Top Divorce Lawyers in the Bethesda Area

The best in the business, according to 50 family law attorneys



(page 1 of 2)

A conference room in a Montgomery County law firm this May was full and tense: two attorneys, two warring clients and a mediator. The wife unleashed a tirade against her husband—not for infidelity or for ignoring the children, but for voting for Donald Trump. “Tensions are high,” says one of the attorneys who was there. “I think the Trump presidency puts a lot of people on edge at the get-go. I hear it from my clients all the time.”

The raw emotion that wanders from logic is real. And when an edgy attitude is matched by an economic recovery that has raised the value of homes in this area, making a split financially feasible, the result can lead to more divorces. In Montgomery County, there was a 19 percent increase in divorces granted in 2015 over the previous year, the most recent figure available from the Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report. 

The choice of an attorney can determine how a divorce plays out. There are different ways to find the best representation. The Bar Association of Montgomery County lists some 475 family law members. We contacted and interviewed about 50 family law practitioners to find out who they would choose if they were going through a divorce. Here are their recommendations:

Marina Barannik 

Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, D.C. 

202-466-8960 | feldesmantucker.com

Marina Barannik, 58, works on cases that require a high degree of specialization—especially when families are in different countries where different laws come into play. Barannik, born in D.C. to Russian parents, graduated from the Moscow State University of International Relations and The George Washington University Law School. Now a partner at one of the District’s elite family law firms, much of her work involves foreign nationals. 

Bibi Berry 

Paley Rothman, Bethesda 

301-951-9335 | paleyrothman.com

A single mother, Bibi Berry, now 43, began her law career as a paralegal at Arnold & Porter in the District. While there, she enrolled at Georgetown University in 1997 and attended law school at night. “I’m often told by my peers that my hourly rate is too low, but I have resisted raising it too much because I do want my services to be as affordable as possible,” says Berry, who has 15 years of family law experience. Her hourly rate is $395. 

David Bulitt 

Joseph Greenwald & Laake, Rockville 

240-399-7888 | jgllaw.com

With four daughters and married for 30 years, David Bulitt, 56, is said to be best in cases where children are the main point of contention. A majority of his clients are women. In his initial interviews, Bulitt might say: “Pretend you are Jeannie from the old I Dream of Jeannie show—if you could blink and make it happen, where do you want to be, what do you want…when the dust settles?” Bulitt is the author of two published novels, one inspired by his pre-law life as a bartender.  

Glenn Cooper 

Paley Rothman, Bethesda

301-951-9322 | paleyrothman.com

Glenn Cooper, 67, is the happy warrior of high-end Bethesda divorce law. His colorful courtroom style is occasionally irritating to opponents, but his record of positive results delights his clients. He is considered an expert in dividing up large stock portfolios. “My introductory conversation with a client is very realistic,” Cooper says. “I try to find out what are the issues—kids (custody and access), money (alimony or child support) and property. Each is different and involves a different kind of analysis.” Cooper’s hourly rate is $575.

Jonathan Dana 

Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, D.C. 

202-466-8960 | feldesmantucker.com

Jonathan Dana is head of the family law group and managing partner at a law firm that has been around for 47 years. He now occupies the leadership role once held by legendary divorce doyenne Marna Tucker. At least half his cases are tried in Maryland courts. “By practicing in both jurisdictions, I learn things and export ideas that can be very helpful to my clients in the other jurisdiction,” he says. Dana’s main focus is often on complex financial and family law cases involving high income and complicated assets. 

Linda Delaney 

Delaney McKinney, Chevy Chase 

301-913-5236 | delaneymckinney.com

Linda “Lin” Delaney, 57, promotes a core philosophical view: Children will not become pawns in a divorce. Delaney has been known to reject clients with what she considers unreasonable custody demands. “Most gratifying is getting families through the ordeal of separation and divorce with an opposing counsel committed to doing this work in a way that reduces conflict,” she says. 

Patrick Dragga 

Dragga Hannon Hessler & Wills, Rockville 301-340-9090 | draggalaw.com

Based on interviews and our survey, Pat Dragga, 66, remains one of the most popular and effective divorce lawyers in Rockville. His impressive roster of clients has included numerous professional basketball players and other athletes, such as former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. His rate of $525 may be intimidating, but younger partners, with $425-an-hour rates, also are available. 

Suzy Eckstein 

Oakley & Eckstein, Rockville 

301-424-8081 | oakleyeckstein.com

Tutored by her father, the late well-known Maryland attorney Harvey A. Jacobs, Suzy Eckstein, 55, has reached the same respected status, in her own specialty of family law. “It was from him that 

I learned how important it is to work with other lawyers, and how much you can win by honoring your word.” Her first half-hour is free, after that it’s $350 an hour. 

