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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.

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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.

7 Steps to Magical Conversation

Passage

A few weeks ago I posted about Magical Conversations and in that post I promised to share the tool I developed called 7 Steps to Magical Conversation. Here it is:

7 STEPS TO MAGICAL CONVERSATION

1: What is the centermost deepest part of your core? What is the one word that springs to mind, that is your essential core value?

2: Take a deep breath and breathe in your core value. Hold the value in your mind as you hold your breath in your chest for as long as is comfortable. Breathe out anything that gets in the way of that value, such as fear, anxiety, apprehension, etc.

REPEAT STEP TWO THREE TIMES.

3: Set your intention congruent with your core value. What is your intention? Is it a phone call? Is it a meeting? Is it an encounter? Is it a transaction? Remember you have control over your intention.

4: Stay conscious, stay focused, remain unshakeable. The world, events, circumstances, individuals, will attempt to distract and derail you, stay in control.

5: Slow down. Observe silence, listen deeply. Search for the interests behind the declarations, accusations, and statements you hear. Think before you speak, consider what you might say, what you could say, as distinguished from what you should say, in order to achieve the outcome congruent with your core value.

6: Inquire politely. Respond civilly, be courteous, and respectful. Do not accuse, threaten, argue, or object.

7: Express interest, concern, and appreciation. Do not try to fix the problem until requested to do so. Wait for an invitation. Simply allow the matter to conclude with the notion that you have heard completely everything the other is trying to say.

Marriage Insurance

Ty Supancic

Most people understand the reason for insurance. We spend huge chunks of income each year on life, fire, and medical insurance, and newer types of insurance such as long term care. Consider viewing a Prenuptial (or Premarital) Agreement in the same way, as a kind of insurance policy. Why?

Parties facing divorce who have such agreements in place and abide by them, have helped to insure themselves against conflict, sky-high legal bills, and dissipation of valuable assets.

Who might need a Prenuptial Agreement (PNA)? Interestingly, it is not just people with large incomes or those who own several properties. If either of the parties about to be married have been married before, or if either of the parties have children by other relationships, a PNA is a necessity. If one of the parties owns a home, business, or a financial portfolio – in other words, if that person’s monetary resources considerably outweigh those of the other, a PNA is essential.

Once a couple has decided that they would like to make their relationship permanent, a discussion of finances becomes crucial. This is often difficult. Money is usually a sensitive issue in relationships and many times partners have divergent views.

Clear understanding and agreement should be reached on the management and disposition of all real estate, income streams, deferred benefits, and all other assets whether separate or community.

There are several key points to keep in mind. First of all, the agreement must be deliberately conceived and completely voluntary. Full disclosure of all assets and debits is required. It must be drawn up to give each party adequate time to carefully review. It is important that the agreement be just and fair-minded in order to insure that it will not be overturned in a legal challenge. To be safe, it is a good idea to video record the execution ceremony as evidence that it was signed voluntarily by competent parties.

At The Law Collaborative we help mediate, negotiate, and review Prenuptial Agreements and Post-Nuptial Agreements. Call us for more information or visit the relationship planning section of our website.

And don’t forget! Our Second Saturday Family Law & Divorce Workshop is coming up on Saturday, May 13 from 10AM to 12PM. To RSVP, call (818)348-6700.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC

5955 De Soto Avenue, Suite 125

Woodland Hills, CA 91367

T: (818)348-6700

F: (818)348-0961

info@thelawcollaborative.com

www.thelawcollaborative.com

“Like” us on Facebook.com/thelawcollaborative

Follow us on Twitter.com/TLC_Law

Magical Conversations


serene lake view

Your universe is no bigger than your vocabulary. Your vocabulary is the only limitation to your universe. Words are everything. Every time we open our mouth it is for good, or something else. What comes out of our mouth started in our brain and shaped us. We have no control over others, what they say, what they do. We can only control our own words and actions. We can only control what we say and what we do. That we can control, and it shapes us, and forms us as well.

You chose to be where you are today, you chose to read this post. This post is intended for like-minded individuals who gather on a regular basis to seek and pursue peace.

I talk a great deal about mediation as an alternative to litigation. That is because mediation is at the heart of creating peace, making peace, and building peace. By listening, ingesting, absorbing and ruminating on the words you read, and the words you speak, you will be changed, transformed, illuminated and enlightened. Each of us shares what he or she knows with the other. Each of us is the “Us” and the “Other”.

Here are a few ideas to share that have profoundly shaped me. You might have already heard some of them. Some of them may be new. If it is old, consider it a reminder. If it is new, pursue and explore so that you may expand and grow. That is the purpose of any of the time that we spend together. It is also important to invest time exploring the ideas of others on the same journey.

Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg is easily the most transformative book I have read in years. It teaches the 12 steps to Intimacy and Trust. I share it with you as an invitation to a new life practice in the days and weeks to come.

Consider the newly designed and promulgated Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum. 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.

Out of this information and material I have designed the Seven Steps to Magical Dialogue, which I will be sharing here soon. I offer it for your consideration in addition to the Rigidity/Flexibility Continuum, which will also be available in the upcoming weeks. Let me know if these are at all helpful, if they assist you in any way, if you are able to use this information in your own professional application.