Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Choosing Your Divorce Lawyer

(Questions to Ask)

Hiring a divorce lawyer is a big decision.  Your sanity and finances may rest on this person's shoulders for many months (or years) to come.  Don't hire the first person you see.  It may be well worth the cost to pay for consultations with three (or more) lawyers until you find the one that you will be comfortable with and will treat you right.  

One question I find often neglected is “who is the lawyer on the other side.”  (If known or if it can be found out.)  You DO NOT want to hire a lawyer who hates the lawyer on the other side.  This adds an additional level of messy conflict.  (We want them to be able to "play" well together.)  Likewise, if the other side is using a lamb, you want a lamb too.  (Works out best in the end.)  And, if the other side is using a shark, sadly, you need a shark too.  Finally, if the husband is being an ass, it may be wise for the wife to hire a male lawyer.  (This gender dynamic doesn’t usually play out the other way.  When the wife is being an ass she is just as likely to act up with a male or female on the other side.)

At the end of this article, I include links to three articles that discuss this topic.  Using these articles, and my own experience, I created the following list of questions to ask a potential divorce lawyer, before you hire him/her. 

·         How often can I expect updates from you?

·         How long do you think my case will take?

·         Do you have an assistant or paralegal that I will work with regularly?

·         What is the best way to get in touch with you?

·         How much experience do you have with going to trial?

·         What is your hourly rate?

·         What is your paralegal's hourly rate?

·         What percentage of your practice is family/divorce law?

·         How long have you been practicing family law?

·         How many family law cases have you handled?

·         How big is your current caseload?

·         How many people in your office will be working on my case?  Can I meet them?

·         Do you have any vacations (or time-off) planned for the next year?

·         If you are out of the office, who will I talk to?

·         Do you answer your phone on weekends?

·         What costs can I expect to pay while working with you?

·         What is your approach (strategy) to divorce cases?

·         Do you practice collaborative law?

·         How long do you take to return phone calls?

·         How can I get a hold of you if there is an emergency?

·         What do you consider an emergency?

·         What is your retainer?  At what point will I have to replenish the retainer?  Is any part of the retainer refundable?

·         Do you usually settle divorce cases with the other lawyer or during mediation?  (Along with what percentage of your cases go to trial?)

·         What Is the average cost of divorce for your clients?

·         What other costs should I expect to pay (PIs, forensic accountants, vocational rehabilitation experts, etc.)?

·         Ultimately, how much is this case going to cost?  Keep in mind an honest attorney will not want to tell you how much your actual divorce will cost as there are so many variables.  However, this is an important question to ask as it will help you size up the attorney.

·         Do you encourage/allow me to negotiate directly with my spouse?

·         How can I keep my costs down?

·         Are there tasks I can do myself to keep costs down?

·         Post-divorce what are the things I will have to do?  (File deeds, separate retirement accounts, notify insurance companies, re-do my will, etc.)

·         Based on what I have told you, if we could get in front of a judge tomorrow, what do you think the judge would rule?  (Can you give me my best-worst case scenarios?)

·         Can you explain the tax effects of the decisions I will have to make?

·         Are you Board Certified in Family Law?


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Fellow Mediators, My Gift to You.... Free CMEs


Of course I would love to have you attend one of the virtual CME (Continuing Mediator Education) Programs I offer via Zoom with  However, if that is not in the cards, here is a list of no-cost CME offerings.

This list is a work in progress.  If you have an addition, OR find the link to a presentation is no longer working, please let me know.  

Interpersonal Violence

October 2019 Domestic Violence Case Law Update, The Honorable Thomas R. Eineman, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

January 2019 Domestic Violence Case Law Update, The Honorable Thomas R. Eineman, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

Elder Abuse, The Honorable Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

Adjudicating DV Cases – Training for Judges National Center for State Courts.  Three hours of IPV:  two hours of IPV education for Modules 1-3 and one hour of IPV for Module 5.

Domestic Violence Screening, Michigan GTLA Bar Association.  One hour of IPV.

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Tutorial for Legal Professionals.  Four and a half hours of IPV.  Select the Tutorial for Legal Professionals.  When you have completed all five modules, print/save your Certificate of Completion and report 4.5 hours completed by self-study method on your CME Reporting Form.


Mediator Ethics


Mediator Ethics: We Are Headed to a Disciplinary Hearing, Florida Dispute Resolution Center. One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Timothy Hedeen-Ensuring Self-Determination Mediation: Ethical, Effective Practices.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Ethics in Mediation and The Process of Making Ethical Decisions, Anna Robertson, Canada.  One-half-hour of Mediator Ethics.

