A Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and an experienced and creative courtroom litigator for over 15 years, Brendan Hammer previously represented a wide variety of individuals, from executives, entrepreneurs, and medical, legal and creative professionals to political figures, professional athletes and their spouses, partners or paramours. Seeing up-close the toxicity, emotional toll and financial cost of litigation, he now concentrates his practice on the mediation and arbitration of sophisticated family law matters including high-conflict custody disputes, complicated relocation matters, the valuation and division of assets, fraud and dissipation claims, complex compensation structures, spousal challenges to trust and estate plans and high net worth maintenance and child support.
In addition to working on behalf of individual clients and attorneys in alternative dispute resolution processes, Brendan provides nationwide strategic consulting, coaching and support to private clients as well as family law and related professionals.
Often teaming with a wide array of custody and financial consultants and experts, and although he litigates only in select circumstances, Brendan still assists private clients and attorneys in the creation, development and deployment of litigation strategies for family law matters; and he helps facilitate the maximization and optimization of client and attorney performance – with a specific focus on the psycho-social and performative aspects of litigation.
Named as one of Crain’s Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Chicago (2017), the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s 40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 to Watch (2012) and other honors, Brendan speaks, teaches and publishes on various family law matters—including cross examination, discovery, evidence, performance aspects of litigation, trial techniques and oral argument. Certified in divorce mediation through Northwestern University over a decade ago, he also completed the family law trial advocacy program and the Advanced Cross Examination Program of the National Family Law Trial Institute with Roger Dodd. Brendan previously served on the Faculty of the National Family Law Trial Institute.
Brendan brings a unique background, perspective and set of abilities to his practice, drawing equally upon his wealth of experience in complicated family law matters, his own divorce and coparenting experience, his three decades of practice in mindfulness and meditation, and his background in the performing arts. While once recognized by his peers and the judiciary as a zealous and articulate advocate, Brendan also is proud of his ongoing reputation in non-litigated settings as a pragmatic, sensitive, empathetic, and collegial professional. Brendan is frequently cited in mainstream media on divorce and family law matters, including in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Representative cases in ADR and litigation include:
Successfully litigated defense of fraud claims brought by former spouse regarding valuation and sale of business owner’s company
Successful mediation of complex compensation structure issues for private equity professional and spouse
Successful mediation of complicated tort claims ancillary to high-conflict divorce
Successful mediation of child relocation issues involving California and Illinois
Multiple successful mediations of high-conflict custody disputes involving complex substance abuse and mental health issues
Multiple successful mediation of complex financial cases involving business valuation, personal goodwill, spousal maintenance, reasonable compensation, and property characterization
Successful defense against spousal challenges to multi-generational family estate plan
Successfully obtained relocation of mother and child to North Carolina despite father exercising close to equal parenting time
Successfully obtained relocation of mother and children to California despite father exercising 50/50 parenting time for two years prior to trial
Successfully reduced by 80% and then eventually terminated long-term maintenance award of spouse of business executive
Successfully litigated substantial downward deviation in child support for professional athlete
Successfully maintained child custody jurisdiction in Illinois despite the presence and residency of a minor child and her mother in a foreign nation for over five years
Successful litigation of numerous motions for summary judgment regarding the characterization of business interests, trusts, and executive compensation
Successfully litigated physical and legal custody in high-conflict litigation matter despite pervasive alienation and substance abuse issues in case
Successfully litigated the dismissal of significant tort claims brought amidst high-conflict divorce matter
Brendan is admitted to practice law in Illinois and Texas
Prior Pro Hac Vice Admission – Commonwealth of Virginia
Prior Pro Hac Vice Admission – District of Columbia
Profiles and Publications
The Tao of Cross-Examination: Reconceptualizing Approaches for Effective Inquiry – Spring 2022 edition of the American Bar Association journal “Family Advocate”
Why Do Family Law Attorneys Care About Law Day? – May 2022 blog article for Illinois Chapter of the AMML
Know When to Fold ‘Em: Pulling the Plug in Marriage and Divorce Matters – article in Hinsdale Living Magazine, May 2022
One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Finding the Right Lawyer When Things Go Wrong – article in Hinsdale Living Magazine, April 2022
Best Supporting Spouse in a Long-Term Marriage – article in Hinsdale Living Magazine, March 2022
The Heart of the Matter: Decoding Divorce for Modern Families – profile in Sheridan Road Magazine, December 2021
Up Close and Personal: The Challenges and Opportunities of Remote Litigation – Fall 2021 edition of the American Bar Association journal “Family Advocate”
Deconstructing The Dynamics Of Divorce, profile in Hinsdale Living Magazine, May 2021
Heads Carolina, Tails California: Relocation With Children Amid Shifting Circumstances, Chicago, Daily Law Bulletin, 2021
Prenuptial Agreement law in Illinois chapter in “Drafting Prenuptial Agreements,” 2012 and 2021 (Co-Author with Barry A. Schatz of Berger Schatz LLP)
“Discovery in Family Law Cases,” ISBA Family Law Handbook, 2011 (Co-Author with Barry A. Schatz of Berger Schatz LLP)
“A Divorce Practitioner’s Introduction to Determining Schedule C and Subchapter S Income,” Family Law Update, 2010 (Co-Author with Barry A. Schatz of Berger Schatz LLP)
“Tainted Love: What the Seventh Circuit Got Wrong in Muth v. Frank,” DePaul Law Review, 2007
Speaking and Presentations
“Don’t Fence Me In: Creative Uses of Hybrid ADR Processes as Practical Adjuncts and Alternatives to Complex Mediation and Litigation” – IL-AAML President’s Day Seminar (February, 2023)
Featured Presentation at South Carolina Bar Convention – Family Law Section — “Putting it Together – Hearings and Trials in Family Law Cases” (January, 2023)
“Putting it Together: Conducting Evidentiary Hearings and Trials in Family Law Cases” – Chicago Bar Association, 2022
“Litigation Live: An Unscripted Demonstration of Effective Psychological Expert Examinations in Relocation Trials” – AAML-IL and IICLE, 2022
“First Impressions: Temporary Support Hearings and Establishing Lasting Narratives for Domestic Relations Cases” – AAML-IL and IICLE, 2021
“Clearing the Path: The Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness for Attorneys” – DuPage County Bar Association, 2021
”Financial Domestic Violence” at Annual Symposium of the DePaul University College of Law Family Law Center, 2021
”Reading Demeanor in Masked Proceedings” – Our Family Wizard Panel Symposium, 2021
“Lessons Learned Through COVID-19: Utilizing Technology to Move Your Family Law Practice Forward” – IICLE, 2020
“The State of Family Law During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – Chicago Bar Association, 2020
“Family 2.0 – Coparenting After Divorce” – Family Law Symposium on the New American Family, DePaul University College of Law, 2019
“The Evolution of Dissolution – Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Divorce” – DePaul University College of Law, 2019
“Meditate Before You Litigate: Mindfulness for Lawyers” – Illinois State Bar Association Solo and Small Firm Conference, 2019
“Putting on a Financial Case in Domestic Relations” – Chicago Bar Association, 2018
“Everything You Need to Know and Do if There is an Entity or Trust in Your Case” – co-author of presentation with Sherri A. Evans and Taylor Toombs Imel (Koons Fuller, P.C.), 39th Annual Marriage Dissolution Institute, State Bar of Texas, 2016
“Insights and Tactics for Remote Litigation in Family Law,” CBA Fall 2020 (Co-Presentation)
“Tips and Warnings in Remote Evidentiary Hearings,” DuPage County Bar Association, Fall 2020 (Co-Presentation)
“How to Cross Examine a Witness,” Chicago Bar Association, Winter 2015 (Co-Presentation)
“Williams v. Illinois and Forensic Evidence,” 77th Annual Conference of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Summer 2014 (Co-Presentation with Barry A. Schatz of Berger Schatz LLP)
Recognitions and Awards
Crain’s, Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Chicago, 2017
The Best Lawyers in America® for the practice of Family Law, 2019 – 2021
H-Texas Magazine, Top Family Lawyers in Houston, 2016
Super Lawyers 2021 to Present
Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2012-2015
Leading Lawyers Network
Emerging Lawyers, 2015 – 2018
Leading Lawyers, 2018 – Present
Law Bulletin Publishing Company, 40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch, 2012
Organizations and Memberships
I know what it feels like to not know what is coming next. In my own divorce experience, I also felt that bizarre mix of uncertainty, pain, confusion, and fear — as clearly as I could sense my own heart beating. Today probably seems tough and tomorrow might seem impossible. As a divorce professional, who is also a divorced parent, I know what mattered to me when I went through the process. I know what I needed, what helped, and what mattered. I also know what is required to shield children from the corrosive damage that comes with the end of a marriage. Because I know what it takes, personally and professionally, I want to help you find and secure what matters to you. Your future is my focus.
One of the problems with divorce is that we often treat it as merely a legal problem to be solved — as opposed to seeing it for what it is, in full — a legal issue that presents itself within a complex set of psychological and emotional dynamics that all need to be unpacked, sorted and then navigated. There are always important legal, financial and other practical issues in every case. Addressing those issues requires experience, intellectual acumen and creativity. But what drives the difficulty and the darkness in divorce, and makes it the thing that we all fear and want to avoid at all costs, is beyond legal.
Going “beyond legal” is something I have done for over 15 years, first as an attorney in complex, high-conflict, and high net worth family law cases and then as a mediator and arbitrator dedicated to resolving problems, finding solutions, and preserving dignity for the families with whom I work. As opposed to just saying it, my track record is demonstrable and is an open book. Working in all aspects of various divorce processes, I have litigated, negotiated, arbitrated and mediated complex financial and child related cases in Illinois, Texas, Washington, D.C. and beyond.
My goal in every case is to not only apply a rigorously data driven approach to the quantitative financial issues presented to me, but to translate that approach and operationalize it throughout the alternative dispute resolution process into objective, transparent, and quantifiable results. But that is not enough. No one wants to obtain a purely Pyrrhic outcome. And, fortunately, destruction and damage can be mitigated, if not always avoided. Critically, I never ignore the qualitative side of a case, because I also want to help spouses navigate the rough storm of conflicting emotions, assist them in gaining clarity, and attempt to preserve a measure of goodwill with their spouse or partner. The preservation of peace, wherever and to whatever extent possible, is also the hallmark of a good divorce process.
Many attorneys do not have a holistic strategy that they can identify in simple terms or they may have only one approach to each case. Those approaches can work for some people. But if you are still reading here – you are unique. Or perhaps you know that your spouse or partner is. You understand that your divorce is its own kind of canvas. And instead of painting by number, you intuitively grasp that you are best served working with a professional who is a partner in your process, and not merely working in service to the attorneys. You deserve a process that you can take ownership of, where you are fully heard, and where you can do it differently than your family members or friends. You have more power, agency and control than you might think. Almost no one would disagree that individual people deserve and need customized approaches that work for them, not just their attorney. But how does that get executed in an ADR setting? What does that look like and feel like? Does it mean the attorney and mediator just do what the clients want whenever they want it? Or does it mean the attorneys and mediator survey the terrain and decide what will work best for the clients – informed by strategy but open to unorthodox and creative approaches?
Neither. Because both approaches suffer from the same problem, but in opposite ways, and both approaches miss the essence of what the dispute resolution process in a divorce case can be when it is established thoughtfully with buy-in from all stakeholders and participants and is then reassessed and maintained mindfully and well.
Every marriage or intimate relationship began with a foundation that contained some degree of love, and was filled with hopes and dreams. Every friendship, at some point, solidified itself around shared values or goals, common interests, and a mix of loyalty, grace, compassion or honor that was proven or tested amid challenge and crisis. Right now, it may seem impossible to envision how to move forward. It may seem like finding solutions outside of the adversarial process of litigation is too much to ask. Today, the dreams, hopes and love probably feel lost and it can seem overwhelming. At the moment, the challenges of this time are again proving and testing both you and those around you. Don’t worry. Crisis is clarifying.
The practical aspects of dealing with what must formally be addressed in divorce are not particularly difficult at a practical, legal or intellectual level – despite the attempts by many to mystify them as such. The emotional and psychological aspects are, however, brutally demanding. The patience required to remain both centered and directionally focused is significant. To handle these matters requires an ADR professional who can provide a bespoke sensibility, a multi-domain creativity, and the willingness to think outside of the box. This is the essence of going beyond legal and it is why your future is my focus.
DePaul University College of Law, Magna cum Laude (Top 10%) and Law Review; Certification in Family Law and Fellow in DePaul/SDF Family Law Center