2011 Legal Elite profile

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Susan C. Armstrong
Butler Armstrong LLP

Title:  Partner
Other legal specialties: General litigation; railroad litigation
Birthplace:  Harrisburg, Pa.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Dickinson College; law degree, University of Virginia School of Law
Husband: Russell V. Palmore Jr. (deceased)
Stepchildren: Annie Palmore Witthoefft and Jessie Palmore Yancey
Hobbies: Golf; travel; reading
First job as a lawyer: At Mays Valentine Davenport & Moore
Fan of: Close games/matches; good sportsmanship
Favorite vacation spot: Golf courses, especially in the mountains, but also by the sea
Recently read book: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
Career mentor: John F. Kay Jr.

How has the recession affected family law?   
“The recession has had a tremendous impact on family law and people going through divorces … for some couples, the recession appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Other couples have stayed together, even though miserable, because they cannot afford to separate.  For many younger couples, spending has equaled or exceeded the family’s income, so upon divorce there is not enough money to pay the bills of two households.  Many homes are now ‘underwater,’ so there is debt instead of equity to divide.  For older couples, savings and 401(k) accounts often are not sufficient to provide adequately for two people living separately in retirement.  Regardless of age, tempers seem to flare when people are under a lot of stress, and given the economy, I expect the courts and anger management classes are filling up.”

Has joint custody of children become more common?  
“Joint legal custody has been the norm for some time, and joint physical custody has also become more common in recent years.  But finding the perfect way to divide a child’s time between two great parents without adversely affecting the child’s sense of security and stability is not always easy.  Some children are able to handle dividing their school week between their parents, but others are not.  It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ situation.”

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