Q & A With Spenser Housewright
Spenser Housewright joined The Shapiro Law Firm in September 2023 after a decade of experience with two other leading Texas family law firms. In the interview below with FindLaw, she discusses her passion for family law and the many strengths she brings to client service.
Question: You’ve focused your legal career on family law. What has drawn you to this area of the law?
Spenser Housewright: My parents were divorced when I was growing up, so right off the bat I knew I could relate to this type of law from a child’s perspective. I also was drawn to family law because you are working for a person, not a corporation. This allows you to develop meaningful relationships with your clients to where you feel like you have made a difference in their lives. Once I started practicing family law, I realized how much I loved the property side of things. When there is a business to value or many assets to divide, I love getting into the details of characterizing property.
Q: You handle a full range of family law and divorce matters, including high-asset divorce, complex property division, child custody, premarital agreements, adoption and surrogacy. Depending on the situation, are there things you want clients to know right from start so that you can act most effectively in their best interests?
SH: No matter what kind of family law case you have, there are certain details to be aware of right from the start that are particular to your specific matter. On the whole, when someone is going through a family law issue, they are typically at one of the lowest points in their life. A good family lawyer to me is one who is compassionate but also a straight shooter. I think all clients should be aware of a best-case scenario and also a worst case scenario so that the client always has realistic expectations. At the end of the day, a family lawyer’s job is to get their client the best deal possible in an efficient manner. We want the case over with as much as the clients do so that the clients can put this chapter behind them and move on with their lives peacefully.
Q: What is it about The Shapiro Law Firm that led you to join them?
SH: I really like the family dynamic of the firm. I think the fact that it is small is also an advantage. I’ve had many clients also say they are drawn to a smaller, family-oriented firm when choosing a law firm over a bigger, corporate one. Another thing I loved is that The Shapiro Firm has a criminal defense section to the practice. Criminal law and family law can be intertwined at times, and it is very convenient and also effective to have criminal defense lawyers down the hall to ask questions to when the need arises.
Q: Joining The Shapiro Law Firm, you’re stepping into a firm with a strong family legacy. How do you find that your own family has shaped your own values and outlook?
SH: My family has indirectly and directly shaped all of my values. The older I get and the longer I practice family law, I realize how instrumental childhood is and how influential parents are when raising their children. I love strong family legacies, especially in the field of law. My father is a civil insurance defense attorney in Dallas and my brother is a prosecutor in Collin County. I have tried a case in front of a jury with my dad and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I guess you could say I have a family legacy of lawyers as well, we just practice in different fields!
Q: As someone who is a parent yourself, do you find that this experience helps you understand what clients are going through when resolving custody/parenting time issues?
SH: Absolutely. At the end of the day, kids always need to come first. It is never good when kids are thrown in the middle of their parents’ litigation. The kids are innocent, and should be protected during the painful divorce process. A judge once told me that whenever a parent talks badly about the other parent to the children, the children are going to take it personally because they are in fact half of that other parent, so it feels like a personal attack to the children. That statement changed the way I view things. I want to always protect the kids while at the same time advocating for my client.
Q: You’ve recently developed a practice in assisted reproduction law, handling issues such as surrogacy agreements and planned adoptions. What are some of the special challenges and opportunities in that work?
SH: I love the opportunity to help people with this side of family law. It is the happy side of family law! It really is a breath of fresh air for me because clients come in at a very happy time when they are trying to start their own family. It is a true honor to be a part of. I think the challenges would be that you just always want to make sure that you are adhering to the Family Code and you do everything in a timely manner.
Q: Sometimes, even after a divorce is finalized, someone may need legal help to enforce or modify the final order. How do you approach those cases, where something has come up that is becoming a sticking point?
SH: There are many reasons why a prior order can be modified or enforced. Under the Texas Family Code, a court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may modify an order that provides for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.
For instance, just one example is that the court may modify conservatorship, or possession of or access to a child if modification would be in the best interest of the child and: the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed; the child is at least 12 years of age and has expressed to the court the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; or the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child to another person for at least six months.
Modifications and enforcements come up quite often. Sometimes it is impossible to foresee issues that may arise and that is where modifications and enforcements come into play. I approach these cases by getting all the facts and evidence needed to prove that the prior order needs to be changed, and we develop a plan that is best for the particular case – whether that is through mediation or in front of a Judge at a hearing or trial.
Q: What would you most like potential clients to know about how you can help them?
SH: I have lived a family law case as a child and I have also been on the other side of many family law cases as an attorney. I can help clients see both sides of their case and how it will affect all parties involved, and I think it is unique for a lawyer to be able to relate to their clients in that way. I also deeply care about the clients and their cases – and try my best to make myself available to them when they need me. I understand that what they are going through is all consuming, and I hope to be a light in an otherwise dark part of their life.