Ethical Limits on Deceit in Negotiation and Mediation, Webinar, Missouri.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Mediation Confidentiality 101.  Susan Marvin and Kim Kosch, The Florida Supreme Court's Dispute Resolution Center.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Diversity/Bias Elimination/Inclusion

Eliminating Cultural Basis in the Courtroom, The Honorable Rosa Figarola, Circuit Judge, Eleventh Judicial Circuit.  One hour of Cultural Diversity.


Elder Mediation

Virtual Mediation Lab Online Mediation Simulation - Sharing Dad's Funeral Expenses, Association for Conflict Resolution, Hawaii Chapter.  One hour of CME.

Elder Abuse, The Honorable Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Professionalism, Elder Abuse Investigations.  One hour of IPV for taking all modules and passing the quiz.  REQUIRES ADOBE FLASH to view.


General Mediation

Will Work For Food.  Natalie Armstrong-Motin is a Marketing Coach whose specialty is helping/promoting Mediators and other ADR Practitioners.  In addition she has amassed an extensive library of free CME webinars.  (She asks that in exchange for viewing you donate to your local food bank.) Take a look at past offerings at  Or sign up for a future webinar at

Legal Fuel:  The Practice Resource Center of the Florida Bar has an extensive list of Free CLE Programs.  Many programs are relevant to mediation, some are not.  Do not use any CLE program that is clearly focused on the practice of law.

Navigating ADR Online, Maryland Program for Mediator Excellence.  Recorded Webinar.  One hour and 48 minutes (1.8 hours).

Mediation in a Time of Social Distancing - A Mediator’s Response to Covid-19, The National Judicial College, Nancy Yeend.  One and a half hours.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service offers a variety of free webinars.

Staying with Conflict: The Challenge of Engagement in the Face of Enduring Disputes.  Bernard Mayer.  Video and materials.

Reflective Practice: In Their Voices.  Video Conversation Project - Interview with Howard Herman.

Professor John Lande lists collections of dispute resolution videos and podcasts at's Top 101 Videos.  These videos were selected by's editorial staff as representative of innovative thinking from leaders in the field of mediation, and of's development, over the last 25 years.

The Way Out:  How to Overcome Toxic Polarization by Peter C Coleman.

Family/Divorce Mediation

Family Mediation Workshop, John Jay College.  Two hours of CME.

Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce, FSU.  Three modules plus a pre-training on Trauma and Resilience.  Four Hours of CME.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: Is This a Case for Mediation?

By Deborah Beylus and Elinor Robin, PhD

Our divorce industry cohorts all seem to be captivated by Johnny Depp’s televised defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.  And they are not alone.  The Fairfax, Virginia Courthouse where the trial is taking place is drawing lots of public attention.  Spectator wannabees queue-up early each morning in the hopes of getting a wristband to watch from inside the courtroom.  There is a sea of news cameras and a band of photographers who stand on ladders, near the rear exit, capturing Depp and Heard as they come and go.  The bruhaha is a true circus, complete with emotional support alpacas who pose for photos.

Court TV and the Law & Crime Network are live streaming from inside the courtroom.  However, the Judge, Penney Azcarate, signed an order banning selfies or autographs in the courtroom; and her deputy keeps a vigil against courtroom spectators who laugh loudly, cheer, or roll their eyes. 

Depp is suing Heard for fifty-million dollars, for defamation, resulting from an opinion piece Heard wrote in The Washington Post in 2018.  While her article did not name Depp, it is widely known that two years before the article was published, she had filed for divorce and a restraining order, alleging he physically assaulted her.  Depp has denied all claims of abuse and says her op-ed has caused irreparable damage to his career.  The suit was filed in Fairfax, Virginia because The Washington Post houses its printing press and online server there.  Heard has filed a counterclaim against Depp for one hundred million dollars.

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise is at the core of the case.  Depp says that after the publication of Heard’s piece he was dropped by Disney, resulting in the loss of millions in income.  According to Heard, Depp's behavior had already harmed his lucrative movie career. 

While the libel lawsuit is supposed to center on whether Depp was defamed in Heard’s article, most of the trial has focused on the ugly details of the couple's brief marriage.  Traumatic, intensely intimate, and unflattering details of their tumultuous relationship, drug and alcohol-fueled lifestyle, and domestic abuse are making front-page news worldwide.  Depp denies ever striking Heard, while Heard's attorneys argue that Depp physically and sexually abused her and that his denials lack merit because he was often drunk or high to the point of blacking out.  These details, offered as background, are not directly relevant to the defamation action, but they may ultimately decide the fate of each litigants’s reputation.

Like many other disputes, this case has both a financial and an emotional component.  According to Depp, he had originally proposed that the couple issue a joint letter saying they loved each other, and the media had created a storm around them.  If this is true, it is likely that Heard’s refusal to play nice has amplified Depp’s hurt and anger and fueled the emotions that are driving the current chaos. 

