Call it making the best of a bad situation, or consider it a lesson in how to stay positive. Either way, it is because of the trauma and anxiety she felt at her own parents’ divorce that Megan S. Murray became a divorce attorney.
Actually, Murray is much more than a divorce attorney, she is a certified matrimonial law attorney and a partner in the law firm of Paone, Zaleski & Murray on Maple Avenue, here. She also happens to be a brilliant and compassionate attorney certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court, a voting member of the Family Law Executive Committee for the state Bar Association, and an associate managing editor for New Jersey Family Lawyer, a periodical magazine for family law attorneys. She is also a co-author with her partner, John Paone, of “Divorce in New Jersey,” a how-to book for couples thinking about divorce. The book, available in book stores and online, explains the legal process, individuals’ rights, and what someone can expect while going through a divorce.
Murray, 35, is one of only a handful of Monmouth County attorneys — and one of just 76 throughout the state — who is a Fellow with the AAML, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the professional organization of attorneys who have demonstrated an active interest and competency in matrimonial law through a series of rigorous challenges, ranging from an ability to handle complex matters relating to custody and support of children to being recognized as a leading practitioner in all aspects of matrimonial law.
The professional, but personal and loquacious attorney, said she first thought about being a matrimonial attorney when she was becoming a teenager and her parents were going through a divorce.
“It was a long and miserable process,” she said. “It started when I was in sixth- or seventh-grade and the divorce didn’t come until I was a sophomore in high school.” Her mother, a stay at home mom, had a positive attitude and knew and accepted she had to go out and learn how to become independent, how to have respect for herself, how to move on with her life.
“And she did it,” Murray smiled, adding, “My mother is one of the happiest and most independent people I know.”
She said that is when she realized by being an attorney she would have the chance to actually help people, adding, “I’m not a mouthpiece, I don’t represent men or women just for a settlement. It’s a very difficult time for both spouses to be going through and the settlement has to be fair all around. There’s a high level of stress for everyone going through this, and my clients are relying on me to get them out of it in a way that they’ll be OK and everything will be fair.”
She added, “If someone is contemplating divorce, I like to let them know knowledge is power. Whether I represent the husband or the wife, he or she needs to know their rights, their obligations, and how it will change their lives.”
While she represents both men and women in divorce actions, Murray was quick to point out that she will not represent an “unreasonable” person.
“We both make the decision after the initial interview,” she said. “They have to like me and they have to agree to fairness and the right results for the children if they’re involved.”
If one spouse is in doubt about proceeding with a divorce, Murray said she will recommend they retain a professional counselor before proceeding. Mediation, too, can be helpful in some situations.
For awhile in her school years, Murray said she also thought she wanted to be a journalist, rather than an attorney, and envisioned herself flying to remote areas to cover suspenseful events. But in the end, law won out, and she graduated summa cum laude from Boston University before earning her Juris Doctor degree from Wake Forest University. She served as a law clerk for Paul Kapalko, presiding Superior Court Judge, Family Division, Monmouth Vicinage, and joined Paone and Zaleski as a member of the firm that handles complex, high asset and high net worth divorce cases of all types. Her excellence in her field is demonstrated by the number of awards and citations she has received, including the Martin Golden Award for Family Law, the young Attorney of the Year Award from Middlesex County, the 2015 Leader of the Bar by NJ Law Journal, and one of a Super Lawyers Rising Star by New Jersey Monthly. She has also served as Chair of the Domestic Violence Legislation Subcommittee for the past two years and is co-chair of the Monmouth County Bar Association ‘s Family Law Committee.
When she is not working, Murray loves the outdoors and reading, and takes advantage of both Monmouth County and state parks for hiking and the county library for reading. She and her husband, Brian, who is also an attorney whose practice field is in insurance and associated litigation, golf together when they can and she also plays tennis. They also spend time at home with their rescue dog, Fluffy, a Shih Tzu mix.
Murray said her husband isn’t as talkative as she is, adding, “Our personalities may be a lot different, but we really resemble each other a lot.”
The couple met in law school when she was editor of the law newspaper and he was the fiery writer who sent in fascinating stories. She sought him out for more stories, they worked together, dated for three years and married.
“But I knew after three weeks I loved him,” she said with a grin.
So how does a happily married, brilliant, attractive woman who gleefully describes her husband of 10 years as her best friend, stay positive and upbeat while practicing the type of law in which both sides are facing the most traumatic experience of their lives?
“It’s my clients,” she said. “They’re relying on me to get them through this and to be OK. There’s a high level of stress in this field, not only for them but for the attorneys as well. These are real people, with real lives. I have to help them get through it so they can go on living real lives, albeit changed.”
Friday, March 10, 2017
By Muriel J. Smith
The Monmouth Journal