Attorneys are drawn to the law for various reasons. Some are following in a family member’s footsteps. Others have political aspirations. Kim DeBonte became a lawyer to make a difference in people’s lives.
DeBonte is the founder of the Law Office of Kim DeBonte in Georgetown, which in June celebrates its fifth anniversary. The boutique firm handles cases involving family law and domestic partnerships, landlord-tenant disputes, criminal law and chancery practice.
As a child, DeBonte did not dream of becoming an attorney. Indeed, 18 years ago, the New Jersey native was a sales and marketing representative at the Pillsbury Company. She liked the work but felt called to do something more meaningful. She became involved with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a national program that emphasizes the values of social justice, spirituality, a simple lifestyle and community.
As a corps member, she volunteered at a shelter for battered women and their children in Kansas City, Mo., where she was exposed for the first time to women and children who suffered domestic abuse.
“Until then I had little understanding of the brutality that family members can inflict on one another,” she said. “It really opened my eyes. I really wanted to try and help these women and children whatever way I could.”
She recalled the young woman who seemed far too accepting of her situation, as if receiving beatings was perfectly normal. “I’ll never forget it,” she said. “Her boyfriend, a gang member, beat her up, and it obviously wasn’t the first time.”
DeBonte asked the woman if she had any injuries. The woman was barely responsive. Then she finally admitted she’d been stabbed. “She showed me the wound, and there was no flinching at all; it was like she had accepted her lot in life,” DeBonte said. “That was simply unacceptable. No man, woman, or child, should ever have to endure what she had to endure.”
DeBonte decided then that she wanted to devote her life to the law and to domestic issues. After attending Widener University School of Law, she took the Delaware and New Jersey bar exams and began practicing law in Delaware in 1997.
Along with domestic violence issues, the Law Office of Kim DeBonte’s family law practice focuses on custody, divorce, property division, alimony/spousal support, stepparent adoptions, same-sex adoptions, separation agreements, child support and guardianship.
DeBonte recently received a five-year service award from Delaware’s Office of the Child Advocate for her service to children in Sussex County. Often, the children DeBonte has represented via the Office of the Child Advocate have witnessed or have been victims of domestic violence.
“If I can help just one adult or child see that there is an alternative to living a life filled with abuse then it will be worth it,” DeBonte said. “I will consider my career change a success.”
The Law Office of Kim DeBonte is located just off The Circle in downtown Georgetown. For more information, visit debontelaw.com or call 302-856-7570.