The stereotype of a family law attorney is that they deal in divorces or are limited to issues between spouses. The reality is that the practice can be far reaching in scope and encompass estate planning issues, business interests, and matters that extend beyond ex-spouses, but that deal with many aspects of a client’s life. A recent example of how the term “family law” can truly encompass the entire family made news recently in the form of the legal action NFL rookie offensive lineman Tyron Smith had to take against members of his family. Mr. Smith found himself at odds with family members who allegedly had become so aggressive in their demands for money that he had to call the police to intervene. Mr. Smith’s representatives report that about $1 million is missing from him.
Mr. Smith plays tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. While in southeastern Pennsylvania that job description may not get him much sympathy, I think everyone can at least understand and appreciate why a young man who is (allegedly) missing $1,000,000.00 would need to establish some secure boundaries between his family and his money. An NFL player’s career is short; don’t confuse the small number of higher profile long-term players for the general rank-and-file of the NFL. The fortunate ones may play an average of three years; some never make it past their rookie contract or, for that matter, rookie training camp. Mr. Smith, under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, is extremely well-paid, albeit not as well-compensated as his predecessors, many of whom has gone on to financial ruin due to family situations not unlike his.
As reported by Kareem Copeland of www.NFL.com, subsequent reports have come out about the facts behind Mr. Smith’s call to the police and his family disputes there was a disagreement about money (while acknowledging that he has given them a sizable portion of his four-year, $12.5 million contract). Nevertheless, Mr. Smith clearly reached a point where he could not trust those closest to him and had to act out of self-interest to protect himself and his financial stability.
Andrew Brandt, who has the distinction of having served on both sides of the NFL bargaining table as an agent and executive with the Green Bay Packers, wrote an interesting account of his experience with young players in similar situations as Mr. Smith. He has experienced the difficulty of counseling a client to act in a way that may hurt – emotionally or financially – someone they love, but sometimes that is a consequence of protecting the client.
Tyron Smith’s experience is not exclusive to wealthy athletes; many people find themselves in situations of having to seek judicial intervention in the form of Protection from Abuse Petitions, evictions, or needing counsel to resolve a financial issue in Orphan’s Court. Mr. Smith clearly found himself in a situation in which he had to consider what legal protections were available to him in order to secure his future. While Tyron Smith’s athletic career may be long, his post-NFL life will be much longer and – whether his actions prove to have been justified or a misunderstanding – he should commended for not waiting until his playing days and money ran out before doing something to protect both.