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Divorce by Texting?

photo by DavidErickson via PhotoRee

According to Time Magazine’s Hillary Brenhouse, it is no longer permissible in Tajikistan to divorce your wife by sending her a text message. In some traditions of Sunni Islam a divorce can be granted by uttering the “triple talaq,” which simply means the husband repeats the words: “I divorce you” three times. Apparently, Tajik men working abroad found that texting the  triple talaq was just as effective, and much more convenient.

However, the sense that that this shortcut was just a bit too easy has been growing. Abdurakhim Kholikov, the head of the state religious affairs committee, issued a statement that delivering the coup de grace to a marriage by SMS was a breach of Islamic law, and plans to outlaw it entirely. In a nation where most marriages do not appear in the official records anyway, the talaq was a mere formality.

In other nations the triple talaq must usually be accompanied by arbitration and reconciliation. The practice had already been regulated or banned in Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Of course, in the US, divorce has never been so simple – or so arbitrary.

Read the article here.

Getting Anger Under Control

Dr. Walton will be presenting at this month’s Second Saturday Divorce Workshop on Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at our office in Woodland Hills. He’ll discuss combating emotional agendas, tips for better communication with your ex, how to help your kids through the divorce, and how to get through it yourself. Register now for $25 at or call us toll free at (888) 852-9961.

Getting Anger Under Control Is Easier Than You Might Think
By James E. Walton, Ph.D.

The first thing to understand about anger is that you, and only you, are responsible for your thoughts, feelings and actions. That includes anger and angry behavior. You are responsible for becoming angry and you are responsible for letting it go. No one can “make” you angry. Only you make yourself angry. Anger is a feeling. When we are able to put anger into words, we can clearly communicate our strong feelings to another.

Angry behavior is not a clear form of communication, rather, it is a form of acting out when we yell, scream, throw things or hurl insults. This behavior doesn’t express anger. It simply demonstrates our feelings of helplessness and our desire to force another to bend to our will through intimidation.

Uncontrolled angry behavior interferes with talking and listening. It is actually a very ineffective way of expressing anger. Instead of the receiver hearing clarifying words, they are left to interpret the behaviors, and often their interpretations are not what the sender was trying to express.

To better get anger under control, ask yourself if the angering situation is going to really matter 20 years from now. Then, ask yourself if you would rather be right or happy. Sometimes we prefer to be right, but usually we prefer to be happy. These are two techniques for reducing feelings of anger.

Never attempt to settle an argument when you are angry. Walk away, sit down and cool off. Deal with the situation later when you are rational. Feel with your heart, but act from your head.

Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a private practice in Sherman Oaks. Log onto his website at or call (818) 753-4865.

Psycho Ex-Wife Has A Selfish Ex-Husband

It’s all over the blogosphere: Divorcé Anthony Morelli, author of the blog “Psycho Ex-Wife” was ordered by a judge in the Bucks County family court to take down his site, citing the emotional damage the blog could cause to Morelli’s minor children.

Morelli insists that his blog serves as therapeutic catharsis rather than vindictive crusade.

“I tried to provide a forum, where, through [the] collective experiences [of my readers], we could help minimize the conflict in our lives, and choose better ways to deal with our high-conflict ex-spouses–be they men or women,” he said.*

Though he complied with the court order and removed the site, Morelli has filed an appeal. This is, in my opinion, a classic example of a parent putting their own interests before that of their child. Supporters say that Morelli is practicing free speech, but it doesn’t count as free speech when it’s child abuse. Which, in my opinion, it is. That may sound harsh to you, but then I suspect you’ve never known the child of a divorce where one party or both routinely said terrible things about the other parent in the child’s presence.

I believe that if Morelli wants therapeutic catharsis, he should hire a therapist. When you speak badly of your ex, you speak badly of your child. When you post cruel words online about your ex, you are posting cruel words about your child. No matter whether or not the things you say or write are true in your mind, it’s child abuse. Your children are half you, half your spouse. You think your kid is smart enough and mature enough to handle hearing the “truth” about their other parent? You’re wrong. They’re a kid. Let them be a kid. Read the 11 Inalienable Rights of Children. Print it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it every day. Protect your child from wagging tongues – including your own.

*Article cited: The Psycho Ex-Wife: Free Speech Fight Over Divorce Blog.

Time to Tattle on Crooked Spouses

Hi everybody,

It’s tax time for us accountants, but that is not what this post is about – well, not exactly.  Actually, it’s to tattle on the law abiding (and crooked) spouses and apprise family law professionals of three income tax changes coming in 2011 that can affect spousal support and estate planning (aka dying expectations).

