Elder Mediation


The term “Elder Mediation” generally refers to mediation of matters relating to care or financial decisions of a vulnerable adult.   When families have disagreement concerning care for a person who has diminished capacity to make decisions or to care for themselves, a specially trained mediator is needed. Like all mediation, key goals are to facilitate communication, to reduce barriers to agreement, and to empower the parties to make good decisions that reflect their shared values and ideals.  The mediator must have skill, however, to manage communication among multiple parties, to incorporate insights from experts such as attorneys, guardians ad litem, and care managers, and also to include the Elder themselves in discussions to the fullest extent possible.  Some common issues addressed during Elder Mediation include: (1) planning for future financial or physical care,  estate planning, business succession planning, and advance care planning; (2) making decisions during a crisis; and (3) mediation to settle disputes involving probate matters.


When a family is not in agreement, a meticulously prepared care or estate plan can be destabilized by just one family member who challenges or undermines it.  Mediators help everyone get on the same page, so that second guessing is less likely.   The mediation process helps ensure that decisions and planning take into account all interests, is realistic, and is based on a unified family agreement.   The fact that authentic agreement is reached helps restore peace within the family and reduces the likelihood of later challenge.


First, the mediator will interview all parties and learn more about the issues involved.  Then the mediator will convene one or more meetings and act as moderator to guide the meetings.  The mediator will help everyone stay focused on the most important issues, will make sure that conversation is respectful and that everyone  has an opportunity to be heard, and will assist the parties reach an agreement that everyone can live with.   The confidentiality of mediation is protected by strict rules regarding confidentiality, and all agreements must be voluntary.  At the conclusion of the mediation, if agreement is reached, the mediator will present a summary of the points agreed on by the family.  The mediated agreement can be as simple as a checklist or as complex as a legal settlement agreement, depending on the needs of the parties.


At this time, mediation is not regulated as a profession, so it is important to look carefully at the skill and training of each individual mediator.  While many Elder Mediators are attorneys by training, many highly skilled mediators have come into the field by way of their specialized background in gerontology, nursing, social work, or counseling.  Knowledge of elder law is important, as is knowledge about common geriatric and competency issues, family dynamics and the psychology of extended families, and skill in mediation involving multiple parties and outside professionals.  Look for signs that the potential mediator has expertise in (1) legal and financial issues of aging (financial planning, care planning, business succession planning, guardianship or probate administration), (2) multi-party, complex mediation (siblings, in-laws, and grandchildren all may be stakeholders and necessary parties to a mediation), and (3) legal issues related to competency and capacity (an Elder Mediator must take special precaution to ensure that the aged person, who may be a vulnerable adult, is accorded as much autonomy and decision making deference as his or her physical and mental capacity will allow).  Ideally, a mediator will have completed an advanced training specifically in Elder Mediation.


As difficult as conversations about Elder issues may be, wise is the family that has them.  While honesty, candor, and open conversation may be challenging, the more fully the issues are discussed, and the better the quality of conversation, the better the result will be.  Yes, Elder Mediation may be time consuming, complex, and expensive.  Several meetings are often required, and two mediators may need to be involved when there is a large group.   Yet, consider the costs to the Elder and their family, in both human and financial terms, if agreement is not reached.

Unresolved issues involving a vulnerable adult will not go away if ignored.  T hey will only get worse.  Failing to reach a unified plan can result in preventable illness or accidents, lack of family support for a caregiver, financial exploitation, loss of a business or livelihood due to failure to plan for contingencies, distrust and alienation, failure to communicate, incorrect assumptions, escalating conflict, anger, and financial resources being poured into litigation.  The consequences of failing to address underlying issues can cost not just money, but also relationships in the family and quality of life for the Elder.

In contrast, a family that works as a team is more likely to maintain the physical, mental, emotional, and financial health of all parties involved.   It can be tempting to pretend nothing is wrong (one extreme) or to fight with each other (another extreme).  In the middle, there is a middle ground called mediation.  This middle way – the way which acknowledges conflict and yet has the courage to work through the issues to find authentic peace — is, by far, the best and most cost effective option for most families.


