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Budget Cuts Imperil Access to State Courts

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Across the nation, state court systems are facing severe budget cuts that may result in a delay of justice for many.  Because so much of the budget of the court is personnel, staff reductions are one of the only options. California has been no exception. In their frantic effort to stem the tide of red ink in Sacramento, legislators have cut $350 million from the state court budget, with more cuts to follow. A local newspaper is calling it “Courtmageddon.”

For someone contemplating braving the courts to get a divorce, the news is grim. Twenty-five of San Francisco’s 63 Superior court chambers have been shuttered. Two hundred of 480 employees will be getting pink slips. “It will take a year and a half to get a divorce in San Francisco and to get a child custody order. If you file suit, we won’t do anything with your case for five years,” San Francisco Superior Court spokesperson Ann Donlan said. Unfortunately, Los Angeles County may not fare much better. Right now, it is common for a lawyer in Los Angeles to face an eighteen-month delay when filing an order to show cause. That can be catastrophic if the matter concerns custody of children, visitation, or any number of other sensitive issues.

Getting on with one’s life is paramount, and a lingering, costly battle in court is the last thing anyone wants. It simply stretches out the pain, multiplies the cost, and hurts your children.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Collaborative Divorce offers a different, and less destructive, path to reconstituting the family. Ron Supancic, a seasoned litigator and expert in alternative divorce strategies, is recommending collaboration as a sensible alternative to the embattled and clogged state courts. The professionals and resources of The Law Collaborative can make the journey shorter, less traumatic, more equitable and leave more goodwill and cooperation than traditional divorce.

For more about the benefits of Collaborative Divorce, click here.

Divorce by Texting?

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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.

How To Have A Better Divorce

Here are some tips and suggestions to help make the process of divorce a little bit easier. If you follow these suggestions, you will save yourself a lot of potential frustration down the road.

1. Always take your file with you everywhere.

2. Keep a journal. Write down every significant event, conversation, discussion and action of your spouse at the time it occurs.

3. Keep a ledger. Write down every financial aspect of your case to assure a complete, accurate, and legible record of all the financial aspects of your case.

4. Memorialize every agreement with every person who is interested/involved in your case. Keep/send copies.

5. Meet with your attorney in person to design strategies for your case. Explore consensual dispute resolution; confirm everything in writing.

6. Know your strategy; do not deviate without advice and counsel.

7. Participate in the preparation of your case; draft, document, investigate, gather information and pre-interview all witnesses.

8. Let your attorney know when s/he is on track or off.

9. Schedule regular spit and grouse sessions with your attorney. DO NOT let resentments accumulate.

10. Keep your account current at all times and offer security if you fall behind.

Prepare Yourself

Prepare Yourself for Divorce by Knowing Your Budget and Your Home’s Equity
By Randy Morrow, Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist

You have filed for divorce and told your attorney “I want everything I can get from her/him.” Really? Do you think it is that easy?

What happens to you if ‘everything’ isn’t enough? How are you going to live? Do you have a job that pays enough to support you and/or the kids? Do you even have a job? Have you given any of this the least bit of thought? Tough questions, but questions you must answer.

My suggestion:  Sit down and start making a list of absolutes. Absolutes are monthly expenses absolutely necessary to survive, with no frills. I suggest having a trusted friend or professional help you make this list. (Remember, you probably aren’t thinking as clearly as you would like to right now.)

Read more…

The Big Lie About Co-Parenting

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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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Rebuild Your Life

Randy Morrow is a Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist in Virginia. Ron and Robert recently interviewed him on their podcast, Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes. Check out the first two interviews in the four part series here and here. Part 3 is available on iTunes now and we’ll post it on our blog this Friday. Subscribe to our free weekly podcast here.

MULTIPLE SOURCES FOR PURCHASING A HOME AFTER DIVORCE
By Randy Morrow

One of the dismal aspects of going through a divorce is the thought that you will not be able to buy another home.  In many cases that is correct. However, if you are able to remove yourself from the tunnel-vision effect, there are a great many resources available.

What do I mean?  When we are thinking of buying another home, we immediately think of traditional loans at traditional institutions.  Also, we think about the massive amounts of cash needed.  For those willing to do some research, allow me to make a few suggestions on where to search.

  • National.

Traditional institutions such as banks and mortgage companies.  We are all aware of them.

  • State.

Many states have programs to provide below market mortgages for eligible low- and moderate-income first time homebuyers. Most require that you currently live in the state and/or county. There are income limits and purchase price limits. Conventional, FHA, and VA loans may be available. These programs are traditionally re-funded yearly with a set amount of funds.  This means they may run out of money before the end of their twelve month period.

  • County/City.

Here is an example of the property eligibility of a city-run program:

  • Property must be located in that city/county
  • Eligible Property Types:  Single-Family (detached, duplex, townhomes)

Multi-Family (condominiums, cooperatives)

  • Maximum purchase price:  $362,790
  • Maximum loan amount:  $90,700
  • Minimum down payment:  1% of the purchase price.
  • County/City Work Programs.

One program I’m aware of provides up to a $5,000 “forgivable loan” for eligible employees to purchase in this locale.

  • Owner occupancy is required.
  • There are no income requirements or limitations.
  • Property must be located in the county/city
  • At least one member of the family must be a permanent full-time employee.
  • The loan is “forgivable”, meaning if the employee remains employed with the County or City for three years (and the property remains owner-occupied), the loan will become a grant.
  • Notification Lists.

Check to see if your locale has a ‘lottery’ system.  These are properties made available to qualified low and moderate income households, as well as the allocation of down payment and closing cost assistance. If a lottery system is available and you qualify, your name will be placed on a notification list.  This list can be quite lengthy, but do not be discouraged.  A lot of things happen to a lot of the people ahead of you on the list; they  move out of town or out of state, their financial situation improves, they die, et cetera.

Naturally, everything I’ve written about here may not be applicable where you live. My point is to encourage you to avoid ‘tunnel-vision’. Do not think that there is only one way for you to own a place of your own if your divorce leaves you a bit down. Keep an open mind, get curious, do some research, and start rebuilding your life.

Randy Morrow, Realtor and Virginia’s Leading Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist.

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.

Randy Morrow, Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist, P. 2

Ron and Robert engage in a lively discussion with Randy Morrow, Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist (CREDS), about why you’re better off hiring a specialist to help you sell your home during a divorce. They address common questions like: What is the distinction between a CREDS and your average realtor? How is a CREDS qualified to help couples going through a divorce? How does a CREDS protect your assets? Why might a CREDS choose not to help you sell your property?

One of the things that distinguishes Randy from other realtors is that he does not represent one spouse or the other. He represents the divorcing couple, he offers complete transparency, and he has years of experience selling real estate and helping people in the middle of divorce. He knows how to help couples cope with their emotional agendas and he knows when to set boundaries. Listen to this week’s podcast and learn how you can protect your assets and your interests during divorce.

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Did you miss Randy’s first interview? Find it here.

Don’t miss another one! Subscribe to our free weekly podcast, Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes.