Mediation Conundrums, Domestic Violence, and Sociopaths

Seminars “charge my batteries”. Tonight I am writing this post from the Charleston WV Marriott, one of my favorite places. Sometimes Nancy joins me, which is heavenly, as we try out a Charleston restaurant and shop, or socialize with other lawyers. Other times I stay in, catch up on work and correspondence, and even watch a ballgame on t.v. Tonight I check my e-mail and post to my blog.

I learned that the laws on domestic violence are being toughened even more. Not sure how the gun lobby missed these major changes which create major impediments to a person getting his/her gun rights back even after the restraining order expires. Not sure how the police are going to handle the many new tasks assigned to them. I wonder who budgeted for that? But, common sense dictates that if a person can get an escort to recover their things from the house, they should also have help retrieving the children they were just given temporary custody of or the pet the abuser threatened to kill.

Some of these are federal mandates, and the Domestic Violence laws in our local counties have been applied with common sense, so maybe toughening some areas of the law is a good idea. As they say, “Time will tell.” There is some significant abuse going on in the filing of DV Petitions. The word has spread that the winner of a DV final hearing gains a significant edge in later custody proceedings.

It became apparent, as our speakers trudged along, that most of the 100 or so mediators in the room are NOT used to having lawyers attend their mediation. They are simply assigned two people, who they never met, given no pleadings or other relevant documents, no listing of the peoples’ finances, no criminal or mental health records, and no independent way to know which party is being straight with her/him, if either! Most of these people are self represented, but I am disappointed to note that some of my brethren and sisteren(?) send their clients to mediation alone. Here we have a person smart enough to resist her/his spouse’s controlling behavior, only to be sent to fend for her/his self at mediation. It boggles my mind.

Still, mediators help many people sort out a parenting plan which is a key ingredient in a divorce. Strangely, and for reasons I have mentioned in prior blog posts, the Family Court CANNOT order them to mediation on issues of equitable distribution or spousal support.

In north central WV, Upshur, Lewis, and Randolph Counties, judges expect the lawyers to attend mediation, and we do, to the great benefit of our clients. The better mediators and attorneys now can print out a complete parenting plan or agreement for the parties to read and sign and take with them. They are not binding until presented to the court, but having a signed agreement creates an atmosphere of resolution that helps to keep people from backing out. Today I learned the WV Supreme Court of Appeals wants to mandate the form that we use for our parenting plan. That form is crammed with lots of “do it yourself” redundancies, so now we have another conundrum. I guess I will download the current form and try to adapt it to my own template.

(Note: I am pleased that our local lawyers have ignored this mandated form. I am in the process of creating an improved template. 2-27-2012 J.B.H. )

Much was covered today on the difficulties of mediating with parties with personality disorders, addictions, and sociopathic tendencies. These 10% of the total take up as much time as the remaining 90%, and most of the fatalities come from that group. Mediation with even one party with such problems is almost impossible. This is where the wisdom of the Court at trial is important, but if a person is going to have difficulty representing themselves at mediation, imagine trying to represent yourself in a trial, with all its technical requirements! The outcome is “Russian Roulette”.

In our part of the State, mediators work on all issues including equitable distribution and spousal support; that makes much sense to me, since these issues are often the ones standing in the way of a good compromise parenting plan.

Mediation is a Godsend to many. Just wish more people could go through the process with a qualified attorney, to help them prepare, and participate.

What do you think?

Please send me your comments and questions.


This post was written by Burton Hunter

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