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Talking Stick Ceremony

Ty Supancic, Esq.

The following is a powerful communication exercise developed by the first Americans. It was used in tribal disputes to ensure everybody was heard and any resentments were addressed.

The parties sit facing each other with notepaper and writing utensils. The person who asked for the ceremony is designated “the Speaker.” During the ceremony, the Speaker may hold some item designated as the “talking stick” in their hands, while the other person (the “Listener”) should hold paper and pen for note taking.

1. The Speaker begins saying what they want to say to the Listener while the Listener takes detailed notes. The Listener does not comment or interrupt except to ask non-accusatory clarifying questions. “So you’re calling me a liar” is not appropriate. “So you heard me say, ‘I missed the bus,'” is acceptable.

2. When the Speaker has said everything they need to say and they feel “empty” the Listener repeats back what they heard in their own words (direct quotes are okay). If the Listener misstates what they heard, the Speaker may interrupt to correct them.

3. When the Listener has repeated everything to the Speaker’s satisfaction, the Listener asks if the Speaker has anything they wish to add. If the Speaker wishes to say more, go back to step 1. Repeat steps 1-3 until the Speaker is “empty.”

4. Only when the Speaker is empty does the Listener get to respond to the things the Speaker said. Step 4 is actually a reversal of roles; the Listener becomes the Speaker and the Speaker the Listener, bound by the same rules as before. With the roles now reversed, the parties go through steps 1-3 as many times as necessary until the new Speaker feels empty. Once empty, the parties may switch roles again and continue the exercise as many times are necessary until both parties are empty.

Important notes:

If the parties cannot follow the protocol, schedule a time to reconvene when emotions have subsided.

The Listener may not argue, correct, or do anything else except ask questions with the intention of understanding what the Speaker is saying.

The goal is clear, complete communication, not persuasion. If both parties walk away feeling they have been heard, the exercise is a success.

Remember, our office hosts a free Family Law and Divorce Workshop on the second Saturday of every month. The next workshop is Saturday, October 14 from 10AM to 12PM. For more information or to reserve a seat, please call (818)348-6700.

Best wishes,
Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
www.thelawcollaborative.com

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

 

What About the Children?

When the topic of divorce surfaces, the first thought of many is, “What about the children?” Divorce is thought to traumatize all children involved, and with fair reason. A family splits, lives are altered, and people must adapt to their new circumstances, whatever they may be. Stephanie Dolgoff, author and divorcee, watched peers gasp when they heard she was divorcing her husband with whom she had children. She felt terrible whenever she would receive this reaction to the news, understandably, as if she had failed her children by not working harder to save the marriage. As time went on, however, she began to feel more comfortable with how the situation turned out, as her children became more at ease with the new living arrangements. She and her husband tried to handle the divorce as maturely as they could, in the hopes that things would turn out better for everybody. They did.

I’ve learned that I’m in many ways a better parent than when I was anxious and unhappy and I was distracted by the tension in my marriage. Having gotten my divorce legs, I’m present and peaceful and able to give to them. Aside from plain wanting to leave a situation that wasn’t bringing me joy, I wanted to show my girls what a happy woman who took care of herself and her emotional needs looked like. It will serve them well.

If you’re interested in her full article, you can read it here.

Fable of the Porcupine

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals were dying because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing their situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves. But the quills of each one wounded their closest companions. After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: Either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from Earth. Wisely, they decided to join together again. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationships with their companions, in order to receive the warmth that came with them. This way they were able to survive.

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the one where each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others while admiring the other person’s good qualities.

Family Dinner

Family Dinner

Last week Robert came across an article by Laurie David and Grace R. Freedman, Ph.D., for the Huffington Post. It explored a possible link between childhood obesity and the near absence of the traditional family dinner. With most parents working outside the home these days, families have complicated, busy schedules, so more and more kids are eating on the go – fast meals with little nutritional value. David and Freedman write, “Regular, routine meals add structure to a child’s day (and to that of the parents), and from this structure stems a myriad of health and social benefits, including better relationships with peers and adults, better grades at school, and less likelihood of using drugs, alcohol or cigarettes… Children (and adults) who have regular mealtimes, with the television turned off and conversation turned on, are also far less likely to be overweight, less likely to have eating disorders, and are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables than are those who eat alone or on the run.” (Read the full article here…)

This got us thinking about the incredible value of a routine family dinner for families in transition. If a routine family dinner can help kids and parents develop healthier eating habits and better social skills, then it must be of paramount importance for a family experiencing a breakup to adopt this simple ritual. Children of divorcing parents are often frightened and confused. Even when they say they’re fine, they’re unsure of their future, uncomfortable with changes they have no control over, and sorely in need of comfort and consistency from both parents. What better way to grant them that than for you (during your custodial time) to sit down with them over dinner and talk about their day, the best parts, the worst parts, and everything in between? It’s a no-frills idea that could have a hugely positive impact on your relationship with your children, while at the same time helping them (and yourself) heal from the divorce.

 

Best wishes,
Ron Supancic CFLS

Themes of Experience

Nearly every child whose parents split up experiences fear. Many children worry that their parents will abandon them. After all, if marriages can be dissolved, why not parent-child relationships? Fears like these can lessen a child’s trust in their parents and in human relationships in general, which is why must take care to put our children’s needs before our own during this difficult time.

