Tag: Family Mediation

Transcript of “Work It” Richmond Article/ Profile with Donita King

Tell us the basics: Who are you, what’s your company’s name, and how long have you been at this company?

I am an attorney, arbitrator and Virginia Supreme Court-certified mediator in the family and civil areas. I’m also an authorized mediator, mentor and alternative dispute-resolution trainer. I am a partner of CMG Collaborative Law Offices, PLC, and licensed in Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The law firm was established in 2005.

How did you come to specialize in cross-border or international law?

We added this area of concentration as a natural development in our family practice. The large military presence and growing population from other countries in Virginia has resulted in the increasing number of diverse families where there are ties to other countries.

When the relationship breaks down, the person with foreign ties often wants to go back to their support system from their own country. As collaborative attorneys and mediators, we began to acquire specific training in the area of cross border and international parental abduction prevention, and practicing under the Hague convention. That’s an international agreement among signatory countries regarding custody, visitation and support of children where the parties have ties to two or more countries. My partner, Mora P. Ellis, established ACCORD, a sister company whose focus is parental abduction prevention mediation.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned during the recessionary environment of the past few years?

It is critical to constantly re-assess the way you are meeting the client’s needs so as to develop more economical ways for yourself and the client. Listening to the clients’ views and keeping their concerns in mind is a good way to develop new ideas and methods. Also, communicating with the client or potential client as to what you are doing in this respect can go a long way to securing and increasing your client base.

Is there a secret to your personal success? Perhaps a piece of advice you’ve always remembered?

Never stop looking for new ways to grow and improve, and consider all sources. You never know from where a good idea will come.

What’s coming up in the next year for you and your company? What about in the next five years?

(1) Continuing to educate the public and professionals on the benefits of the collaborative process in family and civil matters as viable, alternative dispute resolution option.

(2) Increasing our work in cross-border and international parental abduction prevention.

What, at your business, is the most effective way to connect with customers?

Internet, face-to-face and networking. Educating the public on things that are of benefit to them is also an effective way to connect with potential clients.

What’s the part of your job you dread the most?

When I was a corporate lawyer I could have easily provided a specific answer to this question. Now that I have my own firm and am doing something I enjoy and feel good about, there is nothing I dread.

What’s the part of your job that excites you the most, the thing that makes you want to hurry to work?

There is a great deal of variety in what I do. I do everything from arbitrating financial, real estate and contract matters to mediating civil and domestic relations matters (sometimes in Spanish). I’m also assisting clients in collaborative divorce and potential collaborative civil cases, cross border and international parental abduction prevention mediation and Hague case work, and training in alternative dispute resolution.

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.