Dec. 11, 2019 — From resolving the question of frozen embryos, to knowing how to handle the division of an estate of an elderly divorcing couple, Susan Myres notes that family law is a rapidly changing practice area.
After being elected president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers last month, the 1982 alumna of the University of Houston Law Center will have the opportunity to keep her colleagues apprised of the field’s latest dynamics.
“I am very excited about serving the practice of family law as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers,” Myres said. “The academy is a national organization of nearly 1,600 family lawyers practicing in every one of the 50 states.
“Our members are the cream of the crop, having passed a series of rigorous challenges to join the academy, including testing and meticulous peer and judicial review.”
Some of Myres’ ambitions for the organization are to make programs more accessible for family law attorneys across the country and increasing the group’s membership.
“I want our programming to address the tough issues in a rapidly changing society so we can help prepare family lawyers across the country to deal with all the issues that may arise in the course of a divorce,” she said.
Myres said that a good family lawyer must have intellectual curiosity because cases frequently involve numerous facets of the legal profession. Cases will often intersect with real estate law, business and financial law, personal and corporate tax law, employee benefits, international issues such as immigration, personal injury law, child development, the technology of artificial reproduction, the diagnosis and treatment of addiction among many other issues.
"Family law has changed dramatically over the 30-plus years of my practice since I graduated from the Law Center," Myres said. "There are new kinds of marriages — not just same-sex marriage, but blended families resulting from multiple marriages in which children may be growing up with step-siblings and half-siblings.
"Just to add to the challenge, we now also have new ways to bring babies into the world, from in-vitro fertilization to storing frozen embryos to the use of surrogates to gestate a baby. All of these issues impact directly on family law."
According to Myres, another significant change is the explosion of information available on the Internet.
"Once, long ago, the only way to prove that a spouse was cheating was to hire a detective to follow him or her around and take covert photographs. Now reams of emails, texts, comments on social media platforms may all possibly be relevant to a single divorce case. How is all this information to be gathered and reviewed? How can a client pay for all the discovery that is necessary? How can we protect privileged communications?"
Myres mentioned the global nature of Houston, and how some family lawyers may have to maneuver around a marriage or divorce that occurred outside of the country.
"Immigration issues are often critical, as are the complex issues involved when parents and children hold different citizenships," Myres said.
Myres is the senior partner at Myres & Associates, PLLC in Houston, a firm that focuses on divorce and family law.
“I have found that, unlike other kinds of practices, the practice of family law presents a new challenge every day,” Myres said. “Family law never becomes stale, boring or routine because we are dealing with the infinite variety of individuals and relationships. Every couple is different, and every situation is unique, but they all have one thing in common: they need assistance resolving their conflicts.”
Myres acknowledged the toll of representing people going through personal difficulties or trauma, but said she uses the situations that arise to gain a better understanding of her clients and the law.
“Of course, family law can be very challenging,” she said. “We are dealing with people who, in many cases, are undergoing the worst experience of their lives. But there is also a lot of satisfaction in being able to find solutions to difficult problems and offer counsel that helps to allay fear and point the way to a manageable and productive life after divorce.”
Myres credits the Law Center professors for giving her the foundation she needed to be successful in the legal profession.
“I genuinely liked all of my professors at the University of Houston Law Center,” Myres said. “Professor Newell Blakely taught us confidence and creativity. Professor John Mixon taught about connectivity and interdependence. Professor Elizabeth Warren educated us in the process of investigating options and exceptions.”
Myres said one of the lasting lessons she took from the Law Center was that making connections with other people is beneficial for one’s personal and professional lives.
“One of my lasting gifts my law school courses gave me was learning the importance of relationships and how they significantly impact your success and contentment in life,” she said.