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Fighting Fair

Ty Supancic, Esq.

Everyone disagrees sometimes. In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. Healthy relationships do not avoid conflict, but use 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 ______.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4. Learn to use “time outs”. 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, are dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families. Remember: We host a FREE family law workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is this Saturday, Sept. 9 from 10AM to 12PM. Call (818) 348-6700 to RSVP.

Best wishes,

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The Law Collaborative, APC


How Much Support Can I Get?

Part Two of the discussion launched in last month’s newsletter addresses spousal support (formerly known as alimony). Unlike child support which has no tax consequence, spousal support is deductible for the payor and taxable as income to the payee.

Contrary to child support which involves a cut-and-dried calculation, the calculation of spousal support is more complex and is addressed in California’s Family Code section 4320.

The first consideration is the parties’ marital standard of living; where they shopped, ate out, vacationed, et cetera. Couples with a modest marital standard of living can expect modest support orders. The opposite might be true for couples who lived beyond their means.

Using the marital standard of living as a starting point, some of the other factors that must be considered include the age of the parties, time out of the workforce, job skills, the job market for those skills, the cost of retraining to obtain more marketable skills, and the length of the marriage.

Generally the courts expect an individual receiving support to become self-supporting within a period equal to half the length of the marriage. If a party fails to become self-supporting, the court can take that into consideration and modify support. The misunderstood significance of a marriage over 10 years, or a “marriage of long duration,” is not permanent support, but the court’s ongoing and permanent authority to revisit support issues.

A young, capable individual who was married 12 years will likely be required to become self-supporting within six years and a failure to do so could jeopardize their receipt of support. On the other hand, an individual after retirement age who was married 8 years might receive support for the rest of their life if a court finds that is what’s fair.

Couples going through divorce who utilize the Collaborative Law Process or Mediation can avoid the gamble and expense of paying for trial on the issues of support and can reach agreements far more flexible and creative than any court. And they can agree to terminate the court’s authority to make changes if they believe that would make for a better deal.

At The Law Collaborative we have over fifty years of combined experience handling complex support issues. We design unique legal strategies based on the individual factors of your case. When necessary, we consult forensic financial experts to ensure the best outcome. We are committed to making sure your needs are met.

Our next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop will take place on September 9 at our Woodland Hills Office. This workshop is beneficial to anyone contemplating divorce or curious about their options. The workshop is free, but a reservation is required. Please call our office at (818) 348-6700 to RSVP or visit for more information.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (818) 348-6700
F: (818) 348-0961
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Marriage Eulogy

Ty Supancic, Esq.Fifty years after a divorce, the children and grandchildren of the original divorcing couple will 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 divorce have the opportunity to write that story. 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.

The exercise of having divorcing couples 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”.

When planning their future, a couple dreams about what their married life will be like. When divorce ends a marriage, that powerful dream dies. Couples going through divorce really are witnessing the death of an entity. Psychology informs us that children witnessing the divorce of their parents may be as devastated as a parent losing a child.

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 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 suggest 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 will 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.

If you or someone you know has questions about divorce or another family law topic, please remember that our free Second Saturday Divorce Workshop is this Saturday, June 10 from 10AM to 12PM at our Woodland Hills office. For more info, visit or call (818)348-6700 to RSVP.

Ty Supancic, Esq.

Why Mediate?


What’s in it for me? That is the question often asked when mediation is suggested.

Ideally, mediation of a divorce case will save time, money, and upset. Mediation can be a Win-Win proposition but it requires two people who really want it to work.

In mediation the goal is to help the parties design a settlement agreement that will realistically fulfill their needs, which requires that the parties clearly and specifically identify their ideal solution to the dispute while taking the other party’s desired outcome into consideration. This requires the three C’s: cooperation, collaboration, and compromise. To compromise – in other words, to find the middle ground and occupy it. This is the place from which people are able to negotiate their way through dispute to agreement.

Before a party to conflict can contemplate compromise, they have to truly listen to the other party, hear what they have to say, learn why they feel the way they do so there can be understanding, and then try to view the dispute from the other person’s position. This makes compromise possible where it was not previously considered. And in turn, allows for the transformation from dispute to resolution.

To learn more about the mediation process, we would like to extend an invitation to our next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop, which will take place at 10:00 a.m. on May 13 at our Woodland Hills Office. Attorney Ty Supancic of The Law Collaborative will address the legal issues in divorce and discuss the mediation process. This workshop is beneficial to anyone contemplating divorce, going through divorce, or curious about their options. This workshop is free, but space is limited, so please call our office at (818) 348-6700 to RSVP. Thank you for the opportunity to be of service.

Best wishes,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS

The Law Collaborative, APC

5955 De Soto Avenue, Suite 125

Woodland Hills, CA 91367

T: (818)348-6700

F: (818)348-0961


Budget Cuts Imperil Access to State Courts

photo by s_falkow via PhotoRee

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.

The Ten Commandments of Family Law Litigation

photo by @jbtaylor via PhotoRee

There are many ways to resolve a dispute. To save our Clients’ time, money, and stress, we first recommend Collaboration. However, it takes two to collaborate. If you find yourself in a situation where collaboration is not possible,  we recommend following The Ten Commandments of Family Law Litigation:

I. Always take your file with you everywhere.

II. In your journal, make an entry of every significant event, conversation, discussion, and action of your spouse at the time it occurs.

III. In your ledger, make an entry for every financial event in your case in order to assure a complete accurate and legible record. (Example: each time support is paid out or received.)

IV. Memorialize every agreement with every person who is interested/involved in your case; keep/send copies.

V. Meet and confirm strategy with your attorney in person; explore alternative dispute resolution; confirm everything in writing.

VI. Know your strategy; do not deviate without advice and counsel from your attorney.

VII. Participate in preparation of your case: draft, document, investigate, gather information and pre-interview witnesses.

VIII. Let your attorney know when he/she is on-track as well as off-track.

IX. Schedule regular Spit & Growl sessions: don’t let resentments accumulate with your attorney or staff.

X. Keep your account current: offer security.

Dividing the Pots & Pans

When you’re getting a divorce, how do you figure out who gets the pots and pans? Who gets the china, the knick-knacks, the photo albums, the lamps, the dishes, the electronics, and the furnishings? How do you divide the myriad household items collected over years of marriage?

Honorable Judge Robert Schnider (Retired) began his career as a family law attorney in 1971. He was among the first group of lawyers to become a Certified Family Law Specialist when the California State Bar created the designation. Judge Schnider is unique in the family law court system because his entire career has been focused on family law matters. Where most judges assigned to the family law department have backgrounds in criminal law or something else unrelated to family matters, Judge Schnider knows family law inside and out.

When asked how he dealt with dividing the pots and pans in his courtroom he said he never objected to dividing the furniture.  He developed a method he said often led parties to settling their property issues.  He required that parties create one list that set forth every item they wanted him to rule on.  The list would contain the numbered items, any party’s contention the item did not in fact exist, each party’s contention as to who had the item, each party’s contention as to separate property or community property, and each party’s contention as to fair market value.  If they wanted to include purchase price they could, but purchase price wasn’t as important as the current value.

The parties could start off with two separate lists if they wanted, but what they presented to the court had to be one combined list.

Of course, this exercise involves a lot of work that can’t be foisted off onto the attorney. Judge Schnider admitted that more often than not, parties would get mad in the middle of this exercise and exclaim that it was a waste of time or that the judge was being a jerk, but then they would become reasonable and settle the case.

On the rare occasion they did not, Judge Schnider said he could usually try the case in a few hours and often rule from the bench, keeping the attorney fees down.  There was the occasional case where he spent several days with testimony about the physical condition of each item, the provenance of many items, the market research regarding values, et cetera, but those were the exceptions.

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.

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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

Schelb v. Stein

From the Los Angeles County Bar Association Daily E-briefs:

Trust deed securing a promissory note issued in connection with a family law judgment may expire under provisions of the Marketable Record Title Act, despite Family Code Sec. 291, which provides that a family law judgment is enforceable until paid in full. MRTA and Sec. 291 do not conflict because a debt evidenced by a note and secured by a deed of trust is still owed even after the note expires under MRTA and the deed of trust is no longer enforceable. Application of Sec. 291 to a judgment entered prior to the section’s effective date did not substantially interfere with debtor’s rights where enforcement of that judgment would not have been subject to a time limitation under prior law.

Schelb v. Stein

What that means in plainer English is, if you have an unfulfilled obligation owed to you under a judgment, you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options for enforcing your interests and collecting the debt.  Any delay could result in the forfeiture of your security interest in real property or could prevent you from collecting on the debt you are owed.

In even plainer English:  If somebody owes you money and is not current in making their payments, speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

What Does Assembly Bill 939 Mean for You?

Family Law touches the innermost aspects of a Californian’s life. It determines how often a parent will see his or her child, how much support they will receive, how they’ll be protected from domestic violence, and more.  Last month the governor signed Assembly Bill 939 and as a result, we’re looking at profound changes to the legislature after the first of the year. These changes will significantly impact members of the family law bar, the bench, and the public.  Listen now as Ron and Robert talk about what this important bill means for you.

To download a PDF of Assembly Bill 939, click the following link: Assembly_Bill_939

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