As Family Mediators we wonder if Depp would have been better off ignoring the whole mess.  Afterall, avoidance (with or without added insight) can be a viable conflict management strategy.  And we question if Depp’s attorneys would have been more effective if they had gotten him to engage in mediation or a Med/Arb process that could have kept things confidential.

So, what is mediation?  Mediation is an informal (yet structured) conflict-resolution process.  Simply put, mediation is assisted negotiation.  If Depp and Heard had gone to mediation, the impartial mediator would have provided them with an opportunity to discuss their issues, clear up misunderstandings, and find areas of agreement.  Mediation could have provided Depp and Heard with some advantages, including:

1.  Mediation is confidential.  In mediation there are no transcripts or recordings are generated, and no media frenzy is spawned.  All the dirty laundry could have been kept out of the public eye.  And, the mediation discussions would not be used later as evidence (if they were unsuccessful and did have to go to court). 

2.  Mediation is quicker.  In mediation, we can do in hours or days, what typically takes a lawsuit months or years.  When parties want to get on with their lives, mediation provides a more reasonable timetable.  The Depp v Heard trial was delayed due to COVID keeping the parties stuck in a cycle of legal bills and emotional upheaval.  Instead, this case could have been resolved in a Zoom mediation during lockdown.

3.  Mediation is less expensive.  Mediation is less expensive than lawsuit.  Depp and Heard could have gone to mediation with or without attorneys.  Certainly, without attorneys their costs would have been minimal.  But, even with attorneys, the quicker turnaround could have saved them a small fortune.

4.  Mediation is informal.  The informality of mediation allows parties to be more engaged than they can be in a court-driven process with an abundance of rules and procedures.

5.  Mediation allows for the preservation of relationships.  One of the most overlooked benefits of mediation is that it can help preserve relationships, business and personal, that would likely be destroyed through years of litigation.  Unlike litigation, which is inherently a win/lose process, mediation allows parties to save face and/or maintain some level of civility with each other. 

6.  Mediation provides the parties with greater flexibility and control.  In mediation the parties (not the judge) are the decision makers.  This means that the parties have more control along the way and over the outcome.

7.  Mediation provides an opportunity to get it off your chest.  In mediation, the parties have a chance to tell their story and expose perceived wrongs.  Negative emotions (grief, anger, sadness, betrayal, loss, disillusionment, fear, and hurt) can be worked through and positive emotions (relief, freedom, forgiveness) can help bring about closure and reconciliation.

8.  Mediation allows each side to see another point of view.  Many conflicts are based in misunderstanding.  Judgements that the parties have made about each other can be challenged in mediation.  Black-white/good-evil assumptions can be questioned in mediation and each side can begin to better understand the other’s motivations, perceptions, and needs.

9.  Mediation results in greater satisfaction.  For all the reasons above, parties generally report more satisfaction with a mediated outcome.  And, because there is no winner or loser, no admission of fault or guilt, and the settlement is mutually agreed upon, parties are typically more likely to comply with a mediated settlement over a court order. 

Mediation is not a fit for every case.  And entering mediation at the right time is a critical factor in the success of the outcome.  Ultimately, as we see it, Depp v Heald was a case that was primed for mediation.  Mediation could have given these parties workable solutions that they are not going to get in court.  Clearly, they have both suffered a missed opportunity.



Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Will Smith needs consequences and his meds adjusted

As a mediator its critical that I impartial and non-judgement.  But, since I am not going to be called in to mediate between Chris Rock and Will Smith, I wanted to put my reactions to that Oscar episode on paper.  WTF was Will Smith thinking?  Didn't he ever hear about sticks and stones?  

There are two sides to every story.  But, in this instance, Smith is the clear villain.  Here's why:  

1.  Smith opened the door for the haters and racists who now have "proof" that ALL black men are animals.  

2.  Extreme stress is not good for anyone, especially someone with alopecia.  

3.  If Jada wanted to avoid drawing attention to her shaved head she could have worn a wig.  We all know that a woman with a shaved head will attract attention.  

4.  Have you seen GI Jane?  OMG, the woman is hot!!  Most women would be flattered to be compared to Demi Moore as GI Jane.  

5.  If Smith really respects his wife he would trust her to defend herself by making her case to Rock and the public at a more appropriate time. 

6.  Chris Rock is a comedian.  He was making a joke, that's what comedians do.  Will Smith is an actor.  Actors know how to disguise their internal states.  Couldn't Smith hide his rage (even temporarily) and ACT like a civilized adult?  

7.  Initially, Smith laughed at the joke.  And, he smirks as he turns and walks away after the assault.  What is that about?  

