Meet a Mediator: Charles HigginsApril 9, 2019
Mediation partners Charles Higgins and Nicole Silva.
Walking into a courthouse can be intense for parents: their boxing gloves are on and they’re determined to fight for their children—often against a person whom they distrust and with whom they’re at odds. Mediation presents a stark contrast and often a huge relief to these parents. Instead of a large, imposing building filled with strangers, parents come to CLC’s offices to find warm lighting, comfy seats, and caring people who are ready to listen. One of these people is very likely to be Charles “Charlie” Higgins—an attorney with extensive training and experience in mediation, facilitation, and negotiation—who volunteers his time to help parents determine the best solutions for their family through CLC’s Families in Transition (FIT) mediation program. As a co-mediator alongside CLC staff social worker, Nicole “Nikki” Silva, Charlie builds rapport and trust, and teaches parents vital skills to improve their co-parenting relationship.
Charlie’s goal in FIT is to use his experience to “give back to the community and help people to negotiate solutions to their issues that would improve their lives and the lives of their children.” And his experience certainly is valuable! A graduate of UConn and Boston University Law School, Charlie worked for a private practice law firm before joining Cigna Corporation. One of his primary duties in both positions involved negotiations in a variety of contexts, including contracts and agreements, litigation settlements and other matters. Charlie received a mediation certificate in 2006 and a facilitation certificate in 2009. He served as a volunteer mediator for Community Mediation in Wallingford (2009-2014) before meeting a former CLC staff attorney, who introduced him to CLC’s FIT program in 2011.
“I once had a priest that said that our children are our hearts beating outside our chests,” Charlie related, when discussing why he was moved to support FIT. “I think most parents feel that way, but don’t necessarily know how to negotiate the best solutions with their co-parent.” His compassion stems from a dedication to improving the lives of children: “It is very satisfying when the parties come to any agreement, even if it is not on all of the issues that affect their relationship or their children, because it provides relief to the parties and I believe that the lives of their children are improved.”
Nikki remembers when she and Charlie co-mediated for one couple. Although mom initially had primary custody, her struggle with addiction created instability for the child. Eventually, both parents agreed to a change in custody that was in their child’s best interest. When asked how successful mediation can bring about agreements that are difficult for parents to accept, Nikki emphasized that trust and communication are key. “Charlie is a calm, open presence and a great listener. He builds rapport quickly by helping parents feel heard. He believes in the process, cares about people and their lives, and really considers how mediation affects the kids.”
“I have not met a parent yet that did not love their children and believe they were acting for their children’s benefit,” said Charlie, “but parents often need help in sorting out their children’s interests from their own. . . . When parents come to agreements and gain some knowledge about their children from the social worker co-mediator they can feel better about how they are interacting with both the other parent and with their children. Issues get resolved and the parents can focus on more positive things.”
CLC is grateful to benefit from Charlie’s valuable skills, experience and support. He and CLC’s other FIT mediator volunteers are vital to the program’s success in protecting children and strengthening families. For more information about FIT, visit our website at: http://www.clcct.org/our-services/mediation/