I have been a Domestic Relations Referee since 1993. I was the first Referee in Grand Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau Counties and initiated procedures that are still the basis for 13th Circuit Family Court procedures. Since 1998, I have been a part-time Referee in Wexford and Missaukee Counties. As a Referee, I have conducted more than a thousand formal court hearings over the past 17 years in divorce and post-divorce related matters such as custody, parenting time and child support for represented parties and in pro per litigants.
I have also been a Domestic Relations Mediator since 1998. I was the first local attorney to obtain training in divorce mediation and have been a strong advocate of this process. I organized the first divorce mediation training for other lawyers in the 13th Circuit in 1999. Since 1998, I have concluded over 300 mediations, attended nearly 30 mediation trainings, acted as a “coach” for mediation trainings sessions and conducted local workshops on mediation. Although I find the Referee work both challenging and rewarding, helping divorcing or separating families reach their own agreements through mediation is also extremely satisfying. Divorce mediation has also required that I expand my understanding of child development, financial planning, property distribution and communication skills.
Mediation practice led me to discover another model of dispute resolution for divorcing or separating couples. In Collaborative Divorce, the couple, their attorneys, mental health professionals, child and financial specialists work together as a team to craft the best resolution with the individual family. I attended my first training in 2007 and since 2008 I have been on the board of the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan.
Other than when I was a full-time Referee in the 13th Circuit, my law practice of 30 years has always included Criminal Law on both the trial and appellate level. I have practiced throughout the state, in local courts, in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. I have been qualified by the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System since its inception in 1985 at the highest level (Level III) of roster attorneys for felony indigent appellants. I started as a criminal defense attorney in Detroit in 1979 and worked at the Wayne County Defender Office through 1983. While in private practice in Detroit and through 1993 in Traverse City, I continued to have a mostly criminal practice, both retained and appointed. In 1987-1993 and again in 2005-2006, I was a roster attorney for indigent felony defendants in Leelanau County. I have attended criminal law seminars throughout my career and, when practicing exclusively criminal law, presented at a variety of workshops and served on criminal law related committees, at the local and state level.