REPORT ON LDRC
As we begin our third year as LDRC, we are wondering both how the time could fly as it has, and why it took us so long to earn this amazing practice. With dozens of cases settled or decided, new and old friends looking to us for help in resolving difficult new ones all the time, we have found our market during this brief but productive time. We look forward to more of the same in 2014.
For us, 2013 was year of consolidating our mediation practice while expanding our arbitration and master services sector. Lawyer-attended conciliation consumed a greater portion of our mediation time than previously, while lawyer-assisted mediation work with couples continued its prominent role in our work. Each has its place, and each its time.
Writing consumed much of our non-direct service time. The LDRC blog (below and at levinedisputeresolution.com/divorce-mediation-blog/) beat our target weekly pace, and we think that its substance at least equaled the volume. The early development of the Massachusetts alimony statute and the onset of new Child Support Guidelines made interesting grist for analysis, prediction and opinion. We have received encouraging feedback from readers, and even found blog entries pop up in continuing educational materials. We will try to maintain the quality (probably not the pace), and improve in 2014. We also published twice in MCFM's Family Mediation Quarterly (one piece is re-published here) and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, as we continued to teach, train mediators and arbitrators and volunteer in court-annexed resolution programs.
In today's newsletter, we re-new our commitment to publishing diverse and interesting writers. In addition to our own piece "Massachusetts Alimony Reform and Divorce Mediation: Is It Information or Legal Advice”, we offer:
-- two of Harvard University psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert's New York Times essays, one “What You Don’t Know Makes You Nervous”, a subject matter that divorce lawyers and related professionals confront all of the time; and “He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn’t”, part remembrance of brotherly love in a 1963 Plymouth Valiant, and serious discussion about blame, argument and negotiation. Dan is not only a scholar, and author of “Stumbling On Happiness”, but he is also a star of the small screen, hosting PBS's acclaimed series on the phenomenon of happiness, and more recently, as the friendly face on Prudential Insurance commercials. (We bet you’ll see him some time during the Super Bowl broadcast next month.) And --
-- a piece by the Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.), long-time distinguished justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, about a newly offered “High Conflict Parent Education” course, at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, where Judge Harms is the program’s director. We applaud MSPCC for its efforts to add quality forensic and educational resources to the courts and families in crisis. Full disclosure: Bill is a member of the MSPCC Center for Excellence for Children and Families & the Law.
Enjoy the read and have a safe winter.
Chouteau and Bill
He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn’t
By: Daniel Gilbert
LONG before seat belts or common sense were particularly widespread, my family made annual trips to New York in our 1963 Valiant station wagon. Mom and Dad took the front seat, my infant sister sat in my mother’s lap and my brother and I had what we called “the wayback” all to ourselves. read more...
What You Don’t Know Makes You Nervous
By: Daniel Gilbert
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Seventy-six years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took to the inaugural dais and reminded a nation that it s recent troubles “concern, thank God, only material things.” In the midst of the Depression, he urged Americans to remember that “happiness lies not in the mere possession of money” and to recognize “the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success.” read more...
Massachusetts Alimony Reform and Divorce Mediation: Is it Information or Legal Advice?
By: William M. Levine and
Hon. E. Chouteau Levine (Ret.)
Alimony reform, effective March 1, 2012, created a number of important time sensitivities that did not exist in the spousal support law of Massachusetts, previously. Addressing these timing issues in divorce mediation raises important challenges for the practitioner, one of which is how to find a balance among three imperatives: mediator impartiality, informed client decision-making and avoidance of giving legal advice. Here, we ask: when we “inform” clients about particulars of the alimony statute that carry timing perils or opportunities, are we giving information or legal advice? read more...
Massachusetts Alimony and Child Support: Much Ado About Double Counting – Part 2
Previously, we blogged about the conflict between the Massachusetts alimony law and our Child Support Guidelines, and the now raging chicken-and-egg question: which is calculated first?
We attended three events in late 2013 where this was addressed: the MBA Family Law Conference Annual Conference, the Probate and Family Inn of Court November dinner meeting, and most recently, the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation Institute on Nov. 22. What we know for sure is that judges and lawyers are debating two distinct views:
- computing child support first (and in most cases eliminating alimony because there is less than $250,000.00 of annual family income to apply), and then alimony if any income remains from which child support has not already been taken; or
- calculating alimony first, and applying the re-allocated income to the Child Support Guidelines formula, to determine the presumptive minimum child support sum. read more...
High Conflict Parent Education Classes
By: Hon. Christina Harms (Ret.)
Research extensively documents the well-recognized problem that a relatively small number of fami¬lies in divorce and custody litigation consume a vastly disproportionate amount of the court’s time. Somewhere between 3% and 10% of parents remain in prolonged high conflict for years after their separation or divorce. Persisting interparental conflict and parent¬ing effectiveness are the two variables that have the greatest effect on children’s adjustment to divorce or other changes in family con¬stellation. Courts, family law professionals and the mental health community are concerned about how relentless conflict between parents can negatively affect children’s social, emotional, behav¬ioral, and academic functioning. A program for parents who are in high-conflict divorce and separation situations is now available at the Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (“MSPP”) in Newton. read more...