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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If your Estate Plan is out-of-date, update it now.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
T: 818-348-6700
F: 818-348-6700

Bennifer 2.0: In the (Dog) Guest House


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
t: 818-348-6700
f: 818-348-0961

The Kardashian Quandary


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
t: 818-348-6700
f: 818-348-0961

How Much Will It Cost?

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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

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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 

Divorce Court: What the Judge Wants to See and Hear

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Recently my son and fellow attorney, Ty, accompanied me to a dinner hosted by CPA firm White, Zuckerman, Warzavsky, Luna, Wolf, and Hunt, where the Honorable Judge Lloyd C. Loomis was the guest of honor.  Judge Loomis shared his “Do’s and Don’ts” for clients and lawyers; in other words, What the Judge Wants to See and Hear.  Whether you are an attorney, client, or other professional, I believe this will be a valuable read:

In court, deadlines are of the essence.  The party who has filed timely obtains a distinct advantage in the courtroom.  Clients sometimes put off filling out Income and Expense declarations; there are very good reasons why your lawyer asks you to fill out forms, and the sooner, the better.  Also, honesty is absolutely necessary. 

Judge Loomis suggests that lawyers can do a better job of educating their clients about what to expect when they appear in court.  In his experience, it is not unusual for the parties to seem confused and frustrated by the process.  Such feelings are natural when parties are under stress, but having information will make the process easier.  If you have questions about court, ask your lawyer.  They will be happy to answer them.  What exactly is a ‘Meet and Confer?’  Judge Loomis finds that it’s something many lawyers ignore, and many parties object to.  Meet and Confer provisions are part of the Code of Civil Procedure.  Before appearing in court, lawyers and parties ought to meet and confer with each other in a sincere effort to settle matters.  Failing to meet and confer in good faith inevitably leads to a waste of time and legal fees.

When dealing with child custody, Judge Loomis puts the well-being of children first. He wants to see co-parenting plans that emphasize frequency and regularity of visits for both parents, and he believes it is healthier for siblings to stay together rather than be split between parents.  He appreciates custody plans that plan ahead; too often the plans seem designed only to solve an immediate problem and not to address changes and challenges that may appear in the years ahead.

Most importantly, civility, between lawyers and between parties, is important in court.  Some clients wonder why their lawyers are being friendly and polite to each other and to opposing party.  The California State Bar “Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism” require this behavior, and so does our society.  Judge Loomis wants to see those rules followed in his courtroom.  In a divorce case, a lawyer who observes these rules sets an example for those he deals with.  Face it, as a society, we need more civility.  If you’re curious, the Guidelines can be found in the “Civility Toolbox” in the Ethics section of the State Bar Website.

Your friend,

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

New Ideas For Old Holiday Traditions



Like a devastating fire, divorce is usually tragic. But good can rise from the ashes. I am not a child of divorce; my parents have been married for over 50 years. But growing up, my family had two Christmas traditions: We celebrated Christmas Eve with my mother’s family because that’s what they “always” did, and we celebrated Christmas Day with my father’s family, as he had growing up. The compromise worked out to benefit all.

I cherish my Christmas traditions, but the truth is they were made up. They only became traditions because we repeated them.

When child custody comes up in my work with divorcing couples, this is one of my first questions: Do the parents have new family traditions they can adopt for their children going forward? Alternate custody is often the court’s solution, and seems to create a “loser” out of one parent each year. Since the couple is permanently reorganizing their family, I propose that divorcing parents consider starting new traditions. This idea can make the holidays even more joyful.

Hanukkah has eight nights. Parents might choose to alternate their evening celebrations. If Christmas is celebrated, rather than yearly alternating holidays, couples have the opportunity to create a new tradition: The children can look forward to spending every Christmas Eve with one parent’s family and every Christmas Day with the other parent’s family. This eliminates the holiday “loser.”

These new traditions will be cherished by the children if the parents embrace them. Perhaps they’ll have to flip a coin to see who gets what, but once they start observing the new tradition, the children will never experience a year where they wish they were with the other parent during a particular holiday.

Happy Holidays,
Ty Supancic and all of us at The Law Collaborative
The Law Collaborative, APC

Sometimes We Have No Choice – Litigation…

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Although our firm is known for peacemaking through mediation and Collaborative Law, it is important for colleagues and friends to be aware that, as experts in Family Law for over forty years, when necessary, we practice traditional cutthroat litigation. The following is an interesting story about dealing with people who consider themselves above the law.

After 28 years of marriage and 12 children, Mr. X decided to leave his wife. Quietly and covertly, he began to move the in-house technology of his community property-owned business to Puerto Rico. He had decided to rebuild his business there, with much cheaper labor, and eventually leave behind his wife and the four minor children still at home. He would also leave to his wife several hundred thousand dollars in accumulated IRS debt, a rented house, and no assets.

He traveled back and forth from California to Puerto Rico for several years. During his trips, he obtained a face lift and then a penile implant. Also a twenty year old girlfriend.

When his wife came to me, she was devastated. She presented the whole sordid story and the sad fact that most, if not all, of the community property assets had already been moved offshore. I explained that we needed to act immediately to access the computer in the community-property owned business office in order to download all of the information regarding the moving of assets and any assets remaining. As his wife, my client had an absolute right to access the business, which was created during the marriage.
She was half owner of the business and had worked in the business as its bookkeeper for many years.

Over a six-week period, our team went into the office at night to access and download all of the computer information. Thus we obtained a complete record of meetings he had had with various attorneys who were advising him about offshore trusts, tax avoidance, and tax fraud. There were even letters from these attorneys, advising that he not do the illegal things he’d proposed. Yet it was clear that he had, in fact, subsequently done them.

Fortunately, when we filed our papers, we had the information that we needed to make it very clear to the courts exactly what he was up to. We were able to effectively remove the business from his control, allowing my client to keep it as well as the remaining cash flow, and vast sums of cash her husband had hoarded and tucked away in a safe.

Food for thought!

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

May I Serve You Some Crow with Your Ice Cream?



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

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.