Five Questions For Laura Wasser

One of L.A.’s top divorce lawyer pens a comprehensive how-to guide for an efficient and amicable split

If anyone knows how to efficiently handle a divorce, it’s attorney Laura Wasser.

As the legal liaison for some of the biggest names in Hollywood (Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kuthcer, Britney Spears—the list goes on), she is arguably L.A.’s most successful and sought after counsel. In her new title It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way, Wasser offers a thorough guide on how to weather the storm of divorce as amicably and professionally as possible. Here, she doles out some lawful wisdom and shares her thoughts on the oft-overlooked silver lining of dissolved unions.

What was the motivating force behind writing this book? Why did you decide to publish it now?
Over the past 20 years, particularly during the last five, it occurred to me that parties going through the dissolution process often go in hugely uninformed. Ignorance paired with an emotionally and financially devastating life crisis can be dangerous. Family Law attorneys will often make a lot of money to the detriment of clients and their families. There are so many friends and clients I have heard say, “If only I knew then what I know now.” I have a message to give to people contemplating or going through this experience. The message spans socioeconomic, gender and age groups. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our generation has the tools available to us by virtue of education, the Internet, mental health practitioners and counseling opportunities that our parents’ generations and those before them did not have. By employing these tools and having a relatively user-friendly guide, I believe the divorce process can be simplified and improved.

You’ve represented some of the biggest names in Hollywood who have much more money than the average Joe. What is some universal advice you give in your book?
Pro bono work has shown me that divorce or separation is the great equalizer. Hack off or add some zeros and people experience the same fear, sadness and anger going through this process. Universal advice set forth in It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way is to remember that a dissolution is, in part, a business transaction. Try not to let emotion, hurt, fear or anger dictate the circumstances of your discussions or negotiations. Be kind. Treat your spouse or partner the way you would like to be treated yourself. Remember, you are still a family, particularly if you have children, even if you are not living under the same roof. Put your children first. Rise above whatever animosity you may have for your former spouse/partner and make it comfortable for your children to be parented by each of you as a united front. Be creative. Think outside of the box and come up with solutions which suit you and your family rather than leaving it to the attorneys or a judicial officer who does not know you or have time to investigate your specific circumstances.

It seems like it might have been depressing to write a “how to” guide for divorce. Do you ever dwell on the dissolution of marriage? Or is it just part of the job?
Writing the book was not depressing in the least. My job is to help people get from an unhappy or uncomfortable period in their lives on to the next chapter. Solving problems and getting families over the bridge can be quite rewarding.

What are some of the more important tips people should remember when choosing a divorce lawyer?
If it turns out that you do need the assistance of an attorney to help you through the divorce process, here are some tips for choosing one: In seeking a lawyer, you are looking for an advocate, an expert advisor on the law and on your rights and responsibilities, a strategist, a negotiator, and a litigator. But remember: No lawyer is as invested as you are in the outcome, so it is necessary to become and stay involved in the process; that is also the best help you provide to your lawyer. Find a pool of lawyers from whom to choose, solicit referrals from other professionals you know or deal with—an accountant, banker, business manager. Check out Bar Association listings as well, and don’t neglect Internet research. An in-person meeting is worthwhile, even if you pay for it, to explore the lawyer’s record of achieving settlements via mediation/negotiation vs. via court proceedings, to get a feel for the lawyer’s manner, and to see if there is chemistry and a sense of comfort between you. In a preliminary consultation, determine the lawyer’s fees, terms, and schedule availability.

What’s your most memorable case? Why?
I have had many memorable cases. Generally the ones that stick are those that involve child custody. When one parent moves to a different state thereby making shared custody difficult, settlement becomes an entirely new ball game. If the parties are unable to resolve a custody schedule which will work for them and their children, court may be necessary. These “move-away” cases are my most difficult and memorable.