Obituary: Albert Momjian, Legal Pioneer


MomjianPHILADELPHIA (Philadelphia Inquirer) — Albert Momjian, 82, of Huntingdon Valley, a nationally known expert on family law, a dedicated civic volunteer, and a leader of the Armenian community in America, died Monday, July 11, of an infection at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery.

Momjian was a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, where he worked for 24 years before retiring in 2012. He led the firm’s family law department.

In 2015, he was honored by the American Jewish Committee as the recipient of the Judge Learned Hand Award, meant for “outstanding leaders in the legal profession who exemplify the high principles for which Judge Learned Hand was renowned.” He also served as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Haiti.

A funeral service was held on Saturday, July 16th at Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church, located at 100 N. Edmonds Avenue, Havertown.

Over the years, he attracted many high-profile clients, including the actor Will Smith, the TV and radio host Larry King, the late Phillies relief pitcher Tug McGraw, and the late Flyers owner Ed Snider.

Win or lose, he was not shy about expressing his opinions on cases.

In 2009, when a Delaware County judge ordered Main Line lawyer H. Beatty Chadwick released after 14 years in prison — he had refused to pay his ex-wife the $2.5 million he owed her under a divorce decree — Momjian, her lawyer, said he was disappointed.

“Here’s a guy who thumbed his nose at a court order for 14 years,” Momjian told the New York Times. “There should be some kind of sanctions for doing that.”

Regarded by his peers as the dean of the Pennsylvania family-law bar, Momjian’s practice dealt with divorce, custody, alimony, child support, surrogate parenting and prenuptial agreements.

Not only did he try cases, he also was a revered force behind the development of the state’s family law. He co-chaired the Committee to Consolidate Pennsylvania Family Laws, and lent his expertise to the Pennsylvania House and Senate Judiciary Committees during passage of the 1980 Divorce Code.

The author of numerous articles on his specialty, he wrote Pennsylvania Family Law, a treatise often cited by appellate courts. He also collaborated with his son, Mark, on Pennsylvania Family Law Annotated.

He received many honors, including the Cecil B. Moore Award from the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Eric D. Turner Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Family Law Section for Outstanding Service as a Teacher and Mentor, the Judge Learned Hand Award from the American Jewish Committee, and the Columbia University Alumni Medal for Distinguished Service.

Born in Atlantic City, he was the son of Armenian parents, Garabed and Johar Momjian, who had emigrated from Turkey. In America, the Momjians became confectionery manufacturers during and after the Great Depression. The family operated the Atlantic Candy Co. on Virginia Avenue.

Momjian graduated first in his class from Atlantic City High School in 1951, and received special recognition for never having missed a day of school since the first grade.

He attended Columbia College and Columbia Law School on full scholarships, completing his undergraduate degree in three years. After graduating from law school, Momjian joined the Pennsylvania National Guard. Eventually, he rose to major and vice president of the guard’s First Regiment Infantry.

His only foray into politics was his 1975 election to the Lower Moreland Township school board. He was the first Democrat elected to the board, his family said.

Since 1974, Momjian was honorary consul for Haiti in Pennsylvania. After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he helped local Haitians contact relatives on the stricken island and obtain passports to visit them. He also arranged for the shipment of tents and medical supplies.

Momjian was widely known for his dedication to the Armenian community in America and the Armenian Missionary Association of America, of which he was variously president, solicitor and board member.

He also was active in the Armenian Evangelical World Council, serving as its treasurer. For more than a generation, Momjian was active in the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian Sisters Academy in Radnor.

Momjian and his wife, Esther, celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in June.

Besides his wife and son, Momjian is survived by daughter Carol Momjian Hanamirian; son Thomas; five grandchildren; and a brother, Set, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. All of the couple’s children became lawyers.

He was an Armenian Assembly of America Fellow Trustee for more than 25 years and served on the Assembly’s Board of Trustees as Solicitor from 1990-2015, until his son Mark Momjian took over his position.

“Albert Momjian’s dedication and invaluable counsel to the Armenian Assembly will be deeply missed. He served the legal profession and the Armenian American community with merit and grace, setting standards for exceptional leadership,” stated Armenian Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.  “His spirit and character have helped shape many of our successes, inspired by his ongoing commitment and tireless efforts. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wonderful family,” they added.