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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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Reduce Your Legal Fees

The dissolution of a marriage often comes at a time when a family is going through a financial as well as emotional crisis. Sometimes the emotional crisis can make the financial one worse by increasing the attorney’s fees incurred and costs expended. For example, if a spouse is vindictive or just plain upset, he or she can refuse to negotiate in good faith, or act in such a way as to provoke numerous court appearances or otherwise delay the proceedings. When this happens it is usually beyond our control, and we have to cope the best we can though the mechanisms provided by the court. Frankly, it can be extremely expensive and frustrating.

However, you can help to keep your fees and costs to the minimum for your case by following these simple rules:

1. Remember that talking to me on the phone is expensive. My time and skill in the law are all that I have with which to make a living, and I must charge for the time I spend on the telephone just as I charge for research, document drafting, and court appearances. Therefore, you can save yourself a great deal of money by not always asking to speak directly with me. As a general rule, discuss your needs first with my paralegal, my law clerk, or my accounts manager, or my front desk administrator. If legal advice or intervention is needed immediately, they are trained to recognize it and will bring it to my attention, as soon as possible. Furthermore, if I am in court or working on a research project, or otherwise unavailable at the time, a detailed message through my staff will get my attention a lot faster than simply asking me to call you back. Better yet, my assistant can often handle the problem right then and there. If you wish information on a court date, the status of service or filing of papers, or other similar information, they can help you as well as I can and at much less expense to you. My account manager can answer all of your billing questions, again at less expense to you. Finally, if you merely wish to leave some information such as an address, telephone number or some figures that I have requested, please leave the message with my staff or with the answering service if they are available.

2. Remember that I am trained as an attorney, not a counselor. Certainly, unless I understand the nature of your relationship with your spouse, I cannot represent you as well as I might. For that reason, I will spend some time with you exploring this interaction, especially toward the beginning of the case. From what you tell me, I may be able to point out some of the “games” that are being played and how to avoid being one of the players. A dissolution or other family law matter can be one of the most stressful times of a person’s life, and it is to your best legal interest that you cope with the stresses. If you are not thinking clearly, you may be inclined to make decisions on whether or how to settle the case that will be very expensive in the long run. However, at some particular point, I will have learned what I need to help you legally, and I will be giving you the best advice I can on how to cope with the legal and practical aspects of the case. From that point on, my listening to your non-legal experiences with your spouse, your spouse’s faults and other matters will usually appear on your monthly statement. Generally, this will be the case after the initial consultation or first court hearing.

3. Participate as effectively as you can in your own case. Your time is likely to be less expensive to you than mine, and you will certainly be more familiar with many of the details. Therefore you will probably wish to obtain and organize as much of the information and documents for your case as possible. For example, in a case involving child or spousal support, the required income and expense forms are long and complex and require extensive background information and documentation. Experience shows that if you use your best efforts to complete these forms and provide the information and documents before the appointment at which we will discuss them, you will save up to two hours at that appointment and will be able to most clearly and favorably present your evidence to the court. If my office has to do all the work involved in preparing these forms and organizing the information, your case will become more costly. If there is a delay in preparing and filing such documents, the other side could apply to the court for sanctions in the form of a money judgment against you, use the delay in answering as an excuse to postpone court dates, request that the court prevent you from having your evidence submitted, or invoke other penalties.

4. Organize your questions and concerns so that they may all be discussed at one time rather than on separate occasions. It is generally much less expensive to have one long discussion rather than several shorter ones.

5. Think about settling the case instead of going to trial. Under the best circumstances, a trial’s outcome is uncertain. It is very unusual for husband and wife to recall things in the same way, especially the circumstances and understandings involved in acquiring assets or incurring debts. Because of such factual disputes and because there are numerous unsettled areas in the law, neither I nor anyone else can accurately estimate the odds of any particular outcome, nor can any single result in the case be guaranteed, if trial is necessary. For these reasons, trial is generally not in a client’s best interest if it can be avoided, and it is almost always best to settle the case if we can obtain a reasonably fair agreement. Therefore, as soon as we have enough information to evaluate the issues, I will usually seek your authority to negotiate a settlement.

Despite this, my usual office practice is to file a request for a trial date fairly early in the proceedings. This has the effect of putting an externally imposed time limit on negotiations. Even if the case may not actually be tried on the first assigned trial date (usually because the court schedule is overcrowded), there is an incentive to negotiate and achieve the best settlement for you. We present the position that we are prepared to try the case, unless we receive an acceptable offer. Just because we have filed a request for trial date, you do not need to assume that your case will go to trial or give up on trying to think of constructive settlement possibilities.