In addition to her professional training in general facilitative mediation, family mediation, and community mediation, Alexandria Skinner has trained specifically as an Elder Mediator with nationally recognized mediators Zena Zumeta and Susan Butterwick of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  In addition, Skinner has studied mediation for extended family groups at the Lombard Mennonite Peace Institute in Lombard, Illinois, and she is certified as a collaborative professional with the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).  To support her commitment to helping families have better relationships and better solutions for Elders, Skinner also has been active as a volunteer with the Elder Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution since 2009 and, in that capacity, has assisted in selection of topics, preparation of, and facilitation of numerous educational programs for professional mediators on the subject of elder mediation.  If you would like to discuss a potential issue involving elder mediation, either a need for mediation or an academic or professional interest,  please fill out the form below or call 803-414-0185.

Posted in Elder Issues, Family Meetings and Elder and Probate Mediation | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Adoption in South Carolina

Helping families cement their ties through the legal bond of adoption is one of the most joyous things an attorney can be privileged to do.

Legally, even a simple adoption requires a relatively complex procedure.  Every “I” must be dotted and every “T” crossed, “just so.”  This is because the right of a parent to be a parent to their child is a basic, fundamental liberty which can only be removed through the most stringent of legal processes.  In even an uncontested case in which the known biological parent is voluntarily relinquishing parental rights, an independent attorney or certified adoptions social worker must personally meet with the individual and certify that they understand the specific rights they are giving up.   Additionally, a neutral guardian ad litem must conduct and independent investigation and make a recommendation that the proposed adoption is, indeed, in the best interest of the child.  The paperwork requirements are detailed and specific.

While I am in favor of empowering my clients to retain as much control as possible over their own lives, adoption is one area in which I believe it is important to have the assistance of legal counsel at every step.   The consequences of a “botched” adoption are simply too severe to take a chance on anything being done improperly.

I realize that adoption is expensive for many families, especially since more than one professional must be involved.   I am committed to providing cost effective legal services that middle class families can afford.  The way I seek to save money for my clients is  by working as efficiently as possible and by using appropriate professionals who are also committed to the same principles of working cost-effectively and helping families achieve their personal and legal objectives.   Additionally, I offer payment plans and accept credit card payments.

To learn more about my services for adoption, please call 803-414-0185 or fill in the contact form.


Posted in Resources For Peacemakers | 1 Comment

Legal Needs of Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Individuals and Families

Parties in non-traditional, but committed, relationships have special needs with regard to legal planning and resolution of conflict when needed.   Non-traditional families do not presently enjoy equal protection of the law in South Carolina with regard to marriage, divorce, adoption, intestacy, or guardianship, just to name a few areas where protection of committed relationships can be nontraditional familiesimportant.  I cannot “fix” the law, but I am happy to help LGBT and transgender people plan preventively and implement measures designed to provide some protection for your loved ones.   Advance planning is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for nontraditional families!

There are many areas where documents can be drafted which provide some of the legal protections which do not exist as a matter of statute.  These include

  • health care decisions,
  • estate planning,
  • retirement savings,
  • recognition of your marriage if you have been married in another state.

Not only is there a lack of legal protection for your spouse with regard to financial and property matters, but also because sometimes outside or estranged family waits until your most vulnerable moments — a time of death or disability — to try and come in and upset the apple cart.  There are nightmare stories of spouses being ejected from hospital bedsides on account of their not being “next of kin.”   A long term spouse ejected from a family home because the law of intestacy provided for the home to go to someone other than the spouse.   Death and disability are traumatic enough to endure, without the added nightmare for your loved one of dealing with hostile or unjust legal battles.

In addition to planning that protects your spouse, gay and lesbian couples also at times deal with the same issues as other families.   When gay and lesbian couples break up, they have no recourse to the courts for protection of property rights, child custody matters, or spousal support.  This is when divorce and child custody mediation can be especially valuable, because it works no matter what your family composition.    The transformative mediation approach I use in my practice is based on your commitment to principles of fairness rather than reliance on legalistic arguments about what the law requires.   While the loss of a relationship is a painful life event, my goal is to make this difficult event less traumatic for everyone.  I help you work together to meet several key goals:

  • help preserve that which is good in your relationship without poisoning it with bad feelings and resentment,
  • for both parties to end up with a result that feels fair and is sustainable in the long run, and
  • for parents to end up with solutions that are in the long term best interest of their children.

