Twitter Facebook Myspace

Save the Date…

The Second Saturday Divorce Workshop for Women is an excellent way for women who are contemplating divorce or who are in the process of divorce to take control of their lives, learn about their rights, and protect themselves in court.  Speaking at the event will be attorney Robert Borsky, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Irene Smith and licensed marriage and family therapist Rosalinda O’Neill.

About Robert Borsky
Robert Borsky has been practicing law since 1981. He limited his practice to Family Law from 1984 through 2001, taking occasional special cases referred by Judges. During this time, he spent four years on the exclusive Gang Intervention Task Force, representing juveniles. From 2001 to 2006, Robert also practiced insurance defense and Workers’ Compensation Law while maintaining his family law practice. Robert Borsky has served as a mediator, arbitrator and Judge pro tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court since 1986. He is a member of the Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and San Fernando Valley Bar Associations. Robert served as President of the Long Beach Bar Association, Family Law Section, 1994-1995 session, and is a past Co-Chair of the California State Child Custody Committee. As an advisor to the Superior Court, he received the first ‘Judge William McFadden Award,’ for his contribution in assembling the first Master List of qualified Child Custody Evaluators, Protocols and Evaluator Retainers. Robert taught college level courses at USC Law School from 1990 to 1998, and has been a guest speaker at State Bar functions, and local County and City functions. Robert has spoken frequently on local radio stations, and has written numerous articles for the bench and bar. Click here to read more about Robert Borsky.

About Irene Smith
Irene Smith holds the designations of Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™, Certified Financial Planner® and Certified Public Accountant. Irene obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University, Northridge and her MBA degree in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Before starting her financial planning practice in 2001, Irene had an extensive corporate career and developed expertise in the fields of taxation, finance and real estate. After experiencing the impact divorces had on the lives of her family and friends, she decided to obtain additional training as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to help divorcing individuals make better informed financial decisions. As a CDFA, Irene analyzes the financial issues of a divorce and informs clients about the long-term effect of financial decisions made today. She can help clients avoid the common pitfalls of divorce by evaluating the tax implications of dividing property and the financial impact of various settlement options.  Click here to read more about Irene Smith.

About Rosalinda O’Neill
Rosalinda O”Neill holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Miami and a master’s in counseling psychology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a California Licensed Marriage Family Therapist with expertise in addiction, conflict resolution, partner dynamics, relationship, trauma and achieving success. Rosalinda has over 30 years of high level corporate experience. Rosalinda is President and founder of CEO LifeMentor®, Inc since 1984. She is a member of the Physicians’ Diversion Evaluation Committee of the Medical Board of California. Her non-profit leadership involvement includes Rotary International and Rotary Club of Beverly Hills, City of Hope Board of Governors and the American Heart Association, Ventura Division.  Click here to read more about Rosalinda O’Neill.

A theory that changed laws

During his period in the appellate court, Justice Donald King was probably the most prolific family law judge in California. He’d been a superior court judge in San Francisco and he wrote scores of family law opinions. And he did something else that was quite extraordinary: Every summer while the appellate court was closed, he would  volunteer to sit pro tem* in the San Francisco Superior Court. Then, he did something even stranger. He told the supervising judge, “I want the worst cases you have. Give me all the cases that no one else wants.” So he started getting all these terrible, highly emotional contested divorce cases.

Justice King had been a superior court judge and so he had a theory about family law. He believed that people generally have more divorce than they have money and when they run out of money they still have lots of divorce left.  At the end of the case, the client hasn’t paid the bill, so the lawyer sues the client for unpaid fees. Now, clients can always think of something the lawyer could have done, should’ve done, failed to do, forgot to do, so the clients respond with a lawsuit for malpractice and suddenly you have all these lawyers and clients litigating. As a result you wind up with lawyers who are so fearful of a lawsuit against them for malpractice, they file every subpoena, serve every document, go through interrogatories and requests for admissions and they build their cases on the basis of “I don’t want to ever be guilty of any kind of malpractice. I’ll do everything I possibly can.”  Thus you have the California Divorce Industry.

