Resources For Peacemakers

Adoption in South Carolina

God makes families in many ways, and one of those ways is through adoption.  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.

 

What Is Divorce Mediation And Why Should I Mediate My Divorce?

My goal as a divorce professional is to help people make good, informed choices as they navigate the many important decisions they must make during this life transition. An immediate, and important, decision is what kind of process to choose for a divorce.  Will the two of you decide to reach a settlement outside of court and pursue an option such as mediation or collaborative divorce, or will you ask a court to make all of these important decisions for you?  There are many reasons that it’s better to do it yourselves, if you can.

  • Mediation gives you an opportunity to disentangle the the roots rather than asking a court just to cut them away to create two separate plants.
  • The process is designed to keep you in control of your own affairs.
  • Mediation allows for more flexible arrangements where children are concerned.

What If I Choose Divorce Mediation?    (For more in this article, please click here) Read More

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH FAMILY CONFLICT DURING THE HOLIDAYS

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If you are worried about conflict that may occur during family gatherings such as family reunions, weddings, and holiday dinners, this post may provide some helpful tips on how to reduce or avoid conflict, and how to deal with it when it happens

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NON ADVERSARIAL FAMILY AND ELDER LAW

Alexandria Skinner

Alexandria Skinner, Attorney and Mediator

My law and mediation practice is devoted to “helping people tackle problems instead of each other.”™   Most clients who hire me as their attorney are seeking help with non-adversarial divorce, adoption, name change, prenuptial agreements, agreements designed to protect LGBT  partners who are in long term committed relationships, and planning for old age or disability.   Once the planning is done or agreement is reached, any needed court action is uncontested.    Because I focus on helping families and divorcing couples who seek peaceable resolution of family conflict and elder law issues, I generally do not accept cases where people plan at the outset on suing each other in adversarial proceedings.  However, I do make exception to my “no adversarial litigation” rule for cases in probate court involving vulnerable adults.   I am also trained as a medical ethicist.  My package for estate planning includes not only a will but also a conference to talk through important business and health care planning decisions and drafting of documents needed to implement your plan in event of disability.

 

To schedule an appointment, please call 803-414-0185, email me, or use the contact form.

TYPES OF LAW

 

FAMILY  LAW :

  • legal representation to obtain uncontested court orders in cases which have been mediated by other mediators
  • uncontested adoptions,
  • name changes
  • uncontested guardianships for children,
  • negotiation and drafting of prenuptial agreements (also known as antenputial agreements),
  • collaborative divorce,
  • contractual legal arrangements between long term partners and never-married parents (including LGBT couples)

 

ELDER LAW:

  • estate planning for middle class families,
  • care planning for elders,
  • planning for disability,
  • estate planning for blended families,
  • legal help for families facing elder care emergencies,
  • adult guardianships and legal actions to protect vulnerable adults or people with disabilities,
  • durable powers of attorney,
  • health care powers of attorney,
  • advance directives and medical ethics consultations,
  • representation in probate court,
  • guidance for guardians and conservators for vulnerable adults regarding compliance with fiduciary duties

 

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THIS PRACTICE?  

Small and Personal: My clients receive personal attention from me and from my staff.  You will never receive a bill for a postage stamp.

Holistic and Forward Looking: My philosophy is to seek solutions that are going to work in the long term and be healthy and happy for both the individual and the family.  Documents I draft are prepared with the goal of avoiding issues that can give rise to family conflict later.  My clients rely on me for professional guidance and advice, not merely advocacy for a position.

Nonadversarial wherever possible:  My philosophy is that families ought not have to engage in an adversarial process to settle family matters.  On the other hand, peacemaking does not mean to cave in either.  Conflict needs to be resolved fairly and, where possible, in ways that don’t rip the family apart at the seams.  I seek to empower clients, individually and as a team, to identify and implement solutions that reflect their unique and individual values and circumstances and which address the underlying causes or symptoms of the conflict.   In my practice, resources are channeled into finding solutions rather than fueling conflict.

Interest based:  I first help clients identify the underlying issues that are causing distress or which may give rise to problems in the future.  Then, I help clients identify wholesome, realistic solutions to those issues.  When parties work as a team to address or neutralize causes of conflict, rather than as adversaries seeking to gain advantage over one another, it is more likely that they will be able to find creative solutions which meet more of their underlying needs and interests.