I also offer legal services to facilitate the legal and paperwork aspects of gender transition.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 803-414-0185 or fill out the form below:

Posted in Mediated Divorce, Parenting Plans | 1 Comment

Church Leadership Development

Andover Boys Crew Team courtesy photographer Rouge, Wikimedia Commons

The leaders of a church set its vision and path forward.  Imagine an organization as being like a rowing team.  If the members are functioning well as a team, the crew will be rowing in unison, pulling for a common goal, each cognizant of what the others are doing and supporting one another.  If the team is not functioning well, it might be like each person putting the oar in the water at his or her own pace, at different times, and even in different directions, perhaps even seeking to row the boat toward different goals and working against one another to pull the boat in competing directions.  Both boats have people.  In both boats, the people are working hard.  In both boats, the people have good intentions.  But only one boat will be rowed effectively and meet the determined target.  By helping your organization become unified and function well as a team, we aim to help the boat of your organization look more like the Olympic class team and less like a boat needing rescue.

Perhaps your team just needs a bit of coaching, or perhaps your team needs a lot of help.  Regardless, the resources of Just Mediation are here to help you.  Services offered range from one hour, lunch time meetings to weekend retreats, to keynote speeches, meeting facilitation, or full scale congregational mediation.  Your needs are what determines what services will be offered.  Our mediators are trained as Healthy Congregations facilitators and as mediators for church conflict using Biblical principles of conflict transformation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  We know this is counterintuitive.  The radical nature of Biblical conflict transformation is a matter of acting in faith and in trusting the Holy Spirit.  We can walk that path with you.

Although conflict in organizations can be complex due to the many different competing interests and agendas, general principles of conflict still apply.   Increases in conflict occur in identifiable stages.  Remedies and approaches vary according to stage.

  • At its lowest and healthy level, conflict is experienced as an enriching and lively interaction among friendly folk that helps them all see and more clearly focus on common, agreed goals.  When an organization is at this level, our trainers are happy to lead classes, such as half day or weekend officer training events, designed to help the organization be more aware of and competent in key strategies for building and maintaining health in your organization.  We also lead meetings or teach techniques for leading meetings which help ensure that meetings are productive and all voices are heard, reducing the frustrations in an organization which can lead to unresolved conflict.
  • At higher slightly higher levels of conflict, there may be more anxiety and some outside assistance might be needed.  In cases involving moderate conflict, we are available as meeting facilitators to ensure that all views are heard in a neutral, safe environment.  We design decision processes with mechanisms to ensure that key needs and interests of all parties are heard and considered.
  • At higher levels of conflict, we may recommend full scale, organizational mediation.   Mediation is the appropriate remedy when an organization is so divided that it is facing a split of membership, or if ouster of key leaders is imminent.

Because no organization is exactly alike, our specific proposal on how to approach a conflict-prone situation in an organization will depend heavily on the specific assessment of needs in your particular case.  Whether it is coaching, training, meeting facilitation, or mediation, we have many tools in the tool chest.  Each of the mediators of Just Mediation, LLD, are committed and mature Christians who are also trained conflict professionals, equipped to analyse and respond sensitively, confidentially, and responsibly in ways that will help your church or organization stay or return to a healthy way of relating as individuals and as a team.  (For our credentials, click HERE.)

To arrange for a personal consultation in your situation, call  803-414-0185, or fill out the contact form below.

Posted in Church Congregations in Conflict | Leave a comment

Mediation of Church and Organizational Conflict

The mediators of Just Mediation are all skilled and experienced mediators who, in addition to community and family mediation training, have also trained at the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center  in mediation of church conflict.  All of us view our work as furtherance of our vocational calling as peacemakers.   Our passion is to strengthen your church or business organization, by helping you work as a better team, so that you will be more effective in your mission.

While one goal of mediation is to help restore agreement within a congregation, we also seek to transform the narrative experience of conflict and to achieve a healthier and happier outcome than can be achieved either by ignoring the conflict or by letting it escalate.  We seek to help parties to reach genuine agreement, heal relationships, and learn to build healthier systems for personal and organizational relationships.   We are also able to offer leadership training, facilitation of meetings, and coaching in management of conflict, so that disagreements or conflict can be handled in ways that are tough on issues yet easy on relationships.

To discuss more, please call 803-414-0185 or fill out the contact form here.  If you are interested in learning more about spiritual principles of conflict and reconciliation, there is significantly more published on this web site, which can be accessed by way of pull down menus or clicking on tags.

