January is a popular month to file for divorce. Why? For many people, the new year is a time that they reevaluate their lives and decide to make changes. Perhaps they have waited or tried to make a marriage work for some time and the new year seems like a good opportunity to go ahead and pursue divorce. Others may want to wait until after Christmas to plan for their a divorce. Some people postpone divorce into the new year for economic or tax reasons. Whatever the basis, if you have decided to divorce in 2017, should you file?Read More
I’ve often found it difficult to locate folks to help me with a problem—whether I’m looking for someone to help with a home repair, a new veterinarian or accountant. While I often use websites like tripadvisor.com to evaluate reviews for vacation planning, when I’m looking for someone to have a more significant and longer-term relationship with, those reviews can seem insufficient.
Several websites have developed to try to address this need, but many, operate on a very simple platform, with no vetting or evaluation of credentials. They post any review that is submitted. Some websites, such as avvo.com, provide more valuable and detailed information to help the consumer by evaluating some of the credentials, including publications, education, and awards.
A new group, headquartered in Seattle, is working to create a directory professions and services that include objective evaluations and recommendations. Expertise.com uses a complicated set of algorithms to review professionals and then individually evaluates each company on five criteria: reputation, credibility, experience, availability, and professionalism. While I’ve always enjoyed my 5-star rating on AVVO, my recent selection by expertise.com as one of the top mediators in the Washington D.C. area makes me very proud of the work I’ve done over the last ten years to build a firm that offers a wide variety of non-adversarial processes to resolve conflicts. Joining other mediators such as attorney Nancy Lesser with Pax ADR L.L.C. and David Goldberg with Family Mediation Services, Inc., places me in good company with other qualified mediators.
The criteria that Expertise.com employs can help someone looking for mediation services to evaluate mediators. One of the criteria they use is “credibility, defined as building customer confidence with licensing, industry accreditations, and awards.” I enjoy my direct client contact, such as working with crime and accident victims or working with litigants in mediation. I’ve had the opportunity to present my research at many conferences. I’ve also published several law review articles and had the opportunity to conduct workshops throughout the United States in the areas of mediation and restorative justice. Some of my devotion to the work stemmed the early part of my career when the West Virginia State Bar awarded me a certificate of merit for my work with children.
Another criteria cited by experise.com is experience. They define it as “Masters of their craft, based on years of practical experience and education.” I’ve worked very hard to acquire the experience and knowledge that I bring to my work. First of all, I am a lawyer with a JD and a mediator who has an MA in conflict resolution. That education distinguishes me from many mediators in the United States. Many mediators in the area do not have a law degree and have not had over 30 years practicing law. While you don't necessarily need a lawyer to be your mediator, in cases where there are legal questions or when the conflict is framed in the legal process, a lawyer is often best suited to be able to get to the heart of the matter.
Some lawyers are lawyers first and then become mediators. I followed that path. However, most lawyers take courses that are 20 or 40 hours long, in total, to become mediators. They are often very heavy handed in how they mediate and may tend to be evaluative and settlement focused. Since I also went back to school after being a lawyer for 20 years and earned a master's degree in conflict resolution. That required two years of full-time course work and practical study acquire the degree. I learned new skills such as both transformative mediation and facilitative mediation. I also studied a variety of methods of negotiation. Of course, I also took many courses in restorative justice. All of this advanced education has helped me become both a better legal advocate and mediator.
Expertise.com also looked at factors such as availability, reputation, and professionalism in providing the ranking. I am pleased to bring all of these factors to every case that our office accepts. I look forward to continuing to learn more and improve the services that we provide to our legal and mediation clients.
On December 7, 2016, I’ll be joining Howard Zehr for a webinar on Restorative Lawyering. Restorative Lawyering is a model of practicing law that I have been developing along with colleagues such as Marshall Yoder and Susan Marcus. Restorative lawyering adopts the guiding principles and values of restorative justice. In doing so, we look at each situation, problem, or conflict and often start by asking, “Has there been harm that needs to be addressed?” and “What can be done to make right the wrongs?” These fundamental questions, central to restorative justice, change the focus from what statute or rule has been violated to what can be done to make things better.Read More
On October 14, 2016, Judge Christopher C. Wilkes entered an administrative order setting forth how the workload will be allocated in January when two new judges, Laura Faircloth and Bridget Cohee take the bench.Read More
Over the past few months on this blog, I’ve covered many of the issues that we consider in mediation when a couple is planning to file for divorce. My posts in this series have examined everything from how to divide marital property, how to calculate child support, and how to make schedules for holidays for the children. Along with resources such as the free forms from the West Virginia Supreme Court, these posts may help you decide whether or not you want to retain a lawyer, reach an agreement before you select a lawyer or file for divorce, or if you want to consider collaborative law.Read More
Father's Day is Sunday---which brings up the question: How do we divide holidays in the parenting plan? Whether you are working with a mediator, with your collaborative attorneys, or on independently, once you have worked through the decision-making part of your plan and the primary custodial time, you are ready to work on holidays and vacation. Here are some ideas on how you can divide those times to maximize the time that your children spend with their parents.Read More
In today’s post, I’ll continue to share ideas on how to develop a custodial schedule in your parenting plan. Once you have the decision-making portion of the parenting plan developed, have agreed on some of the objectives and conceptual details about custodial time, you might stumble when creating a calendar, due to unique problems in your family. In this post, we’ll address some of the challenges I’ve seen parentings struggle with and how they’ve resolved them.Read More
With your decision-making parenting plan in one hand and the answers to some important questions about jobs and schedules in the other, you are ready to start marking up a calendar to decide how to divide custodial time. You might want to print out some calendars and mark them up with different schedules. Printed calendars make it easier to evaluate the possible plans.
When you are working in mediation or collaborative law, you can create most any schedule you want to create to suit your families' needs.
The schedules I’m describing in this post are examples of what has worked for some families. Of course, if you cannot develop a plan through mediation, negotiation, or collaborative processes, you will be stuck with a schedule that a judge creates that may or may not be as tailored to your families’ needs.Read More