A newly-formed and women-led law office in Wilmington is the area’s first adoption and collaborative family law focused firm. Michael & Russell, PLLC was founded in July 2021 by attorneys Ashley Michael of Wilmington and Ashley-Nicole Russell of Beaufort. The two teamed up to bring the much-needed collaborative law approach to family law in New Hanover County.
“I am passionate about collaborative family law because it is a proceeding that allows all parties to win,” said Michael, co-owner and managing attorney of Michael & Russell, PLLC.
The collaborative law process was incorporated in Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes in 2003. This type of alternative dispute resolution proceeding has gained momentum over the years and has become one of the fastest growing types of law nationwide; however, there hasn’t been a law office solely committed to this type of process in the southeast region of North Carolina until now.
“Compared to divorce litigation cases that end up in court, collaborative law is more rewarding as it allows for better outcomes,” added Michael. “It also helps to save divorcing spouses time and money by not putting them in court with additional legal fees and drawn out decisions.”
Michael is a family law attorney with over 15 years of experience. As a board-certified legal specialist in family law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, she is just one of 271 attorneys in North Carolina to hold this distinction out of more than 35,000 licensed attorneys statewide. In addition, she is a certified mediator in family financial matters with the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission, a Parenting Coordinator appointed by local judges to act as a quasi-judicial officer of the court, and has been a court appointed Guardian ad Litem for incompetency and minor estate matters, custody, and domestic violence actions.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to open this firm with Ashley-Nicole Russell who has truly paved the way for collaborative family law in North Carolina and across America,” said Michael. “She has incredible expertise in divorce culture and is passionate about the importance of shared parenting.”
Russell owns and manages AN|R Law: A Negotiated Resolution with three offices across North Carolina in Beaufort, Greenville, and Raleigh. She is also a co-owner of McLawhorn & Russell, PLLC based out of Raleigh with two additional locations in eastern North Carolina. She is the author of The Cure for Divorce Culture and host of the Divorce, Healthy! podcast. Through these efforts, she works to spread awareness about collaborative law around the world. Recently featured in Forbes Magazine for her efforts, Russell is focused on changing divorce in America so children will not fall prey to the negative statistics surrounding divorce litigation.
“As Wilmington and surrounding areas continue to grow, it’s important that collaborative family law is an easily accessible option for spouses considering separation and divorce. 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,” said Russell. “I’m a child of divorce and I wish this method would have been in practice when my parents divorced in the 90s. It is possible to divorce in a healthy way and I’m honored to help lead this charge in New Hanover County.”
The Michael & Russell law firm will focus on adoption, collaborative family law, same-sex marriage and divorce matters, and juvenile law. Michael has experience handling adoption matters across North Carolina, throughout the United States, and internationally.
“My main priority is to help our family law clients make a well-informed decision. As attorneys, we can’t make the decision for them, so instead, we’re committed to helping them control the outcome,” said Michael. “Knowledge is power. We want to make sure that our clients have all the information they need so they’re well-versed to get to the next step.”
Michael and Russell are founding board members of the North Carolina Collaborative Attorney Network (NC-CAN) which is 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.
“When practicing family law, it’s important that attorneys recognize the sensitivity of matters that will affect the lives of others who are involved, including spouses and children. Unfortunately, many don’t do this,” said Michael. “I’m proud that our firm is focused on out-of-court methods like collaborative law to best serve families in the Wilmington area and southeast region of North Carolina.”
At Michael & Russell, PLLC, you can trust that we are committed to serving you and your family. Through our New Hanover County office, we are able to provide family law services to all of southeastern North Carolina as well as handle adoption matters on a national and international scale. Please reach out to our Wilmington-based legal team at 910-255-5722 to learn more about working with us for your adoption, collaborative divorce, or family law needs.