The road to becoming an attorney (especially one who handles many family law cases) has been a true journey for me. I grew up in Highland Park, MI—which, back then, was a tree-lined city with the first community college in Michigan and a very progressive school district. Unfortunately, the schools I attended there are now in moth-balls, and the school system has an emergency manager.
When I was in the 8th grade, my parents sent me to a boarding school in Adrian on the campus of Siena Heights where I received a wonderful education and longed to become a teacher myself. After graduation from St. Joseph Academy, I went on to the University of Michigan, where I obtained my bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. My husband was drafted during the Viet Nam war, and the Army took us to New Jersey and Kentucky. I taught high school not only in Michigan but in both of those other states. I not only taught during the day, but I also taught a Title I program in the summer, taught the GED class in the evenings, and tutored unwed mothers in their homes for the State of New Jersey while there.
After my husband was discharged, we returned to Michigan, and I received one of the last lifetime teaching certificates from the State of Michigan. In 1978, I was elected to the Saline Board of Education, where I served for three terms (12 years). In 1980, while on that Board, I entered Wayne State’s Law School and ultimately was elected a senior editor of the Law Review. After graduation from law school in 1983, I worked for Detroit-area law firms for 7 years before forming my own firm in 1990, the same year that I left the School Board. In 1992, I was retained by Dan and Cara Schmidt after Jan and Robbie DeBoer filed an action in Ann Arbor for custody of the little girl they had tried to adopt, “Baby Jessica.” The DeBoers were represented by the University of Michigan’s Law School (the Child Advocacy Clinic), and that case actually went to the United States Supreme Court before it was over.
During the case, virtually everyone in the United States was talking about the “best interests of the child.” My clients prevailed, and their daughter was returned to them after protracted litigation in Iowa (before they had even met me) and further litigation in Michigan, during which I represented them. At the heart of the case were the fundamental, constitutional rights of fit natural parents to the care, custody, and control of their own children. At Wayne State’s Law School, Professor Robert Sedler taught me a reverence for the United States Constitution, but I never imagined that I would have a case that turned so much on those precious rights.
A unifying factor for me throughout my life and my career has been my passion for justice. In 2002, Wayne State’s Law School invited me to teach family law as an adjunct professor, and the Law Review at the Law School gave me the Alumni Achievement Award in 2008, which I cherish. At the award banquet, I was invited to speak to the current law review members—and my message to them was that you can make a living and a difference in people’s lives at the same time.
I owe much to the many teachers and mentors in my life, including the teachers in Highland Park, those in Adrian, and Professor Robert Sedler, who taught me to love the law.
Marian is committed to helping to educate clients and the legal community about legal issues through publications and services like the Free Minute with a Lawyer series. We also welcome you to read about the decisions and verdicts in prominent cases in which Marian served as counsel.