AFTER 25-PLUS YEARS DEDICATED TO FAMILY LAW, Andrew Rochester, Esq., says he takes pride in helping people solve problems and piece their lives together after a traumatic event like divorce. His reputation in South Jersey is one of personal attention and a steadfast commitment to getting clients the outcome they deserve, and the “boutique” experience at his firm Morgenstern & Rochester ensures that they have his complete attention in every stage of their legal matter.
This is not easy to find in a sea of large family law firms where clients only see the partners at the beginning and end of their case, Rochester says. “When you call me, at most you will have to go through my secretary. There’s no paralegal unlike at a lot of other firms. When documents are written for the court—an affidavit or certification—I’m actually the one writing it. When you email me, I’m the one responding. All communication is directly with me,” he says.
When a case makes its way through the court system, Rochester’s first-hand knowledge puts clients at an advantage. “Since I’m the only one arguing the case in court, there’s no need to explain the details to an associate or partner before arguing. I know the case in and out,” he says.
Rochester, who received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1991 and his law degree from The Boston University School of Law in 1994, has argued a lot of high-profile cases and notable ones in the appellate court as well. He has also argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court for matters involving custody of human embryos in a divorce—the first case of its kind in the state and only the third or fourth in the country—and most recently he represented a young client who sought contribution from her parents for college.
“A lot of cases I’ve worked on have helped shape New Jersey family law. For example, some appellate cases have resulted in significant changes in child support and alimony laws,” Rochester says. “I worked on a case from Atlantic County in which a father had multiple families and child support was awarded as if each case was separate. After arguing the case before the Appellate Division, the Child Support Guidelines were changed to require judges to look at all of the families together.”
Although these cases may have garnered attention, the bulk of Rochester’s clients are W-2 wage earners. His work is concentrated in divorce, custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and liabilities, domestic violence, as well as child custody and support in the situation where the parents were never married—a growing area of law, according to Rochester. His partner of 15 years, Nancy Morgenstern, does a good deal of work with legal services and even helped create a statewide program for low-income families in non-divorce family law cases.
In the era of COVID-19, divorce proceedings have changed and in some cases slowed down. “While I would much rather sit at a table with clients, COVID has changed that, so now most of my communication is phone, email and some video conferencing,” says Rochester. “The court system did struggle initially to adapt and it varied between counties and judges.”
Rochester is expecting a surge in new divorce filings mid-to-late summer. “I think new filings dipped as a result of people being unable to get out of the house to meet with attorneys privately,” he says. “Forcing two people who are in a bad marriage to stay in the same house for three-plus months is not helping. … I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are waiting for restrictions to be lifted so they can come in, meet with me and move on with their lives.”
For those who may be preparing for an initial meeting, Rochester suggests clients gather tax returns, pay stubs, recent account statements for investments and debts such as credit cards and car loans. “In the first meeting we want to get a snapshot of the family finances and see what the clients are facing so we can advise them about what the best course is for their families,” he says.
Rochester deals with clients empathetically, but also realistically. “I’m often the first lawyer they’ve ever talked to. Many who meet with us are still undecided about going through with the divorce so we try to give them a level of comfort that it will work out in the end,” he says. “But the conversations are also frank. Before a person makes what may be the most important decision of their life, they need a realistic assessment of their options and that is what we try to provide them.
“We make sure clients know the world will be different, but they’ll be able to move on and rebuild their lives,” he continues.
Morgenstern & Rochester
1874 Route 70 E., Suite 4
Cherry Hill | (856) 489-6200
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 (June 2020).
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