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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.

Second Saturday Divorce Workshop

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We are once again offering our monthly FREE Second Saturday Divorce Workshop. This is a free community event designed to help individuals and couples who are thinking about filing for or in the middle of a divorce.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce, thinking about divorce, or is faced with other family law issues, I invite you to join us Saturday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at my office in Woodland Hills for a round table discussion providing information and guidance. Learn about the 7 options for divorce, how to communicate with your ex effectively to achieve goals that are consistent with your interests, and how to restructure your family in a healthy and positive way.

As a California Bar Certified Family Law Specialist, one of my goals is to help clients achieve a successful divorce. It may seem like the words “successful” and “divorce” contradict themselves, but they do not. Experience and academic studies have helped us identify the basic elements of a successful divorce. “Successful,” as used here, means to complete the process of emotional separation, establish a new center of balance as a single person, maintain the welfare of your children, and develop healthy attitudes toward yourself, your ex-spouse, and your past marriage.

As in life itself, absence of conflict is not part of a successful divorce. A degree of anger and conflict is natural, useful, and constructive. It helps break the bonds of attachment, stimulates reflection, and enables change. (Excessive and destructive conflict, however, requires special treatment – usually the intervention of divorce coaches).

I ask clients to try to view their “ex” as a problem-solving partner. It is helpful to consider the ‘ex’ as someone who can actively and constructively participate in resolving the issues created by the separation. The closer the parties come to mutuality and balance, the healthier it will be for them and their family.

If you would like to attend this free family law workshop, please RSVP by calling (818) 348-6700. I encourage you to forward this invitation to your friends, family, and colleagues.

Best wishes,
Ron Supancic, CFLS

When Stars Collide

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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

Khloe and Lamar: Dangerous Oversight

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Thankfully, Lamar Odom appears to be making a complete recovery after being found unconscious at Love Ranch outside of Pahrump, Nevada. But for a time his condition was precarious and the outlook for recovery grim. Although Odom and Khloe Kardashian had filed for divorce in 2013, they had not finalized the matter and are still legally married. Furthermore, it appears that Odom had not executed a new Healthcare Power of Attorney which meant that doctors had to look to Kardashian for direction regarding his medical treatment.

If they thought about it, my guess is that most people would not want their soon-to-be-ex making life and death decisions about their medical treatment. But most people don’t think about it.

I meet with people all the time who are in the midst of a divorce that’s spiraling out of control. They’ve spent thousands of dollars fighting in court and are desperately looking for a way to stop the bleeding, so they come to our office for help. Mediation and Collaborative Law offer a solution to the insanity of court costs and legal fees.

When I meet with these people, one of the questions I ask is, “Who holds your Healthcare Power of Attorney?” This question is often met with a blank stare.

“What do you mean?”

I repeat my question a different way: “If you were in the hospital and could not speak for yourself, who would the doctor turn to for guidance?”

“My parents?” is a common response.

“Great,” I respond, “so you’ve got a signed Healthcare Power of Attorney naming your parents?”

“No,” is the usual answer.

“Well in that case, your soon-to-be-ex has that power. And if you don’t have an interim Estate Plan, they’ll also inherit your share of the property. Is that okay with you?”

Healthcare Powers of Attorney are an important part of any complete Estate Plan, but Estate Plans need to be kept current, and during a divorce, interim planning is critical. But just as people put off Estate Planning, they put off interim planning as well.

If your Estate Plan is out-of-date, update it now. If you don’t have an Estate Plan, get one right away, but don’t do it “on the cheap.” I recently got a sad call from the long-time companion of an elderly gentleman who’d passed. He’d used an online “trust mill” to draft an Estate Plan. His intentions were that his companion could stay in the house for the rest of her life and after she passed, everything would go to his kids. By saving money on a cheap plan, he inadvertently bypassed her and she got nothing.

For Lamar Odom, things seem to have worked out okay. Others are not that lucky. If you’re going through a divorce, talk to your attorney about interim Estate Planning. If you’re going through the “divorce from hell” talk to a Mediator or Collaborative Attorney about putting an end to the madness.

Thanks for reading,

Ty Supancic
Ty@thelawcollaborative.com
T: 818-348-6700
F: 818-348-6700

Bennifer 2.0: In the (Dog) Guest House

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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 

What Everyone Seems to Forget

14-09-11 WhatEveryoneSeemstoForget

When moving into a new home, always check the smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. You just bought a new house, make sure it doesn’t burn down.  This makes good sense.  But after a divorce, it seems most people would rather just be done than take the next step to protect their newly acquired separate property.

No one would embark on a long trip to a new land without making some necessary arrangements. Yet people regularly move into a new life as a single person without the necessary planning to ensure that loved ones and property are protected as they intended, and that their affairs are taken care of if they become incapacitated or die.

Fact: everyone over the age of 18 needs an estate plan. Yet it becomes even more pressing when one is newly divorced.  After a divorce, our Estate Planning attorney will review assets to ensure that title has been updated and is held properly, that account beneficiaries reflect the newly-single person’s wishes, and that children are protected from future step-parents.

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

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

The great thing about Estate Planning is, if you’re still fortunate enough to reading about it or thinking about it, it’s not too late to act on it.  Don’t leave your loved ones in the position of having to call my office to ask if we can “fix” things: “Mom died without a will,” or “Dad said, ‘Everything’s taken care of!’ but we can’t find his estate plan.”  Attend to your estate now, and leave your loved ones the best legacy possible. A legacy you plan, not the default that will enrich tax collectors, bill collectors, and will surely divide families as they fight over “What mom would have wanted.”

Your friend,

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