Twitter Facebook Myspace

On this Memorial Day

The Grand Fleet, by Grendl on Flickr

On this Memorial Day I think of my brother Rob, my Uncle Freelan, Uncle Bill, my dad, my grandfather, and all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces and made this wonderful democracy free for you and me.

Wishing you a peaceful Memorial Day,
Ron Supancic
Robert Borsky
and the entire Law Collaborative Team

A Serious Girl on Premarital Agreements

Originally posted on ASeriousGirl.com

PREFACE TO A PRENUP

Last week I mentioned how Mike and I have periodic romance-infused financial meetings, but I didn’t go into the how’s or why’s. We had our first financial meeting within a few weeks of getting engaged because we had to if were going to write a prenup.

The last time I told someone that Mike and I have a prenup, I promised myself I wouldn’t tell anyone ever again. But I’ve been thinking about it lately, especially after last week’s financial post, and the fact is that a prenup isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Our prenup is the reason we were debt-free less than a year after we married. Our prenup is the reason we have never had an argument about money. Our prenup is the reason I got to move with my husband to New York and live out one of my wildest fantasies. The last time I told someone we wrote a prenup that person grimaced as she said, “Why would you do that? Why would you marry someone you’re just going to divorce?”
“What?”
“Obviously if you need a prenup it’s because you know you’re just going to divorce the person.”
“What? No, it’s not. I don’t –”
“That’s awful, Tricia. That’s just awful. I’m really surprised.”

She was actually that appalled, I do not exaggerate. And she’s not alone in her feelings. Enough people have had that reaction that when she had it, I decided our prenup was something people just didn’t need to know about.

Except now I’m telling the entire Webisphere.

I’m working on learning how to stand up for myself. Today I’d like to announce that my husband and I wrote a prenup before we got married and contrary to what you might think it was not because we were rich or because we were planning on getting divorced. We had a lot of debt and our only assets were each other, but we sat down and we worked out the complications of our finances and in doing so, he learned how important it was for me to have the opportunity to run with my dreams. I learned how important it was for him to save money so that one day he could have an old sprawling house to fix up and build furniture for, with a treehouse in back for the grandkids and five big-headed dogs. And when I learned that, I knew I really did want to spend the rest of my life with this man, because no matter what happened between here and now, we had the same life goals.

Writing a prenup was a way to protect ourselves from divorce. Everyone has different feelings about money and no two people feel exactly the same way. Money is a tender, delicate thing that dances with pride and envy. It can be used to hurt just as easily as it can be used to help. A brilliant family lawyer once told me that money is the last thing couples talk about and the first thing they fight about. I was determined not to have a marriage that could be damaged because we never talked about money. You can’t write a prenup without talking about money, and so we used it as an opportunity to have a very honest and very real discussion that would go on to help us shape our lives. And it’s true, we could’ve just had the conversation without ever writing the contract, but the fun in writing the contract was including provisions like:

“Prior to filing for divorce, the parties must agree to a minimum of one hour of marriage counseling, once every week for twenty-four consecutive weeks. If, after twenty-four consecutive weeks of marriage counseling the parties still agree to divorce, either party may file the Petition without effect. If one party files for dissolution without completing the agreed upon counseling, that party agrees to pay the other party’s attorney fees and costs in full.”  (Except a lot fancier because it was translated into lawyer-speak.)

I really do believe that if both parties commit to marriage counseling for six months they won’t need a divorce. And if they really still want one, then maybe they do need it. However, if one person isn’t even willing to give counseling a shot, then they should pay the damn legal fees.

Tools and Resources

Most people walk into marriage with very limited understanding of what California family law is all about.  I keep a copy of the family code on my desk and I ask clients, do you have a premarital agreement? Most of the time people say no, they didn’t want to bother with that, they thought it was off-putting. What people don’t realize is that California has written a premarital agreement for you and it’s more than eight hundred pages long. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a big surprise.

Listen to the newest podcast from Ron and Robert on Divorce — if you have questions, they have answers.