Workable:  Ideally, people will be happier with their negotiated or mediated settlement than they would be with a solution imposed by a court after a grueling, adversarial battle.  Because of the emphasis on finding solutions rather than building walls, this approach also conserves family and elder resources, and family relationships can be strengthened rather than torn apart by litigation.  To ensure integrity of long term result, part of the process will include asking whether the negotiated solution is workable in the long run, not just whether it satisfies the immediate need.

Empowering:  The approach of a peacemaking lawyer also is  backwards from that of a litigating attorney.  In a typical divorce case, the very first thing the attorney does is to file legal papers asking a judge to make a decision in the case.  After this, settlement negotiations ensue.  My approach is the opposite.  My clients reach their settlement agreement before they ever file papers.  When papers are filed after agreement has already been reached, the case is uncontested and the judge is simply asked to review and approve the settlement.

Ethical:  I am also very clear about my role and my ethical obligations.  A mediator is neutral and does not represent either party.  An attorney is an advocate and cannot be neutral.  A mediator who says they can represent one party, or an attorney who says they can mediate, are both violating ethical standards of their professions.  I will wear one hat or the other, but not both.  This is discussed in initial conversations.   If I am working as an attorney in a case which needs a mediator, or vice versa, I will help arrange appropriate assistance from appropriate professionals.

Transparent:  I do not claim to the the “right” lawyer for every client.  Clients who want to be told what to do and who want to see the world in terms of black and white, who want to view themselves as “good” and the other side as “evil,”  will not enjoy my approach to law.  I cannot promise to be perfect, and I cannot promise to “fix” everything that is wrong.  What I can promise to do is to do my best to be competent and to know the law, to give the best advice I know how to give, to refer clients to others with more expertise when that is appropriate, to be honest with my clients, to be fair in terms of billing, and to earnestly work for the good of my clients.

WHO IS A CANDIDATE FOR A PEACEMAKING APPROACH TO FAMILY LAW?

Committed to Fairness:  Mediated and negotiated solutions for family and elder care issues are not appropriate for every case.  I only accept family law clients who are committed to finding fair and workable solutions to challenges that face families and elders.  I do accept elder law cases which may be litigated in probate court, because of the important value of protecting fairness to the vulnerable adult.   By limiting my practice to the niche areas of non-adversarial family law and protection of vulnerable adults, I am able to focus on quality and sustainability of results for people who care deeply about the long term vision for the future of themselves and their families.

Self Aware:  The clients who choose to work with me, and with whom I choose to work, are those who:  (1) understand the value of focusing on healing and wholeness in the long term, (2) understand the value of finding solutions that are fair, precisely tailored to their needs, practical, and sustainable, (3) are willing to pay a fair rate for those services; (4) agree to consult with consulting experts when appropriate (financial advisers, appraisers, psychologists and therapists, vocational rehabilitation experts, legal advisers); and (5) have a high level of insight into their most important goals and target solutions that reflect those values, rather than having solutions dictated or imposed by an outside third party.

LOOKING FOR A CHEAP DIVORCE?

Focusing on a cheap solution to family and elder issues can be penny wise but pound foolish.  The consequences of poor decisions don’t just last a lifetime.  They can affect your family for generations, literally.

I spend quality time with every client to learn their values, goals, and circumstances, to help them carefully consider their options, and then to decide on and implement legal solutions which reflect those individual needs and circumstances.   Your conversations with me may involve difficult questions and hard answers.   This is because half baked, knee jerk, and temporary solutions that punt the hard decisions down the road six months are just as unwise for families as they are for Congress.  The most cost effective solution to a challenge is not necessarily the one that is “easiest” or the one with the lowest up front cost, but the one that will meet the parties’ needs in a sustainable and affordable way in the long run.

While it’s true that mediated and collaborative divorce do tend to cost less than litigated divorce, the difference in cost  is due to effectiveness of the process and the solutions.  All emphasis is on finding workable solutions rather than perpetuating conflict and arguing.  Families tend to keep more money in their pocket overall, preserve relationships and ability to work together as families and as parents, and experience less need for future court action.  The investment in a peaceable divorce or quality elder care plan is an investment in a better future.  But please, don’t make the mistake of focusing on “cheap” when you think in terms of family legal solutions.   If you want a “cheap divorce,” keep looking.   If what you are looking for, instead, is a fair and cost effective solution to a complex family issue that has legal dimensions to it, you may have come to the right place.

