Part 1

Quote of the Quarter (Who let the dogs out?)

“Call in the dogs. A well-known husband and wife mediator team literally sends in their tail-wagging people-loving pets into the mediation room when tensions are building and impasse may be nigh.”

So wrote our colleague, lawyer-mediator David Kellem, of Hingham, MA, in his piece, “The Amygdala Diaries”, from Family Mediation Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3, p. 4. We blushed as we read – and then personally confirmed – that David was talking about us.

As we prepared to open our doors in January 2012, we decided that our dogs would be part of our daily lives at LDRC, primarily as a personal indulgence, because our cock-a-poo Yogi had earned it from his days as a courthouse dog, because Ellie is the quiet sort; and because – hey – we could!

We had also read about service, therapy and workplace pets who promote physical health, emotional well being and stress reduction. We had no clue, to be honest, that they would become integral parts of our private dispute resolution practice – or that anyone would notice, let alone write about it.

The first clue of change was when one of our first LDRC clients arrived early for a session. She was teary, shaken and brittle, to put it mildly. Accidentally (because previously, we had kept the dogs in our individual offices when clients were in the public spaces), Yogi, burst onto the scene. We apologized to the client for Yogi’s enthusiastic greeting, but she waved us off. We allowed the client space in which to decompress before her husband’s arrival, only to return, several minutes later, to a smiling, relaxed client: puppy in lap, and ready to negotiate.

Yogi, and Ellie have had the run of the place, more or less, ever since. Thanks for noticing, David, and glad they can help!

Part 2

#8 (Going to the Dogs)

The world became a little bit less gracious when Yankee legend Yogi Berra died last month. As you already knew from visiting us, or may have guessed by reading to this point, the one-of-a-kind catcher was the namesake of our senior dog. We are both life-long Berra -- and Yankees -- fans, which explains the fact that both of our dogs are named for Yankee catchers, from the same staff.

As Yogi, the human, succeeded Joe Di Maggio as the "Greatest Living Yankee", we like to believe that ours is now the "Greatest Living Yogi".

Yogi and Ellie love seeing you all, so please do come by and say hello.

Part 3

Points of Pride

We were honored to receive notice last month that Best Lawyers In America has named Chouteau "Lawyer of the Year" in Family Law Mediation, for 2016.

This is the third year in a row that Best Lawyers recognized one of us as a “Lawyer of the Year”: Bill in Family Law Mediation for 2015; Chouteau in Arbitration in 2014. We like that kind of streak.

We take special pride in Best Lawyers recognitions, because they stand out as purely peer review-driven, having nothing whatever to do with self-promotion or paid advertising. They represent opinions of the people who know our work the best, lawyers with whom we have worked for decades.

Thanks to all of you who support us in Best Lawyers’ surveys, past and future.

Part 4

LDRC Teaching

Both of us have continued to participate in training panels for family law mediators (Chouteau at M.C.L.E., in January and July; Bill at M.W.I., in April) and matrimonial arbitrators (Bill for A.A.M.L., in Chicago, in June). We also addressed the Divorce Center, Inc.’s annual meeting on the “Top Ten Things the Alimony Reform Act Does and Does Not Do”, last spring.

Meanwhile, Bill developed a program on hybrid forms of mediation, such as med/arb and, particularly the process of conciliation. He presented in New York on October 2d, at the Center for Mediation and Training - Association of Divorce Financial Planners Catalyst Conference. Bill will reprise a slightly revised version of the program at the annual meeting of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, in Reston, VA, on October 22d.

Part 5

The Blog

We continue to blog every other week; and we have just begun our post-mortem on the infinitely puzzling Massachusetts Appeals Court opinion, Phannenstiehl v. Phannenstiehl. This lightening rod case has divorce and estate planning lawyers buzzing, and most is not the buzz of delight. We share their pain.

Today, we feature Part 1 of: “O Phannenstiehl: No Wonder We Are All Confused; The Appeal's Court's Fuzzy Math”, which went live last week. In it, we defer substance, in favor of a curious procedure, one in which a minority of one justice morphs into a majority of three, under a “longstanding” Appeals Court procedure. Over the next couple of entries, we will dig into substance.

We also highlight a remarkable and rare family law opinion of United States District Court Judge William Young, in “Making a Federal Case of Surviving Separation Agreements”, which appears both in our blog, and previously as an opinion piece in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

As always, we invite to you wade into our blog:


Share our interest in, and sometime bemusement about, dynamic developments in of family law and practice; and other selected topics that catch our eye. We hope that you find our blog thought provoking, and occasionally fun.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy fall and holiday season. See you in the Winter of 2016. Here’s hoping that it will be kinder to us all than Snowmageddon 2015.

Bill and Chouteau

O Phannenstiehl! No Wonder We're All Confused Part 1: The Appeals Court's Fuzzy Math


Lawyers will be talking about the recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case, Phannenstiehl v. Phannenstiehl, for years to come. Decided on the question of what happens when trusts and divorce collide, it is rocking the family law and estate planning bar, alike. We have read it, read it and read it again; and like pollen in allergy season, and the winter snows of 2015, the head-scratchers just keep coming. Read more...

Making a federal case of surviving separation agreements


The divorce bar does not often look to the federal trial court for guidance in family law matters. In fact, outside of discovery and the Rules of Civil Procedure, we rarely look to federal courts at all when constitutional rights are not at issue.

But U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young’s ruling in Irish v. Irish is a noteworthy exception. Read more...

© 2019 Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC. Dedham and Northampton, MA
781.708.4445 | 413.341.1017 | Email: wmlevine@levinedisputeresolution.com

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