Posted in Church Congregations in Conflict | 1 Comment

Family Mediation and Divorce Mediation

There are many reasons to mediate to resolve a family conflict or to attempt mediation prior to filing papers in a court action.  First and foremost, mediation does not pit parties against one another as adversaries.  Whether parties are seeking a divorce, a change in child custody, or a viable solution to meeting daily needs of an elderly family member, mediation offers an opportunity for the people affected to work as a team, on the same side of the negotiating  table, to address the challenges their family will face as they transition to a new way of being or living.


When parties file papers in a lawsuit, they effectively are removing themselves from the position of authority and asking a judge to decide their case for them.   Mediation, in contrast, keeps the parties in control.  It empowers parties to clarify their own values and priorities, reach agreement about these values and priorities whenever possible, and implement solutions that are based on those values.  A good mediator will also help the parties expose and face the monsters in the closet, in an effort to ensure that solutions agreed upon are workable and sustainable.

Mediation also opens the door for a world of creative possibilities in addition to the standard solutions that could be ordered by a court.  When you hear of divorced parents who are able to seamlessly parent their children, or of a family that has all come together to manage care for an elderly family member, or a church that has done a great job balancing the competing needs and interest of various interest groups within the congregation, it is likely that the positive relationship has been made possible by good conflict resolution mechanisms (as opposed to not having a conflict mechanism and then fighting in some positional, adversarial mode of conflict such as court).

A good mediator is a skilled professional, using conflict resolution skills and coaching the parties as they meet, to help neutralize the negative and awkward aspects of communicating during conflict and to build upon and emphasize the positive.  In a real sense, the mediator acts like a bridge, helping the parties get through the swamp of conflict to reach authentic, sustainable agreement that everyone can live with.

Almost every conflict professional, even seasoned trial lawyers, will admit that voluntary agreements are usually better overall for every one, provided that all parties to the mediation are committed to principles of fairness.

To make an appointment to discuss your individual needs and circumstances, please fill out the contact form, below, or call for an appointment 803-414-0185.


Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Divorcing and Parenting, Family Meetings and Elder and Probate Mediation, Mediated Divorce | 1 Comment

I’m Thinking Divorce. Now What?

I.  The Decision to Divorce

If you’ve definitely decided to get divorced, proceed to step 2 below.  If you aren’t sure, however, then you really should consider professional marriage counseling.  Marriages can be returned to health, if both parties are willing to do the hard work to address root causes.  As a professional who has been involved in divorce processes for many years, I have observed that credentials of a marriage counselor are very important, and also so is finding a counselor who feels “right” for both of you.  Seek someone who is, at a minimum, professionally licensed as a marriage and family therapist (will have the letters LMFT after their name) or has a Ph.D. in counseling or psychology.  This is a bare minimum.  Unlicensed or unskilled counselors can do more harm than good.  A good  pastor is one who knows and adheres to their own professional limitations and boundaries.

Going to counseling is not a sign that either of you has an individual “problem.”  Nor is it a sign that either of you has “mental illness.”  Rather, licensed professional marriage and family therapists and psychologists have many skills and techniques that really can help.   Additionally, even if counseling is not able to “save” your marriage, professional counseling can assist with both the decision to divorce and the adjustments that will occur as a result of this major life event.  Most people find the assistance of a mental health professional extremely helpful during this painful episode in their lives.

If your spouse has asked you to attend counseling with them, do you love them enough or are you committed enough to make this effort to save your marriage?  Maybe you don’t see a problem, but that’s not the point.  Listen to your spouse’s cry for help.  They are extending an opportunity to you to try and fix things.  Even if you don’t feel so loving toward your spouse right now, there is a chance that working on your marriage might fix some issues.  The feelings might return.   Also, if you tried counseling and it didn’t “work,” consider that you might need to try a different counselor.  Over the years, I’ve seen many cases where things didn’t “click” with one counselor, but they did with another.  There are many styles of counseling.  Some schools of thought put more emphasis on “doing” while others put more emphasis on “gaining insight,” and others are a blend.  Some styles work better for one person while a different style works better for another.   And in some cases, it’s just a matter of personality.   Isn’t your family worth the effort, to make a really good try?

