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Baby Boomer Break Ups

Photo credit: FoxBusiness.com

Why are so many Baby Boomers divorcing? An article  by Casey Dowd for the column ‘The Boomer” interviews Karen Stewart, a divorce and relationship expert, on this topic. Stewart answers questions that cover, for example, the most common reasons for splits among the age group, how Baby Boomer’s can protect their wealth and children, and if she believes the trend will continue.

When there is a lot of money in marriage, divorce is a reasonably easy financial solution because when it comes to dividing the assets, there are enough for both parties. Marriages with not a lot of money tend to be more financially strained which can lead to stress and increase the risk of divorce. The baby boomer generation is hit most by those extremes.

To read the interview in its entirety, click here.

Honest, Blunt & Brilliant: “A” Stood for Alternative

Ron and Robert caught up with Attorney Leslie Ellen Shear at the Pepperdine Law School Consensual Dispute Resolution seminar in 2010. Leslie Ellen Shear is a graduate of UCLA Law School, a Board Certified Family Law Specialist, a Certified Appellate Law Specialist, and the author of numerous published opinions. Ron and Robert have known her for over twenty-five years and she is a deeply respected colleague. Honest, blunt, and brilliant, Leslie Ellen Shear is a true powerhouse.

In the first of this four-part series, Attorney Shear discusses the shift from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to Consensual Dispute Resolution (CDR), as well as the pros and cons of both CDR and the traditional adjudicative legal system.

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Subscribe to Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes and tune in next week for Honest, Blunt, and Brilliant: Child Development.

Learn more about Leslie Ellen Shear at CustodyMatters.com.

Why We Collaborate (Part 1 of 5)

By Ty Supancic, Esquire

One of the primary goals of The Law Collaborative, LLP, is to become masters and innovators of Consensual Dispute Resolution techniques and practices. In order to develop and promote Consensual Dispute Resolution so that it may become the mainstream, we must change our vocabulary as well as our approach.

We purposefully use the term Consensual Dispute Resolution (CDR) instead of the more prevalent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) because the word “alternative” is a pejorative. It suggests that ADR methods are secondary or tertiary choices to “regular” or traditional dispute resolution. “Regular” suggests mainstream, preferred, and superior. But anybody who has ever been involved in “regular” dispute resolution (litigation) can attest to the fact that, while it may be mainstream, it is not superior. Oftentimes both parties are worse off after participating in the traditional dispute resolution process, and the only people enriched are the lawyers.

Competent and ethical attorneys should always consider CDR methods and approaches first. Litigation should always be considered the last resort as it is usually the most expensive and least predictable avenue. We believe that in the near future, litigation will be considered the alternative dispute resolution method.

One of the most promising developments in the field of CDR is Collaborative Law, a specialized form of con-joint mediation involving two attorneys. This article is not intended as a primer on Collaborative Law; many far more eloquent practitioners have already provided these. For a short list, go to the Articles section of our website.

Nor is this article intended to persuade you that Collaborative Law is the way of the future. Do not bother reading further unless you believe that Collaborative Law holds great promise. If you need convincing, I would refer you to the case studies on our website, or those on the websites of any of our colleagues. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. Instead, this article is intended to discuss and reflect on what can be done to improve our collaborative skills and instincts.

Read more…

Using Court As A Last Resort: Advocacy Without Adversaries

By Jan Frankel Schau and Ronald Supancic

Just as you were getting used to the concept of Arbitration and Mediation as the common alternatives for resolving legal disputes, along comes “Collaborative Law.” Is it the talisman of future dispute resolution in America?

“Collaborative Law” is being widely used, particularly in Family Law settings globally. In fact, in many European countries, the Court system is only the last resort after all other so-called “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” alternatives are fully exploited. Like any new system, it will undoubtedly be met with some resistance from the Courts and the Bar. This article will explore the concept of “collaborative law” and other “appropriate” dispute resolution processes applicable to the civil case in Los Angeles County .

