Collaborating From Afar On Collaborative Divorce Cases

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

by Meredith G. Lewis, CLS-F, CDFA

In most Collaborative Divorce cases, the parties and professional team members reside and work in the same city, and are able to have in person meetings throughout the process. What if a situation arises when one of the parties, or even one of the chosen professional team members, lives in another city, state or country? Is a Collaborative Divorce case even possible under this scenario? Depending on the circumstances of the case, it is absolutely possible.

Based on the success of a recent Collaborative case, my colleagues and team members Shawn Weber, CLS-F, Anna Addleman, CPA, CDFA, and Robert A. Simon, Ph.D will offer tips in our upcoming presentation titled “Collaborating From Afar: Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles in Long Distance Collaborative Cases” at the Collaborative Practice California (CP Cal) “Celebration XI” conferencein Redwood City, California in late April.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

With the availability of technology, if a party or team member is not local, he or she can still attend Collaborative Divorce meetings and be completely involved in the process. We had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Collaborative case where one of the parties resides outside of the United States. Though the team and the parties have faced some challenges with the process, it has worked well, and has enabled the case to proceed using the Collaborative Process without requiring the spouse who lives in another country to travel to San Diego.

Our team has developed several requirements for assessing whether your long distance Collaborative Divorce case can be successful. Note, however, that these are based on our experience with only one case and, therefore, these criteria are evolving.

  • Use of Technology: The professional team and the party who resides outside of the area needs to be familiar with the necessary communication technology to be utilized. There are several programs such as GoToMeeting, WebEx or Citrix which allow a person to appear remotely at a meeting.
  • Ability to Cooperate: The parties have a reasonable level of mutual respect for one another or have the ability to communicate.
  • Professional Teamwork: The professional team must be cohesive and flexible.

There are also ethical dilemmas that should be addressed by the team the Collaborative Team should address:

  • Is there an advantage or disadvantage with one party appearing remotely?
  • Are there power imbalances that would make such a process ineffective?
  • Is it better to have the party participating remotely have a local mental health professional as a coach, or one who can attend the meeting in person?

Just as not all family law cases are appropriate for the Collaborative process, not all Collaborative Divorce cases are appropriate to be conducted remotely. Deciding the appropriateness requires a detailed review of the situation by the potential Collaborative Divorce team, and the willingness of the parties to understand and accept the benefits and drawbacks of the remote model. However, geography alone does not necessarily have to be a bar to a successful Collaborative Divorce case.

Concerned whether your long distance divorce can be resolved using the Collaborative Process model? Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at 858-472-4022 to discuss your questions and schedule a consultation. Or attend one of our free “Divorce Options” seminars the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center. To reserve your space, email sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

Myra Chack Fleischer Named Collaborative Family Law Group 2016 Board President

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – Family law attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, CFLS, has been named President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego for the 2016 term. Fleischer is Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby, a family law practice based in Carlsbad, California, with offices in Beverly Hills, California.

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Founded in 2000, members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego work together to learn, practice, and promote Collaborative Practice for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, Collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

An experienced family law attorney practicing law in Southern California since 1997, Myra Chack Fleischer founded her own law firm in 2001. In 2013, Fleischer added the respected law office of Richard R. Ravreby to her firm, forming the new firm Fleischer & Ravreby based in Carlsbad, California. Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Fleischer worked for 10 years as an accountant in public accounting and then as the controller of international mid-sized software company. Her financial background combined with her law expertise is a key factor in Fleischer’s success in representing clients in cases where there are issues involving complex asset divisions. Although known as a formidable litigator, Fleischer strives to avoid court where possible, driving settlement of assets through Consensual Dispute Resolution, including Collaborative Divorce.

“Being involved in Collaborative Practice through the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego represents a significant advancement in resolving civil disputes like divorce,” said Fleischer. “Going through a divorce is in some ways harder than dealing with the death of a loved one. It will get worse before it gets better. But in so many cases, couples can avoid the ‘scorched earth, win at all costs’ mindset involved in litigation.

“Collaborative Divorce keeps decision-making in the hands of the couple. The most significant advantage is sparing children the emotional fallout from an acrimonious divorce, preserving the family relationships and allowing them to move forward in a healthier way,” said Fleischer.

“My goals for the coming year are twofold. First, to build contacts with professional associations and acquaint their members with this method of divorce through presentations and speaking engagements. This will help them advise their employees, clients, family and friends about this healthier divorce alternative. Second, to build our ongoing series of public divorce workshops called ‘Divorce Options’ to allow individuals and couples to learn about the different methods of getting divorced so they make an informed choice for their family,” Fleischer said.

