My interest and passion has always been in child development, family relationships and communications.
As a young child, I learned that my father’s parents divorced and my grandmother died before I was born. I had a very loving relationship with my “step” grandmother yet heard how difficult this family history was for my father.
As a teenager, I remember babysitting for a couple who were neighbors and one day learning they divorced. It seemed sudden and was difficult to understand. One minute they were going out on dates and the next they were apart. It made me curious about how that might impact their child.
Divorce was referred to with stigma and clearly sadness.
I became interested in family dynamics and chose to study family and child development in college.
My first professional job was working in the Family Service Center on Marine Corps Base Quantico. It was often the first place that the military member or spouse would go when they needed help. There were many couples who were separated due to military orders or marital discord. Yet, because of the stressors of deployment and relocation, these people needed to resolve family issues and had little time or resources to be able to resolve their problems.
I found myself partnering with the Legal Services Attorneys on base to help those in need understand their options and the expectations of the Military Command.
While I was working at the Family Service Center, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long mediation training with John Haynes (who was viewed as a founding father of Mediation at that time). There was a heavy emphasis on communications with family members in dispute. I used the skills in my job and then became interested in learning the law so I could have a better base of knowledge relating to child and spousal support, custody, protective orders, assets and debts, to help couples in distress.
I attended law school with the goal of developing an Alternate Dispute Resolution practice to help couples resolve issues without having to go to court.
The first 15 years of my work as a lawyer I worked in a law firm setting and my case work was a combination of litigation and settlement. The work I did with clients in court affirmed my belief that when clients use their attorneys to go to court, no one really wins. Conflict between the spouses usually escalates and then clients become unhappy with their attorneys and vice versa. The experience is financially and emotionally devastating and relationships with extended family and friends are destroyed.
In contrast, those cases that I mediated frequently resulted in improved communications, less hostility and satisfaction with settlement so people could move toward future happiness (whether through reconciliation or divorce).
Working in the law firm setting gave me the opportunity to serve on statewide committees to develop legislation and educate the public about settlement processes without court. Potential clients became more aware of, and interested in, Mediation and Collaborative Practice. After taking Collaborative Divorce training, I opened my own law firm in 2004 with a focus on Mediation and Collaboration and chose not to accept cases where a client is in contested litigation. It is very rewarding to have a practice where I am no longer litigating.
My interest and passion has always been communications, family relationships, child develop and assisting families in transition. I am doing the work that is most consistent with my values and working with clients who seek those services. It is a pleasure to help people who are entering a scary time with family transition and offer them services that enable them to resolve the issues out of court using a respectful and dignified process. There is less acrimony and destruction; clients learn skills and become empowered to work with one another and make decisions that will work.
The goal is not just to reach a settlement, it is to help clients communicate their interests and concerns, be creative in developing options for resolution, and help them reach an agreement that is likely to serve them well over time.
Many Mediators in the Northern Virginia and DC area first had a career as a trial attorney; some then became a judge and retired and began mediating.
My path was different.
I started with a background in Psychology and Family and Child Development, trained as a Mediator, and then obtained my law degree, worked in family law firm settings so that I would have a solid family law education. Then, I combined my Psychology and Family Law background with my skills acquired in Mediation and Collaborative Law trainings to form a practice that is based solely on settlement negotiations.