Melannie Hutzelman Dino
Divorce Law - Leesburg, VA

As I explain to my clients from the first conversation, one predictor of an outcome to any case is the people involved in it - especially the lawyers. There are fine lawyers in family law, but also I run into those who simply dabble in it -- and their level of knowledge in the field is often not what they think it is. Even at this stage of my career, I see how a capable and focused lawyer can help with a positive outcome.

Clients do come in with misperceptions. One, for instance, is that many believe that if a spouse commits adultery they should get everything. That simply is not the case, almost ever, although behavior can impact outcomes in property and support matters. Another is that client sometimes believe that the court can compel people to be honest and forthcoming - and it can't. Just because the other side is uncooperative doesn't mean the other side will lose in court. The only way to challenge a brick wall is to prepare your case - and confront it.

As your lawyer, I do feel I have some responsibility in helping a client through the stages, the emotional stages, of divorce: Depression, anger, and detachment, just for starters. I do play a role in helping you navigate through all that.

Technology certainly plays a bigger role in all cases nowadays, especially social media. We do a lot of digital discovery. On Facebook, for example, there's daily evidence of people's behaviors, desires and intentions - and people don't seem to be aware of it. People don't remember to de-friend a former spouse, for instance. Impulsive postings on social media sites have a way of coming back to haunt you in the divorce process.

Custody cases are often the most wrenching and challenging. But judges tend to be extremely patient in hearing the issues of custody cases.

It is something of a running joke in the office that I am the "Document Queen" - unlike a lot of lawyers nowadays I am perfectly comfortable working through a pile of obscure paperwork, and finding relevant and meaningful information. That work is often central to the success of a complex case.

Northern Virginia is a prosperous place, but the difficult economy has shifted the strategies and approaches in many divorce cases. Often there are issues now of managing outstanding debts, and lower home values leading to upside-down situations in which mortgages are greater than the value of the home. People are much more sensitive to what assets there are to fight over, and what's worth fighting over.

Compared with many places, Northern Virginia is fast paced, and the lawyers can be especially aggressive and litigious. But most lawyers practicing family law exclusively are committed to the quality of the profession. Family law is where I am, and where I'll be.

I think our firm is excellent. As lawyers we assist one another, and we get practical feedback - it's much better to hear the counter-argument first from a colleague than hearing it from opposing counsel. And David (Masterman) has really helped build my confidence. He's an exceptional cross examiner in the courtroom, and as I have been trying cases in recent years, that influence has been important and valuable.

Virginia does have its share of law firms with dowdy and conservative styles. Ours is certainly not one of them. We're progressive, productive and energetic. I'm proud of that. I think our clients see that too.

Melannie Hutzelman Dino
"[Our firm is] progressive, productive and energetic. I'm proud of that. I think our clients see that too."
Phone: (703) 443-9360
Fax: (703) 443-9362
Clarion University of Pennsylvania, B.S., 1996
Widener University School of Law, Harrisburg, Pa., J.D., 1999
2015-02-05 12:05:24