Powered by Podbean.com

Eggs Benedict and Case Law

Woody Allen tells a story about his friend, Eggs Benedict.  See, Eggs had a problem.  He thought he was having a heart attack because he was having chest pains, and Woody was having the same problem in the same chest area.  So he said, why don’t you go to the doctor, you pay the $25 for the medic, and you tell me what happens! And Eggs says, OK, and goes to the doctor.

A few days go by and Woody doesn’t hear a word from Eggs.  So he picks up the phone, he calls his friend’s mother and he says, Where’s Eggs? And she says, You haven’t heard? He died. Woody hangs up the phone, runs to the doctor, spends $100, gets all these tests and the doctor says, You’re fine. And Woody says, well I just don’t understand it. I have all the same chest pains that my friend had, I should be dead! So he calls up the mother and says, I just don’t understand it. Eggs said he had a chest pain, he went to the doctor, and he died. And the mother says, I know, it’s just awful. He was walking down the street, he’d just been to the doctor and the doctor said he was fine, and then he was hit by a bus.

The law is nebulous. It’s an entangled web of gray area and it changes all the time, so what you get is not necessarily what another person gets.  As lawyers it is our job to look at the facts carefully, we have to see what’s different in your case.  Just because your friend got a divorce last year and got the house doesn’t mean this year you’re going to get the house. The law is a flowing ebb and tide in water. It’s intangible.

Family law is codified in California and there are new cases all the time. How do people find out what the law is if they want to do it on their own?

Unfortunately, lawyers and legislature have made it difficult to do that. There are some areas of law that are black and white, but most areas of law are grey. When you have something like custody, where the best interest of a child is at stake, it’s not a question of who’s the better parent, it’s a question of what’s the best interest of the child? What is that standard? There are hundreds of cases that tell us that. And for as many cases on one side of an issue, there are the same number of cases on the other.

For a look at some recent cases, click here.

What women need to know about divorce

The Second Saturday workshop was developed by WIFE, the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, founded in 1988. It is their mission is to empower women to succeed and prosper.  WIFE is dedicated to providing women with information and education during life transitions and their quest for financial independence.

The Second Saturday Workshop is held the second Saturday of each month, and is designed to help divorced and divorcing women take the next step in their life, no matter where they are in the process of untying the knot.  The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in a logical, yet compassionate way.  With the guidance of trained professionals, workshop participants gain greater understanding of the confusing divorce process.

Second Saturday is a great opportunity for women anywhere in the divorce process. The next Second Saturday workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Speakers will include attorney Robert Borsky, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Irene Smith and marriage and family therapist Rosalinda O’Neill.  To register for the event, or if you’d like more information, email Info@TheLawCollaborative.com.

A theory that changed laws

During his period in the appellate court, Justice Donald King was probably the most prolific family law judge in California. He’d been a superior court judge in San Francisco and he wrote scores of family law opinions. And he did something else that was quite extraordinary: Every summer while the appellate court was closed, he would  volunteer to sit pro tem* in the San Francisco Superior Court. Then, he did something even stranger. He told the supervising judge, “I want the worst cases you have. Give me all the cases that no one else wants.” So he started getting all these terrible, highly emotional contested divorce cases.

Justice King had been a superior court judge and so he had a theory about family law. He believed that people generally have more divorce than they have money and when they run out of money they still have lots of divorce left.  At the end of the case, the client hasn’t paid the bill, so the lawyer sues the client for unpaid fees. Now, clients can always think of something the lawyer could have done, should’ve done, failed to do, forgot to do, so the clients respond with a lawsuit for malpractice and suddenly you have all these lawyers and clients litigating. As a result you wind up with lawyers who are so fearful of a lawsuit against them for malpractice, they file every subpoena, serve every document, go through interrogatories and requests for admissions and they build their cases on the basis of “I don’t want to ever be guilty of any kind of malpractice. I’ll do everything I possibly can.”  Thus you have the California Divorce Industry.

