Friday, April 24, 2009

Software for Creating Parenting Plans and Calculating Timeshares

Every custody case requires a parenting plan, and every custody case requires a determination of the percentage of time the child spends with each parent so that child support can be calculated. The timeshare calculation has always been a frustrating exercise for me. The reason for the frustration is because there are no standards or reference points to fall back on. Every judge, and every lawyer, has his or her own method. And those methods can change every day. I have literally had a judge tell me in court one day that after school until 8 p.m. with dad equals a quarter day. Then the next day in court the judge will tell me that after school until 8 p.m. with dad will equal a half day. I have even gone to the trouble of lobbying the State Bar of California's Family Law Section Executive Committee to push for legislation to create some standard (which to date has not happened).

Even if, or when, there is a standard the prevailing method of calculating timeshare is still counting fingers and toes and then taking a guess. It doesn't have to be that way. There are software products out there that can perform the math. I have used several products with mixed success. They are fairly effective in negotiating timeshare with opposing counsel. Unfortunately, the problems arise at the courthouse. The judges have not been receptive to software calculations, and have not been willing to put any weight on the reports that the software creates. The software calculates time share based on the hours that the child spends with each parent, and the judges I have dealt with have been resistant to that degree of accuracy. Again, they prefer to utilize the finger and toe, phase of the moon, throw the chicken bones method of guesstimation. I don't think this is an effective, or equitable application of legal process, but who is to tell the judges how to do things? Perhaps it shall be me! This Don Quixote is going to continue to fight the windmill of judicial reticence to timeshare software.

A product that I have been familiar with for years is Custody X Change. The program is written by Ben Coltrin (whom I have never actually met, but have exchanged e-mails with). I must confess, I bought the program some years ago, and then pulled back from using it -- because my local judges just weren't responding favorably to my using it. Within the last couple of years one of our local, newly appointed, family law judges has been taking a look at computer generated timeshare reports, and that has renewed my enthusiasm! I did a Google search, and was reminded of Custody X Change. I went to the website and downloaded the trial version. Ben has made some improvements that really add to the program. For example:
  1. The attachment and the computational report can now be saved to Microsoft Word, Works, Open Office, etc. (RTF format).
  2. All the reports can be exported to PDF.
  3. The parenting plan language can be quickly changed from custody/visitation to lives with/spends time with. Some jurisdictions prefer one language over the other.
  4. After parents sit down together and work out their agreement, they now have the option of signing it before presenting it to court.
Another great thing Ben has done is to add a series of instructional videos. After watching the videos I have learned so much more about the software, and of all the shortcuts available to make it easier to use. Ben is investing a lot of time and energy into this program, and it shows.

Let me give you a look at the software.

Below you see the main screen of Custody X Change. Here's a tip. You can see each graphic full screen by clicking on it. The program works in layers. Layer 1 is the repeating cycle. Here I have set it up so the mom has primary physical custody. Dad had custodial time every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends, and a dinner visit every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. At the bottom of the screen you can see that the program has calculated Time with Father" to be 18.4%,"Time with Mother" to be 81.6%.


Next I go to the Holidays screen and check the boxes for the holidays that the child will spend with Dad.



You can see that the software has recalculated "Time with Father" to be 24.3%, and "Time with Mother" to be 75.7%.

As a further component of your parenting plan, the program allows certain default provisions to be selected.



These options are incorporated into the reports that the program generates. And let's take a look at those reports.

First you see the Parenting Plan Report with the default schedule that we created, as will as the parenting plan provisions that we chose. Very nice!





The second report to be created is the Computational Report. This is the spreadsheet showing the actual time calculation for each parent that gave us our 24%/76%.






I am telling you folks, this is good stuff! As it stands right now I am giving the program a big thumbs-up!

My only hesitation in buying the product is the pricing. In the old days when I first purchased Custody X Change, I paid a one time price to buy the disc for the program. Ben has since switched to a licensing model and you pay by the year, and by the number of seat licenses. This makes the program much more expensive than in its infancy (but then again, is it wrong for the vendor to want to make money? Of course not). You can check out the current pricing models by clicking here.

Again, this is a very exciting release for Custody X Change. It really adds a lot of flexibility with the court reports, and in fashioning parenting and timeshare plans.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Elance.com for Expert Management Help

Thanks to Lee Rosen at Divorce Discourse for spreading the word about Elance.com. I am frequently looking for writer, computer consultant, marketing advisor. Not for a long term gig, but for a one-time project that I want done right, but with modest investment. Elance is a great site to find that kind of help. Your list a project, and bids come in from myriad sources. No longer making numerous contacts to get one response. I am going to use Elance to find someone to create a Wikipedia profile for me. I will let you know how it goes.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ABA TechShow Videos

Lexconference.com has a great series of video interviews recorded during the recent ABA Techshow. Check out vids of Ed Poll, Rex Gradeless, David Bilinsky, Richard Susskind, Nerino Petro, and others. Good stuff! Click here for a visit.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Lawyers Should Get Emotional With Clients

When I speak at legal education programs I often comment on the need for emotional detachment. I explain detachment in two ways. First, maintaining enough emotional distance to maintain your objectivity and your professionalism. Second, to control your emotions so that you don't promise something to your client that you cannot deliver (particularly during the initial consultation). It does you nor your client any good to hard sell in order to land the client, just to fail miserably at the results end of the case. "Managed emotionalism" (yes I will take credit for this term) is an important element of family law lawyering.

Legal consultant Arnie Hertz delivers his take on getting emotional with clients, more from an empathy perspective.

Here are two facts:

  • There’s a client service deficit in the law.
  • Lawyers tend to regard emotions – their own and other people’s – as irrelevant to their work.

At first glance, these two facts seem unrelated. But they’re actually closely (even intimately) connected.

Some time back, I posted on the interplay of emotions and client service in this new era of customer control. I linked to a ClickZ article citing a (then) new book by Dan Hill called Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds. Launching from the premise that humans are primarily emotional decision-makers, the book discusses how emotions factor into our business opportunities in the marketplace and workplace.

Picking up on this point from a slightly different angle, in a recent post, designer and marketing mentor Peleg Top says, Go ahead, get emotional. Top notes that, in marketing (and, I’d add, in providing) our services, “an effective way to generate action is to tell a compelling story, one that hits your customer’s emotions.” Suggesting that most service providers miss this mark, he observes:

If you look at the majority of service companies [ ], the common story is all about who they are and what they do best. If I’m the customer, why would I believe them? What would compel me to trust that they really know what MY problem is? What my needs are? No feelings are generated and I will pass over them without a second thought.

In this new economy, feelings are a main form of currency. It may require a leap into the unknown for many lawyers, but to build strong and lasting business relationships, we need to give our clients the emotional connection they’re craving.

Please click here to view Arnie's original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Friday, April 3, 2009

NYT: It’s Time to Rethink the Legal Profession

In an opinion piece published today, the New York Times leaves little doubt that there are changes afoot in the legal profession. Massive, paradigm-shifting changes.

Amid bursts of unprecedented layoffs and firm closures, young associates are finding themselves with six-figure student loan debt and no source of income.

But the New York Times sees a possible silver lining.

Those left stranded and those still standing may spur the drawing of "blueprints for the 21st century."

So what's going to change?

Compensation. The out-of-whack pay chasm in which BigLaw lawyers make $160,000 to start while state and local prosecutors start in the mid-to-upper $40,000s is likely to change, with high salaries being reined in. "One industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary," the Times notes.

Tuition. Between 1990 and 2003, private law school educations costs rose at nearly three times the rate of consumer prices, with the average graduate now leaving with more than $80,000 in debt. Expect a correction on tuition and more law schools to follow Northwestern University's two-year law school model.

Curriculum. There may also be pressure on law schools, because of the economic conditions, to retool "sometimes-aimless second and third years" of courses to be more practical in nature, with more emphasis on going into nonlegal careers.

Pleae click here for the source article by Molly McDonough in ABAJournal.com.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Get Paid To Recycle Your Old Cell Phones

For those of you following this blog recently, you will recall my cell phone sagas. Those frustrating trials and errors have left me with two brand new cell phones taking up drawer space. I thought they were useless until now. Gazelle.com is a website that will buy your cell phones. Type in your make and model, answer three or four questions about the condition of the phone(s), and gazelle will instantly quote you a buy back price. I paid a total of $499 for my two useless phones. Gazelle is buying them back for $308! That's pretty awesome. I get to feel green, and get a bit of green back for my old phones.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thank You Wal Mart

I needed a new computer for the house. Something that would control our home network, allow me to log in to the office via GoToMyPC.com, and maybe do some other light computing like word processing and browsing the internet. I checked the ads for the electronics specialty stores and saw advertised prices of $699, $799, and higher. More than I wanted to pay. I checked the famous on-line vendors. Modest laptops started in the mid $400s, but by the time you added minimal software, shipping, etc., prices approached $1000. Again, more than I wanted to pay. I called my local Wal Mart and asked if they carried computers (honestly I did not know if they did)?. I got a "yes," so I headed over to the store.

In the electronics department I found an entire aisle of desktop PCs and notebook computers. Not a user friendly display. None of the demo machines were turned on, and inventories were low. However, I find a heck of a bargain. I bought my self an Acer Aspire 5515 notebook. AMD Athlon processor that works just fine; 15" color screen; 3 GB of RAM; 160 GB hard drive; read-write DVD; wireless LAN. Actually more horsepower than I needed.

Now comes the really good news! The price? $349! Yes, $349! Two, three years ago I would have been looking at more than a Grand. Even with California Sales tax and environmental fees I was out the door for less than $400!

Got home, fired my new baby up, and have been happily computing ever since. Quickly installed the home network, and now I am computing away. Downloaded a free copy of OpenOffice should I need to do any word processing, spreadsheets, etc.

Thanks for the bargain Wal Mart.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

USB Connections

It is amazing how much stuff I have plugged in to my computer. There is my internet phone. My webcam. Speakers. Multiple monitors. Wi-fi. A ...