Collaborative Divorce Presentation Scheduled October 3: Resolving Disputes Respectfully with a Commitment to Avoiding Courtrooms

The Family Law Section of the San Diego County Bar Association features CFLG San Diego members Hildy L. Fentin, CFLS; Myra C. Fleischer, CFLS; Justin A. Reckers, CFP, CDFA; and Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D. in a seminar on Collaborative Divorce on October 3 at 12 noon at the SDCBA Conference Center.

The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to transform the resolution of family law issues through processes that protect the emotional and financial integrity and health of all the people involved without having to resort to court litigation.

The presenters will introduce attendees to the Collaborative Divorce process, including the:

  • Definition of a Collaborative case
  • Core goals of the Collaborative model
  • Make-Up of the Collaborative team

Common misunderstandings of the process and how to begin to practice Collaborative Divorce will also be addressed.

Core elements of contractual and personal commitments in Collaborative Divorce are:

  • Negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement without having courts decide issues
  • Maintaining open communication and information sharing
  • Creating shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all

Click here to download the PDF flyer. Click here to register for the Live Internet Webcast.

Note: The program is intended for attorneys and law students, and is not open to the general public.

See the calendar of events page on the SDCBA website here for more information.




Collaborative Divorce Discussed in new National Law Review Article

Collaborative divorce enjoyed visibility in this well-written article posted this month on the National Law Review website.

The article, titled “Do I Litigate, Mediate, or Collaborate on my Divorce?” is written by Richard A. Gray, a Virginia-based attorney. It offers a very basic overview explanation of the three approaches to divorce.

Members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego can provide you a more detailed, personalized discussion and answer your questions about the advantages of the Collaborative Divorce process. In the face of well-publicized Family Court budget cutbacks, more individuals and couples are exploring this option.

Visit the Contact Us page on our website, or call the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at 858-472-4022.

Read the article here.

Prenuptial Agreements Not Only For The Wealthy

by Justin A. Reckers, CFP®, CDFATM, Director of Financial Planning
Pacific Wealth Management and Pacific Divorce Management

Most people who divorce do not have the financial concerns of Rupert Murdoch. The wealthy media mogul recently announced the impending divorce from his third wife, Wendi Deng, after 14 years of marriage.

Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng

You don’t have to be as wealthy as Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng to benefit from a prenuptial agreement.

Murdoch, CEO and chairman of News Corp., ranks number 91 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires, with a net worth of $11.2 billion. Speculation is rampant about the possible settlement with Wendi Deng. Various media reports claimed Murdoch’s payout in his second divorce from wife Anna in 1999 cost $1.7 billion.

The media has assumed that Murdoch and Deng have a prenuptial agreement. I have no doubt given Murdoch’s marital history and the fact he has children with one of his former wives. But even with wealthy people, it isn’t always the case.

The idea of getting a prenup tends to fly by even the wealthiest clients. People still think if you get a prenuptial agreement, it means you are planning for divorce even before you say “I do.” They believe it seems cold and unromantic.

From my viewpoint as a financial planner, I disagree with this thinking. It can be very romantic to have this discussion about money. Discussing money values, learning how your future spouse views financial decision making, their experience with money management and agreeing up front to some ground rules for managing your family finances can be a source of safety, financial security and comfort.

When financial advisers work with soon-to-be-wed couples, we help them determine how best to divvy up assets and streams of income. We also work side-by-side with family law lawyers who draft the prenuptial agreements. We examine the tax implications of dividing certain assets should it be necessary, and we figure out the long-term impact of ensuring the spouse with less money receives sufficient income.

We make sure both parties think through the implications of their decisions, and that they consider the many life stages they will go through. How will they provide for their children if they are divorced? What if one of the individuals becomes ill or disabled and cannot earn an income? What happens as each spouse ages?

When a couple is focused on starting their new life together, they don’t often stop to picture what might happen down the road. Financial and legal experts can help insure important decisions are made with complete information and adequate consideration of the financial intricacies of marriage and divorce.

There are as many versions of prenuptial agreements as there are couples. One size never fits all. And prenuptial agreements aren’t financial straightjackets either. In some cases, spouses going through a divorce contest assets and whether their status is truly “separate.” It can become complicated when an asset considered separate property is sold, and then the money is reinvested. Is the new property still a separate property? Or is it now marital property? If it’s not part of the original agreement, this is where things can get a little complex.

