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Wilmington Attorney Opens Collaborative Family Law Practice

By Jenny Callison, posted Aug 30, 2021
A local attorney has co-founded a practice focused on adoption and collaborative family law.

Ashley Michael (right) of Wilmington has teamed up with Ashley-Nicole Russell of Beaufort, North Carolina, to establish Michael & Russell PLLC. Michael will handle both adoption and collaborative family law cases, while Russell – who maintains offices in Beaufort, Greenville and Raleigh – will continue practicing collaborative family law, according to a news release.

Collaborative family law attorneys handle such matters as same-sex marriage, divorce and juvenile law. The collaborative law process became authorized in North Carolina in 2003. 

Michael, a family law attorney, has more than 15 years of experience in the field. Previously she was with the Wilmington firm of Craige & Fox PLLC. Michael has experience handling adoption matters across North Carolina, throughout the United States, and internationally, the release stated.

Certified in family law by the N.C. State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, she is one of just 271 attorneys in North Carolina to hold this distinction, the release stated. In addition, Michael is a certified mediator in family financial matters with the N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission and is a parenting coordinator appointed by local judges to act as a quasi-judicial officer of the court. She has been a court-appointed guardian ad litem for incompetency and minor estate matters, custody, and domestic violence actions.

In addition to her new partnership in New Hanover County, Russell owns and manages AN|R Law: A Negotiated Resolution and is a co-owner of McLawhorn & Russell PLLC in Raleigh. She is an author and podcast host who works to spread awareness about collaborative law around the world and is focused on changing divorce in America “so children will not fall prey to the negative statistics surrounding divorce litigation,” the release stated.

Russell’s work to change divorce grows from her own experience.

“I’m a child of divorce and I wish this method would have been in practice when my parents divorced in the 90s,” she said in the release. “It is possible to divorce in a healthy way and I’m honored to help lead this charge in New Hanover County. By choosing an alternative dispute resolution method, divorcing spouses are able to settle their matters with collaboration and negotiation while also committing to positive co-parenting methods.”

Adoptions can present complications that require legal assistance, Michael said.

“A lot of times in international adoptions, for example, parents don’t realize they have to complete an adoption process in the U.S. after they return,” she said. “They will spend, say, $50,000 in another country, and then they have passport issues and Social Security paperwork to complete. They have to complete the adoption process stateside, but they could go years until they hit a legal hurdle and realize they need to do this.”

Legal issues can also arise in adoptions of children by relatives, Michael added, as well as in direct placement adoptions in which birth parents and adoptive parents working together on the process.

Michael and Russell are founding board members of the N.C. Collaborative Attorney Network, which is the statewide trade association for collaborative divorce. In addition, Michael serves on the board of directors for Coastal Collaborative Colleagues, and Russell is a board member for the National Parents Organization, which aims to spread awareness about shared parenting nationwide.

The Michael & Russell firm is located at 5008 Oleander Drive.
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