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Mia Cahill JD PH.D.  "TITLE: Legal Advice with a Focus on Mediation
Tuesday, October 8th at 7 p.m. (Eastern), Note portions of the text have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors, while other text with errors was left in tact in the context of the chat.

Rebecca: Welcome to ParenthoodPlace !!!.
Rebecca:  We will begin soon, Welcome!
Moderator:  ( If you have a question...please put a ? in the chat screen and I will add you to the list (get ahead of the game) )
Moderator: We will be starting shortly.
Moderator: (Get any questions ready to post and I will be glad to put you on the list.)
Rebecca:  Hello and Welcome to our talk Autism Specialty Chat. If you have a question for our Host Guest Speaker, Mia Cahill, JD, Ph.D.-- "Legal Advice with a Focus on Mediation", just type a "?" into the room. The names will be taken in order received. When you are cued, please hold your questions until ready to post. Thanks!
Mia Cahill JD Ph.D.: I'd like to talk a bit tonight about mediation, and how it might be useful to some families in resolving disputes.  Although divorce mediation is more common than other types of mediation, just about any legal dispute can use the mediation process.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: In mediation, a neutral third party, "the mediator" gets the parties in the same room and tries to help them come to a resolution.  Sometimes mediators are attorneys, and sometimes they are other professionals such as psychologists.  The mediator is not supposed to give legal advice, and does not make a ruling in the dispute.  Instead, it is the mediator's job to encourage the parties to resolve the dispute. While often, financial issues are what take up most of the time, many mediators will also look beyond these issues for other problems underlying the dispute that are preventing its resolution such as hurt feelings or concern for the future.
Rebecca: Shall we wait just a few more minutes to begin for the folks whose clocks are five minutes off?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: No problem!
Moderator: Mia...I think we can start now
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Ready
Ron: Hi Dr. Cahill. Thanks for joining us.
Moderator: For those that entered want to do your introduction again?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: I'd like to talk a bit tonight about mediation, and how it might be useful to some families in resolving disputes.  Although divorce mediation is more common than other types of mediation, just about any legal dispute can use the mediation process.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: In mediation, a neutral third party, "the mediator" gets the parties in the same room and tries to help them come to a resolution.  Sometimes mediators are attorneys, and sometimes they are other professionals such as psychologists.  The mediator is not supposed to give legal advice, and does not make a ruling in the dispute.  Instead, it is the mediator's job to encourage the parties to resolve the dispute. While often, financial issues are what take up most of the time, many mediators will also look beyond these issues for other problems underlying the dispute that are preventing its resolution such as hurt feelings or concern for the future.
Moderator: Krr you have a question for Mia
Krr: What special arrangements should be made when setting up child support for a child with autism (beyond age 18)?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Each individual family (and child!) is different, but generally, you want to think through the needs the child will have in the future, and base your predictions on as much FACT as possible.   The more hard data the families have at the time child support is set up, the better they can work to provide for the child's needs.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Also, in general, child support is inherently modifiable.  This means that if the situation changes, either party can go back to court and ask for more or a different proportion of support.  There are other ways to adjust support over time as well.
Krr: Thank you, this whole process is very confusing to me.
Moderator: Wawa you have a question?
Wawa: I've been in mediation as a party (it failed) and as an expert for one side (it worked).  What would you say the success rate is for mediation?  Here in NJ it is mandatory for special ed. cases and my casual observation is it almost never works for certain institutional reasons.  Which I would elaborate on if anyone cares.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Was this with a school?
Wawa: Where it failed, yes.

Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: The data on mediation is pretty difficult to discern.  Much of what is published on mediation has methodological difficulties especially with selection bias (that is where they over sample based on people who choose mediation).  Thus, it's hard to give exact numbers of success.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: However, there are a few factors that make mediation more likely to succeed.  One major factor is whether or not it is voluntary.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Another is whether all of the parties who really are part of the dispute are at the "table" so to speak.
Wawa: Yes, yes.  A friend spent 4 hours in special ed. mediation before the district disclosed no one at the table had the authority to settle the case.  And a
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Also, some disputes are just not ready for mediation.  Sometimes, the dispute is not "ripe" to use a legal term.  This can be especially true if all of the parties do not have the information they need to make sound decisions.
Wawa: And everyone except him got paid for that time.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: One would hope that the mediator would address these issues prior to the mediation session, in a telephonic conference with all of the parties.
Wawa: Yes, one would hope.  Thanks!!
Moderator: Ron you have a question?
Ron: For parents with autistic children going thru divorce, what is different in the mediation process to that of a family without such a child?  More expensive?  Harder to settle?  And what does mediation typically save one from going to court?  Time and money...? (had this one loaded for a little bit...
Mommyo: Most families only have one income, because of the challenging care these children require.  How do most people manage to get divorced with no money?  A lot of my friend are just sticking it out because they feel they have no choices, but they remain unhappy.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Families with an autistic child have extra stresses and pressures that are just plain tough on a marriage.  As you mention, financial issues are important.
