By Aram Arkun
PHILADELPHIA — An attentive follower of the national media may have encountered Philadelphia lawyer Mark Albert Momjian’s name in connection with the divorce of reality television show actress Kate Gosselin. He was quoted in many national newspapers and appeared on television shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “Today Show.”
Momjian is a nationally-respected authority on family law who has also managed to actively participate in Armenian community life over a period of several decades, and to develop a variety of rich collections of books and ephemera dealing with Armenians and other topics. Interestingly, each of these endeavors in one form or another is connected to the idea of family and heritage.
The choice of law as a field certainly must have been at least in part influenced by his family background and upbringing. Quite a few Momjians are lawyers, including Mark’s father, Albert, a nationally prominent family lawyer regarded by many as the dean of the Pennsylvania bar. In addition, Mark’s two siblings (Carol and Thomas), as well as a number of cousins, are lawyers and they specialize in everything from bankruptcy to securities litigation.
After graduating from Columbia College (where he was a classmate of President Barack Obama) and the Columbia University School of Law, Mark Momjian worked for more than 25 years with his father, primarily in the large Philadelphia law firm of Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis, before starting a specialized family law firm named Momjian Anderer this year. Momjian has written more than 50 articles on family law topics for many legal journals, and he also co-authored with his father the reference work Pennsylvania Family Law Annotated (Thomson/West), now in its ninth edition.
In Pennsylvania, family law is particularly challenging because each judicial district or county has its own rules. Momjian has argued many important cases before the Pennsylvania appellate courts. One of his most significant victories was in 2006. He explained recently that “I defended the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Grandparents’ Visitation Act and got it affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That case went up [the technical term is on certiorari] to the US Supreme Court, but thankfully was denied. A biological parent was challenging the Commonwealth’s statute allowing grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren when the parents of the children were separated or divorced. In this particular case, the ex-wife of the father died of cancer. The maternal grandmother was not allowed to see her grandchild after her daughter died, despite having seen her grandson on an almost daily basis for the two years leading up to the mother’s death. This case was an important victory for Pennsylvania’s seniors.”