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Long Time, No See: Lessons From the Pandemic (2022 Family Law Section Spring Program)

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2022

8:25        Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:55        Welcome and Introductions

9:00        Reunification Therapy

Maria Curran, Ph.D., Center for Creativity and Healing, Charlotte

Explore the good, the bad and the ugly of how virtual sessions have impacted work with high-conflict families and the resist/refuse dynamic, including: COVID-19 exposure; vaccine controversy; accommodations in supported, supervised or facilitated visitation service; and caseloads, therapist availability and burnout.

9:45        Break

9:55        Contempt and Custody/Child Support

Lee Melvin Cecil, Cecil Family Law, High Point
Arlene M. Zipp, Roberson Haworth & Reese PLLC, High Point

Explore civil and criminal contempt, including similarities, differences, and electing civil or criminal contempt at the beginning of a trial. This session also discusses determining the availability of attorney's fees in pursuing contempt, as well as areas of law where contempt may not be the best remedy.

10:40      Family Law Section Annual Meeting

Katie Hardersen King, Wake Family Law Group, Raleigh, 2021-2022 Section Chair, Presiding

10:55      Family Law Case Law Update: Part 1

Lee Claiborne Hawley, Roberson Haworth & Reese PLLC, High Point

In part two of the family law case law update, examine key cases involving equitable distribution, post-separation support and alimony, marital agreements, and attorney's fees.

11:55      Break

12:05      Custody Forensic Reports

Anastasia Elizabeth Cowan, Arnold & Smith PLLC, Charlotte
Sean B. Knuth, Ph.D., SBKPhD Forensic Psychology, Charlotte

Learn about defining the scope of an evaluation through the drafting of an order and proffering an evaluator as an expert/voir dire. Then discuss evaluation testing and interview data, as well as the bias of data through direct and cross-examination questions.

1:05        Adjourn for the day

1:30        Family Law Section Social Lunch

Green Man Brewery | 27 Buxton Avenue | Asheville, NC 28801 | 3rd Floor Taproom and Patio

All Family Law Section members are invited to join us at Green Man Brewery for free lunch and drinks! Click here to RSVP by Wednesday, April 27.


8:25        Continental Breakfast

8:55        Welcome and Introductions

9:00        Utilizing Technology in Negotiation, Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Judge Ward Douglass Scott, North Carolina District Court, Asheville
Judge Teresa Harper Vincent, North Carolina District Court, Greensboro

Learn effective remote-hearing techniques, tips for the practicing lawyer, and different technology and strategies to assist in your practice. Then gain information to troubleshoot the technical difficulties that may exist in remote hearings.

10:00      Break

10:10      Family Law Case Law Update: Part 2

Elizabeth J. "Libby" James, Offit Kurman, Charlotte

Review key cases from the past year impacting child custody, child support, contempt and domestic violence.

11:10      Break

11:20      Lessons From the Pandemic as Applied to the Practice of Family Law

Judge David E. Sipprell, North Carolina District Court, Winston-Salem
Kelley Gondring, Gondring Law PLLC, Winston-Salem
Nancy L. Grace, Wake Family Law Group, Raleigh

Delve into impacts of the pandemic on the practice of family law and how to handle them, including quarantines or illnesses in light of a custody schedule, medical decisions and resolving disagreements with joint legal custody, accounting for tax changes in negotiation and litigation, and resolving ongoing disputes through a parenting coordinator or motion in the cause. Then explore new ways to draft orders or agreements that take into consideration the unknown.

12:20      Adjourn

‡ Indicates portion providing Technology Training credit


During our time apart, we've all had to adapt to change and overcome challenges presented by the pandemic, both personally and professionally. But we've also learned valuable lessons along the way.


  • Lee Melvin Cecil

    Lee Melvin Cecil is a solo practitioner at Cecil Family Law in High Point. He practices primarily in Guilford, Randolph, and Davidson Counties, but has also tried cases in Mecklenburg, Catawba, Forsyth, and Brunswick Counties. A significant portion of his practice is mediation, and he has served a family law financial mediator in hundreds of cases over the last 10 years.

    After graduation and successful completion of the North Carolina Bar Exam in September of 1987, Lee joined the law firm of Wyatt Early Harris Wheeler, where he practiced family law as well as general civil and criminal litigation. In 2002, after having been a partner at Wyatt Early for approximately 9 years, Cecil left the firm to form a partnership with another experienced family law practioner, Kathleen E. Nix. Kathleen and Lee practiced as Nix & Cecil for ten years, through the end of 2012, when Lee established his current practice.