But, if you really have tried and the decision has been made, then …

2.  The Emotional Process of Separating

Sadly, sometimes counseling cannot save a marriage, or relationships may be so toxic that it really is best if people decide to separate.   Separation is not just a one time event.  It is a process that involves separation of emotional, financial, physical and parenting lives.   As a practical matter, separation happens by degrees and over a period of time.  Often, the person who first physically leaves a marriage may not have been the first one to leave in an emotional sense.    The process of separating will, eventually, require rearrangement and separation of not only emotional attachment, but also physical living space, finances and bank accounts, property, and parenting arrangements.  Other issues couples will face during the process of separation are things like when and how to tell the children and other family members, and timing of the various business and property transitions.

The process of deciding to separate also includes making a decision about that will be used in obtaining a divorce and making this final separation into a legal event, with a complete and legally binding marital separation agreement.  In my opinion, it is very important to separate the emotional aspects of divorce from the business and legal side.  This is challenging to do, but it is important.  Acting upon emotional needs or impulses in the legal process is both counterproductive and expensive.   Most people find assistance of an individual counselor more  helpful in dealing with divorce than the financially expensive and emotionally unsatisfying alternative of playing out these issues through the court system.

3.  Deciding on a Process 

The legal and business side of divorce is divided into two stages.

A.  In the first stage, a couple negotiates how they will separate their joint lives to create two separate and independent lives.   This involves emotional adjustment, physical changes in living arrangements, financial adjustments in the family budget, division of property, and renegotiation of parenting arrangements.  After these issues are negotiated, most people formalize their agreement by entering into a Marital Separation Agreement (often called a MSA).

B.  In the second stage, a court is asked to approve the arrangement.   The court is only required to be involved in the decision process regarding the settlement agreement if the couple cannot agree on their own, or if one party is using an imbalance of power (physical, financial, emotional) to perpetrate an unfair situation.  If a couple is committed to principles of fairness, on the other hand, it is generally far preferable for them to negotiate their own agreement.  Once the agreement is reached, it can be presented to the court for approval.  But how can settlement be reached?  What should be in the settlement agreement?

4.  Negotiating a Marital Separation Agreement

How can you be sure your agreement has covered the things it needs to cover and that it is fair?    This concern for fairness is good justification for seeking help from a divorce professional.

A.  Mediator      A professional divorce mediator has training in the substantive issues of divorce and helps parties reach agreement about their divorce settlement.  A divorce mediator may also suggest use of additional professionals who can assist in the process of deciding key issues and also keeping the best interest of the children at the forefront of consideration.  After the mediator helps you reach a settlement, then you will still need to go to court to have your settlement approved by the court and made  into a final divorce decree.  However,  use of a mediator to reach the settlement bypasses the sometimes ugly and expensive adversarial litigation process that is involved when you ask a judge to decide how your personal affairs should be divided up.   Mediation is not for everyone.  For mediation to work, both parties must be committed to principles of fairness and they must have ability to make their own, voluntary decisions for themselves.   You are currently visiting the web site of a divorce mediator.

B.  Collaborative Divorce Attorney    In collaborative divorce, both parties have an attorney who negotiates for them and helps them decide what other professionals may be needed to assist in reaching a fair divorce settlement that also takes into consideration the best interest of the children.  A collaborative divorce attorney should be certified by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).  In addition to being a divorce mediator, I am a collaborative divorce attorney certified by the IACP.

C. Litigation Attorney   If one side is not committed to fairness, then the court system will be needed to enforce principles of fairness, using methods such as interrogatories, depositions, requests for production, motions, and hearings.  Generally speaking, this is the method that most attorneys are trained in and will turn to by default.   This tends to be the most adversarial and expensive method for reaching a divorce settlement.  Because I focus my practice on non-adversarial cases, I do not generally accept litigated cases.

D.  Do-It-Yourself    Parties often decide on a settlement between themselves.   If they agree on everything, their divorce is “uncontested” and the legal process to have the settlement approved is relatively simple.  However, mistakes can be costly.   What if a party does not realize, for example, the extent of marital property, or what if they fail to make provisions for proper distribution of the marital property?  What if they do not even realize what the options are?  Even when parties think they have reached a full and fair settlement, it is wise to get feedback from a professional, asking them candidly if the settlement has covered all the issues and appears to be even-handed.  I am willing to review DIY agreements and papers on an hourly basis.

e. A divorce professional can assist couples in determining which process is most appropriate for their need.  For a consultation or initial appointment for a mediated or collaborative divorce, call 803-414-0185.

