It is with deep sadness that we learned this week about the passing of Lawrence D. Gaughan, a pioneer professional family mediator in the United States and titan of the field whose substantive contributions to professional mediation will stand the test of time.
Larry was one of the most experienced divorce mediators in America. He founded Family Mediation of Greater Washington in August 1980. During the previous academic year, he was Scholar-in-Residence at the Georgetown Family Center, which, at the time, was in the Department of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.
Larry graduated from the School of Law at the University of Montana and was first admitted to the bar in Montana. After serving as a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate in Texas, Turkey, and France, he received an LL.M. at the University of Virginia School of Law in 1964, and in the same year was appointed Assistant Professor of Law. During this time, he was admitted to practice law in Virginia. In 1970, he was appointed Associate Professor of Law with tenure at Washington & Lee Law School and was promoted to Professor in 1975. He was later appointed Professor of Law with tenure at George Mason Law School, and remained on the faculty through 1987, when he resigned to carry on his full-time practice of family law and mediation.
In the early 1980s, Larry was deeply involved in the growth of the family mediation movement. His mentor was O.J. Coogler, a former state senator from Georgia who was the founder of the organized movement to promote divorce mediation in the United States. In 1980, Larry became the President of the Family Mediation Association (FMA), the first national organization for family mediation. Then, in 1981, a new organization— the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM)—was founded in the conference room of Larry’s former office in Arlington, Virginia. The founders included John Haynes, Steve Erickson, Judy Wood, and others who were among the most experienced divorce mediators at that time.
The field of divorce mediation has undergone many changes since 1980, and Larry often had been in the forefront of many of these changes. He was among the Founding Members of a new national mediation organization, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. His articles frequently appeared in APFM’s quarterly publication, The Professional Family Mediator.
During the period from 1978 to 1982, Larry was a member of the Board of Governors of the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar. For 25 years (1975-1999), Larry gave a lecture each year at the Annual Convention of the Virginia State Bar on the developments in Virginia family law (including legislative changes and new case law) for the previous year. These lectures were then circulated around Virginia on videotape.
Larry practiced family mediation until his passing. During that time, he handled over 3,000 cases as a mediator. For most of that time, Larry also conducted a separate practice as an attorney, but he had almost completely terminated that side of his practice since 2008, in order to focus on family mediation and collaborative practice. He also remained an active board member of the Professional Mediation Board of Standards (PMBS), an organization that is working on developing national standards and credentialing of professional mediators.
Larry’s work and presence within the field has left an indelible mark on APFM, and his contributions to the profession have helped to shape mediation work for all future mediators. His more than 40 years of mediation practice, trainings, and substantive contributions to the field calls for our utmost gratitude.
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