When Justice King was a superior court judge, he saw all these lawyers coming in two or three years into a case, with boxes and boxes of receipts and cancelled checks, records and documents, and all this stuff. He began to wonder, what would happen if I could get into the case at the front end, before the lawyers have spent all these hundreds of thousands of dollars on discovery? He started bringing the lawyers in at the beginning of cases and he would say, “Counsel, tell me about your case. What are the facts as you understand them to be? What is your approach? What are you going to demand, what are you going to need, what will help you solve all the problems that you’re facing?”  And he would turn to the other lawyer and he would begin a conversation. Then he’d say, “You know what, let’s just use one accountant. We’ll use a neutral account. Can we pick an accountant that we both know and trust? Why don’t we just use one appraiser?” In this way he started limiting the discovery, managing the discovery, and he was so successful he was settling 70-80% of his cases and having happy clients and happy lawyers as a result.

In the mid-nineties the California Bar Journal published an article about Justice King’s case management theory and that led to the birth of statute 2450. Family Law Code Section 2450 gives fourteen new powers to judges that they don’t otherwise have.  Under 2450 a judge can have short-cause hearings by telephone, they can appoint mediators, it’s just remarkable.  How does it work? Your lawyer files a Case Management Stipulation, a 2450 Stip, and then you agree to see the judge when he’s got some time on his schedule.  Then you get in front of the judge, in private, and you use the judge as a sounding board. It’s almost like a mini trial for free.  I’m a big advocate for 2450 and I believe it needs to be used more.  I’ve talked to all the new judges about it, as well as the guys who’ve been hearing family law cases for years, and they are all in favor of it. They really like the approach.  Click here to read more about family code section 2450.

*pro tem = pro tempore, a latin phrase meaning “for the time being”

Trends in Family Law

People are astonished to learn that when Ron started practicing law in 1970, the family code was maybe a quarter inch of pages in the California Civil Code.  In the 1980’s the Family Code was two or three hundred pages.  Today it’s 850 pages and growing.  It’s about three inches thick and we get new statues twice a year.  We get new cases, which interpret the code, almost weekly.  Family law is one of the most highly litigated areas in civil law, and one of the most often appealed.  So it’s hard to say what the law is. You can say what it was. You can say what it is today. But who knows what it’s going to be tomorrow? That’s why we need Certified Family Law Specialists who can look at the law and give us an idea, not only of what the law is, but what the trends in the law are.

What are some of the current trends? One thing everyone’s talking about is, what is the future of a young child? If you have young children, the real issue is the movement of people. The economy is definitely changing where people are living. We have people moving to where they grew up or where they have the most family available to assist them. We’re seeing a lot of cases where a parent has to move for financial reasons, and in Los Angeles, even a move across town can completely disrupt a visitation schedule.  If you have to go court because you need to move ten miles for work, it’s up to the judge to decide whether or not the move is in your child’s best interest.  So in some cases the laws have to change to accommodate the current situation and your lawyer needs to know what the most recent changes in your favor are.

We’re seeing exponential growth in what is considered an asset. Thirty years ago it was a mere expectancy to have a pension plan. Today, it’s a major asset and can be missed if you’re not careful.  The same is true for insurance policies. Where once an insurance policy was just a term life policy, it now has some kind of value to it. It never had a value before, but now we can look at it and there are ways to value it.  Another area would be electronics and websites and artificial rights. When you own a copyright or trademark or patent, or you own software or you own music, it’s worth something now.  Once upon a time it wasn’t worth a lot, but look at Michael Jackson. Not a lot of cash flow, but an incredible amount of earning potential in a catalogue of music. We’ve both handled those kinds of cases where someone comes in and they have to value something that’s very difficult to value. It takes expertise outside of even the best lawyer to sit down and run through a catalogue of what those residual rights are worth. You have to have trusted neutral experts who can give you the best valuations.