Another common theme in a child’s divorce experience is sadness and yearning. Sometimes the sadness is so deep that children experience sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, disinterest in play, deep sighing, compulsive overeating, and various aches and pains. They yearn for the absent parent. A five-year-old who’s father has moved out will say, “I need a daddy. I don’t have a daddy.”  It doesn’t seem to matter at all how good a relationship the child had with the absent father. The child misses him and wants him back because his presence is important; what he represents in the child’s own mind and imagination is important. And the kid wants him back because that would heal the pain of their sense of loss and rejection. Substitutions, no matter how well intended, will not fill the great emptiness they feel.

Divorce is also a time of worry for children. They often — boys and girls alike — fret about their absent parent and the details of his or her life. But they also worry about the parent who didn’t move out — both in terms of that parent’s permanence for them and their needs, and in terms of their compassion for that parent’s own suffering. Kids also worry about money, about changing schools, about moving, and about their parent’s new friends.

Very often, children take the departure of a parent personally. He or she is rejecting them. In addition, some children, will identify with their departed parent so that they personally feel any criticism leveled at that parent by the other parent as if it had been meant for them.

Loneliness is another common theme. Children feel that both of their parents are slipping away from them — which is not unreasonable, since the remaining parent might be either off at work or hiding in the bedroom in a pit of depression. Adolescents are sometimes able to escape this torment if they are especially well adjusted so that they have an already-devleoped capacity to rely on their friends. But the reliance of teenagers on their equally immature friends can also lead to difficulties at home, at school, or even with the law.

Divorce can be confusing, frustrating, frightening and stressful for everyone involved. Click here to revisit our Checklist for Divorcing Parents, so you can help your kids get through this tough time.

Podcast #45 Now Live On iTunes (Step By Step Guide To Divorce, part II)

Our latest podcast is now live on iTunes, please click HERE to listen to podcast #45 (Step By Step Guide To Divorce, part II). Listen to Step By Step Guide to Divorce, part 1 HERE.

On this Memorial Day

The Grand Fleet, by Grendl on Flickr

On this Memorial Day I think of my brother Rob, my Uncle Freelan, Uncle Bill, my dad, my grandfather, and all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces and made this wonderful democracy free for you and me.

Wishing you a peaceful Memorial Day,
Ron Supancic
Robert Borsky
and the entire Law Collaborative Team

Creating a Dialogue

Over the years we’ve had many many people tell us that divorce is worse than death.  And in some ways it is a death.  It’s the death of an identity.

When people come together in a marriage, they create a third entity.  He’s not who he was anymore, he now becomes what she adds to him.  She’s no longer who she was, separate and apart from him, she becomes who she is with him.  The two of them create this third relationship, and the success of the marriage, the longevity of the marriage, the durability of the marriage is a direct function of the amount of time that people put into cultivating, creating, adding to and enlarging that third entity.  When that entity dies, when it is destroyed, when it is broken through a breach of trust or a horrible misadventure, it’s devastating.  It’s devastating to the person who has put their everything into the relationship and it’s devastating to the children.

There is a legal divorce and there is an emotional divorce. The key is to understand that what you’re going through is different than what the legal process is.  But you have to understand the legal process to be able to get through it.  The purpose of this blog, and of the Ron and Robert on Divorce Podcast, is to provide tools, education and information to people who are going through the crisis of a divorce.

How do you know if you need a lawyer?  What are the proper forms to file to get a divorce started?  Can you do it yourself?  How much does it cost?  What are the rules for fair fighting?  What if your spouse is hiding money?  What about the kids?  What is collaborative law?  Do you have to go to court?  We’ve answered all these questions on our blog and in our podcasts, and now we want to start a dialogue with you – what do you want to know?  What are your questions?  Send us an email and we will answer your questions on our radio show or on our blog.  We won’t use your name, your identity will be protected, but it’s important to know that there are remedies, there are solutions, there are steps you can take, precise protocols you can follow to make your entire divorce easier.  You are not at the mercy of the California Divorce Industry.  You can take this opportunity to empower yourself.  Write to:

Ron@TheLawCollaborative.com
Robert@TheLawCollaborative.com

Please keep in mind that we cannot give legal advice without a signed Retainer Agreement, but it is our mission to provide information, education, knowledge and support.  Thank you for allowing us to be of service.

Click the play button below to listen to Ron and Robert’s latest podcast:

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Helping Your Children Through Divorce

1.  Tell your children the truth, with simple explanations.

2.  Tell them where their other parent has gone and when they will see them again.

3.  Reassure your children that they will continue to be taken care of and that they will be safe and secure.

4.  Your children see that parents sometimes stop loving each other. Explain that a parent’s love for their child is a special kind of love that never changes or goes away.

5.  See the wisdom in spending quality time every day with each child individually.

6.  Children may feel responsible for causing the divorce. Reassure them that they are not to blame. They may also feel responsible for bringing parents back together. Let them know that your decision is final and will have to be accepted.

7.  Divorcing parents often feel guilty and become overindulgent because their children have to go through a divorce. Give your child love and limits.

8.  Your child is still a child and cannot become the man of the house or the little mother. Continue to be a parent to your child. Seek other adults to fill your need for companionship.

9.  Avoid situations that place children in the impossible position of choosing between parents.

10.  Don’t use your child as a way to get back at your former spouse.  Avoid using your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.  Children can be terribly wounded when caught in the crossfire.

11.  Throughout life, you and your former spouse will continue to be the parents of your children. Pledge to cooperate responsibly towards the growth and development of your children as an expression of your mutual love for them.

12.  A divorce can be a time of loss for each member of the family. You are entitled to reach out for help and support.

13.  Be patient and understanding with your child.

14.  Be patient and understanding with yourself.