My 32 years in the conflict business tells me there is more to this story.  While we await the truth-telling I am hoping there are serious consequences for Smith.  Otherwise, we (as a society) condone the use of physical violence and aggression and we invite more.  I personally will boycott Will Smith's movies from this day forward.     

Friday, September 25, 2020

Notes on De-Cluttering: Cut The Crap

Think of a time when you had no crap.   Has there ever been such a time?

Can we all agree that crap is not a good thing?  

But, wait!!  There might be some good stuff buried in the crap.  Clearly, for me, the task is to sift through the crap and pull out the good stuff.  So why haven't I done it?

You have no idea how much crap you have until you have to pack it into one truck.

On the other hand, do I really have to deal with this crap?  I could just wait until I die.  But, then (a) someone else will have to clean up my crap and (b) I never get a chance to enjoy a crap-free life.  

You can give your crap to someone who wants it.  (These people may be hard to find.  Seeking them out will add on a lot of time to the cut-the-crap process.)  

You can donate your crap to a charity.  (If they want it.)

You can sell it.  This can be time consuming - a full-time job for minimal pay.  Certain high dollar items are worth selling on ebay, etsy, craigslist, etc.  (Oh well, I have no high dollar items.)  At best my crap might work in a garage sale.  (Also known as "a lot of work for a little money.")

You can store your stuff.  Ouch.  Those monthly storage costs can add up.  And, it takes time to pack it up.  And, once its in storage - then what?  

Hire help.  Better yet, trade de-cluttering help with a friend.  Your helper will see your crap in a more realistic light.  

If you hold onto something for later use you may be cheating yourself out of getting the latest and greatest.  Look around stores.  Do you want to be able to get a nice new one or use your crummy old one?  (Especially true of bedding, kitchen stuff, etc.)

Tell me about something you love?  If it was lost you would run out and buy another one.   


COVID Divorce - 5 Reasons Why the Pandemic is a Marriage Killer

Ouch.  As if living through a pandemic were not enough, many of you will also be hit with a divorce this year.  In fact the current situation might be considered a divorce stimulant.  Here's why:

  • The virus and the lock-down have forced many people to face themselves and their relationships without the normal day-to-day distractions.  For many, this dose of reality shed light into some dark nooks and crannies.  And, now its difficult to go back to make-believe.  Instead its time to clean up, once and for all.   
  • Many of us, who knew divorce was inevitable, were just too busy to do anything about it.  Now, suddenly, we have the time to deal with the paperwork and the logistics.  Some people are spending the lock-down cleaning out closets and learning a foreign language.  Others are finally getting on with their divorce.     
  • For many, the pandemic amplified the inequality of a couple's contributions.  If you were already operating with an imbalance, the current situation may be enough to push the more contributory - and resentful - spouse over the edge.  
  • When one spouse fears for his/her health (or the health of the children) and the other spouse comes across as cavalier, the frightened spouse feels devalued and betrayed.  The key to a successful marriage is providing each partner with a sense of safety and the impression that s/he is appreciated and valued.  When the relationship no longer provides this, things start to crumble.  This dynamic is epitomized by spouses who act-out their differences regarding COVID safety.     
  • Sudden or significant losses or lifestyle-changes can become marriage-killers.  For example - the death of a child, on-going care for a special-needs child, a major work shift, and unemployment all increase the likelihood of divorce.  For many, the pandemic has triggered a sense of loss, actual losses, and significant life-style changes.  
Can you think of another reason who this pandemic is a marriage killer?  I am very interested in your feedback.           

Thursday, September 17, 2020

My Notes on Retirement Coaching

This week I attended a conference put on by the Retirement Coaches Association.  They did a great job on with the virtual networking and the technology.  And, there were some fantastic (and not so fantastic) speakers.  Often when I go to conferences I hear nothing new.  But, this was an exception.  

Here are my notes:

In the past, people didn't age.  They died.  Today we live longer than ever before and many of us can expect long "retirements."  What should those retirements look like?  

Typically, there is no rite of passage into the Third Age.  (ThirdAger)

For many, a flex retirement - that allows one to glide in and out of a workspace is an attractive idea.

Retirees have time affluence.

What do you want in the way of peak experiences?  (Previously called a bucket list.)

Think about your two resumes - a career resume and a human being resume.

During the Second Age we accumulate, during the Third Age we release.

In adolescence we go from child to adult.  In middlescence we move from adult to elder.  

The Modern Elder is as curious as s/he is wise.  

Many old people.  Few Elders.  An Elder is someone who knows s/he is going to die. 

The denial of death and the worship of youth. 

Ken Dychtwald -

Seven interconnected life priorities:  health, home, leisure, family, work, finances, purpose/contribution.

Seth Godin - Toward a Zoom Agreement.