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What Everyone Forgets

 

When moving into a new home you should always check the smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. You just bought a new house so it makes sense to ensure it doesn’t burn down. But after a divorce many people fail to take the next steps necessary to protect their newly awarded separate property.

Despite all the planning required when moving into a new home, people regularly move into a new life as a single person without the necessary planning to ensure that their affairs are taken care of if they become incapacitated and their loved ones and property are protected from creditors and predators.

Every adult needs some kind of estate plan, even if nothing more than an Advance Healthcare Directive. Yet it becomes even more pressing when one is newly divorced. After a divorce, our Estate Planning attorney will review assets to ensure that title has been updated and is held properly, that account beneficiaries reflect the newly-single person’s wishes, and that children are protected from future step-parents.

I often get sad calls from people who learn their step-parent is getting what was supposed to be their inheritance. Why? Because their parent didn’t plan – they simply put it off for “later” and the surviving step-parent spends or inherits everything.

If a divorced party should unexpectedly die before creating a new estate plan, the ex-spouse might receive control of assets that had been intended for the children. While the surviving parent might have the children’s best interests at heart, their new spouse may not. Make certain that the legacy intended for the children does not end up in the pockets of your ex and their new love-interest.

The great thing about Estate Planning is, if you’re still fortunate enough to be reading about it or thinking about it, it’s not too late to act on it. Don’t leave your loved ones in the position of having to call my office to ask if we can “fix” things. Attend to your estate now, and leave your loved ones the best legacy possible. A legacy you plan, not the default which will enrich tax collectors, bill collectors, and surely divide families as they fight over what they think you would have wanted.

Remember, we host a Free Family Law and Divorce Workshop on the second Saturday of every month. Our next workshop is Saturday, June 9 from 10AM to 12PM. Call (818) 348-6700 to RSVP.

Prenups for Lovers

hands holding hearts

In reflecting on the romance that surrounds Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of the starry eyed couples who tell me, “we don’t need a prenup, we’re not getting divorced.” Unfortunately, every marriage ends — hopefully after 75 years of wedded bliss, but every marriage ends eventually. Statistically, the odds are it will end earlier. But whether by death or divorce, when a marriage ends, a valid prenup determines what happens.

Thanks to Hollywood and sensationalistic news coverage, “premarital agreement” and “prenup” are dirty words in the common vernacular. In reality, premarital agreements need not be punitive documents forced on one spouse by another. The majority of premarital agreements we draft in our office are reached by mutual discussions and assent to terms designed to support marriage and discourage divorce.

Couples can opt out of the 2000 page California Family Code and write an agreement that embodies their hopes and values. A well written premarital agreement can proclaim a couples’ promises and devotion to each other. It can include “anti-divorce terms” such as agreements about mutual respect for personal appearance and physical fitness, or agreements about the frequency of romantic getaways. Basic agreements regarding values for raising children and spending quality time with the family can be discussed and included. Terms may also include mandatory marriage counseling and a “couple’s vacation” before filing for divorce, with consequences imposed for refusing to comply. Not all of these agreements may necessarily be enforceable in a court of law, but the simple act of discussing these issues and memorializing your agreements is useful when planning a relationship for the long-term.

Experts tell us that disagreements over finances are a leading cause of divorce. A failure to engage in deep and detailed conversations about money and mutual expectations can lead to conflict later. A well written premarital agreement addresses areas of potential conflict and serves as a form of “marriage insurance” by providing couples with a clear picture of what is expected of them during marriage and what things would be like after their marriage.

Of course, with legal consequences come myriad complex legal issues involving statutes and the case law governing such agreements. For that reason, it is critical that parties who wish to create such an insurance policy do so with the aid and oversight of a qualified attorney focused in this particular field and trained in consensual dispute resolution. While an attorney with a traditional practice might be fine for a unilateral, winner-take-all prenup, they often lack the expertise and subtlety required to mediate with couples in love who are not looking for a fight.

We help couples design and build foundations for the most important project in their lives. We take the time to examine and investigate their dreams and circumstances, and using that information, we design and create a strong foundation which will support whatever they choose to build on it. If what they build together fails sometime in the future, it will not be for lack of planning.

If you have questions about any of these ideas or issues, give us a call. We’re here to help.

On another note, our monthly Second Saturday Family Law and Divorce Workshop is coming up on Saturday, February 10 at 10AM. You can RSVP by calling (818) 348-6700.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
Tel: (818) 348-6700
Fax: (818) 348-0961
Email: info@thelawcollaborative.com
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Legal Checklist for the New Year

Dear Friends,

It is a New Year and a good time to review your legal affairs. Here are a few things you should think about for 2018:

1) Review your licenses. Which ones will expire in the coming year? Mark on your new calendar the date when the license will expire and place a tickler note several weeks before the expiration date so that you have plenty of time to file for a renewal.

2) Review your life insurance. Life insurance goes directly to the beneficiary named on the policy. It does not go through your will unless you have the policy made payable to yourself. Life insurance is, however, part of your estate when it comes to paying death taxes.

3) Review your liability policies. For most people, their liability policies are their home and auto insurance policies. These policies are important because they will pay for a lawyer to defend you if you are sued.

4) Powers of Attorney: Most lawyers recommend that every adult have a durable power of attorney which will allow someone to act on their behalf if they become incapacitated. These are very dangerous documents because they give the person named total access to your assets. They are very important documents because if you become sick, they provide your family with an easy and inexpensive way of taking care of your affairs.

5) Minor Children: If you have minor children, you need to provide for their care if you get sick, are in an accident or die. Make sure your children and other responsible people in your family know where the children are supposed to go if something happens to you. Each year you should review your choice of guardian. Is that choice still a good choice?

6) Wills and trusts: Wills and trusts, when used properly, are not substitutes for each other. They are different tools used in estate planning. One very good reason to have a will is to name a guardian for your minor children. The courts will generally honor your wishes. You can also create a testamentary trust within your will to manage any money you leave for your minor children. Once your children are grown, you should change your will to reflect the change in your circumstances.

7) Elder law is a specialty. Things that elder law planners have you do are not the same as the things that tax planners will have you do. In tax planning they will tell you that you may make gifts of up to $11,000 per year to as many individuals as you want without tax consequences. That is true. Unfortunately, the Medicaid rules are not the same. In many places (the rules vary slightly from state to state) any sum of money you give away within five years of a nursing home placement will trigger a penalty.

8) Charities: While you are reviewing your estate plan, think about supporting those charities and organizations that have been important to you. Gifts to charities are deducted from your gross estate.

9) The point is, plan ahead for yourself and your family.

We hope that this checklist is helpful to you. It is not all inclusive but covers the most significant points. Please call us if you have any questions. We are here to serve you.

And remember, our monthly Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is coming up on Feb. 10 at 10AM. Call (818)348-6700 to RSVP or visit www.thelawcollaborative.com/secondsaturday.htm for more info.

Happy New Year,
Ron Supancic and Ty Supancic
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com

Rob’s Mistake

Protect your assets - prepare an estate plan

Most people going through divorce don’t consider the possibility that one of the parties may die during the process. When this happens it creates chaos for the survivors. I’ve witnessed this several times during my practice, with one of the most poignant early in my career. I represented a young man with three children who rode a motorcycle to work every night. Rob worked the night shift and during the day, he packed lunches, took the children to school, and attended school functions.

He was married to a woman who wasn’t very interested in marriage or family. She stayed home at night while Rob worked and the kids slept, but she spent that time and most days romancing various friends. When they made the decision to divorce, she agreed that Rob would have custody of the kids so that she could continue her lifestyle. She also agreed to accommodate Rob’s work schedule by continuing to watch the children at night. Unfortunately, before we could finalize the divorce, Rob lost his life in a motorcycle accident on his way to work one night.

Rob was a great father but he failed to prepare an estate plan. Despite my advice that he prepare an interim estate plan during the divorce process, he chose to wait – he believed that he had plenty of time. He had not taken his wife’s name off of his life insurance. She was the sole beneficiary. He had not taken her off his retirement and pension plan. She was still the joint tenant on the real estate, the vehicles, the bank accounts, free to use and spend everything any way she pleased.

Most of us act like we’re going to live forever. We deny the truth. Statistics show that only half of married lawyers with children also have an estate plan. That’s among a population that should be most informed and knowledgeable about the need. The sad truth is that most people have not made even the most basic arrangements for the allocation of their estate.

Don’t make the kind of mistake Rob made. His wife, not his children, inherited everything. Nothing was set aside to provide for the children and she probably squandered it all as she continued the self-indulgent lifestyle that ended her marriage. Act now to ensure that your assets are protected and go to the right people.

We are here to assist and support you. We can help you set up a plan, or make any changes that need to be made to an existing plan. Please let us know how we can help.

And remember, our free Divorce Workshop is the Second Saturday of every month. The next one is Dec. 9 at 10:00AM. Call (818)348-6700 to RSVP.

Best wishes,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com

Talking Stick Ceremony

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The following is a powerful communication exercise developed by the first Americans. It was used in tribal disputes to ensure everybody was heard and any resentments were addressed.

The parties sit facing each other with notepaper and writing utensils. The person who asked for the ceremony is designated “the Speaker.” During the ceremony, the Speaker may hold some item designated as the “talking stick” in their hands, while the other person (the “Listener”) should hold paper and pen for note taking.

1. The Speaker begins saying what they want to say to the Listener while the Listener takes detailed notes. The Listener does not comment or interrupt except to ask non-accusatory clarifying questions. “So you’re calling me a liar” is not appropriate. “So you heard me say, ‘I missed the bus,'” is acceptable.

2. When the Speaker has said everything they need to say and they feel “empty” the Listener repeats back what they heard in their own words (direct quotes are okay). If the Listener misstates what they heard, the Speaker may interrupt to correct them.

3. When the Listener has repeated everything to the Speaker’s satisfaction, the Listener asks if the Speaker has anything they wish to add. If the Speaker wishes to say more, go back to step 1. Repeat steps 1-3 until the Speaker is “empty.”

4. Only when the Speaker is empty does the Listener get to respond to the things the Speaker said. Step 4 is actually a reversal of roles; the Listener becomes the Speaker and the Speaker the Listener, bound by the same rules as before. With the roles now reversed, the parties go through steps 1-3 as many times as necessary until the new Speaker feels empty. Once empty, the parties may switch roles again and continue the exercise as many times are necessary until both parties are empty.

Important notes:

If the parties cannot follow the protocol, schedule a time to reconvene when emotions have subsided.

The Listener may not argue, correct, or do anything else except ask questions with the intention of understanding what the Speaker is saying.

The goal is clear, complete communication, not persuasion. If both parties walk away feeling they have been heard, the exercise is a success.

Remember, our office hosts a free Family Law and Divorce Workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is Saturday, October 14 from 10AM to 12PM. For more information or to reserve a seat, please call (818)348-6700.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com

Fighting Fair

Ty Supancic, Esq.

Everyone disagrees sometimes. In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. Healthy relationships do not avoid conflict, but use it to clear the air productively, without hurt feelings. Here are fourteen rules for fighting fair:

1. Take Responsibility. It may take two to argue, but it only takes one to end a conflict. Make a commitment to never intentionally harm your partner’s feelings.

2. Don’t escalate. The most important commitment you will make to fair fighting is to overcome any desire to speak or act hurtfully.

3. Use “I” speech. When we use “you” speech, it is often perceived as accusatory. Instead, talk about your own feelings: “I feel hurt when I hear ______.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4. Learn to use “time outs”. Agree that if hurtful speech or actions continue, either party may call a time out. The three elements to a successful time out are: 1.) Use “I” speech to take responsibility, such as, “I don’t want to get angry.” 2.) Say what you need: “I need to take a walk to clear my head.” 3.) Set a time limit: “I’ll be back in 15 minutes to finish our talk.” These steps will keep either of you from feeling abandoned.

5. Avoid and defend against hurtful speech. This includes name-calling, swearing, sarcasm, shouting, or any verbal hostility or intimidation. Agree to a key phrase that indicates hurt feelings, such as “That’s below the belt.”

6. Stay calm. Don’t overreact. Behave with calm respect and your partner will be more likely to consider your viewpoint.

7. Use words, not actions. When feelings run high, even innocent actions like hitting a tabletop may be misinterpreted. Use “I” speech to explain your feelings instead.

8. Be specific. Use concrete examples (who, what, when, where) for your objections.

9. Discuss only one issue at a time. If you find yourself saying, “And another thing….,” stop.

10. Avoid generalizations like “never” or “always”. Use specific examples.

11. Don’t exaggerate. Exaggerating only prevents discussions about the real issue. Stick with facts and honest feelings.

12. Don’t wait. Try to deal with problems as they arise — before hurt feelings have a chance to grow.

13. Don’t clam up. When one person becomes silent and stops responding, anger may build. Positive results are attained with two-way communication.