    Lee is a lifelong resident of High Point and attended North Carolina State University, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science. He then attended Wake Forest University School of Law, where he was the recipient of a James Mason Scholarship.

    Click here for more information about Lee.

  • Anastasia Elizabeth Cowan

    Anastasia Elizabeth Cowan is a partner at Arnold & Smith PLLC in Charlotte. She focuses her practice on all matters related to Family and Child Welfare Law in the many diverse forms it can take.

    Anastasia is one of two dually certified specialists in North Carolina, with a designation as a Child Welfare Law Specialist through the National Association of Counsel for Children, as well as being a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law.

    Anastasia pursued her undergraduate degree at Ohio State University and is a proud Buckeye. She graduated with a B.A. degree in English in three years and used the fourth year to intern at the Ohio State Bar Foundation. At the Bar Foundation, she was able to work on various charitable endeavors throughout the community.

    Anastasia attended Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, where she earned a J.D. with an education concentration in children and family law. While at Capital, she worked for the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, interned with the Durham County Attorney for the Department of Social Services and worked as a hearing officer for Franklin County's Teen Court Program. She also competed on the school's Children and Family Moot Court team.

    After graduating from Law School, Anastasia moved to Charlotte and opened a private practice focusing in indigent criminal defense, juvenile delinquency, and child welfare. Shortly thereafter, she was hired on as the Mental Health Attorney on the Children's Defense team at the Council for Children's Rights. While in that role, she represented hundreds of child clients in mental health and delinquency proceedings.

    When Anastasia's not working, she enjoys volunteering, running Disney Half Marathons, traveling, spending time with her husband and daughter, and throwing tennis balls to her shih tzu, Daisy.

    Click here for more information about Anastasia.

  • Maria Curran, M.Ed, Ph.D, LCMHCS

    Maria Curran, M.Ed, Ph.D, LCMHCS is the founder and director of the Center for Creativity and Healing (TCCH) in Charlotte. She is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor (Master's level) and play/expressive arts therapist with over 27 years of counseling experience working with children and adults in a variety of settings including; private practice, residential facilities, schools, community agencies and partial hospitalization.

    Maria holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a concentration in creativity, learning and human development and her doctoral research focused on character/affective education. Maria also holds a master's degree in counseling and a bachelor's degree in psychology. In addition she has a certificate in Child and Family Forensic Studies and a certificate in Open Studio Process Facilitation.

    She was a Teaching Artist with the N.C. Wolf Trap program for three years and her teaching and professional training experience includes serving as adjunct faculty for 3 1/2 years at CPCC in the Human Services Program and for four years in the Teacher Education program.

    Maria facilitates workshops for counselors, family law attorneys, educators, parents and community agencies both at TCCH and on site. Her areas of expertise include creativity/personal growth, domestic violence, sexual trauma, child abuse and interpersonal relationships, parenting, character education, reunification/reconnection therapy, filial therapy, divorce/blended families, adoption and expressive arts/arts integration. She also provides consulting for mental health professionals and family law attorneys.

    Additionally, she provides consultation and coaching for parents and co-parents and serves as a child specialist with the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce professionals. Maria also serves on the NC AFCC Chapter Steering Committee.

    Click here for more information about Maria.

  • Kelley Gondring

    Kelley Gondring is an attorney, collaborator, mediator and parenting coordinator with Gondring Law PLLC in Winston-Salem. Kelley is an ardent proponent of alternative dispute resolution options, including the Collaborative Process and Mediation. She believes that the first step in zealous advocacy is to help her clients identify what process will benefit their legal situation most.

    Prior to opening Gondring Law, Kelley was a partner at Robinson & Lawing LLP in Winston-Salem. While there she litigated complex family law matters and saw first-hand how litigation increased spouses' animosity towards each other, which poured down onto their children and emptied their bank accounts.

    Convinced that there had to be less destructive way to help families transition from one roof to two, Kelley began looking for other divorce options. When she learned about the Collaborative Process, she thought perhaps it was too good to be true. But after years of practicing Collaborative Divorce and Mediating, Kelley has found that it is possible for separating spouses – including those with significant disagreement – to wind down their marriages and find solutions that work for their unique family situation.

