GODR is pleased to resume production of its "Be Neutral" newsletter as of November 2014.  New issues and articles are denoted by blue READ buttons - archived articles have grey buttons.  
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July 2011

Practice Tip: Growing the ADR Industry Begins With US            
While average Georgians are not inclined to want to deal with a legal system or its acolytes, they don’t seem to think that they have a choice where there’s a legal wrong to be addressed.  No matter the grievance, whether they’ve suffered a physical or economic injury, they feel like they simply have to deal with the legal system.  As members of the ADR team, we need to do a better job of educating the public on the alternatives. And we can do that best by pointing out the facts at every opportunity in a way that gets their attention.

Practice Tip: Arbitration: The Other Alternate Dispute Resolution
All of us have been in these kinds of situations: a client comes to you with an issue that is causing high conflict with a former spouse, but it seems too minor to litigate.  Or perhaps you are in mediation and all of the major issues are agreed upon, but you just can’t get a decision on one issue, like the morals clause or division of personal property. Perhaps your client feels that the judge assigned to the case is biased or your experience indicates the judge may likely rule against your client on a particular issue.  Although it may seem like it’s time to just throw in the towel and litigate, it is important to consider a different way to resolve cases -- arbitration.

Practice Tip: What You Might Say When Asked About Mediation - Part II 
I no longer say that what is good about mediation is that it results in a “win-win” for those involved.  Rather, I have come to believe, and say, that what is good about mediation is that it is a “no lose-no lose” opportunity.  In the words of Messrs. Jagger and Richards, you get what you need to end a lawsuit or dispute.

Marketing Tip: Seven Specific Ethical Marketing Issues
While we previously have discussed the ethical hurdles that arise when marketing your practice in the digital era, a recent speech I gave in front of a national group of mediators brought fresh ethical issues to mind and expanded my thoughts on those that we have already discussed.  A sampling of these thoughts are presented for your consideration.

Practice Tip: College Tuition Clauses in Divorce Settlement Agreements
On May 11, 2015, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued a decision regarding the interpretation of a divorce settlement agreement’s clause that required, paraphrasing here, the Father to pay for college tuition for his daughter “for so long as the child - attends school full time.”  What prompted the dispute was Father’s refusal to reimburse Mother for her payments of multiple semesters of college tuition.  His argument: the daughter attended college only part time.

What Might You Say When Asked About Mediation?            
Have you ever been asked to discuss why, when or how to mediate a case? Or been asked to make a presentation on mediation and its benefits? If so, what were some observations or recommendations you provided? I have been asked these questions by skeptical or inexperienced lawyers, and made presentations as well. This will be the first of several articles (not sure how many) that will discuss what I typically say.

Practice Tip: The Importance of Mediation Guidelines
Imagine that you have just completed a mediation and thought all the basics were covered pursuant to your mediation guidelines. You later learn that one of the attorneys has subpoenaed you to testify in court about what occurred during the mediation. You believe that your guidelines provided you protection from having to appear. In afterthought, you are not certain whether your guidelines were clear and concise enough to withstand scrutiny. How can you avoid that kind of anxiety and have confidence in your guidelines?

CaseWatch for Arbitrators: Farmer's Crop Insurance Claim Incomplete, Untimely  
A farmer in Pulaski County, Georgia, filed a crop insurance claim under the terms of a policy he obtained in accordance with the Standard Reinsurance Agreement with the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation [“FCIC”]. His 2008 crop had a low yield due to poor weather conditions. The farmer notified the insurance agent of a possible claim under the policy. The claimant and insurer disagreed on whether proper notice of the claim had been timely filed, but after a factual review the insurer denied the claim.

Practice Tip: Am I a Bad Divorce Mediator ?    
In November 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court issued two rulings that dealt with child support deviations. Both cases are linked here ( ) and here ( ). To oversimplify the cases’ rulings, the Supreme Court reiterated that judges must dot every “i” and cross every “t” if a deviation – upwards or downwards – from the State’s “presumptive” amount of child support set forth in the State’s guidelines is to occur.