6. Particularly if your spouse has an attorney, please do not try to settle any major issues directly with your spouse unless you have discussed your proposals with me first. You have hired me because of my knowledge of the technicalities and practicalities of California Family Law, and if you try to negotiate major issues yourself you may unwittingly waive substantial rights, fail to provide for certain common contingencies, or otherwise damage your case. On the other hand, after discussion I frequently advise clients to attempt to settle who is to receive items of furniture, furnishings, appliances, and other personal and household items directly with your spouses. “Trying the Tupperware” issue usually results in spending more money to divide these items than it costs to replace them.

7. Please call the office if your address or telephone number changes, so that we can reach you. Sometimes it is important that I talk to you within a few hours, and it is most helpful for us to have both a home and a “daytime” number.

8. Please call the office if there are any important changes in the facts or your circumstances. These changes can drastically affect the case, the best strategic approach to it, and our position. I may not be immediately available to talk to you, but I will do my best to return all calls that require a response or have them returned by my staff. If you need to speak to me, I will be happy to accommodate you as soon as possible. I only want you to remember the financial realities; my time is billed at a much higher rate rather than that of my staff. Just as I give attention to your case when I am working on it, I have other cases that also require full attention when I am working on it, I have other cases which also require full attention when I am working on them.

9. In all cases, tell us the truth and provide complete and accurate documents, even if you fell that it is embarrassing or may not be information you want to share. Having to work without full and accurate information almost always leads to performing work over and over again that should have been finished the first time and unpredictable, to say the least, hearing in court.

I don’t want you to have the feeling of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. On the contrary, there will be times, perhaps many, when you will need to speak to me. I urge you to do so when necessary. Please bear in mind that, in the most literal sense, my time is money and if you always insist on speaking to me you will probably be wasting your money. Again, my assistants and my accounts manager are trained to recognize when your case requires my immediate attention and to assist you at other times. Most legal matters move slowly. Unless a threat of physical violence or other irreversible and immediate harm is present, there are few situations that require immediate action (or in which immediate action is even possible).

Similarly, while you can leave messages with my answering service evenings and weekends, and while I can usually be reached in a real emergency, there is almost no action I can take until normal business hours that you cannot take yourself. You will have copies of existing court orders. With very few exceptions, new or different orders cannot be obtained after court hours. Please try to be patient, organized, and bear in mind which services can be provided best by myself, by my staff, or by someone else.

TLC, Bringing peace to the legal process.

February Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Law Collaborative,

We wish you the best in all of your relationships. In order to facilitate our wish for you, this month we have included a “tool” to help with communication in your relationships, professional and personal.

As February is often referred to as the month of love, we would like to share an article written by Dr. Mark S. Goulston, Author of “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.”

The single best predictor of how children do post-divorce is the amount of conflict between the parents. This is true whether you’re in an intact (living together) family, a separated family, or a divorced family.

You have a unique opportunity to influence the outcome, because it takes two people to fight. You can’t fight alone. And while choosing not to engage in an argument or bad behavior is difficult, it is possible. It may take both practice and commitment on your part to make it happen.

Parents in frequent contact who are supportive of each other have well adjusted children. That’s pretty compelling, isn’t it?

10 Strategies for Preventing and Dealing With Conflict:

1. It takes two to argue. Simply refuse to participate.

2. A certain amount of tension is to be expected when you’re getting divorced. Expect difficult discussions. They don’t have to result in a fight.

3. Try to understand your spouse’s viewpoint. Once you understand what he or she wants, you can begin to see how you might be able to help resolve the situation.

4. Evaluate your own goals. Are you entrenched in a position that may have another solution? If you want your children on Wednesday night for dinner, will Thursday do? If your goal is financial security, is one particular asset the key, or could another be substituted?

5. Use “I” statements. Begin every sentence with “I”, rather than “you”. Example: “I feel upset when I hear you say that I’m a bad father because I have to work so many hours,” instead of “You are always accusing me of being a bad father.”

6. After you explain how you feel, listen to your spouse’s side of the story. Repeat what you heard, to make sure for yourself (and to convey to your spouse) that you understand how he or she views the situation.

