Twitter Facebook Myspace

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

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
“Like” us on www.facebook.com/thelawcollaborative
Follow us on www.twitter.com/TLC_Law

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.

Bennifer 2.0: In the (Dog) Guest House

Newsletter_Header_Bennifer

After 10 years of marriage, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are calling it quits. Ben isn’t exactly moving into a dog house however; reportedly he’s moving into a guest house on their property.

Thankfully, Bennifer are part of the current movement dubbed “Conscious Uncoupling” which is less destructive and less expensive than old-fashioned litigation. Reportedly, they’re going to mediate or utilize the Collaborative Law Model wherein the attorneys are barred from going to court. They could literally save millions in unnecessary legal fees by avoiding court.

If Ben and Jen are able to keep their cool and stay in a consensual dispute resolution model, they will not be subject to a judge’s scrutiny of Ben’s new living arrangements which nicely illustrate one of the biggest changes to hit California Family Law in decades.

First some background: Almost everything a couple acquires from the date they’re married to their “Date of Separation” is community property. So if forced to divide that property in court, each party gets half.

On the other hand, everything a party acquires prior to marriage and after their “Date of Separation” is their separate property. So in a divorce you’re supposed to get half of the community property and all of your separate property.

Because the Date of Separation cuts off property sharing rights, it can be very important when parties have significantly different earnings or are separated for an extended period of time. Years of earnings you thought would not be shared might end up being shared based on what a judge determines to be the “Date of Separation.”

For many years now in California, if both Parties thought they were separated, and acted like they were separated, the court would generally find they were separated. If the parties couldn’t agree to the date they separated, they could present the court with evidence to prove their state of mind. This could include separating their finances, or telling friends and family they were separated, or moving out. But there was no consistency. Instead, judges would weigh evidence on a case-by-case basis.

There have been cases where a husband moved into the guest house but the judge found the couple were still married because the wife continued to do his laundry. In other cases, couples could continue to share a house for the kids or to save money, but the judge found other evidence that proved they were separated.

But the Appellate Court’s finding in July’s Marriage of Davis now requires that somebody move out in order to establish a Date of Separation. So in a case where a couple have moved into separate rooms even if they separated their finances and told people they were separated, the judge could determine they’re still together. The Appellate Court was not clear on whether or not moving into a guest house on the same property will suffice, but if Ben and Jennifer can avoid court and settle things between themselves and their attorneys, it won’t matter.

Couples who mediate or collaborate can agree to things no judge can order. And they can save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Thanks for reading,

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

The Kardashian Quandary

Kardashian

Kim JUST married Kanye but divorce rumors are already in the air. How long will it last? In case you’d already forgotten, her last marriage to Kris Humphries lasted just 72 days.

While we’ll never know if Kim and Kris truly believed their marriage would last till death parted them, here’s what we do know: They were engaged within seven months of their first date. Their engagement lasted about three months. The wedding spectacle cost other people $20,000,000 (donations and sponsors) and the couple were paid $17,900,000 for their participation in the gala.

Their divorce took nearly 18 months (more than seven times longer than they were married) and they probably spent over $400,000 on lawyers. The waste of court time and the cost to California taxpayers who were denied justice while Kim and Kris posed for the press cannot be overstated. Remember, judges and clerks don’t work for free and California has recently faced some of the worst judicial budget cuts in decades.

The reality is, the end of Kim and Kris’s dalliance didn’t have to cost taxpayers a penny: The couple executed a prenuptial agreement and the couple could’ve afforded wise counsel. In the landmark case involving the ownership of the Dodgers Franchise, the McCourts had a prenuptial agreement and it wasn’t quite that simple for them either.

People simply don’t know that other methods, such as mediation or Collaborative Law (think of mediation on steroids), exist. And attorneys entrenched in the model of costly (and profitable) litigation have billion$ of reasons to fight in public. The right attorneys can keep a litigated case going as long as it takes to drain the estate of every asset. Why give that up?

The Law Collaborative has a better way which provides for a lower-cost, less destructive divorce. Mediation and Collaborative Law put control in the hands of the parties, and limits the attorneys (if any) to an advisory role. Parties control the fees, not lawyers trying to pay their rent.

Watch Happy and Healthy Magazine for future articles about Mediation and Collaborative Law.

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

How Much Will It Cost?

14-11-05 How-Much-Will-It-Cost

There are no short cuts to divorce in California, but if you’re looking for a quick and affordable divorce, The Law Collaborative can help.  Through over 40 years of experience in this field, we have found that, for all the similarity between divorce cases (the courts require the same basic pleadings in every matter), there are more differences. Human nature, and the varying needs of two different parties seeking to reorganizing their lives ensures these differences.

Trying to squeeze a round divorce into a square hole inadvertently but too-often raises issues which couples in crisis should not have to face.  We pride ourselves on providing personalized service, designed to empower our clients and their families in taking control of their destiny.

When people ask “how much will this divorce cost,” we always ask, “How much of your resources do you want to spend on it?”  This is a key question.  At The Law Collaborative, we unbundle our legal services. This is akin to ordering à la carte in a restaurant.  If you want a lawyer to handle everything, Perry Mason style?  We’re happy to do so and will quote a fee based on your individual circumstances and goals. If you need a pleading to be prepared, we will quote a fee. If you only need a document reviewed, we will quote a fee.  If you use fewer services than anticipated, we refund your unused fees.

Every day, with every case, we reaffirm of our firm values and the mission statement of The Law Collaborative: Bringing peace to the legal process by empowering individuals and families in taking control of their destiny by choosing their own outcome whenever possible.

Your friend,

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

May I Serve You Some Crow with Your Ice Cream?

Newsletter_Header_No_Court_Divorce

 

A friend of mine recently came to me seeking help with his divorce and it brought back a case I handled previously. I told him the following story and I thought you might enjoy hearing it:

Over her 20-year marriage, my client and her husband had made a very profitable living by building, staffing, and opening ice cream parlors. Then she discovered that he had been “cooking the books.” While investigating this upsetting fact, she found out something else. He was having an affair with one of their store managers. She had been hurt and betrayed on two counts. Fortunately, she came to see me before she confronted her husband about either issue.

I put my client in contact with several therapists, so that she could deal with the very challenging emotional issues, and I addressed her financial dilemma. She revealed that her husband had kept two sets of books. One set recorded actual profits, and proved that the business was quite successful. The other set of books told an entirely different story. This was the set he had shared with the IRS. I explained that thorough copies of those handwritten books had to be made, and quickly, because if the IRS were to declare an audit, those records would disappear.

We used a team of investigators with portable copy machines, and the process took over six months. All of the books from each store were successfully copied, proving that each store made huge profits. Then we filed for the divorce, and served her husband.

Several days later, I got a call from the partner of a Beverly Hills law firm. I listened while the lawyer went on about his client’s lousy ice cream business, terrible financial situation, and desperate straits. He said that his poor client was barely one step from bankruptcy. I listened patiently to the entire horror story, then asked him if he had anything more to add. He said no, “except I need to tell you that you’re wasting your time, there’s no money in this case. There is nothing for your client but a big fat zero.”

I explained that I knew something he didn’t know. I knew that his client kept two sets of books.

I knew that ‘the failing business’ appeared on the set of the books used to file tax returns. The other was the set that his client would never show him. It was the legitimate set that proved the exact opposite, that the business was extremely profitable. It was the set that would predictably disappear in the event of an IRS audit. I explained that my clever client had made copies of both sets of books. Further, I told him to make his client aware that the accurate set of books would be the basis for any settlement terms. There was a lengthy pause on the other end of the phone. Then the Beverly Hills lawyer said, “I’ll get back to you.”

He did, and the four of us met. We were able to settle amicably and confidentially, in a way that was very fair and generous to my client. The PS to this story is that some time later, after the divorce was final, my client hit the Lotto for two million dollars. She telephoned her ex and sweetly asked, “May I Serve you some Crow with your Ice Cream?”

