Jim Siemens achieves AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell

 

Asheville, NC (PR Newswire) February 4, 2013 – Martindale-Hubbell, a division of LexisNexis®, has confirmed that attorney Siemens Law Office, P.A. still maintains the AV Preeminent Rating, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest possible rating for both ethical standards and legal ability, even after first achieving this rating in 2009.

For more than 130 years, lawyers have relied on the Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent® rating while searching for their own expert attorneys. Now anyone can make use of this trusted rating by looking up a lawyer’s rating on Lawyers.com or martindale.com. The Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent® rating is the highest possible rating for an attorney for both ethical standards and legal ability. This rating represents the pinnacle of professional excellence. It is achieved only after an attorney has been reviewed and recommended by their peers – members of the bar and the judiciary. Congratulations go to Siemens Law Office, P.A. who has achieved the AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®.

Siemens Law Office, P.A. commented on the recognition: “The Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating is a credential highly valued and sought after in the legal world. It used to be a sort of secret among attorneys who used the rating as a first screen when they needed to hire a lawyer they did not personally know. Now, thanks to the Internet, the Rating is a great way for anyone – lawyers or lay people – to use to screen lawyers. I am thankful to my peers who nominated me for this distinction, and proud to have earned this, the highest possible Martindale-Hubbell rating.”

Some Do’s and Don’ts of Divorce

 Like it or not, people going through a divorce may find themselves in situations that quickly become very contentious, even when both parties agree that it is in their best interest to part ways. Below is a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” from www.Findlaw.com, that might help to prevent this difficult situation from becoming unbearable.

THE DOs

DO be reasonable and cooperate as much as possible with your soon-to-be-ex. Reasonable compromise yields quicker and easier results in divorce cases.

DO support your children through the process. It is even tougher on them than it is on you. Don’t make them pick sides.

DO let your spouse know when and where you will spend time with your kids while you work out permanent custody arrangements. Your spouse might think you’ve made a run for the border – and if your soon-to-be-ex has to ask the police to track you down, that won’t look good during custody or visitation hearings.

DO fully disclose all your assets and property. A court can throw out a divorce decree based on financial deception, putting you back in court years after you thought everything was final.

Do ask your attorney if anything doesn’t make sense. Your attorney works for you, and should help you understand every part of the divorce process.

THE DON’Ts

DON’T make big plans to take a job in another state or move out of the country until your divorce is final. Your new life could interfere with getting your divorce finalized.

DON’T violate any temporary custody or visitation arrangements. It could make it tougher for you to get the custody or visitation rights you prefer.

DON’T “give away” property to friends or relatives and arrange to get it back later. Hiding property can mean your spouse can take you back to court to settle those assets.

DON’T go it alone. Divorce is complicated, and an attorney can make sure that your interests are protected.

AND A FEW WE’VE ADDED:

DO come to your meetings with your attorney prepared with updates and requested information.

DO engage the services of a therapist to help you through the emotional aspects of divorce.

DO engage the services of a therapist to help your young children understand family changes that result from divorce, and

DON’T discuss your case and/or your attorney’s advice with friends and family.  Bear in mind your disclosures may create witnesses if settlement efforts break down.

 

Why Mediation Works

“Reactive devaluation”.  That is the take away term from a mediation training I attended in May of 2012.  The term describes a phenomenon I”ve identified as a mediator, divorce lawyer and one time Husband, but it took the training to give that phenomenon a name.

In the context of divorce mediation, parties generally harbor negative feelings about their spouse or former spouse.  Those negative feelings compromise the ability of one party to hear the other, no matter how valid or important the message.  Polarized parties react by devaluing the message because they don’t like the messenger.

For a while, I thought mediation worked because parties in mediation recognize they can control the outcome and avoid the uncertainty of discretion exercised by a judge.  I still think that’s true in part.  Good lawyers in mediation certainly understand controlling risk.

But, as I continue to mediate for parties in the context of divorce, it is increasingly clear to me that it is my ability to serve as a substitute messenger, and a filter, that brings people to agreement.  As a mediator, I find it rewarding to carry and deliver important messages that might otherwise be reactively devalued and not received.

There is a connection between this concept of “reactive devaluation” and Stephen Covey’s 6th habit of empathic listening, the habit of seeking first to understand before being understood.  Negative feelings and emotions can interfere with the implementation of that habit.