7. Plan a time to have a discussion with your spouse about a specific issue that bothers you. Limit the discussion.

8. Choose your timing. The same comment may evoke a different response if, 1) neither of you is tired, 2) neither of you is already angry, and, 3) the children or others are not in earshot.

9. Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” sometimes. “I was wrong” can go a long way.

10. Above all, let annoyances go and choose your battles wisely. They are too important to squander. Research points to the benefits of shared parenting, defined as shared decision making, as well as shared time between two homes. Children need emotional sustenance and comfort from both parents to get their needs met. Your co-parenting responsibilities get easier over time as your children grow and their day-to-day caretaking needs lessen. One way to ensure your adult children have a good relationship with you and your former spouse is to set you own needs aside from time to time and take the high road whenever possible. Remember forgiveness is the permission you give yourself to get over an offense & move into health, healing & a happy life. It is not approval. It is not acceptance. It is a gift to you from you. Forgive.

Visit Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes for additional information. Please call us if you have any questions. We are here to serve you.

Follow us on www.Twitter.com/TLC_Law

Add us on www.Facebook.com/TheLawCollaborative

Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky

* A free phone consultation will provide you with general legal information. Legal information is not the same as legal advice – the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, for specific advice on your situation, I will be pleased to provide legal advice after you accept and sign my retainer agreement.

For more information, please visit our website at: www.ronslaw.com or click here: www.divorcemagazine.com/CA/pro/supancic.shtml

Please forward a link for this newsletter to anyone you know who might benefit from this information.

January Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Law Collaborative,

It is a New Year and also a good time to review your legal affairs. Here are a few things you should think about for 2010 and beyond.

1) Review your licenses. Which ones will expire in the coming year? Mark on your new calendar the date when the license will expire and place a tickler note several weeks before the expiration date so that you have plenty of time to file for a renewal.

2) Review your life insurance. Life insurance goes directly to the beneficiary named on the policy. It does not go through your will unless you have the policy made payable to yourself. Life insurance is, however, part of your estate when it comes to paying death taxes.

3) Review your liability policies. For most people, their liability policies are their home and auto insurance policies. These policies are important because they will pay for a lawyer to defend you if you are sued.

4) Powers of Attorney: Most lawyers recommend that every adult have a durable power of attorney which will allow someone to act on their behalf if they become incapacitated. These are very dangerous documents because they give the person named total access to your assets. They are very important documents because if you become sick, they provide your family with an easy and inexpensive way of taking care of your affairs.

5) Minor Children: If you have minor children, you need to provide for their care if you get sick, are in an accident or die. Make sure your children and other responsible people in your family know where the children are supposed to go if something happens to you. Each year you should review your choice of guardian. Is that choice still a good choice?

6) Wills and trusts: Wills and trusts, when used properly, are not substitutes for each other. They are different tools used in estate planning. One very good reason to have a will is to name a guardian for your minor children. The courts will generally honor your wishes. You can also create a testamentary trust within your will to manage any money you leave for your minor children. Once your children are grown, you should change your will to reflect the change in your circumstances.

7) Elder law is a specialty. Things that elder law planners have you do are not the same as the things that tax planners will have you do. In tax planning they will tell you that you may make gifts of up to $11,000 per year to as many individuals as you want without tax consequences. That is true. Unfortunately the Medicaid rules are not the same. In many places (the rules vary slightly from state to sate) any sum of money you give away within five years of a nursing home placement will trigger a penalty.

8) Charities:  While you are reviewing your estate plan, think about supporting those charities and organizations that have been important to you. Gifts to charities are deducted from your gross estate.

9) The point is, plan ahead for yourself and your family.

We hope that this short checklist is helpful to you.  It is not all inclusive but covers the most significant points.

Visit Ron and Robert on Divorce on ITunes for additional information.  Please call us if you have any questions.  We are here to serve you.

Follow us on www.Twitter.com/TLC_Law

Add us on www.Facebook.com/TheLawCollaborative

Happy New Year,
Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky

The attorneys and staff of The Law Collaborative join with me to wish you all Joy and Peace in the New Year.

* A free phone consultation will provide you with general legal information. Legal information is not the same as legal advice – the application of law to an individuals specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, for specific advice on your situation, I will be pleased to provide legal advice after you accept and sign my retainer agreement.

For more information, please visit our website at: www.ronslaw.com and www.thelawcollaborative.com. Or click here:www.divorcemagazine.com/CA/pro/supancic.shtml

Please forward a link to this newsletter to anyone you know who might benefit from this information.  Thank you!