Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer

Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer

by Margaret Klaw


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Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer by Margaret Klaw

A woman seeking a divorce has no idea of the family finances—her husband doled out money only after she gave him requisition slips for her intended purchases. A lesbian couple wants to include their sperm donor in their child’s life—the sperm donor is the brother of one partner, so he will be the biological father as well as the child’s uncle. These are the clients who come knocking on family lawyer Margaret Klaw’s door, hoping for resolution.

Keeping It Civil looks at hot-button issues, such as new reproductive technologies and gay marriage, through the lens of ordinary people seeking counsel. A case about a prenuptial agreement becomes a meditation on the financial independence of women. A father who sues for custody because his ex-wife sends their son to school in slippers offers a look at how a lawyer selects what is relevant when pleading a case, and how a judge determines what makes a “good” parent.

We accompany Klaw as she negotiates with opposing counsel, prepares witnesses for testimony, sifts through legal precedents to develop her courtroom strategy, presents an argument to the judge, and keeps her clients in check. Like the medical observations of Atul Gawande and Oliver Sacks, these actual cases reveal our cultural biases and make for addictive reading, while offering a deeper understanding of what we talk about when we talk about family.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616202392
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 09/24/2013
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Margaret Klaw is a founding partner of Berner Klaw & Watson, a family law firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named by Martindale-Hubbell as a “Preeminent Woman Lawyer,” she has been recognized as a Pennsylvania “Super Lawyer” for the past five years. An adjunct professor of family law at Temple University’s Law School, she speaks frequently on family law and blogs for the Huffington Post and

Read an Excerpt

There's a courthouse saying that criminal lawyers see bad people at their best and family lawyers see good people at their worst. We deal with people who are raw, who are hurting. They tell us about what happens behind closed doors, and we come to know them, fast. But there's also a flip side. There are plenty of people who, in the midst of crisis, inspire awe with their strength and sound judgment. —from the Introduction

Table of Contents

Opening Statement 1

The Wall 4

The Prenup and the Porsche 19

Stefan 32

Anatomy of a Trial, Part I: The Case 41

Money Culture 55

Legal Fiction 68

Anatomy of a Trial, Part II: Beth/Hearsay 74

Anatomy of a Trial, Part III: Maria/Neutral Witness 88

Divorce Equality 94

Opposing Counsel 103

Anatomy of a Trial, Part IV: Jessica/Credibility 114

Anatomy of a Trial, Part V: Brian/Cross Examination 129

Stuff 147

Courtroom 7, 1 p.m. 156

On Being a Divorce Lawyer 168

Anatomy of a Trial, Part VI: Jimmy and Kaitlyn/Interview in Chambers 184

Sperm Donor v. Father 198

Good Parent, Bad Parent 215

Anatomy of a Trial, Part VII: The Ruling 225

Working Women 236

Closing Argument 249

Acknowledgments 255

What People are Saying About This

civil rights lawyer and senior fellow at the Unive David Rudovsky

“Margaret Klaw has captured the drama, conflict, intensity, and the rapidly changing practice of family law.”

New York Times bestselling author of the legal thr Lisa Scottoline

“Margaret Klaw’s keen observations about the law and human nature are eye-opening and jaw-dropping. This book shows how today’s cultural conflicts are played out in the lives of ordinary families in true-life cases that involve love, money, sex, betrayal, and power. A must read!”

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Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a terrific read.  One might make the mistake of thinking it is targeted toward those who are in involved in family law, either as lawyers or clients.  That's not the case at all.  Klaw writes an engaging, interesting and sometimes humorous account of her field of work.  Her perspectives on what drew her into the field of family law and what keeps her there are enlightening, as are her insights into the often-mysterious world of lawyering and courtrooms in general.  There are lessons sprinkled throughout, although thankfully not in a self-helpy sort of way.  Rather, Klaw shares enough stories from others' real life experiences that we all can consider how to make choices that are sensible for us.  I found this book totally readable and approachable.  Highly recommended.