Mommyo:  Sorry my computer got stuck and I accidentally sent the ?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: One thing mediation can *sometimes* offer if the parties are both willing to go through the mediation process is a way to talk out the issues of divorce, which are often intertwined with financial issues and issues of care-giving.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: It can save time and money but sometimes it can be an extra step before going to court.
Ron:  I think cheap guys like me would definitely agree to go if we knew it saved time and stress, and it would be fair
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: While divorce mediation can be right for many disputes, whether it is right for you depends on the process of the mediation, your desire to come to an agreement, and the fairness of the process for you.  If you are ordered to mediation, or if you are considering seeking a mediator to resolve a divorce dispute, you should consider the following issues:
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Is the timing of the mediation right?  Do I have enough financial information to make an informed decision about settlement?  Do I have enough medical information to predict my own and my child's financial needs?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Have I had good legal advice?  Do I know how judges in my area tend to rule in divorces like mine?
Ron:  Does a mediator decide if it's right for the family, before proceeding?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: How will I do in the same room with my spouse?  Will I feel like I can stand up for myself?  Will I be too emotional to think clearly?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: sorry- for the extra words!  I think that really the parties need to decide if they are ready.
Rebecca:  agrees whole-heartedly.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Some mediators might decide, but I would not rely on a mediator to do this.
Ron:  Can they say yes, we're ready… but the mediator --- gotcha
Ron:  Can you put a price difference on this?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: I don't understand your question.
Ron: Mediation vs. full divorce in the courts.  Is there a price difference typically?
Ron:  Time difference as well?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: One can't even say what a full divorce in the courts would cost versus the next full divorce.  It really depends on the level of contention between the parties, the complexity of the situation, and other factors. In an "agreeable" divorce (as much as one can be cooperative through such a dispute) both court and mediation can move quickly.
Ron:  Sorry for dragging this question out... but I think about the cost to the family if the family cannot go thru mediation to settle their divorce dispute.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: One thing that a mediator can assist with is helping the parties draw up a settlement agreement that resolves the main issues of the divorce, and then it can go through the courts as no-fault or another quick and non-contentious way.
Ron:  Thanks Mia!
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Either way, divorce is tough on the whole family.
Moderator: Mommyo, asked the question...that most people are tight for money to begin with, instead of staying in a relationship, unhappy, how can they do something about it?  (or at least almost that synopsis)
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Well, one really needs to think things through- not just what is right for your child, but what is right for you, and what kind of life you want to have.
Mommyo:  How do judges in New Jersey tend to rule like for divorce in an autistic family
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Sorry Mommyo- not sure if I answered your question.
Moderator: Mia I am not sure she saw it.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Regarding judges- there's no clear cut answer on that. Do you mean in respect to custody, support or something else.
CameRonsmommy: ( I was taken to mediation by my son's father and we couldn't agree upon visitation.  He since hasn't taken any action to see his son. It's been four months.  Am I out of line to request an involuntary termination of paternal rights? )
CameRonsmommy: sorry...
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: You'd need to talk to your lawyer on that, but in general, it is hard to involuntarily terminate parental rights.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: It would really depend on the state law, and the circumstances.
Krr: I would be interested in an answer to Mommyo's question with regards to typical custody set ups with a child with autism.
Rebecca:  Mommyo, Have you seen any of Mia's responses to you?
Mommyo:  no
Mommyo:  I am having difficulty reading any of the chat
Rebecca:  Please repeat the general Question
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: There is no one way to set up custody arrangements- really it depends on the autistic child, the type of care he or she has, the other demands on the parents and other factors.- to Krr's issue
Mommyo:  How can families get divorced when they have no money and only one income to the family?
Ron:  Good question!
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: My main suggestion would be to think in the future and think about changes, and try to get creative with ways to solve problems, to the extent it is possible.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Back to Mommyo's question…  It's hard when there is not enough money to go around, and usually, there is not enough money to go around. I have a few suggestions:
If the parties can come to agreements among themselves, they should do it, but they should consult lawyers to make sure they understand the law enough to make an informed decision.
The more the parties can do themselves, the less it will cost.
Mommyo:  Do most women get the short end of the stick?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: When the parties generally want to work together, but have conflict over certain things (like visitation) mediation can be good.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: There has been much discussion among academics about women and divorce.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: In general… women make less than men (women still make only about 72% of what men make. Also, for every child a woman working outside of the home has, she makes approximately 7% less in income. Whoops, that was 72% wage gap.
Mommyo:  How do the judges rule with  women w/ autistic children in NJ
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: So, if the parties are splitting everything evenly, and then going out to work, women in general will make less than men. This should be considered when distributing property and alimony
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: There's no one way to say how a judge will rule. Do you mean in custody or in support or in alimony?
Mommyo:  In everything.
Moderator:  ( Mommyo do both parents want the divorce? )
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Also, the motherhood penalty is seven percent for every child (I'm having trouble with my percent sign on the keyboard. to next question.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: On alimony, one of the factors to consider in New Jersey are the medical needs of the child and care-giving responsibilities.