When Ron started practicing in 1970, mothers always got custody, in every case. The only way a father could get custody was to prove that the mother was unfit. The mother had to be unfit. That law lasted through the eighties. It was taken out in 1976 but the judges continued to follow it as though it were there. It wasn’t until 1982 that we got joint custody. That was a huge change. We’ve seen huge changes in the law, but we still see disparities.

The Real Cost of Ending a Marriage

“It takes two or three years to process the emotional agenda (of divorce) and lawyers who aren’t trained in this, that don’t understand this, are adding gasoline to the fire when they align with the emotional agendas of their clients. A lot of transference and counter-transference takes place. The lawyers bring their own personal agendas to the case…

What we’re learning now is that divorce is really a mental health issue, more than it is anything else. If we can bring mental health professionals into the equation early on, we can make a huge difference in terms of saving time, saving money and more importantly, protecting children.”

— Ron Supancic, as interviewed by Karyn Foley during a 2007 Calabasas Author’s Night.

Calabasas Author’s Night – The Real Cost of Ending a Marriage from The Law Collaborative on Vimeo.

Not just a lawyer

An article this week in the New Zealand Herald got me thinking.  The author writes, “Lawyers know about conflict and extreme positions and applying rules and measuring out assets and applying formulas and assessing risk. What lawyers don’t seem to know about is that there is really only one answer to everything.  Forgiveness.”

In a way, she’s right.  Yet what she says is basically what those of us practicing collaborative law have been trying to say all along.  Divorce is a crisis of huge proportions.  It’s messy, it’s complicated, it’s painful.  While traditional lawyers are trained to defend their clients according to the laws, collaborative lawyers are trained to help families in crisis reorganize their lives with dignity, honor and peace.  The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to begin as two, end as one, and still feel whole.

Recently I heard a woman say that it was too late to begin the collaborative process because she’d all ready hired a traditional lawyer.  It’s never too late to turn things around and seek peace.

If you or someone you know has questions about the collaborative process, send us an email by clicking here:  Info@TheLawCollaborative.com.  You can also call our toll free number (888) 852-9961, and please feel free to visit our information center.  We’re here to help.

Are you going?

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Six

Your sixth option is Rent-A-Judge.  If California were a business, it would be bankrupt.  The courts are under-funded and over-crowded.  The lines waiting for trial dates go on and on.  The supervising judge in the family law department is anxious to get rid of cases.  Any time two attorneys stipulate to file an application for Rent-A-Judge, the court will immediately appoint a retired judge in good standing as a judge pro tem*.

But how does it work?  The court appoints a retired Superior Court judge, an appellate court justice, or a Supreme Court justice, and you rent their time.  In most instances they apply the same rules they would if they were sitting in a courtroom.  They may even work in a courtroom.  But if Angelina and Brad Pitt decided to get married and then decided to divorce, they wouldn’t go to court.  They’d hire a retired judge and they’d have their divorce at Chateau Marmont and it would be catered.**

Los Angeles County is host to a “Rent-A-Judge” program wherein retired Superior Court judges are available as arbitrators or will sit as judges on a private basis.  In the “Rent-A-Judge” program you try your case in a conference room just as you would in a court room, but without the delays and interruptions you experience with a judicial officer who is subject to the interruptions of a heavy caseload.  If you know you have a case that will be in court for a long time, this option can save you a lot of money.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation

* temporary judge

** The Law Collaborative does not represent either of the Jolie Pitt’s and is in no way making any claims about the state of their relationship.  It was a harmless, fictional example.

A Promise To Ourselves

A Promise To Ourselves” by Alec Baldwin, a celebrity divorce client who spent more than 3 Million dollars over an eight year period after a 10 year marriage.  He says, “Divorce is now a 28 Billion dollar industry in the United States….When choosing a lawyer, ask them their strategy before you sign any document or pay any retainer. If the first words out of their mouth are not about mediation, don’t hire them….You want to do everything you can to avoid going to court….If your lawyer steers you away from mediation, get rid of them.”

