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What kind of divorce is right for you?

Early in my family law practice I discovered that the easiest divorce to handle was the one in which the couple had been separated for two to three years, were working together collaboratively to parent their children, had divided most or all of their assets, and were coming in to see me simply to have a concise agreement drafted.  Typically they’d be friendly and respectful of each other.

These couples knew what worked for them and stuck to their deal. I was unfailingly impressed by their unanimity with regard to a genial, civilized conclusion to their marriage.  In these cases it was usually only necessary to counsel them about possible opportunities to save taxes, or to divide property in a way that might be more equitable.

It is rare to meet newly separated couples who are masters of communication and collaborative parenting.  It is usually quite the contrary.  In most cases, the couple is so caught up in rage that they fail to consider the needs of their children.  They confuse differences in parenting style with who is right or who is wrong.  The right way to parent is with consensus and agreement.  Children do not grow up and do what their parents tell them.  Children watch their parents and grow up to do what their parents did.  Parents that model rational, mature, adult behavior will produce children who act pretty much the same.  One challenge in our multi-cultural community is the variety of parenting strategies that abound.  Parents in harmony may have difficulty reaching agreement on which strategy is most effective.  Parents in conflict find that task impossible to achieve.

Dr. Bruce Derman and I have created a tool that can help you determine whether or not you are a candidate for collaborative divorce.  It’s the Pre-Divorce Survey.  You can find it on our website at The Pre-Divorce Survey will assist you in finding out how many issues there are, and where you are on the anger management scale. We have learned that if you and your spouse can answer every question on that survey in the affirmative, it may be possible for the two of you to simply sit down with a paralegal and write up a deal.

The Pre-Divorce Survey is not an end unto itself.  It is a point of departure on the journey of divorce.  It may act as a signpost.  If the conflict quotient is high, the couple will need extra help.  If it is low, the case may be relatively simple to complete.  Typically, when a case is impeded by psychological and emotional issues, these issues will cause great pain and drive costs excruciatingly high.  The good news is that emotional interventions are available.  Today there are alternatives that may give even the most conflicted individual an opportunity to find an effective intervention, provided the parties involved enter into the process with honesty and integrity.

If you would like to take the Pre-Divorce Survey, click HERE.

Interview With A Superior Court Judge (Part 4 of 4)

“Clients should listen to their lawyers more, and the people they know at Starbucks less.” – the Honorable Judge Thomas Trent Lewis

Family Court does not get adequate resources. There aren’t enough judges, there aren’t enough clerks, there aren’t enough courtrooms. Family law makes up a huge percentage of judicial filings, but it receives a very small percentage of judicial resources. Additional judicial resources is just one of the recommendations made by the Elkins Committee, a two-year taskforce study that came out last October because of concerns regarding access and fairness that came about in the case of Elkins v Superior Court.

Judge Thomas Trent Lewis, a sitting Superior Court Judge with over twenty-eight years of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, is one of the advisors to the people on the Elkins Committee. Listen in as he talks with Ron and Robert about the Elkins Report, case management, early neutral evaluation, mediation, how divorcing families can save resources, why litigation is the wrong path to divorce, and who should try marriage counseling before filing.

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Missed Judge Lewis’ earlier episodes?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Like what you heard? Subscribe to Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes!

Tips for Preventing Divorce

Someone sent this wise bit of advice to me via email recently, but I can’t recall who it was. If it was you, please let me know! — RMS

Tips for Preventing Divorce

One in two marriages ends in divorce. Given those odds, it’s easy to think of marriage as a gamble. However, by taking a few basic steps, you can raise your odds considerably. Here are four ways to make sure your marriage can weather any storm.

1.  Have fun together
The number one difference between couples that stay together and split up is how much fun they have together. It may sound obvious, but as responsibilities mount, it can be easy to view your spouse as more of a business partner than a life partner. Find fun things to do together as often as possible. If your marriage is missing the fun ingredient, start small. Check out a new restaurant together, spend a day at the beach, or go to a baseball game. Keep your expectations low and concentrate on just enjoying each other.

2.  Learn your spouse’s language
Everyone has a slightly different definition of love. Some people see gifts as the ultimate expression of love, while others see quality time as the key ingredient. Renowned marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman describes these different preferences as “love languages.” Learn the language that resonates most with your spouse and you will experience less tension and a tighter connection. To find out what love language resonates most with your spouse, ask them to take this test.

3.  Schedule your arguments
It’s natural, even healthy to argue with your spouse. However, fighting in the wrong way can tear your marriage apart. Fighting without boundaries or without a clear goal of what needs to be worked out can make a bad situation worse. Make a rule in your marriage that whenever tempers flare, either person can call a timeout and schedule an official fight. For instance, you can say, “I can see that this is not getting solved tonight. Let’s collect our thoughts and discuss this tomorrow night.” When you show up to the “official” fight, come prepared. Write down exactly what bothers you, and more importantly, what you are prepared to concede. Then, agree on some ground rules for the discussion. For instance, you might decide not to interrupt each other and not to issue personal attacks.

4.  Surprise your spouse once in a while
A successful marriage is usually based on solid routines. And, over time, you may feel that you know everything there is to know about your spouse. However, as the old saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Make an effort to maintain the mystery in your marriage by surprising your spouse every once in a while. Learn a new skill, plan a spontaneous vacation, or do something positive that is completely out of character every once in a while. Keeping your spouse slightly off balance will give them a chance to rediscover their love for you over and over again.

