Paul W. Van Ryn
  • Partner


Delmar, NY





I chose to become a family law attorney. I did not end up here by accident, nor do I view my job as being focused on divorce trials. My job, or vocation, is to help people understand what the legal system can and cannot do in resolving their disputes with their spouse, and to help them through the emotional turmoil of the process. I want to help them understand what their new lives are going to be like after their separation and divorce. In some ways I see myself as a life coach to help people understand how they are going to live without the support of a spouse or partner.

The legal system does not handle well certain aspects of divorce and separation. In particular, it does not handle well the issue of custody. I try to educate my clients on what they need to do to resolve the differences with their spouse, whenever possible, by settlement. Although I enjoy doing trials, and that is part of the reason I became a lawyer, almost all divorce cases are better resolved by negotiation rather than by litigation.

In my view, divorce and custody do not fall within the normal realm of litigation. Normally, a lawyer is obliged to follow a client's instructions as long as what they wish to do is legal and ethical. That does not necessarily work in the context of divorce litigation.

I try to educate my clients that certain things they may want to do, while legal and ethical, are not in their own or their children's best interests. Every client I represent I assume to have their children's best interests at heart. When a father comes to me and says that he does not want to pay any child support, I tell him that, of course, his children need that support. I ask, when was the last time that the mother of your child bought herself jewelry, went on a vacation, or got a new fur coat? Often, bitterness and acrimony prevent someone from seeing that the money is not wasted by the other parent.

Similarly, when a mother comes to me and says that the father does not deserve parenting time because he is dating someone half his age, I point out the need for all children to have a relationship with both parents. I note that almost always, some relationship with the father is better than no relationship at all. Finally, I educate them that it is not about a father's right to see his children, it is about the need for the children to have a relationship with their father.

I believe in the old phrase that a lawyer is an attorney and counselor at law. I do not have a degree in psychology and I am not a certified social worker. However, I feel that an integral part of my job is to counsel people on what they need to do as separated or divorced parents to ensure the best possible environment for their children.

Divorces and separations should not be about punishing the other spouse or partner, no matter what their conduct. The courts in New York and most states will not exact a figurative pound of flesh because a spouse has been unfaithful. In New York State the fact that you have had an affair normally does not impact upon custody, either.

A divorce or separation should be about preserving the best quality life style, economically, spiritually, psychologically and physically for everyone. My first question in any decision process concerning a family law case is, how does this affect your children? The second is how will this affect you. That is the cornerstone of my philosophy of practicing matrimonial and family law.

Finally, I am sensitive to the emotional turmoil which affects most everyone in a separation and divorce. While the emotional turmoil may be less without the presence of children, it is still a difficult situation. Often in this time of high stress poor judgments can be made. I see my role as counseling an even tempered approach to any situation, and to think about the effect of decisions, not only immediately but five years in the future.

To put it simply, divorce should not be a war. Through working cooperatively with therapists, the emotional and psychological aspects should be dealt with separately, and both spouses should realize that whatever their differences and whatever conflicts they might have of a financial nature, they need to work together for their future.

Areas Of Practice

  • Matrimonial and Family Law
  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Child Support
  • Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS)
  • Spousal Support, Maintenance and Alimony

Bar Admissions

  • New York, 1981
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of New York, 1981
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, 1981
  • U.S. Tax Court, 1981


  • Albany Law School Union University, Albany, New York
    • J.D.
  • Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts
    • B.A. - 1977
    • Honors: summa cum laude
    • Honors: Other Honors

Representative Cases

  • Carman v. Carman, 22 AD3rd 1004 (2005), 2005, Appellate

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • New York State Bar Association, Family Law Section, Member, 1982
  • Albany County Bar Association, Member, 1980
  • Capital District Trial Lawyers Association, Member, 1980
  • New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Member, 1980


  • Kappa Delta Phi