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Rules for Fair Fighting

Everyone disagrees sometimes.  In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. A healthy relationship does not avoid conflict, but uses 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 that.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4.  Learn to use “time out”. 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, is dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families.  Please visit our website for more tools and resources.

A Daily Journal Exposé

Photo courtesy of Michael Zara. All rights reserved.

By: Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS

As Chief Justice Warren Burger stated in 1984, “The entire legal profession … has become so mesmerized with the stimulation of the courtroom contest, that we tend to forget that we ought to be healers of conflict … Trial by adversarial contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood … Our system has become too costly, too painful, too destructive, too inefficient for truly civilized people.”

This is especially true of divorces. A divorce is not an event – it is the process by which one makes the transition from being part of a couple to being single. The goal of a healthy divorce should be to begin as two, end as one and still feel whole.

This journey will lead the parties through an often treacherous and painful maze of transitions: legal, physical, emotional, financial and spiritual.

If this maze is to be successfully navigated, then in addition to attorneys, parties should enlist the services of experts in these other specific transition areas. This will more likely assure that dissolution can become a key to wholeness.

If we are to successfully navigate this treacherous and painful path, we must enlist the services of those who have expertise in specific areas of the divorce process, to guide us along the way, so that at the end of our journey we remain whole. When we do this we are doing something new and extraordinary called “Collaborative Divorce.”

Read more…

Healers of Conflict

At the annual convention of the American Bar Association in 1984, Chief Justice Warren Burger said:

“The entire legal profession: lawyers, judges, and law professors, has become so mesmerized with the stimulation of the courtroom contest, that we tend to forget that we ought to be healers of conflict.  For many claims, trial by adversarial contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood… Our system has become too costly, too painful, too destructive, too inefficient for truly civilized people.”

Alex Baldwin wrote a book called A Promise to Ourselves in which he decries the California “divorce industry”. It is no secret that the courts are in crisis. If you try to have a traditional divorce today, it will likely take you twice as long as it would have five years ago, simply because budget cuts have reduced court resources to nearly zero. For years Ron and Robert have envisioned a way to transform the business of law. Last year they teamed up with Kathryn Dager, an organizational expert, to help develop the process.  The current system may be in crisis, but now we have a solution.

The Center for Collaborative Learning (CCL) is The Law Collaborative’s brand-new educational division, designed to empower legal professionals to be what they truly are: Healers of conflict. CCL aims to change the way law is practiced; to turn what has traditionally been an adversarial system into a system that heals, helps, nurtures, and thrives.

The world is changing. Every second of every day new advances are being made in medicine, technology, architecture, security, agriculture, education, the list is endless. Collaborative Law is the newest and fastest growing method of alternative dispute resolution and it is revolutionizing the way law is practiced. Whether you are a lawyer, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, divorce coach, child custody mediator, psychotherapist, or judge, CCL is committed to providing the tools, skills, and support necessary to help change the face of America’s legal industry. Together we can create a community of professionals who are committed to healing conflict.

This November 12, 13, and 14th we are proud to introduce The New Model for The Business of Law, a three-day workshop that will give participants the skills, strategies, and structures to create a thriving collaborative legal practice. Last month we gave some of our esteemed colleagues a sneak peak at what we have to offer, and here is what they had to say:

“It’s really exciting to be a part of this revolutionary business model and the idea of having a more peaceful way to practice law.” Christine Campisi, Child Custody Mediator

“The most beneficial thing for me was really understanding how people process information and how powerful the exercises were in getting to resolutions and ideas.” Byron Lane, Estate Planning Attorney

“Collaborative Law really does look to be the future. The old system, as it works now, everyone knows it’s broken. It’s not a perfect world. It needs to be pushed forward into the next decade.” Jesus Silva, Family Law Practitioner

“We have an opportunity to get trained to practice collaboratively. Then they give you all the structures, all the tools, all the tricks of the trade that they’ve built for so many years to be successful. They provide that for you. These are leaders, successful practitioners, and they are compassionate. One out of five lawyers suffer from drug, alcoholism, or stress related issues. But if you are practicing collaboratively you can take the compassion you learn into your home and into your life. It’s incredible.” Michelle Daneshrad, Esq.