P.S. We’ve been giving free divorce workshops twice a month in an effort to give back to the community and have had tremendous feedback. Feel free to respond to this email if you’d like more info about our free workshops.

Your friend,
Ron Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: (818)348-6700
F: (818)348-0961

The Impact of Collaborative Law

1010949_3286021085191_699260867_n[1]
I’m honored to be featured as the lead author in this great series published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw. If you want to learn about the early history and beginnings of Collaborative Practice, this is a must read! My gratitude goes out to Isabel Kunkle for her foresight and vision in putting together this important compendium.

Disengage from Conflict

Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama was asked what human trait he found to be most baffling.  He replied that he was mystified that Man, “sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV

 
That is an accurate description of Man as Machine. Humankind, as programmed by media, by upbringing, by circumstance, to strive rather than to abide. This is the way that most of us live. It’s what war is all about, and progress too. What a conundrum. Where does consciousness fit in to our lives, so that we may make peace instead of war, and make progress as well?
Let’s start with the psychological term, ‘projection.’ A wise man explained to me that projection is when we see our own mostly negative qualities, problematic issues, or challenges in another person. It’s called Projection, “because it’s like having a light on your forehead that shines” our own injurious, unmindful material, onto that other person. Then we feel angry or hurt, and blame that person for causing our pain. Our projection does not come from anything that person may have done – it comes from us, from our own unconscious. When we are in the grip of projection, we refuse to take responsibility for our own ‘stuff.’

Projection is, unfortunately, alive and well before, during and after divorce. Projection can even cause divorce. How is this possible? Projection interferes with relationships because, when it occurs, it is impossible for the person in it’s thrall to take responsibility for owning the negative material. We cannot claim to be conscious, and ‘adult,’ while refusing to take responsibility for Projection.

This month, l am going to try an experiment. On a daily basis, when a conflict arises, I am going to attempt to keep my projections at bay, to disengage them from play. If I find myself judging, suspecting or accusing another person, instead of voicing that negative and giving it life, I am going to ask myself how that negative might apply directly to me – what does such a thought have to say about my own motives? If I am judging another as greedy, am I myself actually feeling avaricious, or miserly, grudging or impoverished or jealous? Will I then take responsibility for that feeling and own my responses to it? That is probably the most important and challenging part of the experiment. Admitting fault, even to ourselves, makes us feel vulnerable and unmoored, but more importantly, it exposes the conflict for what it is and enables resolution.

If you decide to join my experiment, please let me know.

 

The Blame Game

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The Blame Game.” It’s very easy for most of us to play. We’ve been programmed to play it since childhood. “He did it!” “She did it first!” “It’s your fault!” Finger-pointing is so simple when we’ve been disappointed. If a situation has not gone our way, and we find ourselves feeling ‘wronged,’ we can usually find someone else to blame. However, blaming is generally not helpful, and may even be perceived as abusive. In fact, it is an attitude that will easily embitter any relationship. This is because any relief the Blamer may experience from taking a blaming position will usually be more than matched by the bitterness, anger and guilt that the ‘Blame-ee’ will feel.

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to communicate disappointment without accusations or ‘dumping,’ even when we have been legitimately wronged. If someone has caused or contributed to a difficult situation, the transgression must be discussed. Instead of accusing or blaming, try resolving. In other words, focus on a future preventative solution. “I understand that you did not purposely (drop the ball, blow the account, insult the client), so, if we find ourselves in this situation again, I’d like you to _(fill in the blank)_.” If a colleague has messed up, frame your response in terms of, “should this happen again, here is an alternative way to handle it.”

It’s OK if the other person feels badly because of what he or she did or did not do, but it’s not OK to hurt or humiliate them with your words or attitude. If you use this new approach, your relationship is less likely to be damaged by the conflict and may even improve. The other person will probably breathe a sigh of relief, and thank you (silently) for not chewing him or her out, and most people will appreciate getting a second chance. Try it. Let me know how it goes. Let’s keep this conversation alive. We can all be more collaborative.”