The caring family law attorneys at The Law Collaborative have been responsible for saving numerous marriages from divorce by providing insights like these.  I encourage you to consider taking our Pre-Divorce Survey if you have any doubt about going forward with a divorce.

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Interview With A Superior Court Judge (Part 3 of 4)

Most family law judges don’t know family law at all. Most family law judges have backgrounds in criminal law, or some other area of law, and so when they are assigned a family law case, they are flying by the seat of their pants. Asking a judge with a criminal law background to hear a family law case is like asking an orthopedic surgeon to do a gastric bypass.  They can probably manage it, but it’s not in their patient’s best interest.

Thomas Trent Lewis is a family law judge who is also a Certified Family Law Specialist with over twenty-eight years of experience as a family law lawyer.  This makes him a true gem amongst judges in the family court.

In today’s episode of Ron and Robert on Divorce, the Honorable Judge Lewis talks about the court’s power to order counseling for families, the Parent Plan Coordinator Stipulation, the Our Family Wizard program, and other tools and options for families in the midst of divorce.

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Missed Judge Lewis’ earlier episodes?

Part 1
Part 2

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

To Express Sincere Regret, Remorse

We’ve talked about forgiveness before, how important it is to forgive oneself and others so that true healing can happen. Yet as important as forgiveness is, an authentic, honest apology can go a long way towards healing a broken relationship.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m sorry I did that, but you don’t understand where I was coming from,” or “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but I didn’t mean to,” or something along those lines? Though you know you should forgive, because the person who hurt you has apologized, something just doesn’t feel right. That’s because apologies that include the word “but” are passive-aggressive, shallow, and lay blame for the hurtful event on the person who was hurt. “I’m sorry but,” is the same as saying, “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive, but it’s not my problem.”

It takes tremendous courage to accept responsibility for a hurtful action, to bring our wrongdoings out into the open where they might be examined and scrutinized. When we expose our short-comings we make ourselves vulnerable to others — and there is no guarantee we will be forgiven. We are prideful creatures by nature, always wanting to be right, to do good, to be better than we are. It is frightening to admit when we have done something that has caused someone else pain. So we reap a benefit by making ourselves blind to our misdeeds. In a sense, we protect ourselves, even as we push those we love far away. But how can we grow and learn if we refuse to acknoweldge our mistakes and seek forgiveness?

Allyson from The Law Collaborative shared a wonderful article from The Jewish Journal about finding the true path to forgiveness through sincere apology. Check it out below and discover how we can strengthen our relationships when we match our actions to our words.

TRUE PATHS TO TESHUVAH, by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

Family Wizard

Recently, several different people have asked me about Family Wizard. If you aren’t familiar with it, is a new resource that is illustrative of the advances in modern technology. It’s a tool that allows parents to keep a comprehensive, accurate, easily accessible record of their children’s school events, homework schedules, extra-curricular activities, emails, all communications, schedules, prescriptions, private tutoring, all of the special events at school, pupil free days, holidays, and student awards. There are a lot of things happening in the life of a single child, if you have multiple children it can get really complicated. The children can access it, judges can look at it if there’s a contested proceeding, and family law attorneys can look at it so they know what’s going on. It really speeds up the communications and cuts down unnecessary conversation time, which can be expensive to clients. It’s a small investment, it costs about $100 a year, but it’s well worth the yearly fee for the time it can save you.

For more information, visit

(The Law Collaborative, LLP has no affiliation with, and we have not been paid to endorse it. We just think it’s a great tool, when used as intended, and want to share it with our readers.)

The Center for Collaborative Learning Presents:

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Using Court As A Last Resort: Advocacy Without Adversaries

By Jan Frankel Schau and Ronald Supancic

Just as you were getting used to the concept of Arbitration and Mediation as the common alternatives for resolving legal disputes, along comes “Collaborative Law.” Is it the talisman of future dispute resolution in America?

“Collaborative Law” is being widely used, particularly in Family Law settings globally. In fact, in many European countries, the Court system is only the last resort after all other so-called “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” alternatives are fully exploited. Like any new system, it will undoubtedly be met with some resistance from the Courts and the Bar. This article will explore the concept of “collaborative law” and other “appropriate” dispute resolution processes applicable to the civil case in Los Angeles County .

Ideally, most civil disputes could be resolved, (as they sometimes are in the family law arena) around the kitchen table. That is, the parties sit down together, break bread and make peace. They work out their disputes without the need for outside intervention. This is the first step in “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” – an earnest attempt for the parties to meet and resolve their differences informally.

Failing that, parties could and should retain a neutral dispute facilitator or manager: someone whom both parties could agree to hire to oversee collection and exchange of all the necessary facts in order to fairly evaluate and resolve the dispute. This individual would oversee depositions, collect documents and screen them for confidentiality claims, and keep the parties on a schedule for responding to one another’s requests and demands. This approach is not entirely novel: under the California Civil Code all new actions for defects in real estate construction by a Homeowner’s Association require retaining and using a Dispute Facilitator before filing a lawsuit.

Once the facts have been fully submitted and explored, a “conventional” mediation might be appropriate. There, each side would be able to present their version of the incident or claim, based upon the stipulated facts and exchanged evidence, and a neutral intermediary could actively engage the two sides in collaborating towards a resolution.

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