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Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney

Carol J. Kernan, Esq.

Describe a case in the last year or two where you made a big difference.
I have a strong memory, excellent organization skills and attention to detail which together enable me to recognize income or assets of which my opposing counsel may not be aware. By way of example, in a recent matter the opposing party failed to include all the pages of his tax return which was misleading as to the assets that generated the income reflected on the return. Noticing this and undertaking appropriate follow up by way of subpoena I was able to uncover more than $200,000 of assets that were unknown to my client and apparently unknown to the other attorney who had not paid enough attention to the details of the matter. The discovery of this money resulted in my client leaving her marriage with more than an additional $100,000 which she was entitled to but most certainly would never have received but for my efforts. In most matters, finances are everything. When I meet a client for the first time my primary objective is to get as full and accurate financial picture of the marriage as I can. In my experience, most attorneys leave these details to later in a matter but knowledge of the financial picture at the outset of the matter makes me better able to advise my client as to what is likely to be obtained from or paid to the other party. It is important for clients to have expectations that are realistic and my focus on the financials at the beginning of the representation makes it more likely that my clients' expectations are realistic. Strong organizational skills and my excellent support staff assure that if matters cannot be resolved that they can be readily be prepared for trial if need be. I work equally hard to represent clients whether male or female and without prejudice of any kind. Last year I achieved the extraordinary result of obtaining a decision following trial in which primary custody of a young daughter was awarded to the father even through both parents were fit. That result could not have been obtained without being able to cross examine the mother using her own words from affidavits she had filed with the court. To cross examine an opposing party properly, an attorney has to be able to anticipate every question that the other attorney will ask his or her client. In essence, I must prepare not just my own case but anticipate the case that will be put on by the opposing party. That is what I do when a matter goes to trial.

How did you build a successful practice?
I built my practice over the years by getting results for my clients. I participated in continuing legal education long before it was required of attorneys and being persistent, diligent, and available for my clients. I advocate with zeal for legal positions that are realistic and when a client has unrealistic expectations, I do not hesitate to communicate that information to them. Of course, the ultimate decision on how to proceed is that of the client. No phone call goes unanswered whether from a client or from an opposing attorney. Since 1999 I have been certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. Fewer than 2% of attorneys possess Supreme Court certification in any area of practice. Believing that agreements reached between parties are most always preferable to court determination as the parties have a say in the outcome, I trained to become a Civil Mediator and a Family Law Mediator. I am a court approved mediator and appear on the Superior Court roster of approved mediators. The mediator skills I have learned are often helpful in resolving matters that otherwise might need to be brought before a judge for decision.

What should clients look for in a lawyer?
Clients should look for a lawyer who has a strong work ethic, who is available for them, knows the law and will advocate for them within the bounds of ethics. Clients should also look for a lawyer who does not tell them everything they want to hear as if that is the case, the attorney is certainly not being forthcoming as we rarely in life hear just what we want to hear. Supreme Court certification in an area of practice is a good measure of an attorney's knowledge, ethics, and the opinions of other attorneys and the judges before the attorney appears.

What information can you provide in a free phone consultation?
Telephone consultations are unfair to the prospective client. It is comparable to having a physical examination with a doctor over the phone. I do speak to prospective clients for a few minutes to get an idea of what the matter involves and if it is something I would undertake. That gives us both a chance to get a feel for each other. This is not a substitute for a consultation which would follow the telephone call. My consultations are typically no less than an hour and I review much of the client's financial information in that first meeting, if that information is available. After meeting and reviewing the facts of the matter, the prospective client will decide how he or she wants to proceed.

What differentiates you from other lawyers in your community?
I am distinguished in this legal community by being one of only two attorneys in Cumberland County certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. I am the only Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney who is also an accredited Divorce and Family Law Mediator.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is to obtain a good result for a client: finding assets that were unknown, obtaining custody for a devoted parent who under most circumstances would not have been victorious. Family law is heart breaking and  heartwarming. When marriages end and both Husband and Wife can go on with their lives, putting bitterness aside and looking out for what is actually best for the children, not just themselves, that is as good as it gets. Sometimes that actually happens

What are your other interests in addition to law?
I make my living as a lawyer but have varied interests. Cooking and entertaining - doing for others and making them happy - is my greatest joy. As a family, we have taken in 4 rescue dogs over the years. I have a Cairn Terrier and am the very happy mother of two grown children, a son and daughter. I have been married to attorney Robert Litwack since 1977. We put each other through law school.

Are you involved in your community?
I belong to and am active in a local church in my rural community. When my children were in elementary school I was an involved parent at their school and over a number of years, through cooking, raised over $30,000 for the school's scholarship fund. As a lawyer, I have had the ability to represent individuals who, without my volunteer services, would have no legal recourse. Obviously, free legal services for involved matters are a rare exception but when I look back over my career, my representation of the very helpless is the most gratifying work I have ever done. Amazingly, these people do not forget and it is my great pleasure each year to receive phone calls or letters telling me they are fine and thinking of me.