“The terms attorney and counselor at law are used together quite often,” Roger Rombro said. “The reality is lawyers are also counselors, whether they are providing legal or personal advice. It’s all the same.”
And no matter how much he might counsel his clients to mediate a settlement rather than pursue the case in court, often deep-seated resentment can extend cases for years, especially when they involve children, he said. His advice is people need to realize that the trust they once shared doesn’t exist anymore. Both sides feel a sense of failure, he said.
“It may be the other person hasn’t changed their spending, but the sense of trust is gone,” Rombro said. “The really sad cases are where people lose control over what’s happening to them. Whether it’s over anger or some deep-seated animosity or agenda, sometimes people will litigate until everything is gone, and I’ve seen that happen, unfortunately.”
Rombro practices from offices on Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach with associates Kelly Tuft and Melinda Manley.
While he prefers cases where he can mediate a settlement, the majority of his cases are decided in court, earning him a reputation as an ethical attorney who mounts a fierce defense. No one wants to have a nasty custody fight, but when they do Rombro and Associates pride themselves on their ability to win cases.
He says the toughest ones involve custody battles. In recent years, the legislature changed the rules in custody cases so that children can testify in court, which Rombro deplores.
“Personally I think it’s horrible,” he said. “I don’t think a child should have to say to one parent they’d rather live with the other. It’s a very difficult situation. On the other hand, from a child’s perspective, sometimes a child wants to be heard. If they have the ability to understand what they are doing by their testimony, then they should have a right to testify. But just because they have a right doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing for the child and the parents.”
Rombro, who has practiced law for 25 years, is currently the vice-chair of the California State Bar Children’s Issues Committee and has been recognized by his peers as a Southern California Super Lawyer. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University School of Law, Rombro enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War and ended up serving three years in Thailand with support services.
After the service, Rombro carried a love for the outdoors into the Boy Scouts, which he pursued with his three sons as a Scout Master for many years.
Rombro, who’s been married for 27 years, underwent his own custody battle after a brief first marriage, which gave him a personal perspective he would draw on later. A real estate attorney at the time, Rombro ended up hiring an attorney who earned him sole custody of his son. At the time in the early 1980s, a court granting a father sole custody was virtually unheard of.
After all the years of handling divorce cases, Rombro said he wishes people would spend a little more time thinking about getting married.
“If people would spend just a little more time, the dissolution problem would be a lot easier and maybe avoided,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think about the ramifications of the oath that they take when they become married. Sometimes it’s better to dissolve the contract, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that people should fight.”
When Rombro first started in family law, he said, he used to try and find some means to repair the marriage, especially when there were children involved.
“I don’t do that anymore,” he said. “I guess this is the cynical part for me. One out of 100 cases may reunite. Almost without exception when someone walks into my office, the marriage is over. I do look for ways to see if maybe they are just looking for help. It does sadden me because for everyone it’s a huge emotional disruption, it’s also a huge financial disruption. It takes years for people to recover financially and sometimes people never recover emotionally.”
Rombro and Associates. S. Roger Rombro, Rombro and Associates, 3405 N. Sepulveda Blvd., #200, Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-1900. RombroLaw-ManhattanBeach.com.