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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 

The Kardashian Quandary

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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

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for a Little “Me” Time

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My Legal Assistant and Paralegal, Courtney M. Howard, recently became a Certified Life Coach.  Seeing the pain and stress our firm’s clients go through on a daily basis, she felt it was important to pass on some tips for mindfulness and other coping skills that can help anyone not only get through the hard times, but to find peace and thrive.  In the article below, she explores the important practices of self-care and mindfulness.
– Ronald M. Supancic, CFLSIt is easy to get caught up in the stress of day-to-day life, especially if you are going through an emotional time such as a divorce, a child custody battle, or the loss of a loved one.  It is imperative to take time for yourself and practice self-care.  For some, that might mean doing fifteen minutes of yoga in the morning, cooking yourself a nice meal, reading a chapter of your favorite book before bed, or even just taking three minutes to listen to your favorite song.

Whether or not you have children, it is important to take time for yourself.  This is not selfish!  It is not overindulgence!  You cannot adequately take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.  It is not sustainable, as you will end up unhealthy (mind and/or body), imbalanced, and resentful.

While you are at work or taking care of your kids, you might find yourself getting overwhelmed.  Mindfulness is a great tool to bring your awareness to the present, keep things in perspective, and refocus.  This short exercise can be used anywhere, including during that stressful meeting, at the playground, or while dealing with high conflict personalities.

S-T-O-P
Stop what you are doing;
Take a few deep breaths (focus on the oxygen going in and out of your body);
Observe what is going on (what are you doing, thinking, feeling, etc.); and
Proceed with your day (with a more mindful sense of awareness).

Though we all know the old adage, “This too shall pass,” that often doesn’t provide much comfort in the moment when we are upset, stressed, or spread too thin.  However, self-care, mindfulness, and similar coping skills will help you focus on the present, gain perspective, and release the negative energy that has been building so you can move forward to tackle the issue at hand.

 

Courtney M. Howard, Paralegal
The Law Collaborative, APC
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: 818-348-6700 F: 818-348-0961

Are Your Legal Affairs in Order for the New Year?

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A friend recently and unexpectedly died.  His wife had asked him many times if he had written down his last wishes.  He assured her that he had, but they never discussed where he kept this document.  It has been several months since his death and the document he claimed to have written has not been found.  Neither his accountant or business manager had a copy.  Drawers, books, computers, and the safety deposit box were searched without luck.  As a result, his estate was sent to Probate which has caused unnecessary delays, added legal fees, and unnecessary taxes.  That was not what he wanted.

Have you expressed your last wishes clearly?  Are these intentions written down?  Where do you keep your Health Care directives and your Estate Planning documents?  Where do you keep your Will?  Where do you keep your Passwords?  Do you have a single place in which you store all your vital information?  Does your spouse or executor know where this is? 

Now is a good time to make sure these steps have been taken; review your Estate Plan, update your information, notify your heirs of your wishes.  If you haven’t completed these tasks, call us today. 

For the remainder of this month, The Law Collaborative is offering a free, 30-minute consultation as a way of helping you move forward with handling these important affairs. Feel free to call us directly and schedule your appointment.

Your friend,

 

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

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 

The Ray Rice Effect

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My Legal Assistant and newly certified Family Law Paralegal, Courtney M. Howard, took a 40-hour domestic violence training earlier this year to become a certified advocate.  In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she felt this was a particularly poignant time for our firm to speak out on the current events surrounding this topic.  In the article below, she examines The Ray Rice Effect, particularly how easy it is for us to re-victimize survivors by blaming them instead of the perpetrators and thereby perpetuating the cycle of violence.  Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS

 

By now, most of us know of the elevator incident in which the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice knocked out his fiancé, Janay Palmer.  While the incident occurred in February, it did not become big news until the video from inside the elevator emerged in recent weeks and horrified the nation.  Unfortunately, the lack of social understanding of domestic violence has led many to blame Palmer for the incident.  She has received further criticism for having married Rice, the father of her two-year-old daughter, one month after the incident (and the day after he was indicted on criminal charges, which were later dropped).  In a press conference, Palmer even apologized for her role in the incident.

 

Though some have taken this opportunity to inform the public on the issue of domestic violence, others have wrongly heaped shame and blame on Palmer.  This puts the negative focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator, and is one of the many reasons domestic violence victims are hesitant to report abuse.  This is likely one of the reasons Palmer felt the need to apologize for the incident, which only led to further criticism from the media.

Despite common beliefs, the typical perpetrator of domestic violence is not a sick sociopath.  These beliefs allow people to distance themselves from the idea of domestic violence but, in reality, perpetrators are seemingly normal and often so intelligent and manipulative that they are easily able to fool society.  This is why anger management rarely works as a treatment, though it is often used by the court system.  Batterers are people who purposely use power/control in their relationship.  They do not necessarily have anger issues. 

Obtaining a Domestic Violence Restraining Order does not require a court fee, but you must be able to prove abuse or imminent threat in a domestic violence situation.  Whether survivors are issued an order or not, it is imperative that they come up with a safety plan.

While restraining orders hardly guarantee survivors their safety, there are many reasons why they are still beneficial.  Some abusers are afraid of the law, so a restraining order will be very effective.  For other abusers, it might have the opposite effect.  It is ultimately up to the discretion of the individual whether or not to seek a restraining order.  At the very least, obtaining one will leave a paper trail that can come in handy should the survivor wish to pursue a case in the future.

It is not a surprise that Palmer has stayed with Rice.  It is not a surprise that she has repeatedly defended him.  It is not a surprise that she has taken on the blame for a violent episode that was in no way her fault.  It is important, however, to understand the cycle of violence and that her actions are the result of the increasing psychological hold Rice has had on her since they began dating in 2008.  It is important to realize that, whatever happened prior to the altercation in the elevator, she did not bring the violence on herself.  It is important to realize that this is not an incident far removed from our lives but, rather, we all know a Janay Palmer.  We just might not be aware of it.

***If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, please be aware that there is help available.  If you need immediate attention, please call the Haven Hills crisis line, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, at (818) 887-6589.  For those living outside of Los Angeles, CA, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for a domestic violence program near you.***

Sincerely,

 

Courtney M. Howard, Paralegal

The Law Collaborative, APC

((818) 348-6700  F(818) 348-0961 

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 

Once In a Lifetime, a Book Comes Along That Changes Your Life

14-06-11 Ken Cloke Book Review

The Dance of Opposites, a new book by Dr. Kenneth Cloke, will change your life. You will never view conflict the same way again. If you only read one more book on the theory and practice of conflict resolution, make it this one. Dr. Cloke’s explorations in mediation, dialogue, and conflict resolution systems are revolutionary.    

Dr. Cloke quotes Albert Camus, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”  It is clear that his new vision for conflict resolution intends to do just that. 

The chapter, “Elements of a New Vision,” takes us on a journey toward a comprehensive conflict resolution system that constitutes a fundamental transformation in the way we disagree and resolve our differences as a species. His imperatives are inarguable as we look upon today’s world to observe the senseless killing that is characteristic of so many cultures on our planet. It is not surprising that this book comes from the same person who founded Mediators Beyond Borders some years ago.

The “Elements of the Language of Conflict” chapter leads us into a clear understanding of why it may be inevitable that our species’ troubles frequently begin with thoughtless use of language. Misinformation, misunderstanding, confusion, and incorrect interpretation is integral to the language of conflict that is a style of communication based on combat. We must rethink the whole essence of our ability to communicate.

Dr. Cloke offers clear and convincing evidence of both the problem and a proposed solution that will be of immense interest to practicing attorneys who usually regard themselves as masters of communication. My experience is that most lawyers must continue to study skillful communication styles. 

From language, Dr. Cloke moves into the narrative structure of conflict. His illustrative stories explain the “20 Ways to Transform Conflict.” This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. He clearly sets forth the process for building bridges between the psychology of conflict and the implications for the mediator who must  learn to navigate the crucial distinctions that typically separate parties engaged in conflict. 

The conflict resolution questions in Chapter Five, “10 Steps to Transcendence” in Chapter Six, and “Heartfelt Communications in Conflict Resolution Systems,” discussed in Chapter Seven, are capable of forever altering our approach to working with families. Solutions come by way of study, insight, understanding, and awareness. The author provides clear, express, concrete tools to accomplish this. 

This is a must-read for AAML Fellows working in this most difficult area of conflict resolution. The final chapters on Mediation, Law, and Justice are superb. Dr. Cloke’s experience studying Chinese mediation techniques in the eastern hemisphere offer amazing insights into that culture, as well as valuable pointers to the practitioner for improving quality of service. His understanding of both process and protocol have guided him in this new direction that is worthy of our study and consideration.

One hundred years from now the present process used to resolve conflict will be recognized a obsolete.  Dr. Cloke’s book will help us move forward to create a positive difference in our contemporary culture.  That is the message.  That is the challenge.  That is the opportunity.  Read the book The Dance of Opposites.

Your friend,

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

Parenting the Infant: Birth through Six Months Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend,

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