Ideally, most civil disputes could be resolved, (as they sometimes are in the family law arena) around the kitchen table. That is, the parties sit down together, break bread and make peace. They work out their disputes without the need for outside intervention. This is the first step in “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” – an earnest attempt for the parties to meet and resolve their differences informally.

Failing that, parties could and should retain a neutral dispute facilitator or manager: someone whom both parties could agree to hire to oversee collection and exchange of all the necessary facts in order to fairly evaluate and resolve the dispute. This individual would oversee depositions, collect documents and screen them for confidentiality claims, and keep the parties on a schedule for responding to one another’s requests and demands. This approach is not entirely novel: under the California Civil Code all new actions for defects in real estate construction by a Homeowner’s Association require retaining and using a Dispute Facilitator before filing a lawsuit.

Once the facts have been fully submitted and explored, a “conventional” mediation might be appropriate. There, each side would be able to present their version of the incident or claim, based upon the stipulated facts and exchanged evidence, and a neutral intermediary could actively engage the two sides in collaborating towards a resolution.

Read more…

A theory that changed laws

During his period in the appellate court, Justice Donald King was probably the most prolific family law judge in California. He’d been a superior court judge in San Francisco and he wrote scores of family law opinions. And he did something else that was quite extraordinary: Every summer while the appellate court was closed, he would  volunteer to sit pro tem* in the San Francisco Superior Court. Then, he did something even stranger. He told the supervising judge, “I want the worst cases you have. Give me all the cases that no one else wants.” So he started getting all these terrible, highly emotional contested divorce cases.

Justice King had been a superior court judge and so he had a theory about family law. He believed that people generally have more divorce than they have money and when they run out of money they still have lots of divorce left.  At the end of the case, the client hasn’t paid the bill, so the lawyer sues the client for unpaid fees. Now, clients can always think of something the lawyer could have done, should’ve done, failed to do, forgot to do, so the clients respond with a lawsuit for malpractice and suddenly you have all these lawyers and clients litigating. As a result you wind up with lawyers who are so fearful of a lawsuit against them for malpractice, they file every subpoena, serve every document, go through interrogatories and requests for admissions and they build their cases on the basis of “I don’t want to ever be guilty of any kind of malpractice. I’ll do everything I possibly can.”  Thus you have the California Divorce Industry.

When Justice King was a superior court judge, he saw all these lawyers coming in two or three years into a case, with boxes and boxes of receipts and cancelled checks, records and documents, and all this stuff. He began to wonder, what would happen if I could get into the case at the front end, before the lawyers have spent all these hundreds of thousands of dollars on discovery? He started bringing the lawyers in at the beginning of cases and he would say, “Counsel, tell me about your case. What are the facts as you understand them to be? What is your approach? What are you going to demand, what are you going to need, what will help you solve all the problems that you’re facing?”  And he would turn to the other lawyer and he would begin a conversation. Then he’d say, “You know what, let’s just use one accountant. We’ll use a neutral account. Can we pick an accountant that we both know and trust? Why don’t we just use one appraiser?” In this way he started limiting the discovery, managing the discovery, and he was so successful he was settling 70-80% of his cases and having happy clients and happy lawyers as a result.

In the mid-nineties the California Bar Journal published an article about Justice King’s case management theory and that led to the birth of statute 2450. Family Law Code Section 2450 gives fourteen new powers to judges that they don’t otherwise have.  Under 2450 a judge can have short-cause hearings by telephone, they can appoint mediators, it’s just remarkable.  How does it work? Your lawyer files a Case Management Stipulation, a 2450 Stip, and then you agree to see the judge when he’s got some time on his schedule.  Then you get in front of the judge, in private, and you use the judge as a sounding board. It’s almost like a mini trial for free.  I’m a big advocate for 2450 and I believe it needs to be used more.  I’ve talked to all the new judges about it, as well as the guys who’ve been hearing family law cases for years, and they are all in favor of it. They really like the approach.  Click here to read more about family code section 2450.

*pro tem = pro tempore, a latin phrase meaning “for the time being”

Fair Fighting

We are pleased to announce that we are celebrating our One Year Anniversary as “The Law Collaborative!” Although Ron and Robert have been practicing family law for a sum total of more than fifty years, we are excited to 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.’

As a celebratory token, we offer you some insight on Fighting Fairly.  Is there a such thing?  There is.

The Seven Rules for Fair Fighting

1. No physical violence or verbal/emotional abuse while engaged.

2. No cursing, name calling, or vulgar language.

3. Agree to take turns.  Listen, take notes, and do not interrupt.

4. No lying or exaggeration, as in “You always…,” or “You never…,” or “I’m the only one who ever…”  Such statements are useless, untrue and frustrate problem solving.

5. Use the Time-Out, rather than walking out of an argument. If you need a break because you’re getting too emotional to think clearly and observe the Rules, ask for a break and agree on a time to resume. Maintain civility and decorum at all times.

6. No ultimatums or threats. For example: “This has to stop, or I’m calling your mother about this!” Don’t threaten as leverage to win the argument.

7. No bringing up the past; keep the conversation looking forward.

Remember, the point of Fair Fighting is not to win, but to respectfully discuss issues with your partner until you are able to reach some understanding and achieve a fair solution.

Also, we are very excited to be hosting our first Second Saturday Divorce Workshop for Women this Saturday, May 8th, 2010.  Ronald Supancic, Attorney at Law, will be discussing the options for divorce.  Renee Leff, LMFT, a featured speaker, will be addressing the emotional issues in divorce.  Irene Smith, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, will be discussing the financial issues within divorce.  The cost of the workshop is only $45.00 if you pre-register, and $50.00 at the door.  Call our toll-free number to register! (888) 852-9961 or email IG@TheLawCollaborative.com.

Helping Families, This Saturday

The State Bar Family Law Section CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South)
Dispute Resolution Services, Inc.,
Los Angeles County Bar Association and LACBA Family Law Section
invite you to attend our Spring Symposium

HELPING FAMILIES: New Directions in Consensual Dispute Resolution
Cutting edge theories, techniques, tactics and tools

Saturday, April 10, 2010, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Pepperdine University School of Law

If you practice mediation or collaborative law, are a mental health professional, coach, financial specialist, or family law attorney with an interest in expanding your knowledge of the latest issues in consensual dispute resolution and in developing your skills to best serve the needs of families, this program is for you:

  • Presiding Judge Marjorie Steinberg will discuss CDR and LA County practices
  • Renowned child custody mediator and child psychologist, Dr. Donald Saposnek will address the ethics and practice of “Bringing Children into the Process”
  • Judge Mark Juhas will discuss the Elkins Report and other responses to the difficulties of bringing children into the process
  • A panel of adult Children of Divorce will present the divorce experience from the eyes of the child
  • Former litigators will share the difficulties and methods of making “The Internal Mind Shift” to practice Consensual Dispute Resolution as their primary practice
  • Experienced CDR providers will give practical tools for keeping CDR on track “Between the Sessions”
  • Financial Experts, Career Counselors and Mental Health Specialists will offer a “Tool Box for Post-Divorce Planning”
  • You will hear from attorneys Leslie Ellen Shear about children’s participation in custody decision-making and Fern Topas Salka about how other jurisdictions are putting families first

The price for this program is $125.00.  Student rates are $45.
A continental breakfast, as well as light snacks, will be provided throughout the event.

To sign up, contact the Los Angeles County Bar Member Services at 213/896-6560 and mention the LACBA program number 10832.  Or go to http://onlinestore.lacba.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=ViewCalendarEvent&CalendarEventID=31<http://onlinestore.lacba.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=ViewCalendarEvent&CalendarEventID=3117>

CLE and BBS credits will be given for attendance.

For more information about this program, go to www.cdr4-10-10event.com or contact co-chair of the State Bar Family Law Section on CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South), Fern Topas Salka, at fern@wgn.net

For more information about this program, go to www.cdr4-10-10event.com or contact co-chair the State Bar Family Law Section on CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South), Fern Topas Salka, at fern@wgn.net.

CLE and BBS credits will be given for attendance.