Category: Family

The Benefits of Mediation in caring for Elderly Relatives

Today, more and more people are finding themselves in the position of having to care or make decisions for elderly relatives. This becomes increasingly more difficult when there are two or more family members involved and they disagree. Often this occurs when a mother or father dies and the other parent is left alone. Should that parent live alone? If not, should they live with another relative, one of the children, or go into a nursing home? Should one of the children and their family move in with the surviving parent? If so, on what conditions? In any event, who should make the medical and, or, financial decisions for that parent, and what if the others disagree? In this situation where the elderly parent is being treated somewhat like a child, there is the issue of the parent’s independence and their strong sense of self in their ability to make their own decisions, as they have been for their adult lives. While the parent is struggling to preserve the remnants of their own independence and dignity, they are often placed in the middle of family squabbles and become frightened, sad, hurt, and dismayed at the developing controversy and their role as the subject of that controversy. I have heard on more than one occasion from those placed in this position that they just want everyone to get along and stop fighting. If the controversy escalates and the elderly person’s care and well-being is put in jeopardy due to the family’s inability to make appropriate decisions concerning that relative, a guardian might be appointed through the court system to represent the elderly person, make sure that person’s voice is (preferences are) heard, and make decisions that are in the elderly person’s best interest. When this occurs, the family has lost control and there is outside intervention (by the guardian).

 

Mediation gives families the opportunity to retain control before or after an outsider is introduced into the process. The mediator is trained to help the family members discuss the issues in a non-threatening manner and explore options that have the potential of leading to a successful resolution. Where there are control issues due to family dynamics (one or more members of the family having more control than the others), the mediator can help to “level the playing field” so that everyone is heard and given an equal voice in the decision making, as appropriate, especially the elderly relative. Often people find that when everyone is heard, invalid or incorrect assumptions fall by the wayside and they are able to come up with mutually agreed upon options and resolution. When people are able to work things out for themselves, they are more likely to commit to the outcome, and it is not uncommon that the parties to the dispute come to understand things about themselves and others that help to preserve relationships or foster better relationships going forward.

Spousal Support in Virginia

In Virginia, section 20-107.1 of the Virginia Code sets out the law with respect to spousal support.  The court, in deciding whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, must consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other ground for divorce as stated elsewhere in the Virginia Code. In determining amount, duration and the nature – whether it is remedial for a time period or permanent, of spousal support, the court must consider the following thirteen factors.

  1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature;
  2. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  3. The length of the marriage
  4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family;
  5. The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child or the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;
  6. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
  8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property under Virginia Code section 20-107.3 (distinguishing marital and separate property);
  9. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
  10. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to get the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability;
  11. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market;
  12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and
  13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

 

How each of the above factors contribute to or are weighed in each case, depends on the judge to whom the case is assigned. Often, parties prefer to take this decision out of the judge’s hands and with the help of an experienced mediator and, or, their attorneys, come to a resolution of this issue on their own.  The important thing to keep in mind is that this is a very involved issue and divorcing parties should be very careful that they do not waive any rights with respect to spousal support unknowingly. In trying to avoid this danger, often divorcing couples find themselves fighting about spousal support even when they have reached mutual agreement on other issues. Mediation and the collaborative process are two excellent ways to resolve this issue in a non-adversarial manner. In both processes, the parties work together to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution, tailored to their particular family circumstances.