Rebecca: ( Its not your keyboard, The percent sign is filtered out of the room )
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: On child support, it is relevant what the child needs, and for autistic children, that will likely be relevant. However, every case is different, and there are differences among counties, and even among judges.  Divorce courts are courts of equity, and thus have some latitude in trying to do what they see is fair, within the law.
Mommyo:  I have a lot of friends who are very unhappy in their marriages but they don't work and feel trapped in their situation because of the huge responsibility of an autistic child.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: It's a huge pressure on a marriage, and on moms who tend to be the primary caregiver.
Mommyo:  Any suggestions?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: One option before heading for divorce is couples therapy, or individual therapy.  Sometimes that can help.
Moderator:  ( no fault divorce an option in NJ? )
Mommyo:  Thanks, I'll pass along the manuscript
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Also, I think that every woman should work ten hours a week for money.  This is not based on empirical data, but my mother gave me this advice and I think it makes sense for a lot of different reasons.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: No fault divorce- in New Jersey, if the parties are separated (living apart) for 18 months, they can file for no-fault.
Rebecca:  If I'm understanding this correctly? A Mediator is like an attorney, for both sides? Or more like someone to help settle disputes and perhaps prevent full divorce.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Sometimes mediators are attorneys and sometimes they are other professionals such as psychologists.
Rebecca:  Ahhhh… ok, makes sense.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Their goal is to help the parties resolve the dispute.  Usually that is to come to an agreement on the divorce, but it could be other things too.
Rebecca:  So they can sometimes counsel & prevent divorces?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Mediators vary quite a bit in terms of their training, professional background and style.
Rebecca:  I see, Thanks!
Krr: Any experience with or suggestions for setting up custody/visitation when there is domestic violence?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: I don't think that is usually what mediators do- that is more likely something that a couple's therapist would do. Domestic violence- is the state already involved?
Krr:  Yes, but not in the divorce agreement.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Usually, the state has mechanisms to address domestic violence in terms of restraining orders, supervised visitations, curbside pick-up, etc.
Krr: How long does supervised visitation usually last before more visitation is allowed (if no further issues occur)
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: If there is a restraining order already in place by a court, that will have to be followed or changed with the court. Different states have different procedures for these things.
Krr: TRO was dropped and a consent order was done. It set up supervised visits. He wants joint custody.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Yes, then in general, a consent order is essentially an agreement by the parties with the approval of the court.
Krr: He was convicted for DV. Can he get joint custody?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Krr- that's something that you'll need to discuss with your attorney and with your child's caseworkers.  Often the caseworker will have ideas that might work for you.
Krr: What caseworker?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Usually when there are children involved in an abuse situation, or sometimes even in custody situations, the state will intervene and assign a state employee to assist in supervising visits and/or making things work more smoothly.
Krr: It was spousal abuse.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: There are no hard and fast rules about custody. You should certainly make sure your attorney knows about the abuse when assisting you in the custody dispute.
Krr: Thanks
Mommyo:  Krr, Is he unfit to be alone with your child?
Rebecca: agrees whole-heartedly.
Krr: How can a child with autism tell you what happens?
Rebecca:  They cant.
Rebecca: agrees with Mia Cahill JD PH.D. whole-heartedly.
Ron:  Re. employment law, is there general rights a parent of a special need child has to protect their employment?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Yes, I'm OK to go about ten more minutes.
Ron:  Did that make sense?
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Yes, it made sense, but that's a tricky one. In general, most employees in the US are "at will" employees. This means that you can quit any time and you can get fired any time. There are some exceptions to this.  One is if you have a contract with the employer- such as a union contract or other employment contract. Another is employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees based on certain characteristics such as race, sex and disability.
Ron:  That's the area where I'm grasping towards...
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Beyond that, the family medical leave act allows parents to take time off to care for a member of their immediate family. However, that's unpaid leave, unless the company provides more benefits.  And, there are time limitations on it.
Mommyo:  How much time?
Ron:  If families with Autistic child has higher medical insurance, can company not discriminate???  (might not be your area of expertise)
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Assuming you meet the basic requirements of the law (in terms of working there a certain period of time, etc.) it is three months. I don't know the answer to insurance, but I suggest you contact the department of insurance.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: Are you in NJ?
Ron:  yes...
Moderator:  ( wow why is NJ having such a hard time )
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: They have very strict regulations on discrimination in insurance and that would be a good starting place.  You can find them on the NJ state website.
Ron:  Thanks!
Moderator: Mia thank you for joining us tonight, I hope we can do this again.
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.: This has been really great.  Best of luck to everyone!
Mommyo:  Thank you for your expert advice
Rebecca:  Thank you Mia for your time!! It was a pleasure having you.
Ron: Thanks so much, it's been great!
Ron: And thanks to our moderator!
Rebecca: ( Thanks Moderator! ) applauds fervently.
Moderator: bows slightly
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.:  Thanks also to Rebecca and moderator!
Moderator:   Mia I don't have an autistic child but found it very interesting
Mia Cahill JD PH.D.:  Glad to help.

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