It is smart to put a prenuptial agreement together before marriage as well as to update it periodically just as you would update your estate planning when circumstances change.

You don’t have to be as wealthy as Rupert Murdoch. You only have to be conscious of the emotions that often complicate financial decision making and be willing to be open and honest with the person you love.

Kids In The Courtroom: Good Idea Or Not?

 Children  often  want to be heard  when their parents separate and divorce.  How can children have a voice without  exposing them to courtroom battles?

by Nancy Stassinopoulos, Attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist,
Stassinopoulos & Schweitzer, LLP, San Diego, CA

Nancy Stassinopoulos

The traditional Family Court system, which is based on litigation with attorneys for each parent, tries to help families with children to resolve child-sharing disputes, but with mixed results.  Although mediation at Family Court Services (now called “child custody recommending counseling”) is required before a judge makes decisions on child custody and visitation, by the time parents walk into the court mediator’s office, they are often entrenched in their positions and unable to agree on a parenting plan.  So they end up in the courtroom, where the adversary process causes more acrimony between the parents, and where the children suffer from the toxic fallout.

The Family Court judge has the option to appoint an attorney for the children, called “minor’s counsel.”  This attorney will interview the children and represent their interests in court hearings. Usually, the court appoints minor’s counsel only in high-conflict cases, where the children need their own advocate.

The California Family Code requires the judge to consider the wishes of the child if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation.” Recently, the California Legislature has decided to give children more of a role in the legal process. If a child who has reached the age of 14 wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so unless the judge determines that it is not in the child’s best interests. The judge can even permit a child younger than 14 to testify in certain circumstances.

Many family law attorneys think this new law is a bad idea, because it puts the child in the middle of the conflict and exposes him or her to the highly charged atmosphere of the courtroom. A parent who wants his or her child to testify in court may not be thinking of how harmful that could be for the child. The child may not realize that he or she will have to be placed under oath, sit in the witness box and be questioned by the attorneys for the parents, usually with the parents present in the courtroom.

The collaborative divorce process gives the children a voice in the decisions about where they will live, and how much time they will spend with each parent, while protecting them from the conflict of the courtroom.

In a collaborative divorce, the parents, together with their collaborative attorneys and coaches, may decide to use a “child specialist” as part of their Collaborative team. The role of the child specialist is to work with the parents and the children to provide each child with the opportunity to express their concerns, to give the parents information that will help their children through the divorce process, and to assist the Collaborative team in developing an effective co-parenting plan.

The goal of the collaborative divorce process is to help the family during their transition from one home to two homes. Children need to participate in the decisions made by the family, in a manner that is appropriate to their age.  They may have concerns about their pets, their bicycles, and their friends, and they may find it hard to share these concerns with their parents. The child specialist in the Collaborative team can listen to the children and make sure their questions are answered and their needs are met.

Collaborative divorce allows children to have a say in their own future and the future of their family, without feeling pressure to “choose sides” and without the intimidation of the courtroom setting – a healthier outcome for everyone.

Collaborative Divorce Can Make Divorce Cheaper

divorcing coupleCFLGSD member Shawn Weber of Brave, Mack and Webers reports that collaborative divorce was recently featured as a good alternative to the expenses of going through the court system to get divorced.

Fox Business News recently interviewed attorney Randy Kessler, founding partner of law firm Kessler & Solomiany in Atlanta, Georgia, on tips for saving money on a divorce. Kessler recommends mediation or the collaborative process as the two cheapest ways to get a divorce.

See the entire report here.


Four Tips for Making Divorce Easier on You and Your Family

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CLF-S, Fleischer & Associates

Making the decision to get divorced is never easy. If you have been there, done that, no matter when you file you know it can be consuming and is usually the result of a thought processing lasting weeks, months, even years. If there are children involved, it is even more gut wrenching.

This is why our group so strongly recommends the collaborative divorce process to mitigate the impact to your children and your family as a whole.

