Caitlin Herndon’s (J.D. ’12) interest in practicing family law stems from her own experiences as a child of divorced parents. Growing up, she wasn’t sure that she would become an attorney, but she did recognize that her natural talents aligned with a career in law. She saw the role that lawyers and judges played in mediating and negotiating on behalf of families, and she wanted to be someone who helps others.
Herndon grew up in Sandy Springs, Ga. and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia. While looking at law schools, she says that she was impressed by Georgia State Law’s expert faculty and the downtown Atlanta location. While in law school, she poured herself into pro bono work at the Capital Defender Appellate office and took the HeLP Clinic course.
“The HeLP Clinic is probably my most impactful law school experience, because it was hands-on for us and a bit more hands-off for the professors, so to speak,” Herndon said. “They gave us an opportunity to spread our wings and do the work.”
After graduating from the College of Law, Herndon practiced a couple of different boutique law firms and as a solo practitioner before joining HF Family Law. She met HF’s founder, Monica Hanrahan Freitag, when they were opposing counsel on a divorce case. They wound up settling the case, but Freitag was still impressed by Herndon’s skills and asked her to join the firm in 2016.
Four years later, Herndon is a partner at HF Family Law. She works on custody, divorces, legitimations, adoptions and pre- and post-nuptial agreements.
Earlier this year, she obtained a legitimation for a same sex couple in Fulton Superior Court. In Georgia, the law historically has been that only a child born of an opposite sex marriage has two legal parents from birth. In same sex marriages, historically one or both partners must legally adopt to establish a parent-child relationship. In the legitimation case, her firm represented the wife that did not carry or adopt the couple’s children. They filed within the divorce for the children to be confirmed legitimate on the grounds that the children were legitimated by the parties’ marriage. The parties consented to the legitimation and the order was granted for our client to be confirmed as a legal mother to her children without a formal adoption.
This type of precedent is extremely important for LGBTQ+ families whose stability is vulnerable to U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
“Making it known that you’re available to the LGBTQ+ community is important,” Herndon said. “I dealt with a case in Muscogee County where an investigator refused to go on a home visit for a same-sex couple who was adopting a baby girl. We were ultimately able to get the home visit waived for them.”
Herndon credits strong mentorship and Georgia State Law’s robust alumni network with helping her to get where she is today. She recalls eating at Waffle House with law school classmates, who she keeps in touch with to this day.
“The classroom experience taught us how to be problem-solvers and problem-solving is so much of what we do,” Herndon said. “Plus, there’s a really nice alumni network. We have a Facebook group where we refer cases to each other and bounce ideas off of each other. The camaraderie is unmatched.”
Written by Kelundra Smith