    In 2019-2020, Kelley served as the President of the Forsyth County Bar Association. She is an active board member of BarCares, the Dispute Resolution Council of the NCBA, the Local Advisory Council for Legal Aid of NC, and Sawtooth School for Visual Arts.

    Kelley graduated summa cum laude from N.C. State University with a B.A. in Psychology and minors in Business and Spanish. She earned her law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she was a member of the North Carolina Law Review and co-President of Lambda Law.

    Kelley is happily married and has two delightful elementary-aged daughters. She enjoys hiking with her family, hosting fancy dinner parties (except when there's a pandemic), and early-morning spirited bike rides with friends.

    Click here for more information about Kelley.

  • Nancy L. Grace

    Nancy L. Grace is a principal of Wake Family Law Group in Raleigh. She is a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a DRC certified Family Financial Mediator.

    Nancy is a former Chair of the Family Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and a former Chair of the Family Law Section of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (now North Carolina Advocates for Justice). She is the Immediate Past President of the Tenth Judicial District Bar and has previously served as President of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

    Nancy received a B. A. degree in Spanish in 1982 and a Master's Degree in Teaching in 1986 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught Spanish at North Carolina State University prior to attending law school. In 1996, She received a J.D. with Honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law and then served as law clerk to the Honorable James A. Wynn, Jr. of the North Carolina Court of Appeals prior to entering private practice.

    Nancy has a long history of serving on committees and in leadership positions in professional organizations relating to family law and is a frequent speaker at or course planner for family law CLE programs.

    Click here for more information about Nancy.

  • Lee C. Hawley

    Lee C. Hawley is a Member/Manager with Roberson Haworth & Reese PLLC in High Point. He practices exclusively in the area of family law.

    In 2013 Lee was recognized as a family law specialist by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. He is a former member of the North Carolina Bar Association's Family Law Council. He has presented at numerous continuing education seminars throughout North Carolina on a variety of family law issues.

    Lee earned his B.A. from Elon University and his J.D. from Florida State University.

    Click here for more information about Lee.

  • Elizabeth J. "Libby" James

    Elizabeth J. "Libby" James is a Partner at Hamilton Stephens Steele & Martin PLLC in Charlotte. She practices family law with an emphasis on alimony, post-separation support, equitable distribution, separation agreements, premarital agreements, child support, child custody, contempt motions, qualified domestic relations orders, name changes and domestic violence protective orders and appeals.

    Libby is a certified Family Law Specialist and is certified by the Cooperative Parenting Institute as a Parent Coordinator. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Mecklenburg County Bar Board of Directors and the American Bar Association. She is the co-author of the Lexis Nexis Practice Guide: North Carolina Family Law. She is also a Fellow of the AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) and a Fellow of the IAFL (Internation Academy of Family Lawyers).

    Libby earned her B.A., magna cum laude, in Politics from the University of Tennessee and her J.D. from the University of South Carolina.

    Click here for more information about Libby.

  • K. Mitchell Kelling

    K. Mitchell Kelling is at family law attorney and chair of family law practice group for the Charlotte office of Offit Kurman PA. Her practice is devoted to family law, representing clients throughout Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, and the surrounding counties.

    Mitchell is certified as a family law specialist by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization and regularly focuses on issues relating to alimony, child support, equitable distribution of property, litigation of financial disputes, mediation and arbitration for others, post-nuptial agreements, premarital agreements and separation agreements and property settlements.

    Mitchell earned her B.A., cum laude, in Government from Harvard University and her J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law.

    Click here for more information about Mitchell.

  • Sean B. Knuth Ph.D.

    Sean B. Knuth Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist with SBKPhD Forensic Psychology in Charlotte. He specializes in forensically-informed psychological evaluations and psychological/psycho-educational testing. In addition to his private practice, he is employed full time by Mecklenburg County's Forensic Evaluations Unit as a Forensic Psychologist and Director of Training.

    Sean completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California Santa Barbara and earned his Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed a dual appointment pre-doctoral internship program through UNC Hospital's Forensic Psychiatry Services in Chapel Hill and Durham Public Schools. In 2011 he relocated to Charlotte and completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Southeast Psych.

    Prior to joining Mecklenburg County's Forensic Evaluations Unit in 2013 he also worked at Thompson Child and Family Focus, also in Charlotte.

    Click here for more information about Sean.