But once you have crossed that bridge in your mind, heart and soul, now is the time to be ruthlessly practical. Even if you choose collaborative divorce, you must also prepare yourself and your children. This is not selfish. This is healthy, this is smart and this is in your long-term best interests.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed, and there is a lot to do. As a family law attorney with experience representing hundred and hundreds of divorcing clients, there are some priorities you need to address BEFORE you break the bad news, hire an attorney, file any paperwork, or decide to avoid the court system entirely. This advice applies equally to men and women, straight or gay.

Gavel and Wedding Rings

  •  Make sure you get copies of all your financial records.

This includes bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, credit cards, loans and any other debts. You will also be able to quickly tell and later prove if there are significant changes or movement of assets, and this may help you make the decision about whether collaborative divorce is right for you.

  • Make sure you have a source of funds if you do not work outside the home.

Create a financial strategy with your attorney or a divorce financial planner before any formal filing for divorce.

  • Make sure you disclose anything damaging about you and your situation to your attorney.

The last person you want to be blindsided by any misbehavior or skeletons in your closet is your attorney. He or she cannot help you to mitigate the impact if he or she knows nothing about it. Sure, it can be some embarrassing stuff to admit to extramarital affairs, criminal acts, struggles with your physical or mental health, or tweeting racy photos.

But believe me, divorce attorneys, divorce financial planners and divorce coaches have heard it all and then some. We are not shockable, and we will not think less of you. Professionals involved with divorce proceedings are committed to confidentiality. Most of it can be handled. It’s entirely possible that by getting these issues acknowledged and out of the way, the healing process can begin and a collaborative divorce may be possible. But if not, it’s better to learn this early in the divorce process.

  • Listen to professional advice.

If your attorney, divorce financial planner or divorce coach tells you something or asks you to do something, there is a reason for it. Usually it is to protect your interests and make things easier (and maybe less costly) for you and your family in the long run. We know how to engage the legal system to your best advantage, and we have plenty of experience that tells us what works and what does not work. Don’t ruin the good counsel you are getting by ignoring it.



How to Find the Divorce Process That Works for You

by Mel Mackler, MA, LMFT
Coaching and Education for an Emotionally Healthy Divorce

Divorce: You have choices

When it comes to divorce, many people hire an attorney out of anxiety. They feel compelled to get advice or protection, often before they’ve discussed the situation with their spouse or partner.  Once the discussion is on the table, a spouse may feel compelled to seek immediate protection.

How do most people choose an attorney? It’s often by word of mouth: friends who have used an attorney, a friend who practices law, or a recommendation from a family member.  While the advice may bring quick relief by reducing anxiety, the advice is frequently biased and won’t necessarily take into account the individual needs of the person or their family.

Most people don’t realize that when they retain an attorney, they are not only hiring a personality, they are also buying a divorce process.

In California, there are four different methods that can be used to attain a divorce.  Typically, attorneys specialize in one of these processes although they may have experience working with more than that one specialty.  And each process has its merits and costs—financial as well as emotional.

If you’re considering divorce, become familiar with each of theses of processes before you retain your attorney. Think about which process fits the emotional make up of your family and which can offer the kind of emotional support you imagine your self, your spouse, or your kids needing.

Divorce is a process of negotiation and communication so you’ll want to think about the skills you and your partner share.  Are you able to have productive conversations when there are differences of opinions?  Do each of you have the capacity to manage your anxiety when tensions build so that you stay focused and can come to a rational agreement?  Is there a balance of power in your relationship or does one person tend to dominate?

In many communities there are divorce educators and divorce coaches who can lead you through the process of determining which process would best suit your family make up.  They will give you referrals to attorneys who specialize in the process you decide is going to be best for your family.  They can also help you to understand the financial costs associated with each process.

Become an aware consumer before retaining an attorney. If you and your spouse or partner can go through this process together and mutually choose a suitable divorce process, all the better.  This would be a great beginning to what I hope will be a cooperative and constructive future.  It may also help indicate what processes are compatible with your and your spouse’s abilities.

Fiscal Cliff Divorce Planning

Jumping off the fiscal cliff

Don’t jump off the fiscal cliff in the midst of a divorce without a safety net in place.

With the fiscal cliff seemingly looming as a reality, Justin Reckers, CFP, CDFA of Pacific Divorce Management has advice on financial planning strategies if your divorce settlement could be affected by this situation. Read more here and talk to legal and financial professionals such as the team at CFLG San Diego if you need to take action before the end of the year.