Jeffrey P. Weinstein Reflects on His 40-Year Legal Career
During his 40-year legal career, trial attorney Jeffrey P. Weinstein has watched the practice of family law evolve tremendously.
Having represented thousands of clients in cases before the trial and appellate courts of the State of New Jersey, Weinstein has been called upon by other matrimonial attorneys to serve both as an expert and mediator.
The former chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association Family Law Section, Weinstein was one of two lawyers who assisted the Supreme Court committee of New Jersey in establishing the Family Part in the New Jersey Court system. In addition, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, appointed Weinstein as a Standing Master to assist in the resolution of complex matrimonial matters.
Early in his career, Weinstein wanted to become a public defender or prosecutor. But after working as a law clerk to Judge Edward F. Broderick in Morris County, Weinstein decided to go into private practice.
“Judge Broderick was a fantastic mentor. Although he practiced criminal law, he taught me how to deal with people because he was such a good people person,” Weinstein says. “He told me that the highest compliment you can receive is when a client comes to you for advice. It’s not only the highest compliment, it also gives you a tremendous amount of responsibility.”
When Weinstein first started practicing family law (known then as divorce law), it was not regarded as highly as it is today. He began working in family law just as equitable distribution (the division of the assets that were acquired during the marriage) became the law. Weinstein became the first attorney in New Jersey and the U.S. to obtain alimony for a man back in the early 1970s.
“Prior to the equitable distribution statute being enacted, assets were generally given to the person who made the assets, which gave no value to the contributions of the spouse to the success of the business person,” Weinstein explains. “Family law practitioners were in the forefront of equality in the 1970s.”
The sophistication of family law has also increased over the years, especially when it comes to dividing assets. Practitioners must first identify what the assets are by way of discovery, value the assets using accounting and then allocate percentages of each and every asset to the parties. These complex cases require a good knowledge of rules of evidence and trial techniques, as well as the ability to advocate for a client.
“When you and your client begin working together, you really form a partnership with the client, although you are dissolving another partnership, namely a marriage,” Weinstein says.
Family law also changed in respect to custody issues.
“Way before I started practicing, children were considered to be chattel belonging to the male,” Weinstein says. “Later children of a tender age would be given to the mother. Today, it’s really about what’s in the best interest of the children.”
In 1977, Weinstein and a client who happened to be a mental health professional co-authored an article, “Joint Custody: A Viable and Ideal Alternative,” which recognized joint custody as a viable alternative to one parent becoming the sole custodial parent.
“Both parents should have and an equal say in what is in the best interest of the child and in all matters affecting the child’s health, education, and well- being. In addition, both parents should have a right to be with the children as much as is possible. These changes happened over time,” says Weinstein, who was serving as chair of the Family Law section when the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 went into effect, which protects a spouse from physical and/or emotional abuse.
Weinstein has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® and Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and is a member of the Matrimonial Lawyers Alliance, an organization comprising the top matrimonial lawyers in New Jersey.
He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as a member of the Essex County Bar Association, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Yet, perhaps Weinstein’s proudest professional accomplishments is also a personal one. That’s when his son, Evan R. Weinstein, told he and wife, Ronnie, that he wanted to become an attorney.
“We didn’t push him in that direction, but were very happy to hear his decision,” Weinstein says of his son and now fellow firm partner. “Hopefully my grandson who is 6 months old will follow us, too.”
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.