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When Stars Collide

14-05-15 Newsletter_Header_Experts_In_Court

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

Non-Communication Can Cost You

This is a risk of “traditional” divorce that doesn’t come up often. Traditional divorce doesn’t teach you to communicate with your ex spouse, but rather to have an adversarial relationship, where non-communication becomes the norm. If you think that’s fine, think about the following situation, involving two parents, two sets of lawyers, and one wise old judge.

The custodial parent moves and enrolls their child in a new school, but fails to communicate the details with the other parent, who comes to believe that the child would be walking home along dangerous, busy streets and coming home to an empty house. That parent files a temporary restraining order to prohibit the enrollment. The truth is that the custodial parent had in fact taken all concerns into account, and the child was at no risk. The non-custodial parent based their fears on hearsay, and the restraining order had no merit – so, after reviewing the evidence and the custodial agreement, the judge threw it out.

But, and this is a big one, he didn’t grant attorney’s fees to the custodial parent. Why not? The restraining order had no merit, after all. The judge decided that court was a poor substitute for a simple conversation. In effect, he punished the custodial parent, who was acting within their rights, for not pro-actively communicating with the other parent. Mediation or collaborative divorce can help avoid expensive and wasteful litigation not just at the time of the divorce, but years down the road.

On October 18th, The Law Collaborative is offering Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Divorce, a seminar that will provide tools for moving a stuck case forward, how to communicate effectively with a former spouse, tricks for negotiating even when negotiation seems impossible, and more. The workshop is $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Licensed attorneys who attend will earn 1 MCLE credit. Anyone contemplating or going through a divorce is invited to attend.

Register online at www.thelawcollaborative.com or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

The Big Lie About Co-Parenting

photo by greekadman via PhotoRee

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, has written a compelling article for the Huffington Post about whether or not co-parenting is actually in the child’s best interests. This is something I think about whenever I hear fathers of breastfeeding infants demand equal parenting time. While I appreciate the desire to be an integral part of your child’s life, I can’t help but wonder how the father plans to breastfeed his infant during his custodial time.

The idea of co-parenting between ex-spouses who are able to treat each other with respect, communicate in a healthy and adult manner, and work together to raise their children is brilliant.But what about a four-month-old breastfeeding infant? Is it in that child’s best interest to spend 50% of the time with dad? Probably not. What if, during marriage, Dad was responsible for 75% of child care while Mom worked full time and supported the family? Does it make sense, in the wake of major life changes (such as one’s parents divorcing) for the children to suddenly find themselves in Mom’s care 50% of the time? I can’t answer that question because it really depends on the child, the child’s age, the parents and their relationship after the divorce. From the article:

My personal bias is to try to roughly match initial visiting and custody arrangements with each parent’s level of parenting experience. For example, if reality shows that one parent has had 75 percent of the parenting experience described in the above questionnaire, while the other has had only 25 percent, after the divorce children should divide their time between the parents in roughly the same proportions, at least initially. Such an arrangement can easily be written into a divorce agreement, which might place a time limit on the 75/25 split.

Over time the less experienced parent should be given opportunities to “catch up” in the day-to-day parenting; for example, by taking the child or children to pediatrician appointments, by cooking family meals, and by supervising bedtime preparation. Then, as the less experienced parent begins to catch up, living schedules can gradually move toward a true fifty-fifty split. This gradual increase avoids making the child or children anxious and avoids having to separate a great deal from the parent who early had done most of the parenting.

What do you think? Would co-parenting work in your family? Have you tried it and had success? Or have you tried it and discovered that it’s not all its cracked up to be? Read the rest of the article here and share your opinion – we want to know what you think.

Pssst: Tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for our complimentary retirement seminar, Retirement Illusions: Where do we go from here? Click here to RSVP now!

A Child of Divorce

When I was nine years old, my mother took me by my shoulders in my grandparents kitchen in Seattle and said: “Ronny, we are not going back to Long Beach. I am divorcing your father. You are going to be my little man.”

My world fell apart. Suddenly, I felt the whole burden of the responsibilities and problems of our family shift to my shoulders. That was not what my mother intended, but that was how I felt. In response to the anxiety, I regressed and started wetting the bed, for which I was punished. I eventually got past that. I also started biting my nails, an anxiety habit I still struggle to overcome sixty years later. My mother’s mistake was honest and well-intentioned. She wanted to enroll me in the change, and make me feel important, but she had no way to assess the effect her statement could and would have on me. It changed my life forever.

How can parents do better? What, specifically, can we do to act responsibly as parents to guide our children through the aftermath of divorce? On Saturday, September 10, I am presenting the Second Saturday Divorce Workshop at The Law Collaborative office in Woodland Hills. Among the various topics covered, you will hear from a licensed mental health professional discussing what we, as parents, can do to help our children cope with divorce in a healthy and productive manner. Don’t have kids? We’ll also be teaching communication skills necessary for dealing with a difficult Ex. We’ll cover the divorce process from beginning to end, how to protect yourself in court, the Seven Options for Divorce, and what to do if you feel your case isn’t going anywhere. Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Irene Smith will provide important financial information for anyone going through or contemplating divorce, including common tax pitfalls most lawyers don’t know about. Breakfast is included.

