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Hot Topics In Family Law

LACFLA Names Leon F. Bennett 2016 President

by Leon Bennett on 02/26/16

                                                                     February 15, 2016

 Leon F. Bennett named President of 

Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association 


(LOS ANGELES, CA.) – Family law attorney Leon F. Bennett, has been named President of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association (LACFLA) for the 2016 term. Bennett is lead counsel for the Law Offices of Leon F. Bennett, based in Woodland Hills, California.

Founded in 2003, the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association is an open, interdisciplinary organization dedicated to applying the Collaborative Law process for resolving family conflicts. The non-litigious approach of Collaborative Practice often results in swift and cost-effective resolutions.

LACFLA is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation offering continuous education and support for success with non-adversarial resolutions. LACFLA guides and supports Collaborative Practice in Los Angeles County and coordinates with regional, state and international Collaborative Practice organizations.

Leon F. Bennett has three decades of experience in the field of family law as a litigator, mediator and Collaborative Practice attorney. Bennett is known as an advocate for his clients, whether during negotiations, mediation or trial. He is also highly respected for his ability to resolve many matters without lengthy litigation. He is the co-founder of Family Divorce Solutions of San Fernando Valley, a regional Collaborative Practice group of attorneys, accountants and mental health professionals who employ a non-adversarial, cooperative method to family law proceedings.

“In today’s society, it’s simply a fact that half of all marriages end in divorce. My experience with the traditional divorce process through litigation in court led me to ask a question: ‘Isn’t there a better way for couples to divorce, maintain family relationships, and avoid emotional harm to their children?’” said Bennett.

“This is where the Collaborative approach to divorce can be highly beneficial. This approach allows participants to settle their issues more quickly and do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional litigation,” explained Bennett. “The Collaborative approach to divorce is the latest development in the family law field and I will be devoting my efforts to fostering its growth in the greater Los Angeles area,” explained Bennett.

Bennett said his priorities for his term as LACFLA President are to increase educational and training opportunities for all professionals who work with divorcing couples including non-traditional audiences such as human resources professionals, real estate agents, and teachers; and lead legislative advocacy at the state level to preserve the Mediation Exception in California Family Law. 

In addition to his pursuits in private practice, Bennett has served as Judge Pro-Tem for the Los Angeles County Family Law courts. He has served as a lecturer on family law for California’s Continuing Education of the Bar, providing his expertise to other family law practitioners. Bennett produced and hosted the Time Warner Cable community outreach television series “Legal Forum.”

Bennett has held the positions of President, President – Elect, Secretary, Treasurer and Trustee for the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and Trustee for the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Bennett has received an “AV Preeminent” rating from Martindale-Hubble’s Peer Review Rating for 20 consecutive years, representing the highest level of confidence in his professional skills from the legal community. Bennett has also been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers, an honor awarded to outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their given practice area.

Bennett is devoted to community youth sports, serving as coach, referee, fundraiser and board member. His involvement with the burgeoning sport of lacrosse includes playing an integral part of the establishment of the sport in Southern California and its inclusion as a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport for both boys and girls at the high school level.

To learn more or to contact the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, visit http://www.lacfla.org/

 

New Training Available for Collaborative Professionals

by Leon Bennett on 07/24/15

9th Annual Collaborative Family Practice Basic Interdisciplinary 3 Day Training

  • Be introduced to the theories, practices and skills needed to begin collaborative practice.
  • Learn the roles each profession (Attorney, Financial Specialist and Mental Health Professional) plays in the process and what their functions are.
  • See video demonstrations of how the professionals come together as a team to support the clients in dissolving their marriage and restructuring their family.
  • Meet with the other attendees to discuss how to implement Collaborative Practice.
  • Have the opportunity to role play case scenarios to practice your new skills.
When:      August 12, 13 and 14, 2015
Registration:  8:30 – 9:00
Program: 9:00 – 4:30
Tuition: $350 

 Where:   Loyola Law School Los Angeles, 919 Albany Street,  Los Angeles, CA

Register at  www.lacfla.org   

CEU’s for MFT and LCSW attendees.  CLEU’s for Attorneys.

$25 Discount for LACFLA members (not a member bundle your membership with your registration and your membership will be valid through the end of 2016!)

Are you a Graduate of the LACFLA training??

Join your Collaborative Colleagues for a Day of Role Play

August 14th 
Registration:  8:30 – 9:00
Program: 9:00 – 4:30
Tuition: $75

Meets the minimum training standards set by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

What is Collaborative Divorce and is it Right for Me?

by Leon Bennett on 06/01/15

The ugly truth: in today's society, roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Unfortunately for those involved, the traditional divorce process (litigation) can become an extremely expensive and bitter battleground where all to often people become blind to what is truly important. This is where the Collaborative approach to divorce can be highly beneficial. 


Collaborative Divorce is known as the "no court" approach to ending a marriage. By choosing collaboration, clients allow attorneys to assist them in resolving conflict by using cooperative techniques and respectful negotiation rather than adversarial strategies and costly litigation. Collaboration is specifically aimed at minimizing the hurt and anger that has become prevalent in today's family courts. 

This alternative form of dispute resolution works by having both parties represented by attorneys. Additional experts are employed to help resolve any disagreements that occur along the way. These experts differ depending on the given situation but typically include two divorce coaches, one neutral financial analyst, and one child specialist (if there are minor children of the marriage). Statistics show that the Collaborative approach is less expensive than having two attorneys fight it out in court. Most important, you and your former spouse will truly control the outcome instead of leaving your fate in the hands of a judge. 

How does the Collaborative process actually work? When a couple chooses to go down the Collaborative route, they enter into a written agreement not to go to court. This is known as a "Participation Agreement." As part of this agreement, if a peaceful settlement is not reached the lawyers and additional specialists will withdraw from the process and cannot participate in any ensuing litigation. 

Certain commitments are included to maintain the core values of the Collaborative philosophy.

Examples:
  • "All communications during the process will be constructive and fair, and will not take advantage of any errors made by the other party."
  • The parties will act in their children's best interest to promote the relationships between the children and the parties and to minimize any emotional damage to the children as a result of the separation."
These commitments establish the central message of the Collaborative approach and are put in place to help ensure neither side loses sight of what is truly important, respecting each other and providing the best possible future for any children in the family. 

Aided by Collaborative trained professional, parties will negotiate peacefully and come to terms on issues including child custody/child support, spousal support, division of property, and -other important aspects of dissolving a marriage. After all the necessary areas of the relationship are addressed, the parties will enter into a settlement agreement and the divorce will become finalized. 

It is important to note that the Collaborative approach may not be for everyone. Both sides must be willing to maintain open and constructive communication in order for the process to be effective and sometimes this is just not possible. However, in cases where Collaboration has been employed, even reluctantly, settlement often comes much sooner and is far less expensive. 

Divorce is an extremely difficult time in anyone's life. The ramifications of the decisions made throughout the process will affect each spouse for the rest of their lives. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of ending your marriage, it is crucial that you weigh all of you options before choosing which path to take. 

The Collaborative approach to divorce is the latest development in the family law field and it is gaining much popularity. By using this approach, participants can settle their issues more quickly and do so at a fraction of the traditional litigation cost.

Before you decide to take your divorce to court and litigate, it would be foolish not to ask yourself: "is the Collaborative Law approach right for me?"


Link to Article on familydivorcesolutions.com

Did the Judicial System Fail Susan Powell’s Boys?

by Leon Bennett on 02/08/12

By now we have all heard the horrendous news. Brothers Charlie and Braden Powell, sons of missing Utah mother Susan Powell, were killed Sunday in a gasoline-fueled fire and explosion at the home of their father, Josh. The double murder – suicide was premeditated by Josh and occurred during court ordered supervised visitation. How could this have happened? Is the judicial system to blame for this tragedy?

Josh Powell was the only “person of interest” in the disappearance of wife. He lost custody of his sons this past fall when his father Steven, with whom Josh and the boys had been living, was arrested on charges of child pornography and voyeurism. And just last week a judge denied Powell’s request to regain custody of his sons. On the surface, it appears that the judicial system had stepped in to insure the boys’ safety. But could the system have done more?

After the tragedy, it was reported by a lawyer for Susan Powell’s family that the boys had begun to reveal the events of the night of Susan’s disappearance, stating their mother was in the trunk of the family’s car when they went camping that night.  The younger boy also stated that his mom and dad got out of the car and his mother “got lost”. Such revelations surely would have had dire consequences for Josh Powell. It would seem to be a reasonable assumption that with this information, Josh may have been on the brink of being charged with the murder of his wife. And with his bid at regaining custody of his sons denied, he was a man being boxed into a corner. Desperate people do desperate things.

While I applaud the judge for ordering supervised visitation, I believe things should have been taken a step further. The visitation should have been monitored by law enforcement, and in a public place, not by a Child Protective Services employee at Powell’s home. If a parent is evaluated to need supervised visitation, there must be a reasonable doubt as to their stability and ability to care for and/or protect their children. This would seem particularly true if the parent is a “person of interest” in the disappearance of the other parent. At the very least, visitation should have occurred at a neutral, public place where Josh did not have control of the environment. But the best situation would have been visitation at a secured, monitored facility. Such facilities have security screenings, such as metal detectors, and security personnel to help insure all parties are in a safe environment.

Don’t get me wrong – the ONLY person responsible for this tragedy is Josh Powell. However, one of the main responsibilities of the judicial system is to protect the innocent and vulnerable. I think it is obvious to all; the system failed those two beautiful little boys.

Why Did Kim File For Divorce, Not Annulment?

by Leon Bennett on 11/01/11

After 72 days of marriage, Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from Kris Humphries. There will be debate about whether or not this marriage was a publicity stunt. I, for one, hope both Kim and Kris entered into this marriage with purity of heart and the intent of having a long, loving marriage. After nearly 30 years in the family law business, I know one thing for sure….the ONLY ones who know exactly what goes on in a relationship are the two parties involved. However, considering the short timeframe of this union, why a divorce and not an annulment?  Common sense could argue that perhaps this marriage should never have occurred, and therefore should be voided in the eyes of the law. But, as we all know, common sense does not a law make!

In the state of California, there are very specific and narrow laws governing what conditions must exist to annul a marriage. Grounds for annulment in California include duress, mental incapacitation, failure to consummate the marriage, underage (younger than 18) spouse, lack of assent to marry, bigamy, fraud or consanguinity (marriage between close blood relatives). As far as I can tell, the Kardashian-Humphries union does not meet any of these criteria; therefore, no annulment.

And besides, if there was not a marriage, Kim would be obligated to return that 20 carat engagement ring! An engagement ring is given in anticipation of a valid marriage occurring – no marriage, no contract, no ring. Just sayin’.