Dorothy Fait

Fait & DiLima, Rockville

301-251-0100 | fdfamilylaw.com

Dorothy “Doty” Fait, 68, has pounded the halls of the county courthouse for more than 30 years. Fait is a strong advocate for victims of domestic violence. She says her new book, Divorce in Maryland, “will hopefully keep people from getting misinformation on divorce from the internet.” In fact, her best piece of advice to divorcing spouses is “limit using social media; your words will come back to haunt you.” 

Darryl Feldman 

Ain & Bank, D.C. 

202-530-3325 | ainbanklaw.com

Darryl Feldman, 47, passed his CPA examination while attending law school. He’s managing partner of the family law group at one of the elite practices in the area. Its man in Maryland, Feldman is renowned for his acumen in complicated cases with financial tentacles. “In my cases,” he says, “I often ask [clients] if I were speaking to their spouse, what would they say about you? This often provides invaluable insight as to the issues in the marriage.”

Jeffrey Greenblatt 

Joseph Greenwald & Laake, Rockville 

240-399-7894 | jgllaw.com

For potential divorces heading toward war, clients choose Bronx-born Jeff Greenblatt, 69. Greenblatt has developed a following among those involved in “gray divorces,” which he defines as 50-plus. “I continue to vigorously represent my clients with aggressive and proactive steps,” he says. “I actually settle most of my cases, but not before some bloodshed.” 

Monica Harms

Stein Sperling Bennett De Jong Driscoll, Rockville 

301-838-3230 | steinsperling.com

Californian Monica Harms, 40, supervised the Domestic Violence Assistance Project for the Montgomery County Circuit Court as a young lawyer. High conflict custody cases grind many lawyers into depression, but Harms simply considers it “her thing.” She has been involved in several highly emotional cases in which parents have taken children to other states. But custody is only a part of what she does well. “I represent what we call the ‘whole enchilada,’ ” she says. 

Heather Hostetter 

Hostetter Strent, Bethesda 

301-657-0010 | hostetterstrent.com

In our survey, Heather Hostetter, 46, was far and away the most recognized by her peers. In private practice since 2000, Hostetter was a public defender for five years before specializing in family law. She has extensive experience working with abused women and abandoned children through the juvenile court system. Says a colleague: “Heather is a right-to-the-point kind of lawyer; she doesn’t waste anyone’s time and is very effective in getting her point across without being obnoxious.” 

Anne Marie Jackson 

Ain & Bank, D.C. 

202-530-3351 | ainbanklaw.com

Anne Marie Jackson, 48, is known as an excellent litigator who can also go the less-confrontational collaborative route. She has written and lectured on the rights of grandparents in divorce situations. Her advice to her clients: “If they feel like they need to write the scathing email to their soon-to-be former spouse, go ahead and write it, but send it to me—not the soon-to-be former spouse!”

Marjorie Just 

Offit Kurman, Bethesda

240-507-1700 | offitkurman.com

Clients can prepare for a meeting with Marjorie Just, 49, by reading her book, Divorce Decisions: Practical Ways to Protect Yourself, Your Children, and Your Wallet. Just has become the lawyer of choice for several prestigious downtown litigation firms, which rarely do divorce work on their own for fear of liability exposure. She has represented a number of clients in same-sex relationships, as well as people using assisted reproductive technology, which can involve sperm donor agreements. “With the legalization of same-sex marriage, there are still minefields in dealing with the patchwork of laws that previously existed and currently exist,” Just says.  

Carlos Lastra 

Paley Rothman, Bethesda 

301-951-9371 | paleyrothman.com

Carlos Lastra, 49, comes to family law with a rich trial background as an assistant to then Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno. Lastra’s mastery of following a money trail of hidden financial assets sets him apart from even the most skilled litigators who practice family law. He’s fluent in Spanish and knows what is covered under various privacy acts, which can differ under federal and state law. 

Cheryl New, Jeff Lowinger 

New & Lowinger, Bethesda

301-907-7000 | snlfirm.com

Cheryl New, 55, is a smart-on-her-feet, confident litigator, and Jeff Lowinger, 59, is her numbers man. They usually work together on their cases, which often involve salacious internet intrigue, and much of what they do involves discovering emails, texts and online dating sites that reveal inappropriate relationships and shifting assets. “I see so many people continuously putting stupid things in writing,” she says. Together they are a dynamic team for high-end clients. 

Ronald Ogens

Offit Kurman, Bethesda

240-507-1701 | offitkurman.com

Ron Ogens, 74, now commands 21 lawyers in this Bethesda-based family law practice. Ogens has a long and well-established reputation as a “stickler.” His consultation and hourly fee are $525 per hour, near the upper end of the scale. “Being thorough, accurate and precise is not something that an attorney picks up just by being around others,” Ogens says. “We instill those characteristics in our attorneys.”