1.     Depreciation Expense – It’s possible for businesses to buy and deduct up to $125,000 of the cost of business property (furniture, fixtures and equipment).  Yes, there are some phaseout limitations, but it’s worth knowing about this IRS rule.  Why?  Haven’t you ever questioned the cause for that dip in earnings for that business owner spouse?  Most of us look at the obvious answer– unrecorded cash.  But maybe you should look below the top line and peek at the purchase depreciation expense.  Some of it might be added back and included in cash flow, which in turn will increase income available for support to that giving spouse.

2.     Social Security Withholding – Speaking of support, for 2011 only, the legislation reduced the rate for the Social Security portion of payroll taxes to 10.4% by reducing the employee rate from 6.2% to 4.2% (the employer’s portion remains at 6.2%).  This translates to hundreds of dollars for each of your clients to use and spend on their support payments.

3.     Estate Taxes – The government reinstated the estate tax, with an estate tax rate of 35% for estates over $5 million (adjusted for inflation after 2011).  Your estate is not tax free to entitled children or heirs as it was in 2010, but it’s still cheaper to die now than it was only a few years ago.

With all this good tax news, I hope you all make lots of money and I wish you all Happy Holidays and a kind and healthy New Year.

Steven B. Garelick, CPA/ABV/CFF, CVA, CFS
tel (818) 601-4707 <<>> (626) 441-1040
fax (818) 884-2641 <<>> (626) 441-1090*

*Post updated to reflect Mr. Garelick’s new contact information.

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.

The Marriage Eulogy

By Ty Supancic, Esquire
Associate Attorney at The Law Collaborative, LLP

There is an old saying, “History is written by the winners.”  In litigation, there are winners and losers.  We believe that when parties in crisis choose mediation over litigation, everyone has the potential to come out a winner.  If the winners write history, why can’t the winners in a dissolution write their own history?

Fifty years after a divorce, the children and grandchildren of the original divorcing couple will tell and believe a story about why their parents and grandparents divorced, what kind of people they were, and what aftermath or legacy they left behind.  A couple going through a dissolution has the opportunity to write what they would like that story to be.  By writing that story, and by keeping that story in mind, they can guide their actions and decisions in such a way that the story can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Without having the story as a guideline, the parties are building without a plan, traveling without a map. They’ll build something and end up somewhere, but not with anything or anywhere they would have hoped.

The exercise of having individuals who are going through a dissolution of marriage write a “Joint Divorce Story” is not a new idea.  Ron has been recommending it to his clients for years.  Unfortunately, few ever take the time to engage in this useful exercise.  Oftentimes they confuse the Joint Divorce Story with a mission statement or their short-term goals.  The exercise might be more easily understood if it is renamed “The Marriage Eulogy”.

One of our paralegals, Maria, told me that when she was in high school, the nuns had them write their own eulogy as part of a “Death and Dying” class exercise.  The idea was that by writing about all the great things they wanted to be remembered for when they died, one might be guided in making decisions during their lives.  The Marriage Eulogy has the same goal.

At common law, upon marriage a couple ceased to exist as individuals and became one entity.  This concept lives on today as new couples dream about what their married lives will be like.  Couples build powerful dreams that take on lives of their own.  While divorce never ends a relationship, it does end marriage, and with the end of the marriage, that powerful dream of marriage dies.  Couples going through divorce really are witnessing the death of an entity. Psychology informs us that children witnessing the divorce of their parents can be as devastated as a parent losing a child.

Often when we lose somebody important to us, we feel compelled to write a eulogy in honor and memory of that person.  A eulogy is not something scrawled in haste.  It is not something we compose in our heads while driving.  A good eulogy is something we take great pains in writing.  It is something we craft and hone and polish so that the result is powerful and evocative.  We are trying to sum up the essence of an entire being in a few succinct words.  The Marriage Eulogy should be written in such a manner.

When couples are not ready to write a joint eulogy, I have proposed that they write individual eulogies to exchange and reflect on individually.  Knowing how your ex-spouse wants your marriage to be remembered by their grandchildren can be a powerful thing.

One might tread more softly and be more thoughtful if mindful of what history could say about them and their life.  “I can’t think about my ex in that way yet!  It’s too soon.”  Okay, but you could write a fairy tale about how a divorce would be remembered.  That is a powerful starting place.  If we all were to conduct ourselves in accordance with the values and motives of a fairytale hero or heroine, we would all find ourselves kinder, gentler, nobler, and wiser as a result.

Dr. Kathy Memel on Divorce (Part 4 of 4)

Dr. Kathy Memel is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a divorce, custody, and family mediator. In the fourth and final segment of this live recording from a recent Second Saturday Workshop, Dr. Memel discusses how children manage the complicated web of emotions they feel during a divorce, how parents can help them better manage their feelings, and what happens if they don’t.