Marketing Tip: Leveraging LinkedIn as Part of Your Marketing Efforts
For most ADR professionals, LinkedIn can be fertile territory for marketing their services and searching for prospective clients.  However, there is a process to using LinkedIn well, and it is quite possible to damage your reputation if you do it incorrectly.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:
11th Circuit Sanctions for Frivolous Allegations of Arbitrator Bias

harges that an arbitrator was biased, had exceeded her powers, and had failed to receive evidence were roundly dismissed as meritless and wasteful of judicial resources by a district court and a federal appeals court this year.  The appeals court emphasized its displeasure with the case by awarding the respondent, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, double its costs against claimants and claimants’ counsel."

Marketing Tips:
Ethical Hurdles to Marketing Your Mediation Practice Digitally   
The Internet has been a wonderful invention for sharing information, and it has made it easier for people – including ADR professionals – to find the resources they need to succeed.  However, as more opportunities have arisen on the Internet, we've also seen people misuse digital resources for marketing in ways that could be construed as unethical.

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Trial Courts Have Much Discretion in Interpreting Terms of Divorce

We have reminded mediators over and over about how important it is that mediated agreements contemplate all contingencies and answer as many “what happens if” questions as possible.  We are going to remind you again.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, features a Supreme Court case in which the trial judge was forced to fill in the blanks of a divorce settlement, with unexpected consequences for the parties.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:   
Under GAC, Court Authority to Modify Awards is Limited

One thing about arbitration awards: once they are made, there are few grounds for changing the terms.  That finality of resolution is both a benefit and a burden of arbitration depending on whether you like the award of not.  In this CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, highlights a lawyer fee-arbitration case where the trial court tried to modify the award, but was prevented on appeal.

Marketing Tip:  Quick and Easy Ways to Build Your Marketing Lists
Does the thought of putting together your e-newsletter mailing list make you cringe?  And if you already have a list, are you a bit lost on just how to get your newsletter out to them without all of your work ending up in spam filters?  In this month's Marketing Tip, master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson gives you some easy and useful tips on building and using your e-marketing lists.

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Financial Help from Family Could be Considered ‘Income’

Most of us have received financial assistance from family members from time to time, and we probably have given some assistance also.  It’s a natural thing to do.  But when it comes to the financial calculations around divorce, those loans and gifts of money might just be counted as income for purposes of child support.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, highlights a recent case when a mother’s long-term support of her adult son affected his child support obligation when he divorced his wife.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:   
Contract to Arbitrate Can be Struck as Sanction for Discovery Abuses

Trial courts have various sanctions at their disposal to punish plaintiffs and defendants who violate the rules of litigation fair play.  In this CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, discusses a Georgia Court of Appeals case in which a party was denied a contractual opportunity to arbitrate claims as a sanction for discovery abuses.

Marketing Tip: 
Marketing Your Mediation Practice Ethically

As regular readers of this column are well aware, a concise and creative marketing plan is critical to the success of any ADR or legal practice.  But mediators need to be particularly careful that their marketing efforts don’t inadvertently lead them to violate ethical obligations such as confidentiality.  In this month’s Marketing Tip, master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson offers you examples of what to do – and what not to do – when selling yourself as a mediator.

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Clear and Complete Agreements Can Save Parties Years of Headaches
Courts hate repeat customers.  Having parties come back to court to argue over issues that should have been resolved on their first visit is wasteful in time, money and resources for everyone involved.  That’s why mediators must be so careful to draft agreements with completeness and clarity.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, discussed a divorce case in which the settlement agreement’s ambiguities created big hassles for the parties years after their divorce.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:   
$5 Million Award Vacated Over Arbitrator’s Failure to Disclose Conflicts

It should be a no-brainer that neutrals should be, well, neutral.  Sometimes arbitrators forget that, and when they do, it can make a big mess.  In this CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, discusses the latest example of what happens when an arbitrator doesn’t tell the parties about potential conflicts of interest he may have.

Marketing Tip: 
Do You Know Who You are Marketing to?
Spending big time and money on marketing is just an expensive waste of time if you don’t target your efforts efficiently.  Do you know what your niche market is?  Do you really know to whom you should be marketing?  Do you know where your referrals come from?  Do you know all the markets that you should tap?  In this month’s Marketing Tip, master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson shows you how to design your marketing plan to get a steady flow of business coming your way.