Helping Families, This Saturday

The State Bar Family Law Section CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South)
Dispute Resolution Services, Inc.,
Los Angeles County Bar Association and LACBA Family Law Section
invite you to attend our Spring Symposium

HELPING FAMILIES: New Directions in Consensual Dispute Resolution
Cutting edge theories, techniques, tactics and tools

Saturday, April 10, 2010, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Pepperdine University School of Law

If you practice mediation or collaborative law, are a mental health professional, coach, financial specialist, or family law attorney with an interest in expanding your knowledge of the latest issues in consensual dispute resolution and in developing your skills to best serve the needs of families, this program is for you:

  • Presiding Judge Marjorie Steinberg will discuss CDR and LA County practices
  • Renowned child custody mediator and child psychologist, Dr. Donald Saposnek will address the ethics and practice of “Bringing Children into the Process”
  • Judge Mark Juhas will discuss the Elkins Report and other responses to the difficulties of bringing children into the process
  • A panel of adult Children of Divorce will present the divorce experience from the eyes of the child
  • Former litigators will share the difficulties and methods of making “The Internal Mind Shift” to practice Consensual Dispute Resolution as their primary practice
  • Experienced CDR providers will give practical tools for keeping CDR on track “Between the Sessions”
  • Financial Experts, Career Counselors and Mental Health Specialists will offer a “Tool Box for Post-Divorce Planning”
  • You will hear from attorneys Leslie Ellen Shear about children’s participation in custody decision-making and Fern Topas Salka about how other jurisdictions are putting families first

The price for this program is $125.00.  Student rates are $45.
A continental breakfast, as well as light snacks, will be provided throughout the event.

To sign up, contact the Los Angeles County Bar Member Services at 213/896-6560 and mention the LACBA program number 10832.  Or go to http://onlinestore.lacba.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=ViewCalendarEvent&CalendarEventID=31<http://onlinestore.lacba.org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=ViewCalendarEvent&CalendarEventID=3117>

CLE and BBS credits will be given for attendance.

For more information about this program, go to www.cdr4-10-10event.com or contact co-chair of the State Bar Family Law Section on CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South), Fern Topas Salka, at fern@wgn.net

For more information about this program, go to www.cdr4-10-10event.com or contact co-chair the State Bar Family Law Section on CDR/ADR Standing Committee (South), Fern Topas Salka, at fern@wgn.net.

CLE and BBS credits will be given for attendance.

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Four

The fourth option for divorce is Arbitration, which is quite different from our first three options.  The Kitchen Table Divorce is casual, creative, quick and inexpensive.  Mediation is a cooperative effort between individuals to reach a mutual agreement based on consensus and compromise.  Collaborative Divorce provides you with a team of professionals that rally and support you, ensuring that all your needs are met.  Though Arbitration is similar to mediation, it is more like litigation in that the parties present their respective positions, evidence, testimony and witnesses to a trial of fact.

Arbitration is a settlement technique in which a third party reviews the case and imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides.  The arbitrator may be a retired judge, an experienced trial lawyer, or some other professional selected from a panel of competent arbitrators, such as the American Arbitration Association.  Arbitration can be either voluntary or mandatory and can be either binding or non-binding.  The principal distinction between mediation and arbitration is that whereas a mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground on which to compromise, the (non-binding) arbitrator remains totally removed from the settlement process and will only give a determination of liability.

Arbitration is most commonly used for the resolution of commercial disputes, but it is desirable in divorce cases when agreement cannot be reached but the parties still wish to save the costs and expenses of litigating through the usual judicial system, which has built-in delays and attendant increased costs.  The Los Angeles County Superior Court sponsors an arbitration program and a “Rent-A-Judge program wherein retired Superior Court judges are available as arbitrators, or will sit as judges on a private basis.  But we’ll talk more about Rent-A-Judge in a later post.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation