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A Dirty Word Or A Saving Grace?

PREMARITAL INSURANCE
By Ty Supancic, Esquire

I regularly help couples design and build foundations for the most important project in their lives. The work is long and involved and at times unpleasant, but I believe the results are worth it in the long run. We take the time to examine and investigate their dreams and circumstances, and using that information, we design and create a strong foundation together which will support whatever they chose to build on it. If what they build together fails sometime in the future, it will not be for lack of planning.

No, I’m not a contractor or an architect. I’m a family law attorney and the “foundation” I’m describing is a mediated premarital agreement.

“Premarital Agreement” and “Pre-Nup” are dirty words in the common vernacular, but I believe this is due to misunderstandings based on Hollywood propaganda and sensationalistic news coverage. Premarital agreements need not be unilateral documents forced by one spouse upon another. The alternative to the Hollywood stereotype, and the vast majority of the premarital agreements we draft in our office, is a premarital agreement reached by mutual discussions and assent to terms designed to support marriage and discourage divorce.

At the most basic level, people get divorced because they’re “unhappy.” Unfortunately, statistics tell us that divorce does not bring happiness. Studies reveal that most people are just as unhappy after their divorce as they were before it. But in addition to being “unhappy”, after divorce they’re also damaged; emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Despite this reality, people get divorced anyway. Why? I believe people are “playing the odds” or gambling on a different future. People know what they have, and they think they’re unhappy. They don’t know what things will be like after their divorce, but they figure, “it can’t get any worse.” They’re wrong. They’re trading known circumstances for unknown circumstances on the misguided premise that things will be better. They seldom are. Remember the old Irish adage, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Read more…

Spinning Record

photo by joshfassbind.com via PhotoRee


YourTango.com recently posted a great article by Dr. Margaret Paul called “Do You Have The Same Fight Over and Over?” about why couples can sometimes resolve conflict easily and why other times resolving conflict seems completely impossible. From the article:

As long as avoiding pain is more important to you than being loving to yourself and your partner, you will be closed and protected and the conflict cannot reach a mutually satisfying resolution.

Dr. Paul says, “If you are stuck in resolving conflicts, let go of the issues and look at your intent. I assure you that when both of you are open to learning about yourselves and each other, and want to support your own and your partner’s highest good, you will be able to easily resolve your conflicts.”

Read the article HERE.

Marriage Vs. Living Together: It’s a matter of commitment

By Erma Bombeck

Drawing courtesy of Luke Gattuso

One of the hardest things in the world to explain is the difference between being married and living with someone.

As an advocate of orange blossoms and long mortgages, I usually end up throwing around a couple of high-class words like “commitment” and “responsibility to offspring,” and then when my opponent tosses back phrases like, “Love doesn’t need a piece of paper” or “Look how many people get stuck in unhappy relationships,” I crumble. I don’t have a good answer for it.

Somehow, I can’t seem to put my finger on that elusive bit of intimacy that makes marriage “different.” In both relationships, one shares the same bathroom, feeds the collective dog, eats together, shops together, sleeps side by side, and yet…

Recently on a TV show called “A Year in the Life,” the widowed father no longer wanted to continue his relationship to a contemporary without marriage. She couldn’t understand it. They were doing just fine the way they were, going to diner, sleeping together, and still hanging on to their own independence and careers. He looked at her and said sadly, “But we don’t worry about things together.”

You have to be married to understand that line. Anyone can play house, but a couple struggling to pay for one is something else. A philosopher once said, “Marriage is our last…our best chance to grow up.” He could be right. Everything up until the time you walk down the aisle has been polite, guarded and a little superficial. Returning from the altar is a different feeling altogether. You have not contracted for a temporary position…this is a permanent career. You have just bet all your chips on the biggest crapshoot of your life.

But there is something else. You have agreed to legal rights to share equally in belongings, debts, closets, fidelity and children.

We’ve gone through three wars, two miscarriages, five houses, three children, 17 cars, 23 funerals, seven camping trips, 12 jobs, 19 banks and three credit unions. I stopped counting slammed doors after 3,009. What do I have to show for it? A feeling of pride and contentment for having done something that isn’t easy. A realization that there is someone outside of myself without whom I do not feel whole. Maybe the difference between living together and being married is the former is a spectator sport and the latter is playing the game by all the rules.

A Testimony for Couples Counseling

Originally posted on ASeriousGirl.com

STILL GROWING

After Mike and I had been dating for a year, we started having disagreements that would go on for days at a time. I wouldn’t call them fights because we never threw punches or anything, but something would come up and one of us would get upset and then the other one would get upset and then things would be really awkward for a while. After a week or so we’d meet up for coffee and try to talk about it and things would be ok for a few weeks but then something would come up and we would get all weird again. After several months of being fine one minute and awkward the next, I started worrying that if we didn’t learn how to communicate effectively our relationship would fall apart.

I knew that I loved Michael and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I knew this because we had the same values and the same goals, we made each other laugh, we had common interests, we respected one another. But I couldn’t spend another week in awkward silence, so I suggested we try counseling.

“I would really like to go to couples counseling with you.”
“Why?”
“I think we need to learn how to communicate better.”
“We don’t need counseling.”

And that was that. For six months. Six months of dancing around topics we couldn’t talk about because if we did we’d end up in tears or screaming or breaking up.

Then, one beautiful spring morning, Mike looked at me over coffee and said the three little words I’d been longing to hear: “Let’s start counseling.”

We had our first appointment the following Thursday. Within a few weeks, Thursday’s had become our favorite day of the week. They were our day. A day we devoted to spending quality time together and getting to know one another. Every Thursday I’d leave work early and drive to Sherman Oaks where Michael would be waiting for me with my favorite Starbucks latte. We’d walk arm-in-arm to our therapist’s office and no matter how the session ended, regardless of if we were weeping or glowing, we’d go to In N’ Out for dinner and talk about what came up during the session. And every Thursday, even if we’d started dinner in tears, by the time we kissed goodbye we were holding hands again.

Talking honestly about one’s feelings can be very difficult, but it is a significant and important step towards learning how to communicate. We soon discovered that the thing we were refusing to talk about, the thing that had become the fat ugly beast hovering in the room, the thing causing all those weeks of awkward silences was Marriage. Mike had asked me to move in with him every month for the last six months and each time I’d said, “I won’t move in with you unless we’re engaged.” I wanted to marry him but I didn’t want to give the milk away for free. Mike fully intended to marry me, but he needed to know that we could live together without killing one another. His hesitance to propose wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me and my refusal to move in wasn’t a reflection of my feelings for him. We both wanted to live together and we both wanted to get married, we’d just been too scared to talk about it.

A few months after our first counseling session Michael asked me to move in with him and I said yes. Two months later we were sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and his hands were shaking as he held out a tiny blue velvet box. The stars were flung over our heads, the night air was cool and filled with the scent of the sea, and somewhere someone was playing a guitar. It was the most romantic proposal in the history of all marriage proposals. I blame it on couples counseling.

A Serious Girl on Premarital Agreements

Originally posted on ASeriousGirl.com

PREFACE TO A PRENUP

Last week I mentioned how Mike and I have periodic romance-infused financial meetings, but I didn’t go into the how’s or why’s. We had our first financial meeting within a few weeks of getting engaged because we had to if were going to write a prenup.

The last time I told someone that Mike and I have a prenup, I promised myself I wouldn’t tell anyone ever again. But I’ve been thinking about it lately, especially after last week’s financial post, and the fact is that a prenup isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Our prenup is the reason we were debt-free less than a year after we married. Our prenup is the reason we have never had an argument about money. Our prenup is the reason I got to move with my husband to New York and live out one of my wildest fantasies. The last time I told someone we wrote a prenup that person grimaced as she said, “Why would you do that? Why would you marry someone you’re just going to divorce?”
“What?”
“Obviously if you need a prenup it’s because you know you’re just going to divorce the person.”
“What? No, it’s not. I don’t –”
“That’s awful, Tricia. That’s just awful. I’m really surprised.”

She was actually that appalled, I do not exaggerate. And she’s not alone in her feelings. Enough people have had that reaction that when she had it, I decided our prenup was something people just didn’t need to know about.

Except now I’m telling the entire Webisphere.

I’m working on learning how to stand up for myself. Today I’d like to announce that my husband and I wrote a prenup before we got married and contrary to what you might think it was not because we were rich or because we were planning on getting divorced. We had a lot of debt and our only assets were each other, but we sat down and we worked out the complications of our finances and in doing so, he learned how important it was for me to have the opportunity to run with my dreams. I learned how important it was for him to save money so that one day he could have an old sprawling house to fix up and build furniture for, with a treehouse in back for the grandkids and five big-headed dogs. And when I learned that, I knew I really did want to spend the rest of my life with this man, because no matter what happened between here and now, we had the same life goals.