If you’re a legal professional and would like more information, visit, where you can watch video testimonials, view our online brochure, and register to attend.

Center for Collaborative Learning – We hold the key to a massive paradigm shift.

Trendsetter Justice Sheila Sonenshine on Family Law (Part 2 of 4)

This week Judge Sonenshine discusses the lessons she’s learned about family dynamics during her years as a family law attorney, how she became a judge, why she loves settling cases, what’s the best advice she can give to an attorney, and what’s the best advice she can give a person testifying in court. (Podcast #54, Part 2 of 4)

Missed Judge Sonenshine’s interview last week? Click here to listen now.

Like what you heard? Subscribe to Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes!

What kind of divorce is right for you?

Early in my family law practice I discovered that the easiest divorce to handle was the one in which the couple had been separated for two to three years, were working together collaboratively to parent their children, had divided most or all of their assets, and were coming in to see me simply to have a concise agreement drafted.  Typically they’d be friendly and respectful of each other.

These couples knew what worked for them and stuck to their deal. I was unfailingly impressed by their unanimity with regard to a genial, civilized conclusion to their marriage.  In these cases it was usually only necessary to counsel them about possible opportunities to save taxes, or to divide property in a way that might be more equitable.

It is rare to meet newly separated couples who are masters of communication and collaborative parenting.  It is usually quite the contrary.  In most cases, the couple is so caught up in rage that they fail to consider the needs of their children.  They confuse differences in parenting style with who is right or who is wrong.  The right way to parent is with consensus and agreement.  Children do not grow up and do what their parents tell them.  Children watch their parents and grow up to do what their parents did.  Parents that model rational, mature, adult behavior will produce children who act pretty much the same.  One challenge in our multi-cultural community is the variety of parenting strategies that abound.  Parents in harmony may have difficulty reaching agreement on which strategy is most effective.  Parents in conflict find that task impossible to achieve.

Dr. Bruce Derman and I have created a tool that can help you determine whether or not you are a candidate for collaborative divorce.  It’s the Pre-Divorce Survey.  You can find it on our website at The Pre-Divorce Survey will assist you in finding out how many issues there are, and where you are on the anger management scale. We have learned that if you and your spouse can answer every question on that survey in the affirmative, it may be possible for the two of you to simply sit down with a paralegal and write up a deal.

The Pre-Divorce Survey is not an end unto itself.  It is a point of departure on the journey of divorce.  It may act as a signpost.  If the conflict quotient is high, the couple will need extra help.  If it is low, the case may be relatively simple to complete.  Typically, when a case is impeded by psychological and emotional issues, these issues will cause great pain and drive costs excruciatingly high.  The good news is that emotional interventions are available.  Today there are alternatives that may give even the most conflicted individual an opportunity to find an effective intervention, provided the parties involved enter into the process with honesty and integrity.

If you would like to take the Pre-Divorce Survey, click HERE.

The Center for Collaborative Learning Presents:

Click the images for a larger view

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…

Collaborative Divorce In The News

From The News-Herald in Northern Ohio:

“It leaves the people themselves in charge of making the decisions that are going to affect their future. This is especially helpful for parties who are parents. Collaboration is an internationally recognized process. If done properly, this can be the least damaging, healthiest way to help people get through a horrible, horrible time in their lives. This whole movement started because practitioners realized, that time, money and attorneys fees are at stake.”

Read more about how some families are opting for a friendlier divorce.

This is about real families

Here is Regina DeMeo, an attorney in Rockville, Maryland, being interviewed on Washington Business Tonight about Collaborative Law.

This is about real families. Especially in this economy! There is not enough money [to pay for traditional litigation]. But people are going to get divorced regardless of how much money there is and we have an ethical obligation to preserve the family assets and to preserve the good will that these parents need to have going forward. — Regina DeMeo, Family Law Attorney

Brava, Ms. DeMeo. Brava!

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