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Fighting Fair

Ty Supancic, Esq.

Everyone disagrees sometimes. In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. Healthy relationships do not avoid conflict, but use it to clear the air productively, without hurt feelings. Here are fourteen rules for fighting fair:

1. Take Responsibility. It may take two to argue, but it only takes one to end a conflict. Make a commitment to never intentionally harm your partner’s feelings.

2. Don’t escalate. The most important commitment you will make to fair fighting is to overcome any desire to speak or act hurtfully.

3. Use “I” speech. When we use “you” speech, it is often perceived as accusatory. Instead, talk about your own feelings: “I feel hurt when I hear ______.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4. Learn to use “time outs”. Agree that if hurtful speech or actions continue, either party may call a time out. The three elements to a successful time out are: 1.) Use “I” speech to take responsibility, such as, “I don’t want to get angry.” 2.) Say what you need: “I need to take a walk to clear my head.” 3.) Set a time limit: “I’ll be back in 15 minutes to finish our talk.” These steps will keep either of you from feeling abandoned.

5. Avoid and defend against hurtful speech. This includes name-calling, swearing, sarcasm, shouting, or any verbal hostility or intimidation. Agree to a key phrase that indicates hurt feelings, such as “That’s below the belt.”

6. Stay calm. Don’t overreact. Behave with calm respect and your partner will be more likely to consider your viewpoint.

7. Use words, not actions. When feelings run high, even innocent actions like hitting a tabletop may be misinterpreted. Use “I” speech to explain your feelings instead.

8. Be specific. Use concrete examples (who, what, when, where) for your objections.

9. Discuss only one issue at a time. If you find yourself saying, “And another thing….,” stop.

10. Avoid generalizations like “never” or “always”. Use specific examples.

11. Don’t exaggerate. Exaggerating only prevents discussions about the real issue. Stick with facts and honest feelings.

12. Don’t wait. Try to deal with problems as they arise — before hurt feelings have a chance to grow.

13. Don’t clam up. When one person becomes silent and stops responding, anger may build. Positive results are attained with two-way communication.

14. Agree to these ground rules.

Remember, when you both agree to common rules, resolving conflict is more likely. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to fight fair, we simply can’t resolve a conflict. When this happens, talks with a trained professional may help. We are always available to assist you when you are unable to reach a resolution you can both live with.

The family law lawyers at The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles, are dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families. Remember: We host a FREE family law workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is this Saturday, Sept. 9 from 10AM to 12PM. Call (818) 348-6700 to RSVP.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC

 

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
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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.

Marriage Insurance

Ty Supancic

Most people understand the reason for insurance. We spend huge chunks of income each year on life, fire, and medical insurance, and newer types of insurance such as long term care. Consider viewing a Prenuptial (or Premarital) Agreement in the same way, as a kind of insurance policy. Why?

Parties facing divorce who have such agreements in place and abide by them, have helped to insure themselves against conflict, sky-high legal bills, and dissipation of valuable assets.

Who might need a Prenuptial Agreement (PNA)? Interestingly, it is not just people with large incomes or those who own several properties. If either of the parties about to be married have been married before, or if either of the parties have children by other relationships, a PNA is a necessity. If one of the parties owns a home, business, or a financial portfolio – in other words, if that person’s monetary resources considerably outweigh those of the other, a PNA is essential.

Once a couple has decided that they would like to make their relationship permanent, a discussion of finances becomes crucial. This is often difficult. Money is usually a sensitive issue in relationships and many times partners have divergent views.

Clear understanding and agreement should be reached on the management and disposition of all real estate, income streams, deferred benefits, and all other assets whether separate or community.

There are several key points to keep in mind. First of all, the agreement must be deliberately conceived and completely voluntary. Full disclosure of all assets and debits is required. It must be drawn up to give each party adequate time to carefully review. It is important that the agreement be just and fair-minded in order to insure that it will not be overturned in a legal challenge. To be safe, it is a good idea to video record the execution ceremony as evidence that it was signed voluntarily by competent parties.

At The Law Collaborative we help mediate, negotiate, and review Prenuptial Agreements and Post-Nuptial Agreements. Call us for more information or visit the relationship planning section of our website.

And don’t forget! Our Second Saturday Family Law & Divorce Workshop is coming up on Saturday, May 13 from 10AM to 12PM. To RSVP, call (818)348-6700.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC

5955 De Soto Avenue, Suite 125

Woodland Hills, CA 91367

T: (818)348-6700

F: (818)348-0961

info@thelawcollaborative.com

www.thelawcollaborative.com

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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

An Important California Family Law Update

RON NEWSLETTER (1)

Beyond brilliant! Amazing! That was my reaction to the presentation of the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis at the 88th annual California Bar Convention in Anaheim. In his talk, “Domestic Violence in the New Era”, Judge Lewis introduced to California lawyers the idea of “coercive conduct” as an appropriate expansion of domestic violence and spousal abuse. He pointed out that Family Code section 6320 expands the definition of spousal abuse to include activity such as: stalking, digital harassment, and any other pattern of deliberate conduct intended to harm, frighten, irritate, or upset the intended victim of said abuse. Such conduct need not be recent or physical. All that is required is that as a result of the conduct, the victim is in reasonable fear of his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member. Contact is considered a credible threat if delivered by electronic means, such as cell phones, computers, video recorders, or fax machines. Under California Civil Code 1708.7 a perpetrator is potentially liable to the victim for general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.

This is a far cry from days of past, when you had to show police blood to get any relief at all. The law has made significant strides in the direction of reducing and eliminating spousal abuse in recent years. Judge Lewis admonished lawyers to download from the Internet the “Power and Control” wheel, which depicts the progressive stages of domestic violence that begin with coercive control, move into threats and intimidation, emotional and financial abuse, and ultimately ends with physical violence that can result in death. Enactment of the federal Violence Against Women Act makes clear this is an issue of national concern rising above mere local interests. Under current law, the occurrence of domestic violence and spousal abuse now has far reaching consequences including competency for co-parenting and liability for expanded support obligations for both the other party and the minor children.

It is more important than ever for lawyers to become familiar with the differences in the levels of domestic violence and spousal abuse in their cases. It has been the case for some time that abuse of a parent in the presence of a minor constitutes child abuse, per se. Most parents in high-conflict divorces are all too often oblivious to the irreparable harm caused to their children by their unconscionable behaviors.

Huge kudos to Judge Lewis for this brilliant and timely presentation.

Warm Regards,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
e: info@thelawcollaborative.com
t: 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

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

Workplace Conflict Solutions

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On Thursday, July 9th, the Sovereign Health Group in Culver City hosted an introductory workshop to Workplace Conflict Solutions. This workshop has been developed over the past decade by the conflict professionals at the Law Collaborative. The assembled mental health professionals gathered enthusiastically to learn more about conflict resolution strategies, tactics, and techniques for conflict avoidance and dispute resolution through the application of imaginative and creative tools developed and designed for the specific needs of family oriented businesses.

The Law Collaborative primarily handles family law and divorce, and the tools we’ve developed in an effort to settle these sometimes high conflict cases are extremely effective. The trials and tribulations so familiar to family settings are no stranger to the TLC team. Communication errors are common. Misunderstanding seems to be a normal part of every day life. So what do we do? How do we manage the emotional meltdown in a way that lessens loss and maintains productivity? The purpose of the workshop is to teach those skills and provide those essential tools. What do you do when there is a meltdown? What do you do to prevent a meltdown? How do you handle conflict, combat, and competition in the work place?

These are very important questions that are discussed and answered in the 90 minute workshop I gave at Sovereign Health. Please contact me if you think this workshop would benefit your company. I’d be honored to present to your staff, co-workers, and colleagues.

Very truly yours,

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