Redefining Child Support

Siemens Family Law Group - Child SupportChild 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

Local Attorneys Supporting Consider Haiti

10360441_10152635429143001_8058354947429754920_nSiemens Family Law Group has formed a charity partnership between Consider Haiti and the Biltmore Marathon. Local bar members Ana Prendergast, Katie Fisher, Patrick McCroskey, Jennifer Moore, Jessica Walters, Matt Roberson, Bryant Webster and Jason Wilson are participating in the race on March 15 along with other members of the community.

Consider Haiti is a local non-profit that provides 110 children Sustainable Nutrition, Clean Water, and Community Health Agents. More information about the work being done in Haiti can be found on the Consider Haiti website, www.considerhaiti.org.

To support the charity partnership, visit http://www.gofundme.com/considerhaiti/ and click ‘Donate Now’ or select a runner to help us meet our goal!

Please also consider supporting the Consider Haiti/Biltmore Marathon partnership by volunteering. We need 40 volunteers on marathon day (3/15/15). Volunteer opportunities and sign-ups can be found on the website: http://www.considerhaiti.org/volunteer-signups/.

Thank you for supporting the great work being done by Consider Haiti!

Also see the partnership featured on the 28th Judicial District Bar website.

 

SFLG Running for Consider Haiti

Consider Haiti

On March 15th, Siemens Family Law Group is taking a little field trip to the Biltmore Marathon/Half Marathon. Dorothy and Ana will be running, and the rest of our team will be there volunteering. We will all be there in support of Consider Haiti, a cause Jim has supported for years and traveled to Haiti with in 2013.

Join us in supporting an amazing local non-profit that is doing incredible and valuable work.  Click on over to http://www.gofundme.com/considerhaiti/ to help us meet our goal!

Jim Siemens honored in 2015 Legal Elite

Siemens Family Law Group - balanceSiemens Family Law Group is pleased to announce Jim Siemens’ inclusion in the Family Law section of Business North Carolina magazine’s 2015 Legal Elite.

Legal Elite recognizes the state’s top lawyers in business-related practice areas, chosen by their peers. Members of the North Carolina State Bar are invited to nominate lawyers whose work they have observed firsthand and would rate among the best in their respective categories. Fewer than 3 percent of the state’s lawyers are honored in this year’s Legal Elite. The complete list can be found on the Business NC website.

Siemens Family Law Group celebrates marriage equality under the law

Siemens Family Law Group - NCSiemens Family Law Group has always advocated for equal protection under the law.  Same sex marriage in North Carolina will offer same sex couples the equal protection of the law of marriage that benefits heterosexual couples.  From a legal perspective, this is a just and proper result, and one we fully support.

See The Citizen-Times for the story and pictures from Friday’s Buncombe County marriage celebrations:

Supreme Court paves way for same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriages begin in Asheville Friday, Oct. 10

Shared Parenting for Parents Living Apart

The opinion of Robert E. Emery, PhD, on the benefits of shared parenting is consistent with the perspective I have heard expressed by psychologists in North Carolina educating the Judges we appear in front of. These paragraphs in his recent New York Times article are particularly significant:

“Today, close to half of first marriages end in divorce. About 40 percent of children are born outside of marriage. Custody is routinely shared by parents living apart. Many states have dropped the term ‘custody’ altogether for more family-friendly terms. You no longer win or lose custody. You develop a parenting plan.

Psychologists and decades of research support this shift. Cooperative parenting benefits children, whether parents live together or apart. Just ask any kid whose divorced parents are at war, ‘What are three wishes for your family?’ You can bet that one will be a version of ‘I wish my parents would stop putting me in the middle.”

We see that shared parenting and parenting plans are favored by the Buncombe County Family Court. There are exceptions to that trend, and we can help you evaluate whether your situation might be exceptional.

Read the full New York Times article, “How Divorced Parents Lost Their Rights”: http://nyti.ms/1qpUxkA

Merits of Mediation in Dispute Resolution

This post is about the merits of mediation, and the role I can play as your lawyer when you are thinking about using a mediator to resolve issues with your partner, spouse or former spouse. While I mediate disputes when asked, there are many good mediators in town, and I’m as happy being a lawyer as I am a mediator. Mediators mediate. Lawyers advocate and advise. No lawyer/mediator can be both in one case; there are rules of professional conduct that now prohibit this practice. Understanding the difference between the role of a mediator and the role of a lawyer will serve you well.

