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New Year’s Divorce Resolutions

It is nearly the end of the year, the end of a chapter – we are balancing on the eve of new beginnings. For many people this is the time to reflect on all that has happened in the last year, while resolving to make changes for a better future. Though traditional New Years resolutions such as resolving to quit smoking, eat better, and spend more time with family are fantastic, we at The Law Collaborative wanted to offer some suggestions designed specifically for those of you going through a divorce.

1.  Improve Your Relationship With Your Ex
Once upon a time you loved this person enough to promise “till death do we part” so this year, promise to practice courtesy towards them. Try to understand them. Your marriage may be over, but the relationship is not. Relationships never end. They get worse or they get better, depending on the choices we make. We make choices daily. Every choice has a consequence for good or bad. Are you making choices congruent with your intended future? If you are, they are good choices. Put yourself in your former spouse’s shoes. Recognize your differences. Acknowledge your feelings and theirs.

2.  Improve Communication With Your Ex
Listen without interrupting. Consider their point of view. Ask questions to understand better. Keep an open mind. When you talk to your former spouse, remember what you have in common. Explain what matters to you, and why. When you get angry, stop, take a deep breath, and carefully choose your words. Let go of the blame game. Instead, use “I” statements.  For example, “I feel angry when you walk out of the room while we’re talking because when you don’t listen to me I feel disrespected.” Express how you feel, accept responsibility for your feelings, and describe how their words and actions affect you. Improved communication can help you move through conflict to resolution.

3.  Practice the 7 Rules for Fair Fighting
When difficult conversations have to be had, abiding by the seven rules for fair fighting will help keep the conversation moving in a forward direction that will foster a fair resolution.

4.  Write a Marriage Eulogy and Resolve to Act in Accordance
Fifty years after a divorce, your children and grandchildren will tell a story about why you divorced. They will talk about what kind of person you were. What legacy will you leave behind?  You have the opportunity to design your legacy, to write your divorce story. By writing that story, and by keeping that story in mind, you can guide your actions in a way that the story will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Without having the story as a guideline, you are building without a plan, traveling without a map. You’ll build something you didn’t intend and end up nowhere.

5.  Be A Better Co-Parent
Resolve to keep your problems private, and out of your children’s earshot.  Be kind to each other in front of the children. Your child’s other parent deserves to be treated with kindness. Cruelty to their other parent is child abuse. When speaking about the other parent to the children, keep it positive. Focus on the good in each other, the things you enjoyed, and the things you loved about the other, to help you stay positive in front of the children. Your children are learning from what they see you do and will one day mimic your behavior in their own relationships. Be the bigger person and lead by example. Be a role model to your kids. Assure their successful future relationships. Always remember that your child’s other parent will be a part of your life forever, so treat that person with the respect that you, yourself, would like to be treated.

6.  Respect Family Relationships
Resolve to respect the relationship with your former spouse’s extended family – if it was good, maintain the integrity; if it was problematic, do your best to build cordiality and kindness.

7.  Apologize (Even if you are innocent)
It’s OK to say you’re sorry, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Acknowledging your ex-spouse’s pain and showing empathy by way of a sincere apology can reduce tension and help your ex move on. And besides, no one is ever completely innocent.

This post was written collaboratively by several members of the TLC Team: Ron Supancic, CFLS, Ty Supancic, Esq., Maria Barcena, JD, Terrie Frost, LMFT, and Patricia Frost, Executive Editor.

A Testimony for Couples Counseling

Originally posted on ASeriousGirl.com

STILL GROWING

After Mike and I had been dating for a year, we started having disagreements that would go on for days at a time. I wouldn’t call them fights because we never threw punches or anything, but something would come up and one of us would get upset and then the other one would get upset and then things would be really awkward for a while. After a week or so we’d meet up for coffee and try to talk about it and things would be ok for a few weeks but then something would come up and we would get all weird again. After several months of being fine one minute and awkward the next, I started worrying that if we didn’t learn how to communicate effectively our relationship would fall apart.

I knew that I loved Michael and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I knew this because we had the same values and the same goals, we made each other laugh, we had common interests, we respected one another. But I couldn’t spend another week in awkward silence, so I suggested we try counseling.

“I would really like to go to couples counseling with you.”
“Why?”
“I think we need to learn how to communicate better.”
“We don’t need counseling.”

And that was that. For six months. Six months of dancing around topics we couldn’t talk about because if we did we’d end up in tears or screaming or breaking up.

Then, one beautiful spring morning, Mike looked at me over coffee and said the three little words I’d been longing to hear: “Let’s start counseling.”

We had our first appointment the following Thursday. Within a few weeks, Thursday’s had become our favorite day of the week. They were our day. A day we devoted to spending quality time together and getting to know one another. Every Thursday I’d leave work early and drive to Sherman Oaks where Michael would be waiting for me with my favorite Starbucks latte. We’d walk arm-in-arm to our therapist’s office and no matter how the session ended, regardless of if we were weeping or glowing, we’d go to In N’ Out for dinner and talk about what came up during the session. And every Thursday, even if we’d started dinner in tears, by the time we kissed goodbye we were holding hands again.

Talking honestly about one’s feelings can be very difficult, but it is a significant and important step towards learning how to communicate. We soon discovered that the thing we were refusing to talk about, the thing that had become the fat ugly beast hovering in the room, the thing causing all those weeks of awkward silences was Marriage. Mike had asked me to move in with him every month for the last six months and each time I’d said, “I won’t move in with you unless we’re engaged.” I wanted to marry him but I didn’t want to give the milk away for free. Mike fully intended to marry me, but he needed to know that we could live together without killing one another. His hesitance to propose wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me and my refusal to move in wasn’t a reflection of my feelings for him. We both wanted to live together and we both wanted to get married, we’d just been too scared to talk about it.

