility and expertise to deliver favorable results in circumstances that are amicable or contentious.

“The Twin Cities courts really place emphasis on families working out their differences, especially when kids are involved,” Maxim says. “The attitude is that litigation and the adversarial process is not good for parents when they have to co-parent. I embrace that, as well, but there are still situations where that doesn’t work, and the adversarial process is necessary. I work closely with clients to educate and counsel them, with the idea that I’m stepping in at a time when things in their lives are not going well. I want to help them problem solve and make good long-term decisions for themselves and their children. And if needed, I will advocate for them and go to court.”

By approaching family law representation from many different viewpoints, Maxim is able to meet clients wherever they are and design fitting solutions to their problems. “So many of us go through life wanting our life circumstances to adjust to what we want. We want the material world or our relationships to change to work with us. But that’s not how life works. As individuals, we have to work hard on ourselves so we can be flexible and adjust to life circumstances. I take that philosophy into my work with clients. They are all different, and I meet them wherever they are and in whatever emotional state they’re in. I adjust and tailor my representation to the situation. It’s been really helpful to me, and more effective than approaching a case with an expectation of how it should go. I think it really benefits my clients because somebody is being flexible in meeting them where they are and guiding them from there.”

Maxim is taking an increasing number of interstate and international family law cases. She first gained experience in international child custody matters by taking pro bono international child abduction cases for the U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues. Maxim has represented parents on both sides of disputes involving the return of children across international lines. She also has significant experience working within the framework of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which she says is different from general family law.

“Most of the domestic relations laws relating to divorce and custody are not black and white, but the UCCJEA is different. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. When somebody is in violation of the terms related to jurisdiction, there can be harsh consequences. I just wrote an article for “Bench and Bar” magazine that talks about the repercussions for women who flee domestic abuse abroad and go home, what can happen if the other party files a request for return of the children. It really tests your skills as a counselor at law; trying to explain some very sophisticated laws and consequences of taking certain actions requires you to be a very good communicator.”

To demonstrate her point, Maxim raises a case she had earlier this year involving a mother who left a country because of domestic abuse. The country she left was not a signatory to the Hague treaty relating to international child abduction. The woman obtained a divorce and custody orders in the other jurisdiction, but fled to Minnesota when the abuse continued and she felt she was not getting the help she needed for herself and her children. “The dad petitioned for return of the children under UCCJEA, and she didn’t have a defense, the children had to go back.”

When implementing softer approaches like friendly divorce and collaborative law, Maxim cautions that it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. “There are still some tough conversations to be had. I think these approaches are good for certain types of cases, but when there is a big power imbalance or abuse, a choice like collaborative law is probably not the right process. However, each case in unique, and if there is an imbalance, we approach that with a psychologist who is there to coach the parties. I have been able to help couples through a successful collaboration, even with these kinds of difficulties.”

Maxim works as a volunteer peer support attorney for the nonprofit organization Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. She observes that a fear of making mistakes is one of the greatest stressors for legal professionals.

“There are big consequences to making mistakes in our work, so we are hard on ourselves. A lot of us who are drawn to this profession are perfectionists and high achievers by nature. Personally, I think I’ve learned over the years that I have to have some very intentional self-care going on. I study a very particular form of meditative yoga. I also know my limits and when to say no to taking new cases. I make sure to preserve time for my husband and our two awesome boys. That’s what really nourishes and rejuvenates me. It can be healing to know that we all struggle with the same fears. In the context of peer support, I try to meet attorneys where they’re at and give them counsel that espouses radical self-acceptance.”

Maxim’s mindful approach to the practice of law takes into account that each person and family is individual, and she says she sees herself as a partner in her clients’ success rather than an authority figure. “I’ve done a lot of work on myself as a human being, and I feel that having done that work gives me an approach that is thoughtful to life. I come to people as a collaborator and advisor. When needed, we go to court where I zealously advocate, but my goal is to empower people to make their own best decisions.”

H.K. Wilson

H.K. Wilson is a contributing writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been writing features for the publication for more than four years.

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