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

End of the Year Divorce Survival Tips

by Julia M. Garwood, Garwood Family Law and Mediation

The holidays are a time for celebration and holiday cheer. Members of the Collaborative julia-garwood-photoFamily Law Group of San Diego understand that holidays can be challenging for divorcees. No need to simply try to survive them. Use these holiday survival tips to help you thrive instead of just survive the holiday season!

End of the Year Survival Tip #1: Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is an excellent tool to carry with you during the holiday season. It can help mend some of those emotional strains and provide you with a strong foundation for any challenges you might face. But positive thinking takes more than just an impulsive desire to be happy. It takes a dedicated mind set and a change in lifestyle. You’re not going to be able to achieve positive thinking by simply wanting to be happy. Positive thinking is accomplished through continued effort and long-term persistence.

Smile: Changing your mind set might be as simple as making yourself smile. Facial movements can influence emotional experience. Try smiling during a holiday gathering; you will come to find that the event will become much more enjoyable.

Contribute to the Community: During this time of the year there are many people in need. Giving to the less fortunate can relieve your mind. Volunteer in your local shelter and give back to your community. When you help someone less fortunate, it provides both of you with some positive thinking for going beyond just surviving the holidays.

Exercise: This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a marathon. Simply walk in the park, enjoy the beach, or do some yoga. Certainly any of these activities will do the trick.

Rekindle an Old Hobby or Start a New One: Chances are during your marriage one or more of your hobbies had to take a back seat. There is no better time than the present to reach back into your past and pull forward some of these enjoyable pastimes.

End of the Year Survival Tip #2: Make A Plan

Unfortunately, there are going to be some challenges during the holiday season that you can’t avoid. It is important for you to do an internal evaluation, define what boundaries you need to set, and make a plan to help maintain your “positive thinking” attitude.

Holiday Traditions Plan: Traditions have a special place during the holiday season. It is sometimes difficult for recent divorcees to either continue a long-time tradition or to stop an annual tradition. Do you let a tradition go, or try to force yourself through something that is no longer enjoyable? If you are unsure about how to approach a tradition, simply look to your first tool in the End of the Year Survival Tip. If it is going to make you unhappy, don’t force yourself through it. It doesn’t have to mean the tradition is over, it can just mean you are taking a break from it this year or start a new tradition.

Children Plan: It is important that you and your ex establish a mutual plan for where your children will spend specific portions of the holidays and coordinate your gift-giving. Having a clear plan in advance is beneficial to everyone involved and can help avoid crisis situations and decisions that can threaten your ability to enjoy the holidays.

End of the Year Survival Tip #3: Outdoor Activities

There is no better way to get through the holidays than to get out and enjoy yourself. With a positive attitude, a plan, and a list full of fun activities, you are ready to thrive this holiday season!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Balboa Park
  • Mission Bay
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Legoland
  • Your Local Library

 

Back to School Tips for Divorced Families

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.
Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

Back to school can be a breeze for divorce parents with these simple tips for success.

No matter how old your kids are or how many times you’ve been through it all as a parent, there is anxiety mixed with anticipation as kids head back to school this fall. Mixed feelings are natural at this time of year.

There is extra stress and brand new school-related issues to deal with if you are newly divorced. Who is paying for what? What activities will the child get to be involved in? Who keeps an eye on homework assignments? Who does the school call if there is an emergency?

These are issues that can be addressed in the Collaborative Divorce process. If you went through a more adversarial divorce, don’t let school turn into a battleground to establish who is the better parent. Don’t get into competition with your former spouse. Your child is struggling through your divorce while juggling the demands of the new school year. Let school be a place for him or her to have fun, learn, achieve and excel, and forget about the issues at home.

These tips from Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member, family law attorney Myra Chack Fleischer of Fleischer and Ravreby, can help you navigate the process and earn an A-plus for your parenting skills.

 

 

Why a Collaborative Divorce Makes Financial Sense

Collaborative Divorce offers many advantages to divorcing couples, particularly financial. Courtesy US News & World Report

Collaborative Divorce offers many advantages to divorcing couples, particularly financial. Courtesy US News & World Report

For couples ready to part ways, a Collaborative Divorce can often prevent the angry, destructive results of many divorce proceedings. As reported in U.S. News & World Report, Collaborative Divorce embraces the concept that a couple once considered themselves partners during their marriage, and should be able to end it together as well, deciding how to split assets and how the co-parenting should work out in a way in which neither party feels too disappointed when it comes time to sign the divorce papers.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is encouraged by media coverage in publications like U.S. News, helping spread the message about the option offered to couples by the Collaborative approach.