5.  Getting the Settlement Approved 

Most cases, including cases that start out being litigated in the court system, reach settlement without necessity of a full-fledged trial.  However, the divorce cannot be finalized until papers are filed in court and the settlement has been approved by the family court.  So, regardless of which process is used to decide on a divorce settlement, eventually papers must be filed to ask the court to approve the divorce.  The question is, when will papers be filed.  In an ordinary, litigated divorce papers are filed at the very beginning, to get the process started and includes asking a judge to decide the issues in the case.   In a mediated or collaborative divorce, in contrast, papers are not filed until after a settlement has been reached.

To make it clear, in a litigated divorce, “papers” are filed right away, thrusting the parties into an adversarial posture of A versus B.  In a mediated or collaborative divorce, “papers” are not filed in court until after the parties have entered into their own, voluntary Marital Separation Agreement.   I do not think that most parties, when they consult an attorney about divorce, realize that “filing papers” immediately is not necessarily the only option!*     This may seem like a small matter, but it illustrates a very big difference between litigated and mediated divorce.  Litigated divorce assumes the parties will not be able to reach their own agreement and starts out the process  by asking a judge to decide.  This results in a process that is driven by the need for “evidence” in a “court” and requires the expertise of an attorney familiar with judicial procedures, taking control away from the parties themselves.  In mediation and collaborative divorce, although professionals are consulted and direct the process to a large extent, the parties remain in control and all decisions are voluntary.  Thus, mediation and collaborative divorce keep private family decisions within control of the parties, while litigated divorce takes that control away and places it in the hands of a family court judge.  In some cases that judge is needed.  In many cases, the parties are better served by and end up happier with a process that keeps them in control.

6. Obtaining a Final Order of Divorce

When the court approves the settlement and the divorce, it will issue a Divorce Decree.  Generally, an attorney drafts this for the judge’s signature and also takes care of filing the needed official paperwork to make it final.  When cases have been mediated by other mediators, or in cases where there truly is nothing left that is contested, I am happy to assist in legal representation to draft any separation documents that are needed, file legal papers to obtain the final decree, appear in court, and finalize the divorce decree.

After this, the couple may still have business affairs to finalize, and then the next stage of life begins, which is

7.  Post Divorce Life

After the divorce, each of you will have separate physical, emotional, and financial lives.  If you have children, however, you will still be tied together not just by your children, but also by grandchildren and a shared hope for all of the future generations of  the family you share.   The quality of your divorce process will be reflected not just in the sustainability and fairness of your financial divorce settlement, but also hopefully will contribute to the well being of future generations.   My personal observation of the processes and of the long term effects of divorce on families is the reason that my practice is limited to the non-adversarial methods of reaching divorce agreement.

If you are interested in a divorce process that you maintain control over, in which you reach your own voluntary settlement, and which enables you to continue to co-parent with as little “collateral damage” to your family as possible, and if you feel both parties are committed to principles of fairness, please feel free to use the contact form on this site to request an appointment to discuss your options in person.


*Divorce law varies from state to state.  Information on this web site should be taken with that in mind:  it is information designed to be helpful, but it is not legal advice.  Learn as much as you can about these topics by researching on the internet, but do not rely on information until you have consulted with a qualified professional who is licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where you reside.  Information on this site is specific to the State of South Carolina, in the United States.

Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Mediated Divorce, Uncontested Divorce | 2 Comments


My passion is to help individuals and families live more peaceable, happier and healthier lives.   Ideally, people live within the nurture and protection of a larger family unit.  As we age, we remain independent as long as possible, but it is a fact of life that sooner or later, everyone will depend upon others to some degree.  When a person becomes so incapacitated that they can no longer care for themselves, make decisions, or manage their business affairs, sometimes a crisis ensues.  The event giving rise to the crisis may be a fall, or a stroke, or an automobile accident.   If sufficient legal and care planning has been done, families know who is designated as being responsible, there are clear lines of authority, and there are mechanisms for accountability.  Implementing legal documents to ensure this is the reason everyone needs a consultation with a good elder law attorney.  But sometimes, planning has not been done, or sometimes there may be concern that authority granted under those documents is being abused.  In worst case scenarios, there may even be concern that the Elder may be subject of physical, mental, or emotional abuse.