At the recent recommendation of a great judge, I’ve read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  This book was foundational for Covey, and it ties nicely into the concept of reactive devaluation.  Frankl (and Covey) emphasize that we have the freedom to choose, at all moments of life, how we will react, even in the worst of circumstances.

Mediation is a great tool when you are the messenger getting shot, the one doing the shooting, or both. You have the freedom to choose how you will react to the difficult circumstances of divorce.  We can help you hear important messages.  We can help you deliver them.

Welcome Judge Dotson-Smith

Susan M. Dotson-Smith was sworn in as District Court Judge in the 28th Judicial District on Thursday, November 8th, 2012.  Judge Dotson-Smith has been assigned to Family Court and will assume the case load historically carried by the Honorable Rebecca B. Knight, and for a temporary period, by the Honorable Fritz Y. Mercer, Jr.

The swearing in was remarkably well attended.  Among the participants in the oath of office ceremony were Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill, Resident Superior Court Judge Alan Thornburg, N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Cheri Beasly and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.  This attendance connotes the importance of the position and the fact that Judge Dotson-Smith will touch the lives of many in Buncombe County.

We at the Siemens Family Law Group welcome Judge Dotson-Smith’s presiding in the Buncombe County Family Court and look forward to advocating in her courtroom.

Choices

Recently, my husband and I were in a counselor’s appointment with my middle son. He has been struggling and we were all looking for a little guidance. The counselor told our son he is at a crossroads and now must make a choice on what kind of person he wishes to become. He can go down a dark path, feeling as though everyone is out to get him, lashing out because he feels angry and alone, and dwelling on the perceived unfairness of life, or he can choose to focus on building his strengths, moving his life forward, maybe outside his comfort zone, and make a choice not to feel like a victim.

This made me think of the choices we all have every day. I hear people say they “don’t have a choice” or he/she “made me” do something, but the reality is we always have a choice. One of the most important choices we have is how we react when other people’s actions affect us.  This could be as simple as choosing to ignore a friend or colleague when they behave rudely, or as difficult as choosing not to play the role of victim when a spouse seeks to end a marriage. When a marriage ends, it seems to create an endless stream of choices, thrust upon us at a time when we are at our most vulnerable and scared.  What’s next? Which lawyer do I choose? Is mediation an option? Who gets what? Where to live? What about the children? The list goes on and emotions run very high, possibly clouding the choices available to us along the way. We can choose to react from a place of pain and hurt, lashing out at a spouse who no longer chooses to share a life with us. Or we can nurture ourselves, and make the difficult choice to try to resolve each of the upcoming issues with respect for those we have loved or who have loved us.

I feel certain, in time my son will make the right choice. He has already taken steps toward improving his life. I believe it can be empowering to “take the high road” and try our best to make choices from a place of knowledge and compassion, rather than choose to strike out from a place of pain and emotional reaction. What choices will you make today?

by Kathleen F. Abbott, NCCP

It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

In North Carolina, parties can’t typically appeal decisions of a Trial Court until the Trial Court has addressed all the pending issues.  In the family law context, that means, until the Trial Court has resolved each claim for relief, including claims for attorney fees, it is not time to appeal.  There are exceptions to this rule, but the exceptions are few.

The Court of Appeals has dismissed 2 appeals at our request, because issues remain for the trial court to decide in the case, in the same case!  The first appeal in our case was brought after a favorable ruling by the Trial Court on the date of marriage. (See N.C. Court of Appeals Opinions, 2008 unpublished opinions, Duncan v. Duncan), http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/

At the time of this appeal, the Trial Court had not yet ruled on equitable distribution, alimony and attorney fees.  The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal.

The second appeal came after the equitable distribution trial, and after our client had been awarded alimony, but before her attorney fee claim had been resolved. (See N.C.Court of Appeals Opinions, 2012 Duncan v. Duncan), http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/

Again, the Court of Appeals has dismissed the appeal.

We expect a third trip to the Court of Appeals when the issue of attorney fees is resolved, when there will be no remaining issues for the Trial Court to decide.

Katherine Fisher Leads Seminar at 1st Annual Women and Money Conference

On October 6, 2012, Katherine (Katie) Fisher taught a seminar titled “Nuts and Bolts of Divorce and Money” at the first Women and Money Conference, sponsored by OnTrack WNC’s Women’s Financial Empowerment Center (WFEC). In her session, Katie led participants in exploring the past, present and future of finances and divorce.

