“Divorce can be devastating emotionally and financially,” says Stuart R. Manoff, Esq. “As my fellow family law practitioners can tell you, it’s a process, not an event. As the lawyer, you can help your client through the difficult maze of that process.”
As with most legal disputes, following the Final Judgment of a family law case, the issues do not disappear. Once the decision has been handed down, the two parties need to walk away from the courtroom, pick up the pieces and continue on, often with their children, with their new normal – their new lives that will be shaped by the outcome of this “process.”
Manoff moved up from Miami to Boca Raton following his graduation from the University of Miami School of Law in 1984. He entered private practice knowing he wanted to hit the ground running with his own firm, so he “hung his shingle” and placed an advertisement in the Yellow Pages – back when they were actually yellow.
It didn’t take long for Manoff to carve out a niche in family law, compelling him to earn his Board Certification in 1994. For more than two decades he has focused his efforts exclusively on family law.
In November 2018, he “hung a new shingle” – Manoff Mediation LLC. With a focus on family law matters, his mediation practice is an extension of the more than 35 years of experience he’s developed in the industry. He practices in Palm Beach, Martin, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Taking a new seat at the negotiation table, the middle seat, Manoff is able to continue his work helping families resolve their disputes. Additionally, he has the pleasure of working with the attorneys he’s practiced alongside for decades as well as meeting with the next generation of family lawyers.
“Mediation is very rewarding,” Manoff says. “I was in the trenches of litigation for years, and I thrived on that energy and the stress of preparing for winning a case. Today, even more, I truly appreciate how mediation is such a desirable alternative.”
That’s not to say that the experience is without its own hurdles. Many parties often walk into the mediation with anger or hurt propelling their rhetoric. With an experienced mediator at the helm, however, the individual(s) can have their cathartic event of speaking about that hurt before the conversation is steered back toward more fruitful business-like discussion.
“In that type of emotionally charged environment, you need to allow people the opportunity to get it out of their system without being reactive to them,” Manoff says. “Let them experience that catharsis, so we can come back, get to business and find a resolution.”
Manoff credits some of his natural mediation skills to a law school professor. The instructor had been a longtime practicing attorney at a high-power firm in Miami. In his negotiation class, she shared one piece of advice that has stuck with Manoff through the years – never interrupt.
“As an attorney or meditator, if you allow someone to continue talking uninterrupted, they will first tell you what they want, and eventually tell you what they’re willing to accept,” Manoff says.
In fact, Manoff shares that attorneys and clients can sometimes be a detriment to their own case by continually interrupting or attempting to control the conversation. At the end of the day, with an experienced mediator guiding the flow of communication, a solution can be reached, and the parties can begin to move on.
In addition to his active mediation practice, Manoff has added another line to his CV – consultant.
“Many family law attorneys are also solo practitioners,” Manoff says. “When faced with a complicated issue or case, they don’t have the option to turn to a fellow associate or a senior partner. This is when I can be brought in as a consultant to sit down and discuss the theory of the case and develop a strategy.”
According to Manoff, the difference between litigating a $100,000 divorce matter and a $1 million divorce matter can be astronomical, the degrees of complexity are multiplied tenfold. As a younger attorney or a solo practitioner handling a larger divorce case for the first time – or a particularly complex case – having that extra experience to lean on can be a boon.
This confidential consultation service allows Manoff to stay on top of latest trends in the family law arena as well as statutory updates. And, just as with his meditation services, Manoff keeps access simple. When clients or attorneys reach out to him, he personally answers the phone. In fact, he encourages clients to use his cell phone, so he’s always in reach.
Looking back on his career thus far, Manoff has seen a seismic shift in many areas of the family law arena. For example, in the early days of his career, as it relates to raising children “the tender years doctrine” still had sway even though it was statutorily abolished. Today, the presumption of many judges is that parenting time will be split 50/50 between the parties, again, while not statutorily required.
As the meaning of “family” continues to change, Manoff is certain that the judicial system will adapt to fit the needs of its constituents. He looks forward to developing his mediation practice to best fit the needs of South Florida’s legal community.
“In mediation, it is just as important to stay current with the legal precedent and trends,” Manoff says. “A full understanding of trends in litigation will allow the mediator to better serve his clients and determine a final solution.”
Looking ahead Manoff has no plans to retire. “I want to practice mediation for many years to come,” he says.
As for his goals, Manoff is positioning himself to be the go-to family law mediator for attorneys in South Florida, and looks forward to hearing from you.