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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

When Stars Collide

14-05-15 Newsletter_Header_Experts_In_Court

Madonna and her ex, Guy Ritchie, are locked in a transatlantic custody battle over their 15 year-old son Rocco. With cases filed in both the USA and the UK, even the courts were in dispute until a judge in London approved Madonna’s request to withdraw her UK filings.

Before doing so however, the British judge joined his American counterpart in suggesting the celebrity parents try to settle things outside of court stating, “It would be a very great tragedy for Rocco if any more of the precious and fast receding days of his childhood were to be taken up by this dispute. Far better for each of his parents to spend that time enjoying… the company of the… young man who is their son and who is a very great credit to them both.”

The judge continued, “I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them.” But the conflict continues and Madonna and Ritchie are scheduled to appear in a New York court on June 1st.

In California, parents are required by statute to meet with a court appointed child custody mediator before they can ask a Judge to rule on custody issues. As a result of a program my father Ron was instrumental in implementing in Van Nuys in the late 70s, volunteer lawyers are also available to assist parties in finding mutually agreeable solutions before court. That mediation program was so successful that it was eventually implemented in most Southern California counties.

Another California twist on this case is Rocco’s age. With the enactment of Family Code Section 3042, Judges are now required to consider the custody preferences of a child over 14 years old when issuing a decision. Children under 14 can still express their preferences but the court can disregard them because the legal standard is “best interests of the child.” In California, if 15 year old Rocco said he wants to spend all his time touring with mom and hanging out with her groupies, the judge might not grant his wish. But the judge must explain in the ruling what their considerations were and how they affected the decision.

Hopefully Rocco’s parents take the judge’s recommendation to heart: a parenting plan they design is far more likely to fit with their lifestyles and values than anything a stranger in a robe can impose. Some Judges in Los Angeles won’t even make orders regarding holidays, instead warning the parents that if they cannot reach an agreement between themselves and counsel, the court will impose sanctions. At The Law Collaborative we strongly believe that parents know what is best for their children. Leaving it to a judge in a custody proceeding, or leaving it to a probate court when a parent dies is rarely “best” and always more expensive and destructive to the family. Siblings forced through probate sometimes never speak again.

Parents owe a duty to protect their children during divorce and avoid creating conflicts for them after death. Using mediation or Collaborative Law during divorce and preparing a proper estate plan can help avoid unnecessary drama, cost, and alienation. Please feel free to call me if you want to discuss anything in this article.

Ty Supancic works with his father Ron at The Law Collaborative to help families avoid crisis

Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
(818) 348-6700 F: (818) 348-0961

His Vision, Our Practice

15-11-04 His Vision, Our Practice

Recently, my father was interviewed about the AAML’s Child Centered Residential Guidelines, a comprehensive and insightful publication that addresses some of the most important issues in Family Law. I am proud of his endorsement of this material, and glad that the spotlight is shining on children’s issues. Ron’s interview was published on Reuters, Yahoo Finance, the Daily News, and over a hundred other media outlets, highlighting the importance of a value our firm was founded on: keeping people whole.

The publication encourages mindfulness and offers solutions that can reduce stress and tension that naturally accompany a very painful process. A recent documentary, Divorce Corp., highlights the common fear of losing everything you have to the legal system. The current legal system is mired in a “win/lose” model of dispute resolution, which entrenches parties deeper and deeper in confrontational posturing, ironically depleting the very assets they are fighting so hard to protect.

To what end does the constant fighting lead us? What toll does this have on the people involved? Having witnessed it first hand for over forty years, my father has championed Mediation and Collaborative Law as a remedy for this unnecessary destruction of families. The process of divorce may be the most traumatic experience someone goes through in their life, but in Collaborative Law and Mediation we have the tools to protect those who are embarking on this arduous journey.

I am proud to say that my father has been on the cutting edge of the conscious uncoupling movement. I am even prouder to say that he is not alone.

Thanks for reading,

Ty Supancic The Law Collaborative, APC
e: info@thelawcollaborative.com
t: 818-348-6700
f: 818-348-0961

Parenting the Infant: Birth through Six Months Old

14-05-15 Newsletter_Header_Experts_In_Court

A new family law attorney recently asked me what I would recommend for a challenging situation in which unmarried parents, who don’t get along, share custody of their infant.

First, it is not only necessary, but vital that parents and other family care-givers put aside any disagreements or ill-feelings while in the infant’s presence. People may believe that small children are not affected by emotional estrangement but, in fact, they are particularly vulnerable to tension and arguing between parents and other family members.

 • The State Bar encourages parents to protect their children from any form of adult conflict.

 Further, every child has the right to bond with both parents and should be given frequent contact with the non-residential parent.  This idea may be inconvenient, but contact with the non-residential parent in the early stages of infancy is just as important as when the child becomes older. This is because a sense of security with caregivers is one of the cornerstones for healthy development.

 • The State Bar recommends that every child have ample opportunity to bond with both parents.

 Infants learn to trust and love through developing attachments to those who care for them. Consistent responses from their caregivers in the day-to-day activities of feeding, changing, bathing, and holding foster this sense of security which is the foundation for later development. Parents who have participated in these routines are also more attuned to the child’s needs and are more able to soothe and comfort the child when distressed.

 When parents separate during a child’s early years, it is especially important for them to consider the patterns of caregiving prior to the separation when planning for custody. If one parent has been more involved in an infant’s care, the parents may wish to maintain that arrangement in the short term, but ensure that the other parent has frequent contact. Frequent contact may be defined as at least three non-consecutive days each week for a period of two hours each day.  If at all possible, time with the non-residential parent should aim at not disrupting the infant’s nap and feeding pattern.

 For families where both parents have been highly involved in the hands-on care of the child, these patterns of care should be maintained as much as possible and may include overnight time for the child in both parents’ homes.

 Maintaining a regular sleeping and feeding cycle in both homes will help the child feel more secure.  It is critical that an infant be afforded ample opportunity to maintain and develop reciprocal attachments to both parents through these measures. Infants and young children have not yet developed a sense of time so have a limited ability to recall persons not directly in front of them.  An infant should not be separated from either parent for long periods of time.

At some points, infants may show little resistance to transitions between caregivers, while at other points, they may cry or cling to the caregiver. These behaviors are typical and not necessarily indicative of problems in the relationship with either parent.

Your friend,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T:
 (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962 

Divorce Can be an Opportunity for Growth

divorce source

Thanks to Deborah Moskovitch for this great opportunity to tell the story of my own family divorce. I was just a little boy when it happened and it changed me forever.

“It’s Never Too Late to Have a Good Childhood” — with Deborah Moskovitch.

Rob, His Family, and the Tree

Protect your assets - prepare an estate plan

Most people contemplating divorce don’t consider the sad reality that one of the parties may die while going through the process. When this does happen it results in chaos for the survivors. I’ve witnessed this several times during my practice, but one of the most poignant was early in my law career. I represented a young man with three children who rode a motorcycle to work every night. Rob worked the night shift as a machine technician at a local trade school. He was responsible for the necessary cleaning and repair of the machines that were used each day by the teachers and students. During the day, Rob happily 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 was home at night while the kids were asleep, but spent that time entertaining various married boyfriends. During the day, she also had a very active social life. When the decision to divorce was made, she agreed that most of the property should be put in trust for the children, and that Rob would have physical custody. She also agreed to accommodate Rob’s work schedule by continuing to care for the children at night while they slept. But before we could finalize the divorce, Rob lost his life in a motorcycle accident on his way to work one night when he was cut off by a drunk driver and hit a tree.

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, or like we can predict our death. We deny the truth. Statistics show that only half the lawyers who are married and have children also have an estate plan! That’s among a population that should be most informed and knowledgeable about the need. I do not know the statistics for the general public, but I know 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.

Best wishes,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS

Is Flat Fee Divorce Even Possible?

 

Flat Fee Divorce

Most lawyers will tell you that it is impossible to do a divorce on a Flat Fee Basis. That is only true based on their inherent flawed assumptions. Those lawyers are assuming that there always has to be either two people, a husband and a wife, or four people, the parties and their attorneys involved in a divorce. Granted, it is virtually impossible to predict the outcome of a proceeding in a contested, adversarial process, when those factors are controlling the outcome.

What I am proposing, and the reason I can offer a Flat Fee Divorce, is because I have altered the essential equation. I am talking about a situation in which only three people are involved: (1) a husband, (2) a wife, and (3) a Neutral Attorney/Mediator who is negotiating and drafting a document congruent with an understanding arrived at by the parties, with the help of the divorce Mediator in which all the parties are in agreement.

Here at The Law Collaborative, we offer three Flat Fee Divorces Packages – $1,495, $3,495, and $5,495. Each is clear, precise, thorough, and accurate as to what is being offered. The Packages do not include the filing fee, which is currently $435.  Our most affordable package reflects the time it takes for a Paralegal to put together fully executed Agreement by the parties in which they have a complete agreement on Custody, Visitation, Support, allocation and apportionment of Assets and Debts. This does happen. However, it is infrequent. More likely there is going to be some conversations or discussions that may lead to two or three meetings. We call that the Mid-Range Flat Fee Divorce. Our high-End Flat Fee Divorce for $5,495 assumes there is going to be some difficulty, a few meetings, but the parties are willing to work together.

Working with this new set of assumptions, an Agreement can be reached within two to three meetings. If the parties are willing to accept the ultimate Mediator recommendations, it can go even faster. The reason this process works is that the Mediator works for neither party. The Mediator is a neutral who is facilitating and supporting an outcome. If anything, the neutral is representing the minor child or children.

