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James P. Cunningham

  • p. 248.642.0333 ext. 307
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James P. Cunningham maintains one of the most highly regarded family law and divorce litigation practices in the state. In his over 30 years in practice, he has represented numerous men and women well-known in the Detroit metropolitan community. His career includes ten published appellate cases concerning important family law issues, three of these before the Michigan Supreme Court.

A prolific author, Jay has published over twenty articles on family law topics.  He lectures extensively throughout the state. He is one of three attorneys in Michigan certified as a fellow in the International Academy of Family Law. He is on the faculty of three institutes that provide legal education and certification to lawyers and non-lawyers, and is the adjunct professor of family law at WMU - Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He is a Fellow and past President, Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the most prestigious organization of family law practitioners in the nation. Jay is also a past President of the Oakland County Bar Association, a current member of the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and a current member of the Board of Directors for the Birmingham Museum.

Prior to law school, he served five years with distinction as an officer in the United States Navy.

Jay is frequently honored for achievement by his peers and ranking organizations. He has been named as a “Michigan Super Lawyer” since its inception, and among Michigan’s “Top 100 Lawyers” by Thomson Reuters. He is also ranked by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV® “Preeminent”™ Lawyer since 1988.  As well he is included in Best Lawyers in America, the nation’s top-ranked peer recognition network. In 2022, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Jay to its annual class of "Leaders in the Law."

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of Michigan
    •  Family Law Section
      • Former Executive Board Member, Family Law Council, 1986-1992)
      • Chair, Character and Fitness Committee, District 1-Oakland County, 2004-2010
  • American Bar Association
    • Executive Committee, Law Practice Management Section
    • Member, Family Law Section
  • Oakland County Bar Association
    • Past President, 2003-2004
    • Former Chair of Family Law, Circuit Court, Diversity, Bench Bar Conference, 1992-2001
    • Veteran’s Committee Chair, 2014-2015 and 2012 to present)
  • American Inns of Court
    • Charter Master
  • Oakland County Bar Foundation 
    • Board of Directors, 2002-2005
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
    • President, Michigan Chapter, 2009-2010
  • International Academy of Family Lawyers
    • Fellow

Community/Civic Activities

  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
    • Board of Trustees
  • Birmingham Museum
    • Board of Directors 
  • Brown University Alumni Association
    • Past Chairman
  • Brown University Veterans Alumni Council (BUVAC)

Honors & Awards

  • Michigan Lawyers Weekly's "Leaders in the Law," 2022
  • American Bar Association National Pro Bono Award, Veterans Assistance, 2013
  • “The Best Lawyers in America,” selected by Woodward/White, Inc., 2011 to present
  • “Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit,” selected by DBusiness Magazine, 2012 to present
  • Michigan “SuperLawyers,” selected by Thompson Reuters Corporation, inception to present
  • “Top 100 Michigan Lawyers,” selected by Thompson Reuters Corporation, inception to 2017                                                      
  • AV® “Preeminent”™ Lawyer, ranked by Martindale-Hubbell through peer review, 1988 to present
  • Leading Lawyer Peer Recognition, 2013 to present
  • Nation’s Top One Percent, 2014 to present
  • National Association of Distinctive Counsel
  • Who’s Who in American Law, 6th Edition, 1999
  • Who’s Who in the World, 19th edition, 1990
  • Distinguished Service Award, Oakland County Bar Association


  • State Bar of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan


Representative Matters

Tried to completion over 100 divorce or custody trials.

News & Insights

Articles & Publications

  • “Family Law and Military Issues,” Michigan Bar Journal, February, 2015
  • “Separate Property Law: Eating Jello with Chopsticks,” Michigan Bar Journal, June 2008
  • “Marriage in the 21st Century: The Death of "Till Death Do Us Part," Michigan Bar Journal, January 2004
  • “Religious Divorces,” Laches (Oakland County Bar Association Magazine), September 1999
  • “Domestic Violence: Effect on Visitation,” Michigan Family Law Journal, 1994
  • “The Confusing Inter-Relationship of Visitation and Child Support,” Laches (Oakland County Bar Association Magazine), March 1992
  • “Maintenance of Fault in Property Division in Divorce,” Michigan Bar Journal, March 1992
  • “The Pension Cases: A Shift from Property to Income,” Michigan Bar Journal, February 1990
  • “Domestic Torts,” Michigan Family Law Journal, 1990
  • “Torts and Family Law: Emerging Trends,” Laches (Oakland County Bar Association Magazine), February 1989
  •  “State of the Law: Family Law,” Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1988, 1989, and 1991
  • Due Process TV - "Life After Divorce"  

March 2013

On this edition of Due Process, Henry Baskin, Donna Virkus, and James Cunningham discuss enforcing divorce decrees and ways to make sure child support is paid.

February 2009

The current economic climate has made some divorce judgments challenging to fulfill. Henry Baskin and James Cunningham discuss possible ways to modify existing settlements including an evaluation of personal bankruptcy as it relates to divorce.

Practices ›

Education ›


  • Michigan State University College of Law (formerly Detroit College of Law), Juris Doctor, cum laude, 1980
  • Brown University, Bachelor of Arts, with honors, 1972