 

What is the Best Divorce Process for You?

If you are looking for a caring and competent divorce, family, and elder mediator in South Carolina, you have come to a good place.   My comfortable office in Columbia, SC, is a central and neutral location for clients who come from all over the state — with or without attorneys — for help in reaching divorce separation agreements, parenting and custody plans, elder care plans, and other family issues outside of court.  With help of one of our highly qualified, neutral mediators, divorcing couples and families reach voluntary, fair, and amicable settlement agreements.  The goal of mediation is to help you reach agreement and to make sure it is done in a fair way that does not leave out or overlook any issues or future challenges.  After a complete settlement agreement is reached covering all issues in a manner both parties believe is fair, an attorney is usually hired to manage the very simple process of having it made into an enforceable court order.

But mediation is a relatively new way of settling divorce and family conflict issues.  What if one spouse needs more protection?  How will you know if an agreement is fair?  How can you know if your case is appropriate to settle outside of court, at all?   Do you need a divorce attorney to fight for you?  These are important concerns.  My very first step as a professional divorce guide is to help you gain the knowledge you need to answer all those questions.  You cannot know what is needed in your individual situation until you have learned about the benefits and drawbacks of the four main approaches to divorce:  litigated divorce, collaborative divorce, mediated divorce, and uncontested divorce.  Therefore, my first role will be to assist you in learning about your divorce options and then to help you decide what options might work best in your circumstances. Read More

What Is A Mediator?

The purpose of this post is to answer the question, “What is a mediator?”  A mediator is a trusted, neutral person who facilitates a process designed to empower parties to recognize find their own, satisfactory solutions to intractable conflict. Each word in the sentence above has important meaning.

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The Link Between Forgiveness and Peace

It is said that holding a grudge is like eating poison and then expecting the other person to die.  As we all know from experience, it’s very easy to hold grudges.  Yet, we know there are very damaging consequences to our entire being when we fail to forgive.  There are mental consequences, emotional consequences, and physical consequences.  Conversely, perhaps the opposite is also true.  The spiritual journey to forgiveness is steep and rocky and challenging.  Yet, when we reach the summit of the path to forgiveness, the view is spectacular.  This blog post is about the journey. Read More

Conflict Transformation As A Spiritual Practice

Jesus had a remarkable gift for seeing through everything superficial, for peeling back the layers of the dusty, superficial robes of identity we wear,  to peer into a person’s inner soul.   Whether speaking to a Roman Centurian, to a Samaritan adulteress, or to a distinguished Rabbi,  Jesus always seemed to see beyond title or position and to respond to the deeper thoughts and real need of the individual he was relating to.

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What Does a Mediator Do?

I help families manage transitions (divorce, elder planning, adoptions, custody issues, etc.) in ways that are intended to reduce conflict and build consensus.  Mediation is a new paradigm for conflict resolution, and I encourage you to learn more.

You do not need to already be in agreement to use a mediator!  It is my job to help you reach authentic agreement – peacefully, respectfully, and confidentially.

While I cannot guarantee a particular result in a particular case,  I sincerely believe most clients find that non-adversarial processes result in less stress, better long term relationships, more understanding,  hopefully truly better results, and (as a side effect) lower cost.

Feel free to ask any questions (or to request an appointment) by calling 803-414-0185 during business hours, or by filling out the form below.

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If you do not receive a reply within one business day, please telephone 803-414-0185 between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM, EST.

If you desire a one-half hour consultation for $50, please click the appropriate PayPal link, below, in addition to sending the above information.


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What Is Mediation?

The term mediation doesn’t describe a particular type of meeting.   It is more accurate to say that the term “mediation” describes a new and fundamentally different approach to conflict. 

Mediation is a collaborative and consensus building model of conflict resolution.   Instead of deciding a dispute between parties and making a ruling, as a judge or arbitrator does, a mediator will attempt to lead the parties to agreement among themselves. 

Thus, while mediation is typically described as a “meeting,” and mediation does indeed often take place in the context of a meeting, there are many different forms of mediation and many different types of meetings used in mediation.  

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