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Without Key Facts, Mediation May be the Best Bet

Parties in a case can assert and allege until they’re blue in the face.  But if they can’t back up their claims with facts, their chances of winning in court are slim to none.  In mediation, the willingness of parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement may overcome a lack of key legal facts.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, focuses on a fact-light divorce case that perhaps should have been settled in mediation rather than going to trial.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:   
11th Circuit: Ga. Contract Law Compels Arbitration

Folks don’t like to be told that they’re wrong.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida tried twice to find that a bank-fee arbitration clause was unconscionable under Georgia law.  Both times, it has been told by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that it was wrong.  And both times, it has been told to compel arbitration.  The district court’s loss is our gain, as the decisions will help Georgia litigators dealing with arbitration clauses in contracts.  John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, summarizes the latest appeal in this CaseWatch for Arbitrators.

Marketing Tip: 
PPC Advertising – a Marketing Idea Worth Considering

If your idea of marketing is limited to highway billboards and print advertising, read on.  The online universe can be a ripe market for your services, if you’re smart and targeted with your advertising.  In this month’s Marketing Tip, master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson shows you how to use Pay-Per-Click and Charge-Per-Click advertising through internet search engines to sell yourself in cost-effective ways.

CaseWatch for Mediators:
Alimony Is Not As Simple As It Seems
Alimony, or spousal support, doesn’t come up often in divorces, even though a lot of parties believe they are entitled to it if there is any fault on the part of their spouse (i.e., allegations of adultery).

CaseWatch for Arbibrators
‘Manifest Disregard’ Still Alive as a Basis for Challenging Awards
On July 3, 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a summary order denying a petition to vacate an arbitration award based on a “manifest disregard of the law” challenge.  The decision in and of itself is not unusual;  most arbitration awards are confirmed and not vacated, and further, manifest disregard of the law is not a challenge most courts are willing to consider under the Federal Arbitration Act as a basis for setting aside a arbitration award.

Marketing Tip: 
Prepping Your Fall Marketing Campaign
Surprise! Christmas is basically 150 days away, which means the year is more than half over.  What happened to all the great marketing plans you made last January ?  It’s time to set a new goal – you’ve got a month before Labor Day, so you have time to get your marketing back on track for a great final quarter of the year.  Let’s review the checklist:

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Self-Employment Income Complicates Child Support Calculations
Child support negotiations can be among the most heated in mediation.  And difficult income calculations can become even more daunting when one or both parties to a divorce are self-employed.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, examines a Supreme Court case that shows how one trial court cut through the conflicting information to arrive at a just level of child support.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators: 
Arbitrator Can Interpret Contract Text to Allow Class Actions, Court Says

Arbitration clauses, designed to simplify and clarify the process when disputes arise under a contract, can themselves be the source of headaches, especially if they are ambiguously or poorly drafted.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, examines a recent federal circuit case that reveals what powers arbitrators can wield when the arbitration provisions are murky.

Marketing Tip: 
E-Marketing v. Your Physical Safety

In our competitive business environment, you must be aggressive in marketing yourself using the latest in online technology and social media.  But in putting your professional name out there, are you putting yourself and your loved ones in personal danger?  In this month’s Marketing Tip, master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson tells you how you can balance your desire for professional exposure with your need for personal privacy and security.

Theory to Practice:
A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Mediation Go Round

Do you ever get tired of making decisions?  It turns out that choosing takes energy, and if you’re forced to make too many decisions, your brain can run out of gas.  Your mediation parties have to make decisions, often lots of very difficult ones under stressful circumstances.  How can you help them to combat “decision fatigue” and to get on with the work of mediation?  In this edition of Theory to Practice, Heather Pincock, assistant professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University, highlights research that confirms the healing power of ... sugar ... in rejuvenating people’s ability to make decisions.

CaseWatch for Mediators:  Just the Facts
Experienced litigators know that the fortunes of a case can sometimes turn on the smallest of facts.  They also know that trial judges have broad discretion in their legal interpretations of those facts.  Those factors often make litigation outcomes hard to predict.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, Esq., divorce attorney and registered mediator, highlights one Georgia divorce trial that helps make the case for the predictability of mediated agreements.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:  Be Specific When Asking for a ‘Reasoned Award’
Arbitration awards can come in all shapes and sizes, from a mere statement of the award to a full-blown legal opinion with findings of fact and conclusions of law.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, shows us that it pays to be clear and specific with the arbitrator about what you want in an arbitration award.  It will save you headaches later.

