Philadelphia family law attorney William (Bill) J. Phelan, IV began his legal career in disability rights. He worked for the American Bar Association and promoted the rights of individuals with disabilities across the country.
“I’ve always had an interest in civil rights,” said Mr. Phelan, who also worked for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section prior to earning his Juris Doctor, with a certificate in Law and Public Policy, from The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.
His position with the ABA was mostly a policy position. Technically, he didn’t practice law and was not inside a courtroom. Although proud of his accomplishments during that tenure, he felt a change was necessary.
Discovering a passion
He eventually started a small general practice law firm with two other individuals, which is where he got his first taste of practicing family law. That move would eventually lead him to Cordell & Cordell.
“In family law, I saw a similar area to help individuals who may be in tough positions in their lives,” he said. “Just as people with disabilities may need the law on their side to make sure their rights are being enforced, in the domestic relations area of the law you have individuals who may not have their custody rights enforced or they may be up against another party who is infringing upon their marital property rights.”
Mr. Phelan noted that one of the more challenging issues men face in divorce is leaving behind misconceptions or rumors about the process and the law.
“Whether they hear it from a co-worker, read about it on the Internet, or see it in a TV show,” he said, “potential clients occasionally bring with them misunderstandings about how the law will typically handle their case.
“While the Internet and social media may discuss issues like divorce and child support in general, the jurisdictions where I have practiced can be very particular and sometimes even contradictory to logic. Putting these previous misconceptions aside, and working with an attorney, can go a long way in properly preparing to resolve the divorce.”
From a family law perspective, Philadelphia presents its own set of unique challenges. First off, Pennsylvania utilizes a tri-case system. That means that in divorce with children involved, a party will potentially have three unique and distinguishable cases: a divorce case, a custody case, and a support case.
There are also different stages to each case that are intended to promote settlement. This structure has its pros and cons.
“Settlement can be an excellent opportunity regarding the children or an efficient and worthwhile option for the parties going through divorce,” Mr. Phelan said, “but if there is no hope for settlement, the downside of these stages is that it, at times, can delay or postpone resolution, and sometimes that’s not advantageous.”
Although he lived in Washington, D.C. for 14 years, Mr. Phelan was born and raised in Philadelphia and always planned on returning home.
“I’m drawn to the area,” he said. “I think the character and the quality of the people in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley is what stands out to me. The people here are very hard-working and industrious people.
“That goes back even to one of Philly’s most famous citizens, Ben Franklin, who espoused and promoted industriousness. That’s still not lost today. We’re salt-of-the-earth type people.”
Additionally, Mr. Phelan enjoys the Philadelphia region as he is an ardent fan of the Phillies, Eagles, and Union.