Thacker accepted into prestigious national family law association


 by Cynthia Price

Legal News
Entry into the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is exceptionally challenging, ensuring that only exceptionally good attorneys make the grade.
Connie Thacker of Rhoades McKee is one of those attorneys.
In fact, she is one of only two women in West Michigan who has been chosen as a member, and one of only 45 or so Michiganians — out of thousands of matrimonial/family/
domestic lawyers practicing in the state — the AAML has accepted.
The organization’s web site,, states that its mission has been, since 1962, “[t]o provide leadership that promotes the highest degree of professionalism and excellence in the practice of family law.” 
Becoming a fellow of AAML, Thacker says, starts with a lengthy application, which asks for every publication, every presentation, every judge the applicant has practiced before, opposing attorneys in significant cases, and activity in every state in which the applicant may practice.
Applicants must, among other attributes, have at least ten years of experience in family law, meet continued education and publication requirements,  and run a practice which serves to “ elevate the standards and advance the cause of matrimonial law.”
Peer reviewers at the AAML make contact with the judges and attorneys listed, results are evaluated, and the application goes before the statewide chapter. If members find the applicant worthy, they ask him or her to come in for an hour-long interview. 
Once past the interview hurdle, applicants must sit for a four-hour exam. The are tested on every legal aspect of family law: Federal statute, bankruptcy, tax, real estate, jurisdictional questions such as what if the mother and father are in different states, social security.
Test results are returned to the state chapter, which makes the decision about whether to admit the attorney.
Thacker’s qualifications were clear, and AAML invited her to become part of the academy.
“I think it’s a great honor to be admitted,” Thacker comments.
This is not the first time Thacker has demonstrated her excellence. She has been named a Best Lawyer in family law. She has served on the executive committee of the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Section, as well as that of the Grand Rapids Bar Association; co-chaired the State Bar’s Alternative Family Law Section, chaired the State Bar’s Domestic Violence Committee, and has been an officer of the Grand Rapids Chapter, American Inns of Court.
She is currently treasurer of the State Bar Family Law Council, and said that, “if nothing goes awry,” she hopes to continue her progression and become chair eventually. Over ten years of service on that body should stand her in good stead.
As a member of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) Family Law Advisory Board, Thacker says that she not only sets the programming agenda for the year, she also has the opportunity to help fellow lawyers by speaking at ICLE seminars. Her expertise, on which she also presents before students at Grand Valley State, Michigan State, and Davenport Universities, spans simple estate planning to domestic violence to parenting time to non-marital unions.
However, one of the advantages of AAML membership, Thacker says, is the opportunity to learn from the very best in her field.
Another advantage is getting the word out to potential clients. The AAML web site offers a referral service for those seeking the best family lawyers.
Thacker has been at Rhoades McKee for about 10 years, and has been a shareholder most of that time. Though she does a small amount of tax and real estate cases, nearly all of her practice is in family law, and she chairs Rhoades McKee’s family law practice.
Among her many publications, Thacker co-edited a lengthy guide for the State Bar of Michigan called Guardian Ad Litem Handbook for Divorce Practice in 2006. Thacker has also written extensively on the guardian ad litem issue, among others. She says she acts as a child’s guardian ad litem where it is needed on some of her divorce cases.
Thacker spends a lot of time at meetings on the east side of the state — her “drive commitment” as she calls it — and feels that area has been harder-hit by the recession than West Michigan. “It seems to be getting a little better,” she says, “but I hope we see full recovery soon.” 
Still, in terms of people avoiding legal costs, she senses a lot of “waiting and seeing” even in this part of the state, and thinks there may be a barrage of divorce filings when the economy rebounds. 
Thacker is also sensitive to, and spends time studying, other repercussions of divorce. “You have to understand not only the legal ramifications, but also what are the emotional consequences. When you add the emotional piece it becomes very complicated.” She works with psychologists and at times has to obtain psychological evaluations to do the best job possible for her clients.
Thacker received her  law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Her undergraduate degree, from University of Baltimore, was in jurisprudence. She is also trained in domestic law mediation.
Thacker lives in Saugatuck, and says the commute is worth it. “I went for an early morning bike ride this morning, and I’m always struck by how beautiful it is — not a car on the street.”