Marketing Tip: Optimize Your Website for Google’s New Backlinks Policy
Google has just implemented a major change to its search algorithm that changes dramatically the impact of paid “backlinks” on your website’s Google search rankings.  Backlinks are links to your site from another site.  How can you optimize your website to match the new Google algorithm?  Master marketer and mediator Michele Gibson tells you how, in this month’s Marketing Tip.

Mediating with the IRS.  Really.
Most of us deal with the Internal Revenue Service just once a year when we file our personal tax returns.  And we hope we don’t have not deal with the agency for another year.  But if taxpayers do have a dispute with the IRS, there are actually several opportunities for them to mediate with IRS representatives.  Bet you didn’t know that.  In this special article, tax attorney Daniel Britt explains how taxpayers and the IRS can use mediation to resolve disagreements over tax issues.

Movement on Motions Can Boost Mediation Settlements
Imagine if you could legally and ethically improve your mediation settlement rate by 1,100 PERCENT.  Bet you’d take that pill in a heartbeat.  Well, a new study shows that it is indeed possible to increase by a whopping 11 times the likelihood that a case will settle in mediation by having the court rule on any pending motions in the case prior to mediation.  In this article, the study’s author, Jerry Wood, director of the Fulton County Courts Office of Dispute Resolution, explains why motions practice can have such a huge impact on mediation settlement rates.

Putting the "E" in Neutral
“Putting the ‘E’ in Neutral” is offered by the American College of e-Neutrals and is taught by Professor Allison Skinner, who teaches e-discovery at the University of Alabama School of Law, and Professor Peter Vogel, who teaches at the SMU/Dedman School of Law.  For more information on e-neutrals and e-discovery, read this article by Professor Allison Skinner.

CaseWatch for Mediators: 
Self-Executing Custody/Visitation Modifications Prohibited
As divorcing parents seek ways to reduce return trips to court to modify divorce terms, many have turned to employing self-executing custody and visitation modifications in their mediation agreements and parenting plans.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator, explains why the Georgia Supreme Court does not look favorably upon such provisions.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators: 
Supreme Court Overrules West Virginia on FAA Preemption
In case you weren’t aware, the U.S. Supreme Court likes arbitration.  The latest state to challenge the court’s commitment to arbitration – and lose – is West Virginia.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, take you through the Supreme Court’s latest and perhaps most emphatic statement on the issue, the Marmet Health Care Center decision from February 2012. 

CaseWatch for Mediators: Who Should Get Custody When Both Parents Are Fit ?
When two divorcing parents, both of them seemingly capable and fit, are fighting for custody of their children, the court’s decision on the matter may turn on some seemingly insignificant facts.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator, analyzes a Georgia Supreme Court case that helps to illustrate why parents should work hard in mediation to make such critical family decisions under their own control, rather than leaving them to the court.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators: Mandatory Arbitration Agreements and Class Actions, The Latest Word from the NLRB
In the Concepcion case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot limit the ability of parties to sign arbitration contracts that require them to waive their rights to file class action lawsuits.  Recently, in the Horton case, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that employers cannot require employees to sign arbitration agreements that limit their right to file class actions.  So who’s right?  In this month’s CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, explains the apparent conflict between the Concepcion and Horton cases.

Theory to Practice: How to Manage the “Animal Brain” in Mediation
Neuroscientists tell us that we have at least two brains – a more primitive “animal brain” or amygdala, and a more modern prefrontal cortex.  (I know, I know, some people appear to have no brain whatsoever.)  It turns out that the interplay of these two brains can create problems at the earliest stages of a traditional mediation.  In this edition of Theory to Practice, Heather Pincock, assistant professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University, highlights research that illuminates the problem – and some solutions.