14. Agree to these ground rules.

Remember, when you both agree to common rules, resolving conflict is more likely. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to fight fair, we simply can’t resolve a conflict. When this happens, talks with a trained professional may help. We are always available to assist you when you are unable to reach a resolution you can both live with.

The family law lawyers at The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles, are dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families. Remember: We host a FREE family law workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is this Saturday, Sept. 9 from 10AM to 12PM. Call (818) 348-6700 to RSVP.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC

 

How Much Support Can I Get?

Part Two of the discussion launched in last month’s newsletter addresses spousal support (formerly known as alimony). Unlike child support which has no tax consequence, spousal support is deductible for the payor and taxable as income to the payee.

Contrary to child support which involves a cut-and-dried calculation, the calculation of spousal support is more complex and is addressed in California’s Family Code section 4320.

The first consideration is the parties’ marital standard of living; where they shopped, ate out, vacationed, et cetera. Couples with a modest marital standard of living can expect modest support orders. The opposite might be true for couples who lived beyond their means.

Using the marital standard of living as a starting point, some of the other factors that must be considered include the age of the parties, time out of the workforce, job skills, the job market for those skills, the cost of retraining to obtain more marketable skills, and the length of the marriage.

Generally the courts expect an individual receiving support to become self-supporting within a period equal to half the length of the marriage. If a party fails to become self-supporting, the court can take that into consideration and modify support. The misunderstood significance of a marriage over 10 years, or a “marriage of long duration,” is not permanent support, but the court’s ongoing and permanent authority to revisit support issues.

A young, capable individual who was married 12 years will likely be required to become self-supporting within six years and a failure to do so could jeopardize their receipt of support. On the other hand, an individual after retirement age who was married 8 years might receive support for the rest of their life if a court finds that is what’s fair.

Couples going through divorce who utilize the Collaborative Law Process or Mediation can avoid the gamble and expense of paying for trial on the issues of support and can reach agreements far more flexible and creative than any court. And they can agree to terminate the court’s authority to make changes if they believe that would make for a better deal.

At The Law Collaborative we have over fifty years of combined experience handling complex support issues. We design unique legal strategies based on the individual factors of your case. When necessary, we consult forensic financial experts to ensure the best outcome. We are committed to making sure your needs are met.

Our next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop will take place on September 9 at our Woodland Hills Office. This workshop is beneficial to anyone contemplating divorce or curious about their options. The workshop is free, but a reservation is required. Please call our office at (818) 348-6700 to RSVP or visit www.thelawcollaborative.com/secondsaturday.htm for more information.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com
T: (818) 348-6700
F: (818) 348-0961
info@thelawcollaborative.com
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How Much Child Support Am I Entitled To?

This month we will begin the first of a two-part discussion about support in California. In this issue we’ll focus on child support which can be collected retroactively and is not optional.

While the formula for calculating child support might appear daunting for a non-math person, CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)], the data inputs are relatively simple: custody time as a percentage for the parents and their net disposable income.

As a first step, you must determine the amount of time you spend in charge of your child per week. The Court is interested in hours spent, not days. In other words, which parent will be called to assist with the child in the event of illness or problem at school? On a normal day, it is the parent scheduled to receive the child after school. If you are not the scheduled parent, then the time belongs to the other parent. The calculation commences at pick-up, and ends at drop-off, either at school or to the other parent. It also includes holidays and vacations.

There are rules of thumb. For instance, someone who sees their children every other weekend, half of all holidays, and two weeks during the summer has about 19% custody. One way to figure out your custody percentage is to add up all the hours you have the child in a week and divide it by 168. Average the weeks each month. Then average the months at the end of the year.

Once you know the custody percentage and the net disposable income for the parties, you can use an online calculator to find out what California Guideline Support should be. We have a link on our website here: http://www.thelawcollaborative.com/custody-support.htm. If you find that the time factor has changed and the support number needs adjustment, call your attorney immediately.

Next month we’ll tackle spousal support or what is commonly called alimony.

