Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Family Law

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Chair’s Message

Steve RaynorMost divorce cases settle as a result of negotiations.  These negotiations are carried out between the parties directly, between counsel, in mediation, in judicial settlement conferences, or in the collaborative process.  No matter which approach is used, the parties sometimes reach an impasse.  In that situation, a Neutral Case Evaluation (“NCE”) can be a helpful tool in assisting the parties in moving forward towards a negotiated resolution.

NCE is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties and counsel meet for a confidential settlement conference with a trained, experienced, and neutral volunteer attorney who serves as an evaluator.  After a thorough review of the case and after hearing both sides, the evaluator identifies areas of agreement and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s positions, rendering his or her opinion on the merits.  This process encourages settlement because it affords the parties a second opinion with an attorney who is an expert in the practice area.

The NCE option is not commonly used in some parts of the state, which is unfortunate as it can be a valuable tool in resolving family law cases.  I have used this process only several times, but each time it has resulted in a settlement. If you are interested in this process and would like to know more, please let me know.  There have been NCE programs in both Fairfax and Fauquier Counties, so attorneys practicing in those counties may also be able to provide additional information.
Each Spring, the Section’s Board of Governors considers nominations for the Betty A. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award and the Service Award.  The Board appreciates the nominations received from Section members.

The Service Award is not being presented this year.  (It is a periodic, not necessarily annual, award.)

This year the Board has selected Paul F. Nichols as the recipient of the Betty A. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award.  On behalf of the Section, I thank Paul for his contributions.  The usual practice is to present this Award during the annual Advanced Family Law CLE which has traditionally been held at the Jefferson Hotel in April.  Unfortunately, for the second year, that in-person presentation will not be possible.

The Board had tentatively planned a Section reception to be held at this year’s annual meeting, but that will have to be postponed until 2022.  I look forward to being able to gather again in person at our CLEs and other bar functions.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me or any of the other Board Members.

Thank you.

Steve Raynor