Marketing Tip: Should You Still Be Using Printed Collateral ?
Time was when any new practice would start their marketing efforts with a letter of introduction, custom glossy brochure, and other printed collateral.  In our new electronic world are printed materials still valid ?  In this month's Marketing Tip, marketing maven Michele Gibson of Digital Smart Tools shows you how to effectively use printed materials to market your practice.  You might be surprised:

CaseWatch for Mediators:  When Should Fringe Benefits Be Counted as Income?
Some workers are fortunate to receive a variety of benefits paid in full or in part by their employers – health insurance, life insurance, phone, car.  But when calculating child support obligations, which employer-provided benefits count as gross income and which ones don’t?  Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator, uses one Georgia Supreme Court case to help us find the answers, in this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators.

CaseWatch for Arbitrators:  Awards Confirmation Deadlines Not Tolled by Clarification Requests
Deadlines are final.  That’s probably why they have the word “dead” in them.  In the legal field, the consequences of missing a deadline can be fatal to a cause.  This month, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, highlights a Georgia Court of Appeals case that shows that deadlines are not to be trifled with when an arbitration award awaits confirmation by a court.

Practice Tip: Mindfulness in Mediation
Raise your hands if you know someone who has confused mediation and meditation.  Well, they may have been onto something, it turns out.  Mediators who are mindful – calmly self-aware – can encourage the same behavior in their parties.  In this Practice Tip column, Registered Mediator Chris Carlsten tells you how your mindfulness can put your parties in a state of mind where they can be empowered to cooperate and collaborate on a resolution to their dispute.

Code Revision to Enhance Georgia as International Arbitration Venue
Arbitration is the preferred method of dispute resolution in international commerce.  Many states have revised their arbitration laws in an effort to make their legal climates more attractive for international business.  Georgia is no exception.  The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, most of the major Atlanta law firms, the American Arbitration Association, other ADR providers, and many international businesses have formed the Atlanta International Arbitration Society, whose purpose is to promote Atlanta and Georgia as favorable venues for international commercial arbitration.  Professor Douglas H. Yarn of Georgia State University College of Law, was asked to revise the Georgia Arbitration Code to reflect advancements in the field since 1988.  His executive summary explains the purpose and substance of this revision.

CaseWatch for Mediators:  “Magic Words” Can Make or Break Mediated Agreements
“Please.”  “Thank you.”  “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.”  We know that the right words can make all the difference in life.  The same is true in mediated agreements.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators, Mary Ellen Cates, family law attorney and registered mediator, shows you how the existence or absence of one key legal term can make an agreement enforceable or unenforceable – despite the supposedly clear intentions of the parties.


CaseWatch for Arbitrators: Disclose Repeat Customers to Avoid Accusations of Bias
We all have people we enjoy working with more than others.  And regular users of arbitration often have favorite arbitrators.  It’s particularly important for arbitrators, however, to ensure that their frequent selection by a particular party does not taint their reputation for fairness.  In this month’s CaseWatch for Arbitrators, John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, registered mediator and arbitrator, highlights a New York trial court decision that offers important ethical and practical lessons for Georgia arbitrators who are interested in protecting their professional credibility.


Marketing Tip:  Building Your Referral Engine
Anyone who buys or sells knows that word of mouth is more powerful than advertising.  The same is true when marketing your ADR practice.  What other people say about you carries more weight than what you say about yourself.  So how do you get people to say good things about you?  And how do you turn those positive comments into increased business?  Our marketing maven and registered mediator Michele Gibson tells you how to pump up your referrals, in this month’s Marketing Tip column.


Case Watch for Mediators: DANGER!  Know Your Limits!
Because mediators like to help people, they may be tempted to venture into unfamiliar subject matter at the urging of the parties.  What could be the harm?  After all, if both parties agree on a course of action, there is no reason not to accommodate them by putting it into their agreement.  Or is there? Is there??  Well, let’s learn some lessons from the recent divorce case of Morgan v. Morgan.  It is a prime example of “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!” for mediators.*


Case Watch: For Arbitrators
Georgia Arbitrators Can Write Awards that Will Withstand Challenge in Court
The Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered a challenge to a superior court’s confirmation of an arbitration award in a dispute involving the parties’ obligations under an agency agreement.  The court’s decision in Azordegan v. Ebrahimi, A11A1402 (08/05/11), is important in underlining the requirements for confirming – or vacating – an arbitration award in Georgia.  It also offers a sound practice tip for arbitrators when drafting awards.


Marketing Tip: How to Write the Article that Will Go “Viral”   
Writing an article is easily the least expensive way to market your practice and, if done correctly, one of the most effective.  You can write for trade publications, blogs, e-newsletters, online newspapers and magazines, websites, and many other vehicles.  Every form of publication is looking for content of interest to their readers and if they can get it for free – all the better.  This defines the opportunity, but how do you make the best of it and write an article that will truly go “viral”.


CaseWatch for Mediators: Custody Disputes Present Pitfalls, Opportunities
Disputes over custody of children continue to be a primary cause of post-divorce clashes, and those battles can last for years.  In Avren v. Garten, the parties were divorced in 2003, yet they were still fighting over custody in May 2011.  Not only is the Avren case an example of how long parents can fight over their children, but it is also an example of how a simple check on the pre-printed parenting plan form can create significant legal complications.


CaseWatch for Arbitrators: Failure-to-Disclose Challenges to Arbitration Awards
Earlier this year the Georgia Court of Appeals rejected a petition to vacate an arbitration award where the petitioner claimed that the arbitrator did not adequately disclose prior associations with the parties.  The case is Phan v. Andre & Blaustein LLP, A10A2155 (03/25/11).


Marketing Tip: T Minus 30 and Counting ... Is Your Practice Ready for Fall ?
It’s hard to believe, but Labor Day is just a month away.  It seems like just yesterday that we were all making plans to scale back our schedules for the summer and planning vacations to the beach, mountains or exotic places.  Have you put that much effort into planning the marketing efforts for practice to make sure it is as successful as your vacation was ?  Let’s review what we’ve learned in the last year and make sure we’re doing it !


Judges Have Broad Discretion to Decide Divorce Terms
In most mediations, there comes a time in the decision process when the parties ask, “What will the judge do?”  While we do not know the answer, the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. McDonald will enlighten you on how you can help your parties understand the vast scope of judicial discretion in divorce cases.


Recent Spreng Decision Highlights Federal Policy Favoring Arbitration
The bottom line for Georgia arbitrators is that in FAA-controlled arbitrations: (1) a procedural ruling by the arbitrator is not appealable; and (2) if the district court fails to grant an injunction to stay the arbitration, the federal appellate court has no jurisdiction to change that ruling based on the federal policy favoring arbitration going forward.


Marketing Tip: QR Codes - Your 1" Marketing Opportunity
You meet people at an event and you hand them your business card – will they remember you and what you do ?  How much can you say about yourself on a business card ?  Is there a better way to use this small space ?


Summertime Tax Moves
Whether your summer revolves around the beach, the garden, or just relaxing on your deck on our warm, warm evenings, I thought this would be a great time to offer you tips to help you save both money and stress as we approach my favorite time of the year.


Real Estate Division in Divorce
Real estate distribution between divorcing parties has become an increasingly complex topic.  Anytime there is real estate, there is usually money.  Anywhere there is money, there is a contested divorce.  Lots of money and lots of contested issues lead to lots of appeals.


Mediating with Potentially Violent Parties
Mediators are seldom surprised when allegations of violence between the parties arise in domestic relations cases.  Yet these issues can crop up in cases where you least expect them:  in landlord-tenant disputes, probate matters, and even business conflicts.  What do you need to know in order to handle these cases appropriately, and as safely as possible? Here are a few ideas based both on research and practical experience (with some Georgia rules thrown in).


Power: Mediation's Most Consequential Tool & Most Disquieting Pitfall
A neutral who familiarizes herself (or himself) with the law, is sensitive to power imbalances, and who creates opportunities for all parties to participate in the mediation process in a meaningful way, can help ensure that any agreement reached is voluntary, informed, and self-determined.


Marketing Tip: Mobile Media 101
Over 302 million cell phones are in use in the United States today and 28% of those are smartphones such as iPhones and Blackberry devices.  When you add the tablet revolution, how we consume data is changing.  How does that impact your efforts to market your mediation practice ?


Case Watch for Mediators:  Taxes in Divorce
Taxes can be a major debt for divorcing parties - especially when they haven't been paid.  Finding out how you can assist the parties when one or both of them tell you they haven't been paid in this month's article for divorce mediators by Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator.


Case Watch for Arbitrators:  Impact of Concepcion on Georgia Arbitrators
On April 27, 2011, the Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling in the case of AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, which addressed the enforceability of an arbitration agreement in a consumer contract that prohibited class-action arbitration. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the agreement was enforceable, reversing the Ninth Circuit’s determination that the agreement prohibiting class claims was unconscionable under California law.  Read more in this article by John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, mediator and arbitrator.


Marketing Tip:  eNewsletter 101 - Keeping Your Practice in Front of Everyone's Mind
How do you market your practice - more importantly, how do you keep your practice in front of clients and referrers to make sure they think of you when selecting a mediator ?  How about a newsletter - read about how to structure an effective eNewsletter in this month's Marketing Tip article by registered mediator and marketing expert, Michele Gibson.


Case Watch for Mediators:  School Attendance and Child Support
Child support obligations often end once a child stops attending secondary school.  But what constitutes a “school” under Georgia law?  And when does the law consider a child to be “attending” school? The Georgia Supreme Court’s answers to these deceptively simple questions are the focus of this month’s CaseWatch for Mediators by Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator.


Case Watch for Arbitrators: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear FAA Challenges 
The federal government has the Federal Arbitration Act.  States have their own arbitration laws.  What happens when the FAA collides with state law and policy?  The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a California case that challenges the authority of the FAA over state law, a case that has the potential to change a federal policy favoring arbitration that has been in place for nearly 90 years.  Read on for an analysis of the conflicts in the case and their implications in this installment of CaseWatch for Arbitrators, by John Allgood, Esq., veteran attorney, mediator and arbitrator.


Marketing Tip: Social Media - The 800-Pound Gorilla
Facebook.  LinkedIn.  Twitter.  Plaxo.  Social media can connect you to friends, family and like-minded folks all over the world.  But can these powerful services actually help you to grow your mediation practice?  You bet!  In this month’s Marketing Tip, registered mediator and marketing expert Michele Gibson tell you all you need to know to start effectively harnessing the power of social media to bring Internet traffic – and potential clients – to your electronic doorstep.


Theory to Practice:  Social Media and the Law
So a lawyer gets steamed at a judge and does what many of us do today...he blogs about said judge calling her "an evil, unfair witch" and ends up with a $1,200 fine.  Or consider the man who tells the judge that he can't afford to pay child support at the same time as he is posting photos of his recent cruise and his new Ferrari.  Social media is having significant impact on the courts and it's time to take a look at the implications of  a seemingly simple post.


Case Watch: The Ex is Moving and Taking the Kids!
To ruin a parent’s day, just tell him or her that the ex-spouse is moving away – and planning to take the kids, too.  Yeah, don’t even joke about it, right?  And, just a thought: does a Georgia parent – even a custodial parent – have the legal right to just up and move away with the kids?  Mary Ellen Cates, divorce attorney and registered mediator, has the answer, as well as advice for mediators on how to help divorced and divorcing parents wrestle with the difficult issues around relocation. Her case analyses this month focus on the Georgia Supreme Court decisions in Bodne v. Bodne and Salmon-Davis v. Davis.


Marketing Tip: Why Content Counts for Website Success
As your mother may have told you, to be popular it isn't enough to be good looking.  You have to have substance to back up your style.  That’s true for your company website, too.  Marketing specialist and registered mediator Michele Gibson will show you how beefing up your website’s content can help drive more traffic to it and bring you more business.  In this month’s Marketing Tip, she’ll show you how your website can become a destination – a site people think of and seek out because it consistently offers timely and useful information to visitors.


Theory to Practice:  Smells Like Team Spirit
Remember Gordon Gecko in “Wall Street” and his iconic soliloquy on the driving force of humankind? “Greed ... is good.  Greed is right.  Greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”  But some of us (we’re ADR professionals, after all) are uncomfortable with the notion that we are nothing more than viciously selfish monsters scrabbling for a foothold in the competition of life.  Well, fear not, you idealists.  In this month’s Theory to Practice column, Gregory Jones, Faculty Research Fellow and Director of Research at the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, will point you to new research that shows that we humans can indeed work for the common good – given the right conditions.


