NEXT 10 TIPS: How Eldercaring Coordination Can Make a Difference with High Conflict Cases Regarding the Care and Safety of Elders

By Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed., Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator, Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator, Past President, FLAFCC; Judge Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, 5th Judicial Circuit; Yueh-Mei Kim Nutter, Esq., Board Certified Specialist in Marital & Family Law Partner, Brinkley Morgan

Since the FLAFCC Task Force on Eldercaring Coordination approved Guidelines for Eldercaring Coordination in 2015, Florida has joined four other states in the Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination: Idaho, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota. Eight Circuits in Florida are currently Pilot Sites, providing Eldercaring Coordination (
as a more humane response to high conflict cases involving the care and safety of an elder. Already over 50 cases have been referred to the process and the results the Eldercaring Coordinators have generated are positive and encouraging. Here are the top ten ways that Eldercaring Coordination can make a difference in the care and safety of elders in high conflict families:

1. Eldercaring Coordination is a court-ordered dispute resolution option especially developed to help high conflict families focus more productively on issues related to the care and safety of an elder. The focus is on the elder, rather than competing individual agendas.

2. Ongoing conflict and personal agendas consume the time and energy of everyone involved and often impedes the care of the elder. When family members feel heard, the potential for conflict decreases and the elder’s needs can be addressed sooner.

3. The Eldercaring Coordinator addresses non-legal, family issues so that attorneys and the court can address legal issues without constant disruptions. This helps to avoid frivolous and highly emotional hearings.

4. Eldercaring Coordination reduces risks and increases safety for the elder and others participating. Eldercaring Coordinators have been able to identify issues such as elder neglect, mental vulnerability, unsafe environments, coercion, physical problems, isolation, caregiver incapacity, elder relocation, and substance abuse or mis-medication.

5. Eldercaring Coordination promotes private, informed decision-making out of court by ensuring everyone has the same information. The Eldercaring Coordinator may serve as a liaison, when necessary, to share information and keep the doors open to communication and information gathering.

6. Eldercaring Coordination encourages collaboration, so families can generate more ideas and options for the elder that are feasible and convenient. The spectrum of care options is expanded so that well-informed decisions can be made from the range of opportunities available.

7. Eldercaring Coordinators help develop a support system for the elder and their families, optimizing the use of community resources, and experts. Attorneys, guardians, financial experts, mediators, aging life care professionals, and others are able to assist the elder and family with specified issues and fewer barriers.

8. The Eldercaring Coordinator is neutral. In a neutral environment, there is a greater chance of cooperation, as it takes the parties out of the adversarial framework of the court. Since parties share the payment of fees, the perception that the Eldercaring Coordinator can be bought or influenced by participants dissolves.

9. According to the term specified within the Court Order of Referral, the Eldercaring Coordinator is available across an extended period of time. This structure allows the Eldercaring Coordinator to assist the family through the many transitions the elder faces during the aging process.

10. Whether in a facility or a family member’s home, the elder is empowered to reunite with family members and others who may have previously been precluded from visiting. Together, the family and elder are able to resume meaningful connections and obtain closure on past issues. Even the youngest members of the family benefit from these more positive intergenerational influences.

If you are interested in developing an Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Site, contact FLAFCC Task Force Co-Chairs Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed. ( or Judge Michelle Morley (


TOP TEN Tips for Relating to Elders and Families in Conflict during Their Gray Years

The rate of late-in-life divorces has doubled in the past decade. The golden years are now viewed as the last opportunity to find happiness. The dramatic growing number of grey-haired divorces impacts how families look at their elders. It affects family members at all levels, financially and emotionally. The combination of limited income, financial needs, and maintaining family relationships requires knowledge of resources and creativity to meet the unique needs of late in life divorces. The following top ten tips can be used by family law professionals in working with high-conflict families of elders.

  1. Do not think you will find out everything about the conflict in the first meeting with the family. Families have secrets that have lasted for years and it may take some time and trust before they let you into their inner circle.

  1. There is not one truth to the reason for the conflict. Each family member has their own perception which should be respected.
  1. Elders are not wrinkled children. They have legal rights that children do not have until the age of majority. Be respectful of the elder’s culture, including generational, ethnic, and religious background as well as other unique characteristics.
  1. Elders are accustomed to their independence and doing things the way they have always done them. When they are confronted by normal physical and mental tasks that now challenge their abilities, it is difficult for them to acknowledge their need for help. Be prepared to help them save face with diplomacy that will enable them to accept help without having to admit they need it.

  1. Elders are sensitive about their mortality and we need to be, too. It is unfair to put elders in the center of conflict, especially if their faculties are being compromised by the frailties of aging. Life is too short. We also need to recognize that time is of the essence and that when elders need help they cannot always wait for the dust to settle.
  1. Families do not age out. They continue to grow, bringing their old problems along with them. Elders and their loved ones need the same conflict resolutions as younger families. (They also need the professional services of FLAFCC members at this point in the age spectrum.)
  1. What affects the elder, affects all the generations after. The modeling you provide will be helping the youngest generations and even those generations to come.
  1. Being gray haired does not necessarily mean being old and ready for the nursing home. It can still be a time to pursue personal happiness despite the impact on the family structure, be it separation, divorce, or late in life marriage.
  1. Elders may need to be shielded from family members seeking to protect inheritances by challenging the elder’s mental capacity, unduly influencing the elder, and controlling the elder’s life.

  1. Eldercaring Coordination can help! Eldercaring Coordination is an empowering, non-adversarial dispute resolution method used to help manage high conflict family dynamics so that the elder, family, and stakeholders can address their concerns independently from the court.

By: Linda Fieldstone, Michelle Morley, Yueh-Mei Kim Nutter
For more information, contact Kim Nutter, Esq. at, Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed. at Linda, or Judge Michelle Morley at