For more information about Dr. Kathy Memel, visit her website at

Missed Parts 1, 2, or 3? Click HERE for Part 1, click HERE for Part 2, click HERE for Part 3.

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It’s your family, it should be your choice.

“Going to court is the only way to ensure you’ll get a fair share.”

This is a popular myth in our culture. In fact, the opposite is true. When you go to court, you get the product of distributive bargaining, which means that the court is limited to only those remedies that have been established in the jurisdiction in which that judge is a bench officer. The rules of law and the court cases interpreting the law change regularly. Most states have enacted statutes that would fill a book outlining all of the various circumstances and events that alter the rights to property and children. And those are changing constantly.

People who choose to resolve their family disputes outside of court can use much greater creativity, imagination, and flexibility to design workable plans for their children, their property, and their money. The legal professionals who engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution have long known this. Arbitration was designed to take litigation outside of the court. Mediation came about to eliminate the restrictions imposed by judges who sit in courtrooms. Collaborative law has evolved to give parties the best of both worlds. You’re free to be creative, and you have an attorney. It’s your money. It’s your family. It’s your life. It should be your choice.

Many lawyers today are exploring collaborative law as a new option. Collaborative Divorce involves professionals — such as lawyers, accountants, and financial planners who share a belief that a family is forever, and that family disputes are best resolved using collaborative strategies rather than adversarial approaches such as litigation.

Lawyers who practice collaborative divorce believe in and have been trained in the non-adversarial dispute-resolution process. Through this new process, they model for their clients a commitment to honesty, dignified behavior, and mutual respect. Imagine a divorce in which collaboration replaces competition, financial disclosure is mandatory, and mediation becomes the rule rather than the exception.

The advantages of collaborative divorce are many. Sessions are held in private, which keeps many details out of the public record. With their lawyers assisting, the clients are in charge and make their own agreements, rather than giving power and control to courts. Without the need to wait for a long time for hearing or trial dates, the divorce can proceed in a timely fashion, saving money on attorneys fees and court costs. Through good planning and the collaborative allocation of resources, accountants and financial planners may successfully assist the family to conserve its assets to the advantage of both the parties and their children.

Just as after the death of one partner, the family will naturally restructure itself after divorce. Yet for this restructuring process to be optimally healthy, the parties will likely need professional help, which the collaborative-divorce model provides. Lawyers, however well intentioned, have not been trained to solve the client’s emotional and financial issues without assistance.

Divorcing couples can also benefit from seeing a “divorce coach.” Usually a mental health professional, the divorce coach teaches communication skills, educates and assists the couple with consistent co-parenting skills, and normalizes the difficult closure issues. The divorce coach can achieve great strides in these areas and help the family unit, through change, emerge strengthened as a whole.

One might question the expense of involving so many experts in an individual case. Yet we have seen in case after case that a collaborative divorce saves the parties not only money but also the great emotional cost of litigated divorce by taking less time, inflicting less trauma, and causing less damage to children.

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

The budget crisis in California is having a major impact on the courts. Last week I read an article in the L.A. Times about the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases in Riverside County due to a lack of judges. Hundreds of criminal cases will not be tried because there aren’t enough judges. If that’s not an indication of the state of California’s court system, I don’t know what is. And if you think the problems are only in the criminal courts, you’re wrong. The family courts are just as bad. Thousands of clerks have been laid off, there aren’t enough judges, the courtrooms are over-crowded, the available judges don’t have time to hear all the cases, it’s a nightmare.

Something needs to change. In the fourth part of this interview with Judge Sheila Prell Sonenshine, Ron and Robert ask the retired Appellate and Superior Court Judge what measures we can take to solve the crisis in the courts.  She has some excellent suggestions for what you can do to help the system work better, and also, how you can facilitate healing after your divorce. Listen today and tell us what you think! (Podcast #56, Part 4 of 4)

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Missed Parts 1, 2, and 3? Click HERE for Part 1, HERE for Part 2, and HERE for Part 3.
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Dr. Kathy Memel on Divorce (Part 1 of 4)

This week’s podcast features a live recording from the mental health portion of a recent Second Saturday Workshop. The speaker, Dr. Kathy Memel, is a therapist with a private practice in Beverly Hills. She works with individuals, couples, and families, and she provides a safe, caring, confidential environment. In addition to her work as a therapist, Dr. Memel has served as a family mediator at the Los Angeles Superior Conciliation Court for over twenty years. She also worked for five years as a family law paralegal, so she understands what people go through in a lawyer’s office. She’s also a wonderful person and a joy to be around.

In this segment of her presentation, Dr. Memel talks about how past family history plays a role in current family conflict.

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