Writing a prenup was a way to protect ourselves from divorce. Everyone has different feelings about money and no two people feel exactly the same way. Money is a tender, delicate thing that dances with pride and envy. It can be used to hurt just as easily as it can be used to help. A brilliant family lawyer once told me that money is the last thing couples talk about and the first thing they fight about. I was determined not to have a marriage that could be damaged because we never talked about money. You can’t write a prenup without talking about money, and so we used it as an opportunity to have a very honest and very real discussion that would go on to help us shape our lives. And it’s true, we could’ve just had the conversation without ever writing the contract, but the fun in writing the contract was including provisions like:

“Prior to filing for divorce, the parties must agree to a minimum of one hour of marriage counseling, once every week for twenty-four consecutive weeks. If, after twenty-four consecutive weeks of marriage counseling the parties still agree to divorce, either party may file the Petition without effect. If one party files for dissolution without completing the agreed upon counseling, that party agrees to pay the other party’s attorney fees and costs in full.”  (Except a lot fancier because it was translated into lawyer-speak.)

I really do believe that if both parties commit to marriage counseling for six months they won’t need a divorce. And if they really still want one, then maybe they do need it. However, if one person isn’t even willing to give counseling a shot, then they should pay the damn legal fees.

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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Choose your road

Over the years Robert and I have observed the wreckage of hundreds of failed marriages.  And I’ve discovered (and I’m sure Robert would agree), through the many difficulties and challenges I’ve faced with my wife, that it has always come down to this: I’ve had to deal with my problems and she’s had to deal with her problems.  To do that we’ve had to seek outside help at various times, both separately and as a couple.  With that help we’ve watched as the problems that came between us fell into clearer perspective.  I don’t know about you, but a clearer perspective always compels me to look inward and see the ways in which I contribute to a problem.  When I’m focusing on the ways I can change a situation I don’t like, I’m too busy to go looking for someone else to blame.

In most cases, divorce is unneccessary.  Divorce usually creates more problems than it solves, if it even solves any. Marital disputes can be launching pads to heightented awareness and growth. It’s your choice.

When a marriage is in trouble the first place to go is not a lawyers office.  Between the nuptial bliss of the bedroom and the paneled chambers of the courthouse lie a wide range of helpers who are too seldom sought out.  Couples can reach out to pastors, rabbis, supportive family and friends. There are dozens of books that can help you — click here for some of my favorite recommendations. There are also licensed counselors who are trained to help individuals and couples deal with issues at the root of the cause, so that real healing can happen.  If the cost of counseling is a concern, find a community counseling center or a community family service agency in your area.  These programs are intended to help people, and often offer counseling at lower costs or a sliding scale.  Divorce is inevitable in this country, but it doesn’t have to happen to you.

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.

When we follow our inner wisdom

Lin Morel was seventeen when she met the man who would become her husband. He was her childhood sweetheart, and they married when she was just twenty.   But their marriage did not have the happy ending we hope for.  What started as a fourteen year romance became a nightmare when Lin’s husband flew into a rage and strangled her in front of her daughter.  The marriage ended, but the emotional violence did not, and their child became a pawn in an abusive relationship.

Today Lin holds a Masters of Applied Psychology, she is a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner, a Doctor of Spiritual science and author of Get Clear, Get Connected, Get a Job.  She is also a fifth degree black belt and president of AWBW.org,  a non-profit that works to help end the cycle of domestic violence.  Dr. Morel is living proof that when we follow our inner wisdom, life unfolds in an incredible way.

Click the play button to hear Dr. Lin Morel give a great interview for Ron and Robert on Divorce.

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No Romance?

A British news website did a short piece on Gwyneth Paltrow admitting to marriage struggles. The headline blared, Paltrow Admits to Marriage Struggles, as if she’d announced to the press that her marriage was doomed.  In actuality it was a simple blurb noting that even movie stars have to put effort into marriage.

Marriage isn’t a love affair. Love affairs are all about immediate personal satisfaction, the chase, the thrill, the passion. Marriage is a process. It’s a journey that requires courage and vulnerability, patience and empathy, strength and commitment.

Maybe you feel like you and your spouse have grown apart. Maybe you’ve been living more like roommates than lovers for too long to admit. Maybe your spouse doesn’t understand you or you don’t understand your spouse. Divorce doesn’t have to be the only choice left. Marriage counseling can do wonders. Reestablishing a weekly date night, even if it’s an hour at a free museum, can help remind you why you first became friends, lovers, life partners.

Some people marry the right person the first time. Other people aren’t so lucky. How do you know if you married the right partner for life? Ask yourself the following questions.  Your answers may surprise you.

  • Which qualities attracted you to your spouse in the first place? Does your spouse still have the character qualities you found so attractive when you first met?
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  • Is your spouse most often honest, trustworthy, faithful, supportive and kind?
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  • Is your spouse willing to change and grow to meet the dynamics of your relationship?
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  • Will divorce have a harmful effect on you or your family? Will staying married have a more harmful effect?
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  • How will the divorce affect your family, especially your children? How will staying married affect your family, especially your children?  Does that matter to you?  How much?
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  • Do you still love each other?