When families encounter difficulties or challenges, the first line of hope is to draw upon resources of the family to reach agreement and a good care plan.  I trained in the  field of Elder Mediation with Zena Zumeta and Susan Butterwick, attorney mediators in Ann Arbor, Michigan whose careers have been devoted to mediation of family and organizational conflict.  I have also been active in the Elder Decisions section of the Association of Conflict Resolution since the inception of the Elder section of ACR in 2009.   As a mediator, I am always hopeful for a family to reach agreement.  On the other hand, sometimes this is not possible or there may be an emergency.  It has happened that in several cases I have been consulted in with regard to mediation, there has been a concern that the elder was being abused.  In some cases, there has been an emergency situation requiring prompt action to protect the Elder from harm.  As a result of the need in these cases, I began practicing in the area of adult guardianship and conservatorship, which in South Carolina are two distinct actions in probate court.

If you have concern for the safety or care of a vulnerable adult, or if you are a caregiver trying to manage care in the context of a family that is in conflict, please feel free to contact me, either by calling 803-414-0185 or by using the form below.

Posted in Family Meetings and Elder and Probate Mediation, Guardianship & Probate Legal Actions | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


What, is mediation, and what makes it such a positive tool for conflict resolution within families?  I hope to explain mediation and its benefits in this post.  Mediation is often described as a “meeting” in which the parties meet with a neutral mediator who helps them reach agreement.   Having a face to face meeting between two parties is common, but it is only one from among a wide range of options for mediation.  Sometimes parties to a mediation do not meet together at all.  Sometimes they meet numerous times.  Some forms of mediation will involve an entire extended family or organization.  Using modern technology, mediation can also take place internationally or over long distances.    The key element of all these variations of mediation is that the parties utilize a neutral facilitator who guides a process designed to help them reach their own, voluntary and authentic agreement.

Mediation seeks to give parties tools they need to resolve their own dispute, using whatever information they believe is relevant, based on their own values and circumstances, and reaching an agreement that is truly their own and which they feel is fair and workable.  Does it sound too good to be true?  It’s not.  The beauty of mediation is that, if all parties are mutually committed to fairness, mediators have a large toolbox of conflict resolution skills and processes which can be utilized to help parties reach authentic, fair agreements that everyone can live with.

Sometimes individuals, families, or organizations wonder how they can possibly reach agreement, if they are stuck at an impasse already.  The answer is that your impasse is not the end of the story.  When you reach your own dead end and aren’t sure where to turn next, that is your signal that it’s time to call in a mediator, to see if they can help.  The mediator is a professional who has many tools to help parties overcome barriers to agreement.  Even if the strategies you have already employed have not resulted in a solution, there is a good chance that a mediator has more tools that can might help you.

The signature style of Just Mediation, LLC, is particularly suited to mediation of conflict in which relationships are key and where there are mutual, personal goals.  Mediation within the court system is focused on cases already in litigation, involving only two parties, and focused exclusively on settlement of “this” case.  While settlement through mediation in these cases is generally preferable (for many reasons) to resolution through courtroom battle, it does dis-service to mediation if it is seen merely as a tool for settlement of an adversarial, litigated case.  Mediation offers so much more.  Mediation need not be seen as a step along the way in the legal process.  Rather, mediation offers a distinctive and different paradigm for addressing conflict, with many benefits.  Here is a chart that highlights a few of the differences:



Empowers parties to make their own agreement based on their own individual values, circumstances, and priorities Puts decision in hands of a stranger (a judge) who must impose ruling from outside in, and based on general legal principles
Is not adversarial.  Teamwork and collaboration is encouraged The parties are pitted against one another as adversaries
Parties can decide upon and implement custom tailored, win-win solutions The judge making the decision in the case is limited to a set range of options
Parties can communicate what is important and mutually hear what is important to the other side, without regard to whether evidence would technically be admissible in court Because the judge can only base a decision on reliable, probative evidence, much effort is made to keep the judge from hearing or seeing “unreliable” evidence
Parties may decide mutually to engage neutral experts to assist in formulating solutions Each party hires an expert to “prove” their case is right and the other is wrong


The mediators for Just Mediation, LLC, are skilled in many types of mediation, including mediation for extended families and organizations.  Our signature style of mediation is deeply committed to the idea of conflict transformation as an integral part of the experience of growing through the painful process of conflict resolution.  While there are many aspects of transformative type mediation, a significant aspect is that it is focused not just on “settling” a case, but on helping you — the parties — find solutions that are authentic to your values and circumstances and also which will be workable and sustainable for you in the long haul.  Using this approach, mediators for Just Mediation, LLC, help with many types of conflict, including not just divorce and parenting issues but also mediation and conflict coaching for extended families and for business and church organizations.