Sharpening the Saw

A few months ago I posted about a Covey Leadership training the Siemens Family Law Group attended.  I have watched the group practicing the habits since, and I think we have all gained personally and professionally.  I know everybody has practiced the 7th habit, because we have all taken some time off this Summer.

This week, I have taken a couple days at the beach.  Before I return to the office, I want to post about that 7th habit of re-creation, what Covey calls “sharpening the saw”.

The metaphor goes like this: you can’t saw wood all week and expect the saw to perform the same way Friday as it did when you started Monday.  The saw needs to be maintained, it needs to be sharpened.  You might say you have too much wood to cut to take time to do the sharpening, but that will only make the saw dull and ineffective.

I have encouraged every member of SFLG to take time off this Summer, for good reason.  Time away from the job allows for re-creation.  An opportunity to rediscover talents and interests.  An opportunity for fresh perspective and insight.  I know I am coming back sharper, with more ideas and a renewed desire to care for clients.

But the real message here is for clients and prospective clients.  Separation and divorce are some of the toughest life experiences humans endure.  In the past 24 months, I have known clients, and their former partners, who have become so overwhelmed by the circumstances and events of their lives that they experienced tragic consequences. I believe they forgot to care for themselves along the way – they neglected to sharpen their saw.

You can’t afford not to take care of yourself.  Take a day off and take more if you can.  Go for a ride, a run, a hike.  Read, paint, play music.  Do whatever it is you used to do that brought you joy.  Re-create yourself.  You will be happier for it, and better able to manage whatever comes your way.

We want our clients to do their best to take care of themselves.  Clients who know how to sharpen the saw are better able to follow our advice, make better decisions, and help us to get better results.

Stay sharp and count on us to do the same.

Are you prepared for a possible “Gray Divorce?”

While browsing the Asheville Citizen-Times website on August 13, 2012, we came across a terrific article by guest columnist Haleh Moddasser about “Gray Divorce.”  Although the article targets older women,  we feel Ms. Moddasser’s article contains important information for all of us,  regardless of gender and whether you may be young, middle-aged or whatever comes after that.  Given that family and financial circumstances can change unexpectedly, be it by death, accident, or divorce, it pays to plan ahead and be informed. Follow the link to learn more:  http://www.CITIZENTIMES.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/201208140015/LIVING/308140016

 

 

 

Finding an Asheville Divorce Lawyer

If you are reading this entry, you are probably contemplating separation from your spouse.  Or maybe you have already done that.  You probably have questions about the law, and how the law applies to you.  You are likely under a tremendous amount of stress from the life changes you are experiencing.  You are looking for a lawyer to answer questions, to solve legal problems, and to provide wise counsel.

Finding the right divorce lawyer at this stage in your life is critical.  Take control of finding the right divorce lawyer in Asheville by following some of these tips.

  1. Interview divorce lawyers until you find someone you are confident understands you and understands your case.
  2. Ask yourself whether you like the lawyer you are meeting with.  If you don’t feel that you have established a rapport with your lawyer during the initial consult, you may want to move on.
  3. Remember, if the lawyer you are consulting doesn’t stand out to you, chances are your lawyer is not going to stand out to the opposing party, or the Court.
  4. When you interview divorce lawyers, assess whether they have time for you and your case.  Too much time is a bad sign.  Too little time can also be a problem.  Your divorce lawyer is working for you, ask if they can commit to provide you the time and attention you deserve.
  5. Pay attention to your divorce lawyer’s office.  Do you get the impression that the office is organized?  Is the atmosphere professional?  Is attention paid to confidentiality?  Do you get the sense that office staff is happy and ready to serve you?  If your answer to any of those questions is no, you may want to move on.
  6. Being a divorce lawyer is hard work.  But that doesn’t excuse your lawyer from explaining what he or she is doing for you, in as much detail as you desire.  Your lawyer should be able to articulate a strategy to achieve your goals, at every step of the process.  Your lawyer should be able to demonstrate competence under pressure.
  7. Determine how your divorce lawyer is going to communicate.  Some divorce lawyers in Asheville still don’t use email.  Some don’t have smart phones.  Being able to communicate with your lawyer is going to be important.  Determine how that will happen.  Determine how quickly the divorce lawyer you are going to hire can return your call or email.

These seven tips should empower you to choose your Divorce Lawyer in Asheville.  Make the right choice at the outset.