Shawn Weber: Swimming With the Sharks or Dolphins?

What type of attorney do you want to help you navigate your divorce? Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Shawn Weber describes his view of attorney styles in an interview on “Real Talk San Diego” heard on ESPN Radio 1700 AM. See a video of the interview here.

Listen to the full interview featuring Shawn’s insights on Alternative Dispute Resolution and divorce mediation including Collaborative Divorce in the Soundcloud podcast here.

Does ‘Separation’ Have to Mean Scorched Earth?

by Meredith Brown, Attorney, Brown and Brown

Most divorcing couples can agree on the day they were married but it is not uncommon for spouses to have very different ideas of when the marriage was “over.” Sometimes the dates expressed by spouses are years apart. How do couples set their date of separation? Why does it even matter?

canstockphoto24466347In California, property and debts accumulated by a married couple from their wedding day to their date of separation are considered “community property” to be divided equally.  Generally, once a couple has separated, their earnings, retirement plan contributions and employment benefits such as restricted stock and stock options, and their debts become separate property. When competing dates of separation vary significantly, division of sizable assets and debts may be placed at issue.

So how does the court determine the date on which a marriage was over? There are literally decades of cases that have sorted through a myriad of facts and circumstances in an effort to fix the date on which a particular couple separated. Courts have considered conveniences such as maintaining a joint account to pay bills or filing a joint tax return, or even the thoughtful act of sending a birthday card, as a sign that the marriage was not truly over. It is almost as though couples must suddenly turn a blind eye to one another and their history together as a prerequisite.

This summer, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling on the date of separation in Marriage of Davis. Davis holds that as a prerequisite to separation, spouses must live in two separate residences (with a footnote to the opinion leaving the door open for physical separation under the same roof, under limited circumstances). For many divorcing couples maintaining two separate residences during this difficult time is not economically feasible, practical or desirable, especially for couples with minor children.

When parties cannot agree on their date of separation a separate trial on that one issue may be necessary. The trial process is adversarial, emotionally draining, time-consuming and costly. Judges do the best they can but the court lacks resources to allow for a more compassionate approach that considers the personal and emotional needs of divorcing couples.

The Collaborative Divorce process is different. It is designed to respect your history together and help you design your post-marriage relationship. While you are fully informed about the law, you are not bound by the rules that restrict the court’s options. Your Collaborative Divorce team provides a confidential environment in which you and your spouse work together to create a settlement that meets your family’s needs.

Realistic Expectations in Divorce: Do Leopards Ever Really Change Their Spots?

leopards-don-t-change-their-spots_things-wish-id-always-known-menby Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.
Collaborative Attorney and Mediator

As a mediator, I met with a Mediation couple today. I like both of them very much. We
are the same ages, have similar interests and if I wasn’t their divorce mediator, I could be friends with each of them. But what struck me again today, was how divorcing spouses treat each other and annoy each other, and yet at the same time they find this surprising and frustrating.
Shawn Skillin

You are getting divorced. There are multiple reasons why you are getting divorced. Many of them boil down to that fact that you each have a different perspective on various issues. One of you likes the house neat and tidy, the other leaves dirty socks and wet towels on the floor. One of you is fussy about the budget, the other just wants to know if the ATM card works. You each have a different set of expectations for the children and approach discipline in different ways. You both have frustrations, disappointments and hurt feelings. You have argued over these issues many times, you can recite each others point of view word for word. You have stopped even pretending to listen.

Yet when one of you decides to file for divorce there is often an expectation that somehow this will change. The other person will now see your point, change their perspective, after all you must have gotten their full and undivided attention now! Right? Mmmm … not so fast.

In divorce, your individual perspectives don’t magically change. You still see things differently from each other. These differences continue to annoy and frustrate you. Yet, both parties often continue to treat each other in the same way and expect a different outcome. These communication styles didn’t work during the marriage, they aren’t going to work during the divorce. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

This is why I love Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In Mediation, the Mediator is a neutral third party who helps interpret and re-frame what is being said. The Mediator can put a different spin on the issue, help you both see it in a different way, or at least point out that this isn’t unusual that you each see it differently. The fact that you do, doesn’t make either of you right or wrong, good or bad, just different.

In Collaborative Divorce, there is a Coach, or two, and two attorneys who help each party take a step back and take a fresh look at old issues. Perhaps, even learn a new way of presenting information and proposals to each other. They help you see what you do have in common and how, even with your differences, you can resolve issues, co-parent and work together.

Both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce keep you focused on the present and the future; the past can’t be changed.   How you got here is not nearly as important as where you choose to go now and in the future. In the best Mediated and Collaborative Divorces the parties learn new communication tools that can help them resolve their issues and move forward with hope.

Keeping The Costs Of Divorce Down Is Up To You

by Myra Chack Fleischer
Lead Counsel, Fleischer & Ravreby

There is an old joke about divorce.

Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. Plunging into Bankruptcy - Financial Speedometer

Humor is rooted in the truth. The truth is that sometimes getting divorced can cost a lot of money. The legal fees can seem out of proportion after it’s all over and the parties involved tally up what they’ve “won” in the form of spousal or child support or property like a home.

But here is another important truth. The cost of a divorce is largely up to you. Your actions determine whether legal fees keep adding up, or whether they can be managed in a reasonable way and minimized.

These are the recommendations I provide to my own clients when they express the need to control their spending on their divorce.

1. Just the facts

Your family law attorney needs to gather all the facts of your case. He or she needs specific information to prepare certain documents and begin the divorce process. The more efficiently and accurately you can provide the necessary information to your attorney, the easier it is for your attorney to get up to speed and prepare documents. Easier equals quicker, and quicker means less expensive if you are paying by the hour.

Don’t think because you “hide” something it will go away. The truth always comes out. Your attorney prefers to avoid surprises.

2. Honesty is the best policy

As part of the divorce process, each side collects as much detailed information about the other side’s circumstances as possible. Written questions are drafted (called interrogatories), and requests for documents and records are made. Depositions are often used, where witnesses are put under oath and asked more extensive questions with all answers on the record. There is no reason not to be forthcoming with your attorney about the good, the bad, and the ugly. The longer it takes to put the story together, the more it costs.

3. Be prepared

If you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse cannot settle your disagreements outside of the courts on your own, with or without help from professionals, you will end up in a trial. This is when divorce gets expensive. Try to avoid this if possible. Consider Collaborative Divorce or mediation as a more efficient, cost-effective way to work things out.

If you are heading to court, a lot of preparation is required. There are simply no shortcuts. There are endless details that must be gathered and verified. Your attorney must be diligent on your behalf and determine how best to use the facts to best persuade a judge to make a decision protecting your interests.

It takes time to prepare the parties and witnesses for a courtroom appearance. This is a new and intimidating experience for most people. They need to understand what will happen when they provide testimony, especially when they are cross-examined and challenged by the other party’s attorney.

4. Watch the clock in court

Assuming you don’t decide on a resolution along the way, you will find yourself in a courtroom where a third party – the judge – will make decisions for you since you cannot. A family law judge will listen to all of the testimony, read all of the written documents, and consider the total sum of all evidence presented by both sides. The judge will then render a decision on all of the issues on which you and your ex-spouse disagree.

Trials can last a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. Complex cases can last months. Juggling the schedules of everyone involved can make it challenging to get everyone in the courtroom at the same time. Factor in work and family conflicts, sick days and vacations for more delays. If there are lengthy delays, more time is added to get back up to speed.

5. Family court cutbacks

Many family law courts across the country have experienced funding cutbacks from their state governments. The result is often a shortage of courtroom space or a shortage of personnel available for the amount of cases waiting for a trial. It not only takes longer for you to get divorced, it takes even more time invested by your attorney and other professionals involved to stay up to speed. None of this helps the bottom line.

Have you picked up on a common theme? Time is money where a divorce case is concerned.

You can help save costs by working through the process with your attorney as swiftly and openly as possible. Make decisions in a timely manner; get expert help from a licensed financial professional specializing in divorce, and mental health professional if necessary.

For many reasons including cost, consider a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that keeps you out of the courtroom, but still allows both sides to work through disagreements. A Collaborative Divorce can present an ideal way to advocate for your interests without the enormous investment of time and money necessary for a litigated divorce.

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Follow Myra on Facebook and on Twitter.

Can a Divorce Team Save You Money?

By Win Heiskala, Certified Family Law Specialist
Attorney-Partner, Beatrice L. Snider Family Law Group

You made the very serious personal decision to terminate your marriage. This decision necessarily takes you to the procedure known as divorce (AKA Dissoluiton of Marriage in the Court).

You found yourself an attorney who discusses the different processes with you that can be win-heiskala-photoused to divide assets and debts, set a child sharing plan, and set support. You say, “We don’t want to go to court – we just want to settle.”

The Collaborative Family Law model provides the most complete and efficient process to meet your goal. The hallmarks of the Collaborative Law divorce process is an agreement from everyone at the outset to exclude all court proceedings, and engage the services of various professionals, known as “the team” to make assist in the resolution of all issues.

Why is a “team” needed? Why do we need a team just to get a divorce? If you don’t have any assets, income or children, then you don’t need a team and you can stop reading. If you do have any of these, I encourage you to continue.

ALL parties in a divorce in California no matter what process is used are mandated by law to exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. It means each side must provide in writing to the other a disclosure of all assets and debts. There is considerable debate regarding the extent and specificity required, but the goal of the law of disclosure is to adequately inform both sides before decisions are made regarding dividing assets and liabilities.

The main advantage to having one neutral financial person as part of a Collaborative team is that you deal with just one individual working to provide fair and accurate information to both parties in a divorce. Both parties provide financial information to the single financial expert. He or she verifies and organizes it, and reports the information in an understandable form to both parties and their counsel. Everyone is on the same page.

In comparison, in many “litigated” cases, a joint expert is not retained at the outset of a case, and after a great deal of increased animosity, distrust and anxiety, not to mention expense, the parties either reach the point of a joint expert or continue to battle each other with their own expensive experts – two instead of one.

Many times even the most sophisticated party in a divorce may be surprised to learn some information in the exchange. For example, husbands and wives can be wrong about how title is held on a property, whether something is community property or not, or the true value of a given asset. Clear, organized information such as this is essential to the parties in a divorce to reach reasonable and informed solutions.

The independent financial specialist also assists in determining the true income of both parties and the relative expenses for separate households going forward. Compensation packages for W-2 earners as well as the self employed have become increasingly complex with the proliferation of compensation such as Restricted Stock/Units, Performance Restricted Stock, Stock Options, claw back provisions, insider trading rules, irregular bonus payouts, profit distributions, 401K and profit sharing plans. Employment benefits can impact both asset division as well as ongoing income available for support. Self employed individuals often have unrealistic opinions of their worth or income.

The parties and their respective counsel need accurate, efficient documents and information in order to adequately educate and advise the parties as to the best solution and informed decisions for their particular case.

Even more important than the financial considerations in a divorce is the attention needed to preserve the best interest of the children. A child specialist can be the most valuable person on the Collaborative team.

First, the children need to be assured early and often that the separation of the parents is not the fault of the child. The child may be in need of therapy that neither parent is able to recognize or facilitate because of his or her own emotional upheaval. The child needs a neutral place to discuss his or her input and even vent, without fear of recrimination from a parent. Children of different ages have different needs and concerns.

All of this can be discussed with the parents and the child specialist in a safe and calm situation in order to reach a suitable, workable family child sharing plan. Every mental health expert agrees that continued animosity and conflict between the parents in divorce renders irreversible harm to the children from which they never recover. The Collaborative team, with the help of the child specialist, has the best chance of avoiding this tragedy.

If parents are unable to agree regarding the sharing of the children in a litigated divorce case in court, the family frequently undergoes a costly custody evaluation process and may have their own “expert” to review the work of the expert conducting the evaluation. Once again, you have the potential for three experts instead of one, as well as counselors and therapists, coming in at a much later stage of the proceedings after further polarization of the parties and damage to the children. The structure of the Collaborative team and process can “put everyone in the same room” from the beginning of the process.

Equally important to the team are the coaches for each of the adults. Divorce is one of the most emotional processes a person can go through in a lifetime. Everyone can use assistance from time to time for insight and balance while dealing with the inevitable feelings of loss, uncertainty, fear, anger and overall anxiety. Your attorney is not a psychologist. It is the duty of the attorney to maintain as much objectivity as possible in order to advise the client in the decision making process, and the individual coaches are a tremendous assistance in facilitating the parties to reach resolution.

With a professional Collaborative team of your choice in place from the outset of a divorce, you will be provided information, organization, support, advice and assistance for the entire family in the transition process for the best possible solutions. Otherwise, you may end up with a team or two anyway, but in a courtroom instead of a conference

ESPN Radio 1700 AM Features “Divorce Options” Discussion

Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Shawn Weber, Certified Family Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San DiegoLaw Specialist attorney with Brave Weber Mack, recently appeared as a guest on “The Real Estate Radio Hour” on ESPN Radio 1700 AM to talk about the new “Divorce Options” program. Weber reviewed the different choices facing families when considering divorce, and explained how the new workshop program helps individuals understand the options and the differences among them.

Hear the entire interview with Shawn at this link.