Case Watch: The Nightmare of Joint Mortgages
Joint mortgages – mortgages on which two (or more) people are obligors – present particular headaches in divorce mediations.   Divorcing couples often agree that one spouse will stay in the martial home and remove the other spouse’s name from the mortgage.  And people, especially divorced couples, always do what they promise each other, right?  Wrong!  In this installment, divorce attorney and registered mediator Mary Ellen Cates advises mediators how they can help divorcing couples avoid the minefield of untangling a jointly held mortgage, as illuminated by the recent Georgia Supreme Court decision in Darroch v. Willis.


Theory to Practice: Mediation Ideals v. Mediation Reality
It’s a tough world out there, isn’t it?  Those virtuous ideals that you solemnly pledged to uphold in your cloistered mediation training often seem like cruel fantasies when you’re out there in the jungle trying to make a buck.  It’s challenging for well-meaning mediators stick to their ethical standards when the participants demand only results – settlements.  In this second installment of our new Theory to Practice column, attorney, professor and registered mediator Robert Thaler tells you what research has to say about how mediators can help themselves and their ethics survive the pressures of daily practice.


Marketing Tip: The More Friends (and links) The Better
It turns out that having a lot of friends is a good thing, in life and in web marketing.  If your ADR practice has a website, the number and quality of links on your website can determine your site’s ranking in the popular search engines.  This month, marketing specialist and registered mediator Michele Gibson will show you the best ways to get internet search engines to rank your site more highly, thus making your website more visible to potential clients.


Holloway v. Holloway - Details Count When Deviating From Support Guidelines
ivorce attorney and registered mediator Mary Ellen Cates analyzes the recent Georgia Supreme Court decision in Holloway v. Holloway, which emphasizes how critical it is that mediators help parties adhere to the legal requirements for calculating child support – to the letter and to the decimal point.


Theory to Practice: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
In this first installment of our new Theory to Practice column, Kennesaw State University Professor Timothy Hedeen writes about this unproductive state of affairs in dispute resolution – and how we might fix it.


Marketing Tip: Making Internet Search Engines Work For You
In this first installment of our Marketing Tip column, Michele Gibson talks about the modern art of SEO - specifically the use of keywords on your website to drive more traffic.


How Healthcare Law Changes Affect Divorce Mediation
In all the debate about the new healthcare law, there are some changes that may affect the issues you discuss in your divorce mediations for couples with children. This article gives divorce mediators a preliminary “heads up” about how healthcare reform can have some important consequences for divorcing parents, even if their children are beyond the age of majority and mandatory child support.


How Will the FAA Be Affected By Recent Changes In Congress ?
n the recent midterm elections, Republicans gained a number of seats, including that of the FAA’s sponsor, Senator Russ Feingold.  That means the future of the FAA amendments and further regulation of arbitration in the lame duck Congress has become questionable at best.  Read more detail on this topic.


Tips for Avoiding Employee Fraud
Employee fraud cost companies untold millions every year.  Here are a list of ideas to combat the problem before it becomes an issue for your practice.


Court Discretion in Child Support Solutions
Review of 301 Ga. App. 160, Henry v. Beacham, decided November 19, 2009, appeal to Georgia Court of Appeals of a ruling by Judge Clarence Seeliger, DeKalb County Superior Court; and of S10F1120, Mullin v. Roy, September 20, 2010, appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court of a ruling by Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane, Fulton County Superior Court, and by the Georgia Court of Appeals.


Possible Tax Changes for Your Neutral Practice
Tax changes are in store for 2011 - review some of the changes that might be of financial importance for your neutral practice in the coming year.


One Time or Irregular Income and the Effect on Child Support Calculations
Review of S09A0227; 285 Ga. 319, Evans v. Evans, decided April 28, 2009.  Appeal to Georgia Supreme Court of a ruling by Judge Shepherd Lee Howell, Bartow County Superior Court.


Equitable v. Equal in Mediating Divorces
Review of 285 Ga. 706, Walton v. Walton, decided July 9, 2009. Appeal from ruling of Judge Cynthia Wright, Fulton County Superior Court.


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