Marital and family law attorney Holly Davidson Schuttler and her husband John have enjoyed a happy marriage for 21 years. Along with balancing her legal career and his investments in real estate, the two professionals have raised two sons, Hunter, a student at Florida State University, and John, a junior at Boca Raton High School.
“In my practice, I see what works and what doesn’t work in a marriage,” said Schuttler. “I believe in the importance of speaking up for what’s important to you, and listening to each other. Having a strong faith also helps you through difficult times.”
Board certified in marital and family law, and a Supreme Court certified family law mediator, Schuttler is co-founder and managing partner of Schuttler Greenberg & Mullins, LLC in Boca Raton. She opened the firm in 2004 with the late Susan Greenberg, and has built a collegial legal team that now includes attorneys Stacey Mullins, Renée Safier Harris and Marissa B. Gart.
“We help our clients navigate the emotional and financial challenges that come with divorce,” Schuttler said. “Our first goal is to reach a settlement in the most cost-effective and non-adversarial manner. But if that is not possible, we are well prepared to go to trial. While I enjoy being in court, that isn’t always the best road for the client.”
Instead of preparing for trial, Schuttler prefers to draft a mutually agreeable settlement between spouses, particularly when children are involved. “I tell them, you can help me put my boys through college, or use that money to pay for your own children’s college education. It’s your choice.”
Finding Her Voice
Born in Lima, Ohio Schuttler grew up in a large family. Her father Gary Davidson was a firefighter and her mother Cecil McDonald worked in a factory. “I had a lot of opinions as a teenager, and decided I wanted to become a lawyer so I could make my voice heard,” she said. In junior high school, she took part in an oratorical contest sponsored by the local Optimist Club and wound up reaching the state level. “My parents were very supportive, and told me I could do anything, as long as I worked hard enough.”
Schuttler carried that philosophy with her as a college student at The Ohio State University. At 13 she began playing tennis with her father, practiced her skills, played as often as possible and began winning tournaments. At Ohio State she tried out and made the women’s tennis team. In 1984, she visited Miami on her spring break, and decided she preferred the South Florida sunshine to the snows of the Midwest. She enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law, where she enjoyed the moot court competitions.
After passing the Florida Bar, Schuttler became an assistant city attorney for Miami Beach, where she advised the planning and zoning board. She also handled high-profile cases, like a lawsuit against Carner-Mason Associates, which had signed an agreement to build and operate a marina on city property but stopped paying rent and had to be evicted in 1986.
Next, Schuttler entered private practice, joining Kluger Peretz Kaplan & Berlin and handling commercial litigation matters. But Schuttler found herself handling more divorce and family law matters, and began focusing her practice in that direction.
Building Her Practice
Twelve years ago, Schuttler and Greenberg opened their firm in Boca Raton, and began building a strong practice, based largely on referrals from satisfied clients. “In my opinion, Holly Schuttler is one of the most competent family law attorneys I have ever met,” said one client, who requested anonymity. “In addition, she cares about her clients. I have recommended Holly to friends and they all sing her praises.”
Schuttler also represented the father in a post-divorce custody matter involving his 8-year-old daughter, whose mother planned to move more than 1,000 miles away. “During this extremely contentious case, Holly took the time to explain the system step by step all the way,” he said. “She promptly answered my calls and emails. I was extremely satisfied with the results of the case.”
Today, Schuttler handles pre-nuptial agreements, post-divorce judgments, alimony and spousal support disputes, as well as other types of family law cases. “I’ve seen a recent upturn in paternity cases,” she said. “More couples are having children without getting married.”
Another trend over the past decade is a rise in the number of fathers raising children either on their own or in a co-parenting arrangement. Schuttler has also seen a decline in the number of disputes over pre-nuptial agreements. “I believe the overall quality of pre-nups has improved in recent years,” she said. “In many divorce cases, we simply follow the terms of that agreement and we’re done.”
However, alimony remains a contentious issue, and Schuttler is generally opposed to mandatory provisions in the law. “I believe that each family is different, and you have to look at them separately,” she said.
Updating the Law
Nearly a decade ago, Schuttler played an important advisory role in updating the state’s child custody regulations as a member of a Florida Bar committee. “We recommended that the state Legislature overhaul chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes to get rid of the labels of ‘primary and secondary residential parents,’” she said. “That simple change was tremendously valuable for many families, because it stopped the fighting over who would be the primary parent. Now, it is much easier to reach agreements on visitation schedules that meet the best interests of the children.”
Schuttler continues to be active in The Florida Bar, serving on both the grievance committee and the continuing legal education (CLE) committee for marital and family law. In that role, she has organized several telephone seminars to make it easier for practitioners to learn the latest information in the field without having to travel to an in-person meeting. “It’s a quick and efficient way to address many types of CLE topics,” she added.
In the community, Schuttler has served on the school board for St. Paul Lutheran Church, and the board of Impact 100, a Palm Beach County philanthropic organization for philanthropic women. “This is a great program for women who want to be involved, but don’t have a lot of time to commit outside their careers and families. Collectively, we have donated more than $500,000 to important causes, making a positive impact on our community.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2017 Edition