Most family law cases can and should be resolved outside of Court. No one should want to put the fate of his or her future into the hands of a complete stranger. Melissa works with her clients to try to reach out-of-court settlements in every case. It saves her clients time and money and gives them more control over the outcome. Melissa works with her clients to educate them about their options and the potential outcomes so they can make informed decisions throughout the negotiation process.
Melissa provides consultation to lawyers and families who have unique cross-border disputes. She can help clients create a strategy and plan for their case, coordinate with local and foreign counsel for a comprehensive solution, navigate complex jurisdictional issues, work in a cross-cultural setting, and coordinate with appropriate agencies and organizations.
Melissa has been a trained mediator since 2003, and sits on several mediation panels in the D.C. metropolitan area. She is one of the few U.S. based neutrals who routinely mediates international child abduction cases that fall under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Treaty. She prides herself in helping families communicate effectively to reach practical, realistic, and complete outcomes.
In some situations, a family may need the guidance of a judge to resolve their dispute. Melissa is a skilled litigator and is licensed to practice in the courts in Maryland and Washington, D.C. She educates her clients about the court process and prepares them to present their story to a judge.
Melissa is trained and qualified to represent children in contested custody cases, and meets the requirements to be court appointed as a child’s attorney in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Melissa is the author of the practice manual for child’s attorneys for the American Bar Association, and is frequently appointed by her courts to serve in this role. Melissa is also skilled in working with international families, often where having the child’s voice heard in the court process is a pre-requisite to having the U.S. custody order recognized overseas.
Melissa consults with people who have problems – big or small. She is happy to work with you on your full case, or to schedule a consultation when need an attorney to answer questions, review an agreement before you sign it, or test your expectations. Melissa enjoys, above all else, educating her clients so they have a realistic understanding of what happens in a family case, and are connected to all the proper resources available to help the family move forward.
Melissa is trained as a collaborative family lawyer. The collaborative law process is a dispute resolution process where the parties are focused on reaching an out-of-court resolution, and in doing so, pledge that if either seeks the route of a court solution, both attorneys must withdraw from their representation. Negotiations are open and flexible, with a promise to disclose pertinent information and use constructive and respectful communication. The collaborative process typically involves a team of professionals to help everyone achieve the best solution that meets that family’s specific needs.
Melissa is a panel arbitrator for International Family Law Arbitration (https://internationalfamilyarbitration.com), a global arbitration scheme established in 2017, run by The Alternative Courtroom, as a joint initiative of colleagues in London and Sydney, Australia. Melissa also served as an observer on the U.S. Uniform Law Commission’s drafting committee for a Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act in 2014 – 2016.
The Association for Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) defines Parenting Coordination as, “a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract. The overall objective of parenting coordination is to assist high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan, to monitor compliance with the details of the plan, to resolve conflicts regarding their children and the parenting plan in a timely manner, and to protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships. Parenting coordination is a quasi-legal, mental health, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions.”
Melissa has been trained as a Parenting Coordinator by the Association for Family and Conciliation Courts, the premiere interdisciplinary organization of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict.
* Please note that each jurisdiction has its own criteria and qualifications for Parenting Coordinators, and most Parenting Coordinators are appointed through a court order.