A few months after our first counseling session Michael asked me to move in with him and I said yes. Two months later we were sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and his hands were shaking as he held out a tiny blue velvet box. The stars were flung over our heads, the night air was cool and filled with the scent of the sea, and somewhere someone was playing a guitar. It was the most romantic proposal in the history of all marriage proposals. I blame it on couples counseling.

A Serious Girl on Premarital Agreements

Originally posted on ASeriousGirl.com

PREFACE TO A PRENUP

Last week I mentioned how Mike and I have periodic romance-infused financial meetings, but I didn’t go into the how’s or why’s. We had our first financial meeting within a few weeks of getting engaged because we had to if were going to write a prenup.

The last time I told someone that Mike and I have a prenup, I promised myself I wouldn’t tell anyone ever again. But I’ve been thinking about it lately, especially after last week’s financial post, and the fact is that a prenup isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Our prenup is the reason we were debt-free less than a year after we married. Our prenup is the reason we have never had an argument about money. Our prenup is the reason I got to move with my husband to New York and live out one of my wildest fantasies. The last time I told someone we wrote a prenup that person grimaced as she said, “Why would you do that? Why would you marry someone you’re just going to divorce?”
“What?”
“Obviously if you need a prenup it’s because you know you’re just going to divorce the person.”
“What? No, it’s not. I don’t –”
“That’s awful, Tricia. That’s just awful. I’m really surprised.”

She was actually that appalled, I do not exaggerate. And she’s not alone in her feelings. Enough people have had that reaction that when she had it, I decided our prenup was something people just didn’t need to know about.

Except now I’m telling the entire Webisphere.

I’m working on learning how to stand up for myself. Today I’d like to announce that my husband and I wrote a prenup before we got married and contrary to what you might think it was not because we were rich or because we were planning on getting divorced. We had a lot of debt and our only assets were each other, but we sat down and we worked out the complications of our finances and in doing so, he learned how important it was for me to have the opportunity to run with my dreams. I learned how important it was for him to save money so that one day he could have an old sprawling house to fix up and build furniture for, with a treehouse in back for the grandkids and five big-headed dogs. And when I learned that, I knew I really did want to spend the rest of my life with this man, because no matter what happened between here and now, we had the same life goals.

Writing a prenup was a way to protect ourselves from divorce. Everyone has different feelings about money and no two people feel exactly the same way. Money is a tender, delicate thing that dances with pride and envy. It can be used to hurt just as easily as it can be used to help. A brilliant family lawyer once told me that money is the last thing couples talk about and the first thing they fight about. I was determined not to have a marriage that could be damaged because we never talked about money. You can’t write a prenup without talking about money, and so we used it as an opportunity to have a very honest and very real discussion that would go on to help us shape our lives. And it’s true, we could’ve just had the conversation without ever writing the contract, but the fun in writing the contract was including provisions like:

“Prior to filing for divorce, the parties must agree to a minimum of one hour of marriage counseling, once every week for twenty-four consecutive weeks. If, after twenty-four consecutive weeks of marriage counseling the parties still agree to divorce, either party may file the Petition without effect. If one party files for dissolution without completing the agreed upon counseling, that party agrees to pay the other party’s attorney fees and costs in full.”  (Except a lot fancier because it was translated into lawyer-speak.)

I really do believe that if both parties commit to marriage counseling for six months they won’t need a divorce. And if they really still want one, then maybe they do need it. However, if one person isn’t even willing to give counseling a shot, then they should pay the damn legal fees.

What’s new at The Law Collaborative

Dear Friends of the Law Collaborative,

This April we celebrate an anniversary. Although Ron and Robert have been practicing family law for a sum total of fifty years or more, this April we celebrate the First Anniversary of The Law Collaborative, LLP, formed by Ron and Robert with the stated aim of ‘Bringing Peace to the Legal Process.’

With this in mind, we offer our readers one simple suggestion for establishing peace in our daily lives.

Thankfulness.

Even in tough times, there is plenty for which to be thankful. If we establish a habit of noting the small things that mark us as fortunate, we cultivate Thankfulness and Appreciation. Establishing these qualities in our lives benefits our health, our relationships, and our general well-being. They also have a way of overflowing into the lives of others. Realize that there is no actual risk attached to exercising Thankfulness and Appreciation, and that such attitudes come with much potential benefit. Thankfulness and Appreciation may be experienced on a daily basis if we apply ourselves to forming the habit.

COLLABORATIVE LAW – The attorney who wishes to employ collaborative law in his practice must have a thorough knowledge of negotiation skills, and understand the underlying theories and strategies of negotiation. Minimum standards for collaborative family law practice are continually expanding, as the work continues to attract more followers throughout the country. The State Bar provides education on an annual basis, making available new tools, technology, and information generated by the professionals engaged in the practice. This month, on Saturday, April 10th, Ron will be the closing speaker at the “Helping Families” conference at Pepperdine Law School in beautiful Malibu. Any professional interested in learning more about collaborative practice would do well to attend. For more information, check www.CDR4-10-10event.com

We would like to share a testimonial, and our new blog –

www.RonandRobertonDivorce.com

Testimonial:

The Law Collaborative is a team of divorce lawyers and paralegals who advocate for the family. I have yet to come across another group of lawyers who take as much care in preserving family values, keeping costs down and protecting children, as the good people at The Law Collaborative. TLC focuses on keeping families together, even in the middle of a crisis. This concept has so enraptured me that I’ve been inspired to write “A Serious Girl,” a blog that focuses on marriage and family. The Law Collaborative opened my eyes to the many options we have for our marriages, our children, and our lives.

Visit Ron and Robert on Divorce on ITunes for additional information. Please call us if you have any questions. We are here to serve you.

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Best,
Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky