Five minutes on the phone with Christopher J. Chimeri and you realize he is no ordinary lawyer.
“I refuse to accept the status quo for people,” he says. “I’m known as the MacGyver of Long Island divorce law,” he says with a laugh, though he means it. ”It’s something I’m proud of — being known as somebody who can creatively assess the problems in the case.”
A tireless advocate, trial lawyer and leading New York matrimonial and family law attorney, Chimeri has a long list of distinguished awards and accolades including “Leaders in Law” (Forbes), “Premiere Trial Attorney” (American Academy of Trial Attorneys) and a “10 out of 10, Superb” rating on Avvo.com, a leading attorney rating site.
His manner, conviction and compassion speak louder than any Super Lawyer listing.
“When somebody comes and hires me, I believe that they have placed the trust of their life in my hands and I need to manage that appropriately,” says Chimeri, who says he keeps a box of Kleenex on his desk, aware that the breakup of a family means “something traumatic has often happened to that person.”
“They’ve been served papers, their spouse is having an affair … my job is to help them focus … and within the boundaries of the legal system, I try to find practical solutions,” he explains. “Very rarely is it the end of the line for that person,” he says. “Generally there are steps that can be taken or personal steps.”
Born, raised and schooled on Long Island, Chimeri was a competitive wrestler in high school and college. Now he often wrestles with challenging cases.
“Substance abuse, financial malfeasance by one of the spouses … I handle the full gamut of any issue that might be part of the breakup of a family unit, whether married or unmarried, and child custody,” he says.
His decision to focus on family law and domestic relationships was born, in part, out of his own family experiences.
“My parents are both lovely people but their divorce was contentious,” reveals Chimeri. “I lived with and experienced quite a bit of discord during that time in my life, starting when I was 12.”
In college, to supplement a restaurant job, he sought out a low-paying internship in a law firm that was primarily family, divorce and matrimonial law.
“At that time I was also coming out — this was long before same-sex marriage — and one of the cases was two women who had been in a 20-year relationship, they had property and children together. I was involved with that case — not as a lawyer yet — and I just saw a need for members of the community to have a lawyer and a voice that understood the unique dynamics that went into same-sex relationships.”
Chimeri opened his own practice in Massapequa, and as his practice expanded to Suffolk County, an introduction to attorney Joseph Quatela turned out to be a legal “match made in heaven.”
“Joe had been practicing for 35 years, and we hit it off in terms of our business goals and the nature of our respective practices,” says Chimeri. In May of 2015, the two combined their practices.
Today Quatela Chimeri PLLC is a full service law firm with 16 attorneys and offices in Hauppauge and Garden City. Chimeri oversees its matrimonial and family law and appellate practice areas, and describes the firm’s approach as “collaborative.”
“I have a large percentage of gay divorces because I’m a go-to for gay clients going through it, but that’s as much a function of being a gay man as being a good divorce attorney,” says Chimeri, who has been married to his life partner Dennis for 10 years. “I’m probably the most fortunate and happily married guy you can find,” he says.
Chimeri has been recognized as a frontrunner in the representation of LGBTQ families and has litigated landmark appellate cases that have shaped the landscape over the past decade in New York. He is also the co-founder and recent co-chair of the Suffolk County Bar Association’s LGBTQ+ Law Committe “dedicated to emergent issues that particularly affect gay and lesbian clients.”
“The legal system in general, and particularly courts on Long Island, have been exceedingly open minded in the handling of gay and lesbian cases,” says Chimeri. “Nassau and Suffolk County have really made concerted efforts to learn and allow themselves to be educated on trans issues,” he says, adding, “It’s very encouraging.”
His best advice if you are struggling with a personal or family issue? “It’s always advisable to get legal advice, even if you just have legal questions … arm yourself with information … and not the ‘misinformation’ on the internet. A consultation is never bad,” he says.
At the end of the day, Chimeri says the most satisfying part of his job is “knowing that the client left me in a better position than when they hired me.”
He adds, “Teachers always told my parents I’m a welcoming, empathetic person. I like to get to the heart of what somebody is going through, so I think that assists me in my arsenal to properly help a client and establish a connection — because I genuinely care.”
Quatela Chimeri PLLC is located at 888 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge and 320 Old Country Road, Garden City. Visit qclaw.com for more info.