Tomorrow I am presenting before the annual meeting of the Bankruptcy Section of the North Carolina Bar Association in Pinehurst. The topic will be on the intersection of family law and bankruptcy. I’m told one of the topics that will be of interest to attendees is whether domestic support obligations (child support, spousal support and alimony) are subject to modification. The modification of alimony was my topic of presentation last week before a meeting of the Family Law Section, so I’m primed for that discussion. I posted my manuscript on alimony modification last week. Here is the manuscript for tomorrow’s presentation. Making presentations this year has been a great way for me to gain mastery of the material, to make and deepen connections with colleagues, and to be of service to my profession.
The American Bar Association presented on Lawyers as Leaders at the Peace Center in Greenville on October 23rd, 2015, and it was a good refresher for me to attend. Presentations focused on personality traits of lawyers, and how those traits impact leadership; lawyers as leaders within their firms; lawyers as leaders in client relationships; and, lawyers as leaders in our communities. One presenter suggested that perfection is the ideal aspiration for a firm to adhere to. That means going all in, in every case, great and small. Ideas to beat the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) and to move to 100 in the client experience were discussed and included maintaining consistent situational awareness; maintaining open, diverse and deep social networks; and operating from a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset that is bound by an unhealthy ego.
Maybe the perfectionist mindset isn’t all bad, I found myself wondering. Personally, I believe that to beat the commodification of the legal profession, which is happening, lawyers must meet the leadership challenge. For one, that means collaborating with your client in a way that ensures that he or she can see, hear and feel the difference a lawyer committed to leadership can make. The call to leadership has my attention. As my firm’s leader, the goal of Siemens Family Law Group remains to exceed client expectations while positively impacting the legal profession, the Courts, and the community at large.
At some point in your professional career, you need to step forward and offer to give back to your colleagues and your profession. Lots of good lawyers care about the quality of their work, their practice areas, and the law and policy that affect their clients. Leaders of the North Carolina Bar Association Family Law Section put those best intentions into action. Year after year, they present the best continuing legal education to lawyers of all levels of experience. And, they work to educate the North Carolina General Assembly in an effort to make family law and policy in North Carolina work better for the citizens of the great North State. I’m humbled to participate in these good efforts this year. My contribution comes in the form of a presentation on the law of alimony, and in particular, alimony modification. Here is the manuscript that I will be presenting from next week:
I used this article, Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report, successfully for a father in a recent child custody case. The article is a consensus report on the merits of shared parenting. There is an increasing body of literature – social science – on the merits of shared parenting. This article represents the best distillation of the science on the subject that I have been able to find. The conclusions begin on page 59, for anyone who wants to skip to the bottom line. Every case is different, and I explore the facts of each of my cases to determine whether there is a reason to consider something other than a shared parenting relationship. Locally, I think that is the majority approach, among my colleagues, and generally among the three judges in our Buncombe County Family Court. Recently, I hired a local expert to read the conclusions of this article into the record of proceedings to reinforce for the Court what I believe to be the majority approach to child custody. Whether you are a lawyer, a judge or a litigant, the time has come to think carefully about the emerging social science of child custody. Ultimately, child custody cases are about the child’s developmental experience, which needs to include mom and dad, in equal proportion, absent unusual circumstances.
In a recently published Harvard study on economic mobility in the United States, counties across the U.S. are ranked from best to worst. Buncombe County comes in at the bottom, ranking 2,386 out of 2,478. Boys and girls growing up in low-income households in Buncombe County will earn on average 13.1% less at age 26 than their low-income peers nationwide. The impact is greater for boys, with an 18.6% loss in income, than for girls, at a 6.8% loss.
A New York Times infographic, The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares, illustrates the projection that today’s low-income children in Buncombe County will make $3,420 less at age 26 than their counterparts across the U.S.
The growth we see in downtown Asheville makes it easy to forget that life for many young people in our community is hard – and getting harder. This study, 16 years in the making, helps explain some of the harder things I have seen at the Courthouse in 20 plus years of law practice. Policymakers should consider this study as the City and County continue to grow and develop. It’s a matter of social justice that we can’t afford to ignore.
The study, The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility, is part of The Equality of Opportunity Project, and you can find the story from the Asheville Citizen-Times here: Study finds little path from poverty in Buncombe County.
The Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. The 5-4 decision means same-sex couples nationwide will be provided the equal protection of the law of marriage.
Read the New York Times story here: http://nyti.ms/1GNITGN, and local coverage from the Asheville Citizen-Times: http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/06/26/sex-marriage-legal/29326531/
Consider Haiti is a not-for-profit organization founded in Asheville 15 years ago. I serve on the Consider Haiti Board as Treasurer. Many in the Asheville community have had a role in the operations of Consider Haiti. If you have purchased a pumpkin from Grace Episcopal on Merrimon (the pumpkin patch on the hill), you have supported Consider Haiti. If you ran the Asheville Marathon at the Biltmore Estate in 2015, you supported Consider Haiti. Doctors, nurses and lay people from Asheville have been running medical clinics for Consider Haiti throughout the organization’s existence. The program reflects the good will of Asheville. In May, I visited the Consider Haiti program in Mountrois, Ivoire and Fond Baptiste, Haiti. I made the trip with my Dad, the Consider Haiti Board Chair, and his son. Consider Haiti is staffed by seven Haitian men and women living in the communities they serve. This video was made during my trip, and it does a better job describing the program than I can do with words.
Here is a piece by David Brooks, a social commentator that I appreciate. His point is that our love for our children should not be conditioned upon their achievements. The piece resonates for me as a parent, and as a professional advising parents in the process of separation and divorce. It could be that children affected by separation and divorce are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of love conditioned upon achievement and perhaps an expressed preference for one household over another. Read Brooks’ column, “Love and Merit,” on The Opinon Pages: http://nyti.ms/1ONlDKy
Child support can play an important role in helping families with children move on after a separation, but it can also contribute to a host of related problems for some parents. A less traditional view of child support can mean different types of support for different families. Read about how one single mother redefined what child support is for her family and forgave $38,750 in arrears from her ex-husband. “We focus on money, when ‘child support’ also means emotional support, academic support and the supportive power of a male influence in a child’s life,” she says.
Read her story on The New York Times Motherlode blog here: Forgiving $38,750 in Child Support, for My Kids’ Sake
What your clients say about you makes your brand. This post caught me by surprise. When I read it, I said, “she nailed it”. With permission of the author, here is an unvarnished look at what it’s like to go through a divorce, and to work with me in the process: http://mereleighfood.com/2015/02/10/lucky-lucky-lucky/