We are excited to host our Second Saturday Divorce Workshop this Saturday, July 8 at our Woodland Hills Office. This workshop will be beneficial to anyone contemplating divorce or in the middle of a divorce. The workshop is free but reservations are required. Please call our office at (818)348-6700 for more information. We are here to serve you.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com
T: (818)348-6700
F: (818)348-0961

Marriage Eulogy

Ty Supancic, Esq.Fifty years after a divorce, the children and grandchildren of the original divorcing couple will believe a story about why their parents and grandparents divorced, what kind of people they were, and what aftermath or legacy they left behind. A couple going through a divorce have the opportunity to write that story. By writing that story, and by keeping that story in mind, they can guide their actions and decisions in such a way that the story can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

The exercise of having divorcing couples write a “Joint Divorce Story” is not a new idea. Ron has been recommending it to his clients for years. Unfortunately, few ever take the time to engage in this useful exercise. Oftentimes they confuse the Joint Divorce Story with a mission statement or their short-term goals. The exercise might be more easily understood if it is renamed “The Marriage Eulogy”.

When planning their future, a couple dreams about what their married life will be like. When divorce ends a marriage, that powerful dream dies. Couples going through divorce really are witnessing the death of an entity. Psychology informs us that children witnessing the divorce of their parents may be as devastated as a parent losing a child.

A eulogy is not something scrawled in haste. It is not something we compose in our heads while driving. A good eulogy is something we craft and hone and polish so that the result is powerful and evocative. We are trying to sum up the essence of an entire being in a few succinct words. The Marriage Eulogy should be written in such a manner.

When couples are not ready to write a joint eulogy, I suggest they write individual eulogies to exchange and reflect on individually. Knowing how your ex-spouse wants your marriage to be remembered by their grandchildren can be a powerful thing.

One might tread more softly and be more thoughtful if mindful of what history will say about them and their life. “I can’t think about my ex in that way yet! It’s too soon.” Okay, but you could write a fairy tale about how a divorce would be remembered. That is a powerful starting place. If we all were to conduct ourselves in accordance with the values and motives of a fairytale hero or heroine, we would all find ourselves kinder, gentler, nobler, and wiser as a result.

If you or someone you know has questions about divorce or another family law topic, please remember that our free Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is this Saturday, June 10 from 10AM to 12PM at our Woodland Hills office. For more info, visit www.thelawcollaborative.com/secondsaturday.htm or call (818)348-6700 to RSVP.

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum

I recently promised to share the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum with blog readers, and I keep my word. I hope you find this extraordinary tool to be of help. It is a notion I was introduced to at a presentation on the new categories, revisions, and changes to the DSM 5 when it was first published in 2015. The authors recommend dropping labels and observing behavior instead. The idea is to connect consequences to choices by allowing people to know all of their choices and all of the consequences of each choice, they will see more objectively the result of their choices.

*********

Curious, controlled inquiry allows you to drill deep to determine the interests underneath the fears, concerns, and positions on the surface of the client’s emotions. Paraphrasing and re-framing are crucial strategic tools that need to be mastered and implemented. The skills in moving communication forward involve first establishing rapport. That’s done through a paraphrase. Second step is introduction of a second perspective that makes room for movement. These ideas can be explored in “Difficult Conversations” and “Beyond Winning” from The Harvard Program On Negotiation.

Empathy opens the door to assertiveness; mindfulness opens the door to empathy; self-awareness leads to recognition of transference and counter-transference. We navigate the emotional currents of dispute resolution through applying the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum Scale to our analysis.

POSITIONAL

Lack of Insight
Blame/Projection
Anger/Vengefulness
Entitlement/Self-Absorption
Victimization
Passivity
Catastrophizing

OPEN

Self-Reflection & Insight
Ownership & Perspective
Forgiveness
Generosity
Volition
Empowerment
Hope

It isn’t always helpful to call him a “Jerk” and label her a “Borderline”. It is more useful to think of difficult clients as more flexible or more rigid. You almost never go wrong if you start with a paraphrase. The more rigid the reply, the more frequent the paraphrase. This allows the loosening of the rigid response and opens the door of possibility when the chance of success seems slim. Our job is persistence, determination, and belief in the power of the process. Never give up. Never give in. Stay positive. Be creative. Offer ideas, suggestions, options, and alternatives. They hold the solution to their problem. Help them find it.

Every high conflict case presents as full of sound and fury. Experienced peacemakers recognize rage as a secondary emotion that is an unconscious emotional overlap for the primary emotion of fear. To show fear would be to show weakness. That is unacceptable. Thus the rage. Beneath the rage, covered over by emotions, are the positions to which people become attached. This is the beginning of the journey. Underneath the positions are the interests that are the heart of the matter.

P.S. Our next Free Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is June 10th from 10AM to 12PM at our office in Woodland Hills. Call (818)348-6700 to RSVP or click here for more details.