Read the entire article at this link.

 

 

Divorce Via Facebook: Like?

Facebook-heartDivorce service has entered the era of social media. A New York superior court judge ruled that a woman could serve her husband with divorce papers using Facebook.

Should this get a Like?

The attorney for nurse Ellanora Baidoo, 26, argued that she had tried repeatedly using numerous methods but been unsuccessful contacting her husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, also 26.

The circumstances of the wedding were unusual. The pair were married, but never lived together. There was a dispute over having a wedding after their civil ceremony in 2009, and the pair never consummated the marriage. Blood-Dzraku kept in touch for a while by telephone, but since 2011, there had been no contact.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper ruled Baidoo “is granted permission to serve defendant with the divorce summons using a private message through Facebook,” with her lawyer messaging Blood-Dzraku through her account, Cooper wrote.

“This transmittal shall be repeated by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged” by her hard-to-find hubby.

“I think it’s new law, and it’s necessary,” said Baidoo’s lawyer, Andrew Spinnell.

The first message went out at the beginning of April, but no response as of publication.

Read more about the case here.

 

Reducing Reactivity in High Conflict Divorce

Divorce and Fighting, Boxing Gloves

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Shawn Weber, attorney with Brave Weber & Mack, offers helpful tips for reducing conflict in this video presentation. Weber points out that even in a High Conflict Divorce, courts cannot always address all slights and grievances.

Within the structure of a Collaborative Divorce where the parties are committed to a resolution of their issues without going to court, these tips provide tools to de-escalate any conflicts that could appear.

Stress, Divorce and Down Dog

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

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

Stress. That is one word that comes to mind for most people when they think of divorce. Either their own or someone else’s divorce[1]. How to manage that stress? Obviously, the best way to handle any stress is to remove it, but that is not possible if you find yourself in the middle of a divorce process, either as the initiating party or responding. The divorce will happen and you need to be involved in important decisions affecting you and your family. Even if you think you are “in control” and have come to terms with the decision and the outcome, it is still one of the most emotional processes of your life.win-heiskala-photo

I am not a medical expert, nor is this a medical/mental health article, but it seems fairly well documented that stress is hazardous to one’s physical and emotional health. And, based on experience and observation, your stress (anxiety, anger, fear) can be very hazardous to those around you. Your children can be irrevocably damaged by your inability to control the negative emotions of a divorce, your workplace will only tolerate so much, and your friends can be quickly exhausted.

So, what to do? You are already overloaded to make time for attorneys, accountants, therapists, and the inevitable repair people for those appliances that always decide to break down during this upheaval. But there must be space for some time for you. Find the time.  I recommend you spend that time at the closest Iyengar[2] yoga studio, and begin lessons at whatever level is recommended to you.

Focusing on your mind/body connection, through methodical, specific instruction can result in a calmer, more centered you.

Meditation in yoga is experienced, not by sitting staring into space, but by concentrating on the movement of specific parts of your body with awareness and attention. It is difficult to think of one’s problems when you are attempting to remember the multiple points it takes just to stand straight (let alone on your head – but you won’t be asked to do that in the first class). And you are the arbiter of what you will do in class – it is your body. The alignment of your body, in and of itself, provides calmness and clarity of thought. A backbend can provide joy (that won’t happen first class either).  The release of tension can be immediate and lasting.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

In the Iyengar discipline of yoga, you are encouraged to ultimately establish your own “home” practice as well as attend classes. Yoga is good for any body, at any age, regardless of any physical limitations. Obviously, there are no guarantees and much depends on the time and effort expended. This is not an ad for yoga. I am not a paid representative of Iyengar yoga. There is no contract to sign. It is a pay as you go system. No commitment is expected except your own commitment to your own mental, emotional and physical well being. Try it!

[1] As an attorney I do feel obliged to make reference to the legal terminology of Dissolution of Marriage, but it is still commonly called Divorce by most.

[2] My yoga experience (of over 20 years) has been exclusively with this discipline of teaching. So I am not comfortable making a recommendation for any other method, but that is not to be interpreted as a negative for any other yoga discipline or course of study.

Collaborative law featured on ESPN 1700 Radio

Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member attorney Shawn Weber, Certified Family Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San DiegoLaw Specialist with Brave Weber Mack, discussed the Collaborative approach to divorce during a recent guest appearance on “The Real Estate Radio Hour” on ESPN Radio 1700 AM with host Ryan White.

Weber pointed out that recent budget cutbacks to California’s family law court system makes it much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to pursue a divorce via litigation, making the Collaborative approach to divorce a better choice for many families.

Hear the entire interview with Shawn via the link below.

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