The principal of Just Mediation, LLC, Alexandria Skinner, trained in divorce mediation with Carl Schneider and Eileen Coen, a therapist-attorney team in Bethesda, Maryland.  The training offered by this duo equips mediators to deal not only in legal aspects of divorce but also with the emotional and psychological aspects of the divorce and family transition.  It also meets standards promulgated by the Association for Conflict Resolution as the starting point towards seeking certification as an Advanced Practitioner Family Mediator with that organization, a standard that is not met by any training offered in the State of South Carolina.  Ms. Skinner also received additional and specific training  in mediation of elder care disputes (Zena Zumeta and Susan Butterwick of Ann Arbor, Michigan), church conflict and disputes (Richard Blackburn of Lombard Mennonite Peace Center), special education issues (Cotton Harness through S.C. Department of Education), facilitative style mediation for certification as a S.C. Circuit Court mediator, and training as a community mediator (Beth Padgett through Community Mediation Center).  Additionally, as an attorney, Skinner has worked on a wide variety of cases through her former work as an appellate court law clerk and staff attorney and as a lawyer for state government working on civil, criminal, and administrative cases and issues.  She is also one of a handful of attorneys in South Carolina who is certified as an interdisciplinary collaborative professional by the IACP.

To request more information or a consultation, please fill out the contact form below.

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In collaborative divorce, each party has their own attorney who gives them guidance and assistance in negotiating their divorce settlement.  But unlike a traditional, litigated divorce, the parties enter into a formal agreement saying that they will negotiate and reach their own settlement prior to filing divorce papers in court.  What this does is ensure that decisions stay in the control of the parties rather than putting decisions in the hands of a judge.  It is also the opposite from a traditional, litigated divorce in which the very first step is to “file papers,” which effectively disempowers the parties by asking the judge to make all decisions for them.  The collaborative divorce agreement also has safeguards built into it which prevent one party from negotiating with their fingers crossed behind their back, so to speak, which can be a risk of negotiations during traditional litigated divorce proceedings.   After a complete settlement is reached, court papers are filed and the couple obtains an uncontested divorce which incorporates their agreement into the divorce decree.  By reducing conflict, resources found on the web page of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals indicated that (even with the cost of the consulting professionals)the cost of a collaborative divorce is generally about half the cost of a traditional, litigated divorce.   Of course, “cheap” is not the goal.  The goal is a quality result that is fair and will be workable for all parties in the long run.

What if the parties cannot make decisions on their own?  This rarely happens because of the powerful disupte resolution model employed by collaborative divorce.  First of all, collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in positive models of negotiations which are designed to help both parties identify and meet their most fundamental needs and interests.  To help in the process or reaching agreement and also to ensure the long term sustainability of the result, the parties also agree to consult (as needed) with neutral experts who are also certified as collaborative professionals.  Professionals become certified in the areas of finance (for issues involving support and property division), mental health (including divorce coaches and child specialists), and mediation, as well as in legal representation (attorneys).  In general, so long as parties agree, they can use any type of neutral professional they choose for expert feedback and advice.   The Collaborative Divorce model is an extremely powerful method for helping families stay in control of their own destiny and it also focuses resources on finding solutions to challenges rather spending resources battling in court.

To become certified as a collaborative professional, individuals who are already licensed in their relevant field of expertise must take an additional training course which equips them to work as a team with other professionals to guide the divorce process.   If anyone tells you they offer collaborative divorce, ask if they are certified by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, as this is an important measure of professionalism and quality.

For help deciding if collaborative divorce is an option in your case, call 803-414-0185 for a consultation, or fill out the contact form below.

Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Divorcing and Parenting | 2 Comments