You may not be thinking about a divorce or going through one, but someone in your life, someone you care about needs this information. We thank you in advance for passing this invitation on.

Also, this month we are offering a free retirement seminar presented by Irene Smith of Smith Financial Management. If you are concerned about the recent economic downturn, then Retirement Illusions: Where do we go from here? is for you. Join us on Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for a comprehensive review of the challenges you’ll face during retirement and discover strategies for a lifetime retirement plan. Dinner is included. RSVP before Sept. 15, 2011 by calling (818) 884-4888 or RSVP online at www.thelawcollaborative.com/events.htm.

Best wishes,
Ron Supancic, CFLS and Robert Borsky, Esq.
Partners at The Law Collaborative, LLC

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Murder Mom

Photo from http://today.msnbc.msn.com/.

There is outrage over a current custody dispute in Seattle, involving Kristine Cushing, Trisha Conlon, and  John P. Cushing Jr. 20 years ago, Kristine shot and killed her and John’s daughters, and is now permitted to live with his and Trisha’s sons as their stepmother.

Kristine, John’s first wife, was confined to a mental institution for four years after murdering their children, and was monitored for a decade. Once she was released, John divorced his second wife, Trisha, and resumed relations with Kristine. They have since remarried, and John and Kristine have won custody of the new sons. Do you think she should have access to more children?

For past articles about Kristine Cushing, click here. For new material regarding this topic, click here or here.

Breakfast with Robert & Wine Tasting with Irene

BREAKFAST WITH ROBERT:

Don’t miss our Second Saturday Divorce Workshop this Saturday, August 13th, featuring Attorney Robert Borsky, James E. Walton, Ph.D., and Pete Collins, CFP. We will be discussing child custody, how to help your kids get through the divorce, how to protect yourself in court, child and spousal support guidelines, the complicated financial issues that arise during divorce, and the divorce process and fees. Register by calling us toll-free at (888) 852-9961, or save 50% off the registration fee by clicking here.

WINE TASTING WITH IRENE:

photo by Erik Anestad via PhotoRee


Wine Tasting and Real Estate is less than a week away! Be sure to be there on August 16th at 6:30 p.m., at our Woodland Hills office. Irene Smith, CDFA, will be hosting A Tale of Two Markets, accompanied by Dvir Levy, Regional Vice President of Wells Real Estate Funds, with a wine tasting immediately following. This seminar is free, but space is limited. Today is the last day to RSVP. Save your spot on the guest list now by calling (818)884-4888 toll-free, or click here to RSVP online.

Phony Fathers

Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

What do you do when your former spouse misrepresents time spent with your children? Facebook photos have become a pool of frustration for some parents having to deal with this deception on a regular basis. An interesting article by Joanne Latimer interviewed ex-wives of some phony Facebook fathers, as well as interviewing a father with partial custody of his children who doesn’t post pictures with them online, among others.

“It’s very grating for the custodial parent, which is often the mother,” noted Deborah Brakeley, a clinical counsellor and collaborative divorce coach in Vancouver. “It’s well known that exes, particularly moms, become resentful when their partner suddenly becomes a more dutiful parent, or at least appears so. They ask, ‘Where were you?’ They feel deceived and angry.”

The full article is available here.

When The Cat is Away

Can you control what your kids do when they’re spending time with your ex?

Generally speaking each parent gets to make decisions regarding a child’s activities during their period of physical custody. The State of California, represented by the judicial officer, is not the “super parent” entitled to make the usual decisions regarding how to raise children. When parents disagree about some activity (I’ve seen things like riding on motorcycles or scooters, flying in a private plane, sailboat ride, playing certain sports, eating certain foods, etc.) the limitation on the judicial officer is finding some solid evidence of actual danger to the child. To see just how high that burden is take a look at In re Marriage of Mentry, 142 Cal. App. 3d 260 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1983). That case was always my touchstone when these issues were brought to me. — Honorable Judge Robert Schnider (Retired)

Honest, Blunt & Brilliant: Custody Matters

Ron and Robert had the opportunity to interview 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 California State Bar Board Certified Family Law Specialist and Certified Appellate Law Specialist, and she’s the author of numerous published opinions. Ron and Robert have known her for over twenty-five years and she is one of their most respected colleagues. Honest, blunt, and brilliant, Leslie Ellen Shear is a true powerhouse.

This week Attorney Shear finishes her conversation on child development, then goes on to discuss move-away cases, frequency of contact between children and parents, and the current problems in the California Family Law courts.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Missed Parts 1 & 2? Here they are:

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

Don’t miss another episode! Subscribe to Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes and tune in next week for the final episode in this four-part series, Honest, Blunt & Brilliant: The Problem with Court.

Learn more about Leslie Ellen Shear at CustodyMatters.com.

Second Saturday = Self-Empowerment

Just a quick reminder that our next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is this Saturday, May 14 at our new office in Woodland Hills.  Register before 4 p.m. Friday, May 13 and save 50% on the registration fee. Register today by calling (888) 852-9961 or register online at TheLawCollaborative.com.