Joseph Paradiso 

Paradiso, Taub, Sinay, Owel & Kostecka, Bethesda  

301-986-7900 | familylawattys.com

Joe Paradiso, 66, is one of the longtime practitioners of family law in Bethesda. An inveterate chess and tennis player, Paradiso prides himself on developing a coherent strategy and carrying it out until the end of the case. “My goal in the initial conference is to obtain information to accurately assess the case, build a foundation for a successful attorney-client relationship and to present a strategy that, if implemented, will offer the best opportunity for a favorable outcome.” 

Linda Ravdin 

Pasternak & Fidis, Bethesda 

301-656-8850 | pasternakfidis.com

Linda Ravdin, 68, has made her specialty the writing and enforcement of prenuptial agreements, for which she charges $750 per hour. She has literally written the book on the topic for the American Bar Association. Divorce queries are more likely to be directed to her partners, Anne White or Vicki Viramontes-LaFree. Ravdin says: “The trend toward prenups has been going on for some time, and shows no signs of slowing.”

Deborah Reiser 

Lerch Early & Brewer, Bethesda 

301-961-6094 | lerchearly.com

The process of “mediation” allows both sides to settle on one neutral facilitator. The two sides usually split the cost. After 40 years in the family law business, no mediator is held in higher regard than Deborah Reiser, 65, a partner at Lerch Early & Brewer. “I am a huge fan of mediation,” Reiser says. “I recommend it in almost all my cases and I’m doing more and more mediating myself. It works.” 

Darcy Shoop 

Collaborative Practice Center of 

Montgomery County, Rockville 

301-340-7950 | darcyshoop.com

Darcy Shoop, 57, is the poster lawyer for nonconfrontational settlement strategies.  “When people ask for a consultation with me,” she says, “it’s because they don’t want to be in an expensive and unpleasant divorce.” She says her office space, by design, is intended to be “warm and comforting,” and have neither the look nor feel of a law office. Shoop has been instrumental in bringing the collaborative concept—which includes multidisciplinary professionals such as experts in mental health, finance and law—to Maryland. 

Howard Soypher 

Paley Rothman, Bethesda 

301-951-9333 | paleyrothman.com

After years of being viewed as the protégé to Bethesda super lawyer Glenn Cooper, Howard Soypher, 46, has shed the understudy role and is now given full credit by colleagues as a family law force on his own. Soypher is a notorious early riser, making himself available to clients by 7 a.m. Says a onetime courtroom opponent: “Howard’s mind is very quick and he scores points before the witness can fully appreciate what has just happened—by then it’s too late.” 

Scott Strickler, Geoffrey Platnick 

Shulman Rogers, Potomac 

301-230-5200 | shulmanrogers.com

Scott Strickler, 56, and Geoffrey Platnick, 48, are both master strategists. Platnick, a strategy game lover, views the practice of family law much like a chess game and is often court-appointed to strictly represent children who are pawns in a divorce. Strickler delights in confounding opponents and admits that he has handled divorces that have been planned as many as three years before clients left their spouses. “It is never too early to discuss strategies that other lawyers might not contemplate,” he says.  

Robin Taub 

Paradiso, Taub, Sinay, Owel & Kostecka, Bethesda

301-986-7900 | familylawattys.com

Robin Taub, 57, made her name by representing professional athletes, including former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Her expertise is in the sensitive handling of difficult custody battles. A colleague says of Taub: “Robin is a personable, engaging and savvy mediator who very effectively employs these attributes to get the parties to ‘yes.’ ” A majority of her divorce practice is mediation or collaborative in nature, and she rarely goes to court anymore.  

Elizabeth J. Weisberg 

Lerch Early & Brewer, Bethesda

301-657-0160 | lerchearly.com

Elizabeth Weisberg, 67, is among the dependable, professional veterans at this downtown Bethesda firm, which offers top estate and real estate attorneys as well as family law services. Weisberg will likely talk to a prospective client by phone before scheduling a more in-depth meeting. “I do charge for the initial office meeting, since we are working and accomplishing quite a bit at that time,” she says. Weisberg favors collaborative and cooperative types of dispute resolution, especially when children are involved.

Anne White 

Pasternak & Fidis, Bethesda 

301-656-8850 | pasternakfidis.com

During the Jimmy Carter administration, Anne “Jan” White, 73, worked in the general counsel’s office at the Commerce Department, specializing in international trade. She switched to family law, she says, “to commit to a profession that helps people.” She adds: “I wanted to make a difference and I also knew that I had the capabilities to do so.”

Michele Zavos, Eva Juncker 

Zavos Juncker Law Group, Silver Spring 

301-562-8220 | zavosjunckerlawgroup.com

For all matters LGBTQ, Michele Zavos, 65, has the longest and most established practice, working on behalf of clients’ marriages before they were legal. “There have been significant developments in third-party custody and visitation cases after the Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated the de facto parent doctrine,” she says. “Given the changing nature of families…this is very important.” Her law partner, Eva Juncker, 41, is the firm’s litigation head.

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