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Why Mediate?

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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

E: info@thelawcollaborative.com

www.thelawcollaborative.com

When Stars Collide

14-05-15 Newsletter_Header_Experts_In_Court

Madonna and her ex, Guy Ritchie, are locked in a transatlantic custody battle over their 15 year-old son Rocco. With cases filed in both the USA and the UK, even the courts were in dispute until a judge in London approved Madonna’s request to withdraw her UK filings.

Before doing so however, the British judge joined his American counterpart in suggesting the celebrity parents try to settle things outside of court stating, “It would be a very great tragedy for Rocco if any more of the precious and fast receding days of his childhood were to be taken up by this dispute. Far better for each of his parents to spend that time enjoying… the company of the… young man who is their son and who is a very great credit to them both.”

The judge continued, “I renew, one final time, my plea for the parents to seek, and to find an amicable resolution to the dispute between them.” But the conflict continues and Madonna and Ritchie are scheduled to appear in a New York court on June 1st.

In California, parents are required by statute to meet with a court appointed child custody mediator before they can ask a Judge to rule on custody issues. As a result of a program my father Ron was instrumental in implementing in Van Nuys in the late 70s, volunteer lawyers are also available to assist parties in finding mutually agreeable solutions before court. That mediation program was so successful that it was eventually implemented in most Southern California counties.

Another California twist on this case is Rocco’s age. With the enactment of Family Code Section 3042, Judges are now required to consider the custody preferences of a child over 14 years old when issuing a decision. Children under 14 can still express their preferences but the court can disregard them because the legal standard is “best interests of the child.” In California, if 15 year old Rocco said he wants to spend all his time touring with mom and hanging out with her groupies, the judge might not grant his wish. But the judge must explain in the ruling what their considerations were and how they affected the decision.

Hopefully Rocco’s parents take the judge’s recommendation to heart: a parenting plan they design is far more likely to fit with their lifestyles and values than anything a stranger in a robe can impose. Some Judges in Los Angeles won’t even make orders regarding holidays, instead warning the parents that if they cannot reach an agreement between themselves and counsel, the court will impose sanctions. At The Law Collaborative we strongly believe that parents know what is best for their children. Leaving it to a judge in a custody proceeding, or leaving it to a probate court when a parent dies is rarely “best” and always more expensive and destructive to the family. Siblings forced through probate sometimes never speak again.

Parents owe a duty to protect their children during divorce and avoid creating conflicts for them after death. Using mediation or Collaborative Law during divorce and preparing a proper estate plan can help avoid unnecessary drama, cost, and alienation. Please feel free to call me if you want to discuss anything in this article.

Ty Supancic works with his father Ron at The Law Collaborative to help families avoid crisis

Ty Supancic, Esq.
The Law Collaborative, APC
(818) 348-6700 F: (818) 348-0961

Mary Culbert’s ABCs of Mediation (Part 1 of 3)

Mary B. Culbert is a Bilingual Certified Mediator, an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School, and the president of The Loyola Law School Center for Conflict Resolution.  She is also a Loyola Law School graduate.  A giant in the Southern California Mediation community, she attributes her family history and a background in theatre as having helped pave the path to her career as a mediator.

In part one of this three part series, Mary talks about how and why she became a full time peacemaker.

For more information about Mary Culbert, visit www.LLS.edu/academics/faculty/culbert.html.
For more about The Center for Conflict Resolution, visit www.lls.edu/academics/candp/ccr.html.

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

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”

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

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Two

Number two on the list of divorce options is Mediation. You’ve probably heard of mediation. It’s when the couple sits down with a neutral mediator who helps them negotiate the terms of their divorce. The mediator is not an advocate, cannot give legal advice, and ought to advise you to seek independent advice from a lawyer so that you can be sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.

The great thing about a mediator is that they can present options, alternatives, and different scenarios.  There’s creativity in mediation.  A mediator will invite you to decide how your divorce is handled and then will help you draw up a deal called a Memorandum of Understanding. Once you have your Memorandum of Understanding, you can take it to an attorney if you want to, or you can have it filed with the Superior Court. If the mediator you hire happens to be a lawyer, you can have your mediator draw up the agreement and file it in court for you.

Interesting Fact: In Los Angeles, the court actually favors consensual dispute resolution. If you come in with a mediation or a collaboration, you go to the top of the list with regard to processing and entering judgments, whereas litigious cases are going to wait six to twelve weeks for the clerks to get to them, because they’re so backed up and under staffed.

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

An Artist’s Interpretation

I had to post this because it’s just too wonderful not to share:

Click image for a larger view

What you’re looking at is an artist’s interpretation of a recent Mediator’s Beyond Borders meeting. Mediator’s Beyond Borders is a non-profit, humanitarian organization established to partner with communities worldwide to build their conflict resolution capacity for preventing, resolving and healing from conflict.

Mediators Beyond Borders (MBB) interprets “beyond borders” broadly. It acts across geographical, political, economic, societal, and cultural boundaries. MBB considers the term mediator to be inclusive of a broad range of conflict management and resolution endeavors. Activities such as conciliation, consulting, facilitation, consensus building, conducting public dialogues, system design, restorative justice initiatives, education and capacity building to mitigate or prevent violence are all encompassed within a sweeping definition of mediator.

Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky are two of MBB’s mediators.   For more information about MBB, please visit www.mediatorsbeyondborders.org.

TLC, Bringing peace to the legal process

About Pourya Keshavarzi

Pourya Keshavarzi joined The Law Collaborative, LLP in 2009 where he has devoted his practice to conflict avoidance and dispute resolution. Prior to joining the firm, Pourya was a Ventura Superior Court Intern for the Family Court’s Facilitator’s office where he acquired extensive knowledge in litigated Family Law matters. He has also worked in Civil Litigation firms.

Pourya graduated from California State University of Northridge in 2004 with a B.A. in Politics. He received his Juris Doctor from the Ventura College of Law in December of 2008. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in June of 2009.

As a former Banker, Pourya dedicated his practice to consumer loans, mortgages, and lines of credit. He is also a Real Estate Salesperson, licensed in 2005 by the California Department of Real Estate. Pourya believes that his knowledge of the California real estate market and lending practices has and will continue to help his clients who are facing the sale or foreclosure of real estate.

Pourya regularly attends lectures and seminars on new and developing legal topics. He enjoys the practice of law and believes that his broad range of work experience benefits his clients.