This alters the equation in so basic and essential a manner, that it is possible to predict with some certainty the outcome. This is only possible, however, because the attorney, who is negotiating and drafting, is controlling the outcome subject the guidance, advice, and input of the parties. But the parties must accept their responsibility and participate in good faith. It cannot work unless the parties are willing to work. That is the key. The matter and the parties must be ripe. I have seen all too often the sad result where one or the other of the parties is not ready.

Lawyers must become proficient in assessing and addressing the parties in this crucial regard. Failure to do so can and will produce sorry results. Therein lies the challenge we all face. We must all become competent, skillful, experienced, knowledgeable, and masterful in the practice of our art. The law, after all, is an art, not a science.

Non-Communication Can Cost You

This is a risk of “traditional” divorce that doesn’t come up often. Traditional divorce doesn’t teach you to communicate with your ex spouse, but rather to have an adversarial relationship, where non-communication becomes the norm. If you think that’s fine, think about the following situation, involving two parents, two sets of lawyers, and one wise old judge.

The custodial parent moves and enrolls their child in a new school, but fails to communicate the details with the other parent, who comes to believe that the child would be walking home along dangerous, busy streets and coming home to an empty house. That parent files a temporary restraining order to prohibit the enrollment. The truth is that the custodial parent had in fact taken all concerns into account, and the child was at no risk. The non-custodial parent based their fears on hearsay, and the restraining order had no merit – so, after reviewing the evidence and the custodial agreement, the judge threw it out.

But, and this is a big one, he didn’t grant attorney’s fees to the custodial parent. Why not? The restraining order had no merit, after all. The judge decided that court was a poor substitute for a simple conversation. In effect, he punished the custodial parent, who was acting within their rights, for not pro-actively communicating with the other parent. Mediation or collaborative divorce can help avoid expensive and wasteful litigation not just at the time of the divorce, but years down the road.

On October 18th, The Law Collaborative is offering Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Divorce, a seminar that will provide tools for moving a stuck case forward, how to communicate effectively with a former spouse, tricks for negotiating even when negotiation seems impossible, and more. The workshop is $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Licensed attorneys who attend will earn 1 MCLE credit. Anyone contemplating or going through a divorce is invited to attend.

Register online at www.thelawcollaborative.com or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

$25 Divorce Workshop at The Law Collaborative

After much consideration, we have decided to try a new approach to the Second Saturday Divorce Workshop. We’re still offering tools, strategies, and information from three top divorce professionals, but the program is more compact and more affordable.

Join us Saturday, October 8, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at our office in Woodland Hills for a comprehensive workshop about the divorce process. Robert Borsky, Esquire, of The Law Collaborative will speak about the legal divorce, Pete Collins, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, will discuss important financial and tax issues that most people don’t know about, and James E. Walton, PhD will cover emotional agendas, how to help the kids, and how to deal with your ex. Breakfast is included.

The new rate for our two-hour Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is $25 in advance, $35 at the door. For more information or to register online now please visit www.thelawcollaborative.com/secondsaturday.htm or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

The Big Lie About Co-Parenting

photo by greekadman via PhotoRee

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, has written a compelling article for the Huffington Post about whether or not co-parenting is actually in the child’s best interests. This is something I think about whenever I hear fathers of breastfeeding infants demand equal parenting time. While I appreciate the desire to be an integral part of your child’s life, I can’t help but wonder how the father plans to breastfeed his infant during his custodial time.

The idea of co-parenting between ex-spouses who are able to treat each other with respect, communicate in a healthy and adult manner, and work together to raise their children is brilliant.But what about a four-month-old breastfeeding infant? Is it in that child’s best interest to spend 50% of the time with dad? Probably not. What if, during marriage, Dad was responsible for 75% of child care while Mom worked full time and supported the family? Does it make sense, in the wake of major life changes (such as one’s parents divorcing) for the children to suddenly find themselves in Mom’s care 50% of the time? I can’t answer that question because it really depends on the child, the child’s age, the parents and their relationship after the divorce. From the article:

My personal bias is to try to roughly match initial visiting and custody arrangements with each parent’s level of parenting experience. For example, if reality shows that one parent has had 75 percent of the parenting experience described in the above questionnaire, while the other has had only 25 percent, after the divorce children should divide their time between the parents in roughly the same proportions, at least initially. Such an arrangement can easily be written into a divorce agreement, which might place a time limit on the 75/25 split.

Over time the less experienced parent should be given opportunities to “catch up” in the day-to-day parenting; for example, by taking the child or children to pediatrician appointments, by cooking family meals, and by supervising bedtime preparation. Then, as the less experienced parent begins to catch up, living schedules can gradually move toward a true fifty-fifty split. This gradual increase avoids making the child or children anxious and avoids having to separate a great deal from the parent who early had done most of the parenting.

What do you think? Would co-parenting work in your family? Have you tried it and had success? Or have you tried it and discovered that it’s not all its cracked up to be? Read the rest of the article here and share your opinion – we want to know what you think.

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