When Justice King was a superior court judge, he saw all these lawyers coming in two or three years into a case, with boxes and boxes of receipts and cancelled checks, records and documents, and all this stuff. He began to wonder, what would happen if I could get into the case at the front end, before the lawyers have spent all these hundreds of thousands of dollars on discovery? He started bringing the lawyers in at the beginning of cases and he would say, “Counsel, tell me about your case. What are the facts as you understand them to be? What is your approach? What are you going to demand, what are you going to need, what will help you solve all the problems that you’re facing?”  And he would turn to the other lawyer and he would begin a conversation. Then he’d say, “You know what, let’s just use one accountant. We’ll use a neutral account. Can we pick an accountant that we both know and trust? Why don’t we just use one appraiser?” In this way he started limiting the discovery, managing the discovery, and he was so successful he was settling 70-80% of his cases and having happy clients and happy lawyers as a result.

In the mid-nineties the California Bar Journal published an article about Justice King’s case management theory and that led to the birth of statute 2450. Family Law Code Section 2450 gives fourteen new powers to judges that they don’t otherwise have.  Under 2450 a judge can have short-cause hearings by telephone, they can appoint mediators, it’s just remarkable.  How does it work? Your lawyer files a Case Management Stipulation, a 2450 Stip, and then you agree to see the judge when he’s got some time on his schedule.  Then you get in front of the judge, in private, and you use the judge as a sounding board. It’s almost like a mini trial for free.  I’m a big advocate for 2450 and I believe it needs to be used more.  I’ve talked to all the new judges about it, as well as the guys who’ve been hearing family law cases for years, and they are all in favor of it. They really like the approach.  Click here to read more about family code section 2450.

*pro tem = pro tempore, a latin phrase meaning “for the time being”

Trends in Family Law

People are astonished to learn that when Ron started practicing law in 1970, the family code was maybe a quarter inch of pages in the California Civil Code.  In the 1980’s the Family Code was two or three hundred pages.  Today it’s 850 pages and growing.  It’s about three inches thick and we get new statues twice a year.  We get new cases, which interpret the code, almost weekly.  Family law is one of the most highly litigated areas in civil law, and one of the most often appealed.  So it’s hard to say what the law is. You can say what it was. You can say what it is today. But who knows what it’s going to be tomorrow? That’s why we need Certified Family Law Specialists who can look at the law and give us an idea, not only of what the law is, but what the trends in the law are.

What are some of the current trends? One thing everyone’s talking about is, what is the future of a young child? If you have young children, the real issue is the movement of people. The economy is definitely changing where people are living. We have people moving to where they grew up or where they have the most family available to assist them. We’re seeing a lot of cases where a parent has to move for financial reasons, and in Los Angeles, even a move across town can completely disrupt a visitation schedule.  If you have to go court because you need to move ten miles for work, it’s up to the judge to decide whether or not the move is in your child’s best interest.  So in some cases the laws have to change to accommodate the current situation and your lawyer needs to know what the most recent changes in your favor are.

We’re seeing exponential growth in what is considered an asset. Thirty years ago it was a mere expectancy to have a pension plan. Today, it’s a major asset and can be missed if you’re not careful.  The same is true for insurance policies. Where once an insurance policy was just a term life policy, it now has some kind of value to it. It never had a value before, but now we can look at it and there are ways to value it.  Another area would be electronics and websites and artificial rights. When you own a copyright or trademark or patent, or you own software or you own music, it’s worth something now.  Once upon a time it wasn’t worth a lot, but look at Michael Jackson. Not a lot of cash flow, but an incredible amount of earning potential in a catalogue of music. We’ve both handled those kinds of cases where someone comes in and they have to value something that’s very difficult to value. It takes expertise outside of even the best lawyer to sit down and run through a catalogue of what those residual rights are worth. You have to have trusted neutral experts who can give you the best valuations.

When Ron started practicing in 1970, mothers always got custody, in every case. The only way a father could get custody was to prove that the mother was unfit. The mother had to be unfit. That law lasted through the eighties. It was taken out in 1976 but the judges continued to follow it as though it were there. It wasn’t until 1982 that we got joint custody. That was a huge change. We’ve seen huge changes in the law, but we still see disparities.

Creating a Dialogue

Over the years we’ve had many many people tell us that divorce is worse than death.  And in some ways it is a death.  It’s the death of an identity.

When people come together in a marriage, they create a third entity.  He’s not who he was anymore, he now becomes what she adds to him.  She’s no longer who she was, separate and apart from him, she becomes who she is with him.  The two of them create this third relationship, and the success of the marriage, the longevity of the marriage, the durability of the marriage is a direct function of the amount of time that people put into cultivating, creating, adding to and enlarging that third entity.  When that entity dies, when it is destroyed, when it is broken through a breach of trust or a horrible misadventure, it’s devastating.  It’s devastating to the person who has put their everything into the relationship and it’s devastating to the children.

There is a legal divorce and there is an emotional divorce. The key is to understand that what you’re going through is different than what the legal process is.  But you have to understand the legal process to be able to get through it.  The purpose of this blog, and of the Ron and Robert on Divorce Podcast, is to provide tools, education and information to people who are going through the crisis of a divorce.

How do you know if you need a lawyer?  What are the proper forms to file to get a divorce started?  Can you do it yourself?  How much does it cost?  What are the rules for fair fighting?  What if your spouse is hiding money?  What about the kids?  What is collaborative law?  Do you have to go to court?  We’ve answered all these questions on our blog and in our podcasts, and now we want to start a dialogue with you – what do you want to know?  What are your questions?  Send us an email and we will answer your questions on our radio show or on our blog.  We won’t use your name, your identity will be protected, but it’s important to know that there are remedies, there are solutions, there are steps you can take, precise protocols you can follow to make your entire divorce easier.  You are not at the mercy of the California Divorce Industry.  You can take this opportunity to empower yourself.  Write to:

Ron@TheLawCollaborative.com
Robert@TheLawCollaborative.com

Please keep in mind that we cannot give legal advice without a signed Retainer Agreement, but it is our mission to provide information, education, knowledge and support.  Thank you for allowing us to be of service.

Click the play button below to listen to Ron and Robert’s latest podcast:

Powered by Podbean.com

The Third Wednesday

Although it may be one of the best kept secrets of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the LACBA/SFVBA-sponsored Third Wednesday Voluntary Settlement Conference Program is designed to turn the misfortune of the current budget crisis into an opportunity to settle cases.  Each family law department in Los Angeles County may assign up to two cases each month to the VSC program, which provides three hours of free mediation on the third Wednesday of each month in the private office of an experienced family law attorney serving as a voluntary settlement officer.

In the event that a case has not been resolved after three hours of free mediation, counsel is encouraged to retain the services of the volunteer mediator to resolve any remaining issues. The program, which commenced in February 2010, had incredible success in March.  Five out of seven assigned cases were completely settled, and a sixth is still engaged in peaceful mediation with a volunteer mediator.

If you’re going through a divorce in Los Angeles County and you’re afraid you’re headed to trial, ask your attorney about having your case assigned to the VSC program.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Inalienable Rights of Children

I have the right to love whom I choose without guilt, pressure or rejection.

I have the right to love as many people as I want; stepparents, relatives, and extended family, without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal. The more love I give, the more I have to give, and the more I receive.

I have the right to a regular, daily and weekly routine; one that is not filled with alternating patterns and disruption.

I have a right to visit both parents, regardless of grownup wants or wishes regarding convenience, money, or their feelings. I own visitation, it is my right, it is not the right of my parents.

I have a right to be angry, sad, and fearful, and I have a right to express these feelings.

I have a right to be protected from being exposed to the anger of my parents, to not be punished because they are angry at each other, or to see them punishing each other.

I have a right to like both my parents, since they are both a part of me, and I have the right to be reassured that this is OK.

I have the right not to blame or choose sides.

I have the right not to have to make adult decisions.

I have the right to remain a child and to not replace a parent in my duties, or to have to be an adult companion, friend, or comforter to my parents.

I have the right not to ever have to choose with whom I live. This is a decision for wise adults. Having to make such a choice will always hurt someone else, and therefore myself. I have this right even when I’m a teenager and people wish I were able to choose, I can never choose between my parents.