Mediation is, in my estimation, the most cost effective means for resolving disputes of all kinds, and family law disputes in particular. When I say cost effective, I am talking not only about money, but also emotional expense. When families change in configuration (separation), when new households are established, and when children are forced to navigate new environments, airing grievances in a public record (a court file) and in a public place (the Buncombe County Courthouse) can be destructive. Sometimes there is no alternative, and there are members of the Siemens Family Law Group that are highly skilled litigators when the only alternative is court.

Back to money. If you would prefer to spend your money on yourself or your kids, rather than a legal battle, here is my advice:

1. Find a family law lawyer for initial consultation. Ideally you will find a specialist like me, or an associate working under that specialist. You should expect to pay for that consultation (I charge $300, my associates charge less). What you should expect to get at that consultation are answers to all your questions. Prepare as many questions in advance as you can. What you should also expect to get is an education regarding family law in North Carolina, how that law might be applied to the facts of your case, how you might settle your case in mediation, and how the Buncombe County Family Court might view your case if you can’t. At a good law firm, you should get good counsel. This counsel might go beyond the law. If you meet with me, I’ll give you my honest perspective as a lawyer with 20 years of experience in Buncombe County; as a single parent of a now 7-year-old; and as man in mid-career who enjoys the ability to provide clear, seasoned, sound advice.

2. Go to mediation. Sarah Olson is a seasoned lawyer and mediator with a background in psychology, accounting and parenting. She has an informative website at www.mediationasheville.com. Other good mediators include Gary Cash, Rebecca Knight, Sarah Corley, Michael Drye, Barbara Davis, Rhonda Moorefield and Patrick McCroskey. We can help you get in touch with any one of these individuals. The mediator you choose should have a working understanding of family law in North Carolina, the Buncombe County Family Court in particular, an ability to assess financial matters, and if children are involved, some life experience or training related to child development. Ideally, the mediator you choose will facilitate a conversation that results in a meeting of the minds, otherwise known as an agreement. At the conclusion of mediation, the mediator must ensure that any agreement that is reached is summarized in written form. The written summary of the mediator is a road map for settlement, but not the actual legal settlement document.

3. So, after mediation, go back to the lawyer you consulted initially with the agreement your mediator has reduced into writing. The lawyer you consulted should be able to pick up on your last conversation with him or her, take the mediator’s road map (the mediator’s memorandum), and get you to the destination (a binding legal document). We call that binding legal document a contract of separation and property settlement agreement. The legal document may have custody provisions in it. The legal document may, or may not, provide that it is to become a court order upon divorce. Your lawyer should be prepared to talk with you in detail about these procedural nuances.

If you follow these steps, you will come through the process of separation and divorce in the best way possible. You will expend less emotional energy. Your children will avoid unnecessary wounds. And, you will save money. I’d like to talk with you in more detail about this approach in an initial consultation. If you don’t talk to me, talk to one of my associates, or try to find someone equally qualified.

Thanksgiving 2013

As the Thanksgiving holiday is once again upon us, we here at Siemens Family Law Group feel it is right to give thanks to our clients, past and present.

It has been with your support that 2013 has brought growth and opportunities for us to give back to our communities.

Attorneys Brenda Coppede and Ana Prendergast joined the firm this year and have brought with them new energy and influence. It has been a wonderful time incorporating two new attorneys into the firm, and we have seen our practice flourish with their input.

Also in 2013, we have donated pro bono hours to the “4 All” Campaign of the North Carolina Bar Association and to Pisgah Legal Services.  We have provided financial support through donations and sponsorship to the Genesis Alliance, Asheville City Schools Foundation and Asheville Youth Cycling, among other organizations.  One of the most rewarding giving back experiences of 2013 was Jim’s travel to Haiti in October to assist in pediatric medical clinics with the Consider Haiti program.

This year has brought some challenges and successes for which we are grateful.  In April, Jim argued in front of the North Carolina Supreme Court on an access to justice issue directly affecting dependent spouses throughout the State.  Jim also continues to advocate for his clients both in trial and in mediation, successfully helping clients resolve issues in the best interest of their families and children. Brenda appears weekly in Buncombe County Family Court, where she has achieved many victories and positive outcomes through advocating zealously for her clients. Ana passed the North Carolina Bar and is building an elder law practice which complements our family law focus. Ana also associates with Jim on family law cases.

Justice, kindness and humility – we value these attributes and give thanks for the chance to put them into practice every day.  Happy Thanksgiving from Siemens Family Law Group.