  • Judge Ward Douglass Scott

    Judge Ward Douglass Scott is a former DSS attorney, child support attorney, county attorney and criminal defense attorney. He practiced in District, Superior and Federal Courts in Western North Carolina for over a decade prior to becoming a District Court Judge. In 2011, he was appointed as District Court Judge in Buncombe County and has presided over thousands of hearings involving Family Law and DSS matters since. Judge Scott is Juvenile Certified and is a former volunteer Guardian Ad Litem.

    Judge Scott has presented at CLE, CJE and CPLE conferences on topic such as child custody, equitable distribution, child support and the use of Webex technology.

  • Susan S. Simos

    Susan S. Simos is a Of Counsel at Kurtz Whitley Guy & Simos PLLC in Winston-Salem. Her primary practice area is family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, equitable distribution, spousal support, termination of parental rights, domestic violence, and adoption.

    Susan is a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization.

    Susan has been asked to speak at conferences on various family law topics. She is a member of the Family Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and has served as President of the Forsyth County Women Attorneys Association.

    Susan earned her B.B.A., with concentrations in Accounting and Finance and Minor in Economics, from Boston University School of Management and her J.D. from Wake Forest University.

    Click here for more information about Susan.

  • Judge David E. Sipprell

    Judge David E. Sipprell is a District Court Judge at Forsyth County District Court in Winston-Salem. He has been on the district court bench in Forsyth County since January 1, 2013. During his time on the bench, he has joyfully presided over his fair share of family law cases and has recently been assigned to the juvenile court rotation as well.

    Prior to being elected to serve as a District Court Judge, Judge Sipprell was a Forsyth County assistant district attorney for approximately ten years, ultimately prosecuting violent felony cases. His other work history includes some civil litigation work with Bailey & Thomas in Winston-Salem, and a little over four years as a Staff Judge Advocate in the US Air Force.

    Judge Sipprell earned his B.A. in Industrial Relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

    Judge Sipprell grew up in Forsyth County and lives just outside of Winston-Salem with his wife, Kyla, who has her own family law practice in Clemmons; his youngest daughter, Caleigh, who is finishing her junior year of high school; and their three dogs. HIs oldest daughter, Cayson, is finishing her freshman year of college at East Carolina University.

    Click here for more information about Judge Sipprell. He can also be reached at

  • Judge Teresa Harper Vincent

    Judge Teresa Harper Vincent was elected to serve the citizens of Guilford County as a District Court Judge in November of 2000. During her tenure as a District Court Judge, she has presided in each of the district courts including, but not limited to, domestic, traffic, criminal, child support, juvenile and civil. In August of 2019, Judge Vincent made history by becoming the first African American woman to serve as chief District Court Judge in Guilford County.

    Judge Vincent has a passion for changing lives, especially for persons suffering with substance use disorders. Consequently, she feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as the presiding judge in the Guilford County Adult Drug Treatment Court for the past twelve years.

    Prior to becoming a District Court Judge, she was an Assistant District Attorney for seven years handling cases ranging from traffic to murder.

    Her efforts extend beyond court with her involvement in the Guilford County Community. She has served as a Family Services of the Piedmont Presenter, Greensboro Bar Association President and board member, Greensboro Opera Board, Guilford Inn of Court, Jack & Jill of America, Junior League of Greensboro (former Board of Director), Women's Resource Center Board, Women's Professional Forum, Guilford County Association of Black Lawyers, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. The Links, Incorporated, North Carolina State Board of Specialization, North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission, among other organizations.

    Judge Vincent received her B.A. in Public Administration and J.D. from North Carolina Central University.

    Judge Vincent is a native of Shelby. She is a member of Oak Springs Missionary Baptist Church where she serves in ministry with the Sound of the Genuine. She is the widow of the late Dr. Drewry J. M. Vincent and has one son, Drewry Vincent, II.

  • Arlene M. Zipp

    Arlene M. Zipp is a Member-Manager at Roberson Haworth & Reese PLLC in High Point. She is a family law litigator, who has tried a significant number of custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution trials. She is Board Certified Specialist in Family Law from North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

    Arlene earned her B.A. and M.A., summa cum laude, from Long Island University and her J.D. from Wake Forest University.

    Click here for more information about Arlene.

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Apr 29 - Apr 30, 2022
8:25 AM EDT - 12:20 PM EDT
Renaissance Asheville Downtown Hotel 31 Woodfin Street Asheville, NC 28801 828.252.8211

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Duration 2 Days

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