Ellie Tipton Ortiz: A balance of professional, family, and community life – and some fun thrown in the mix
By MAGGI HENRIKSON
Photos by Aga Stuchlik
You wouldn’t think a paralegal could be so happy. At least not one who gets in the middle of divorces – by choice. But Ellie Tipton Ortiz always has a smile on her face, and has the quick, ready energy to jump into anything. Even into the thick of it.
“I love what I do!” she explains cheerfully. “I love socializing…being out in the community. I want to make a difference.”
I chuckle to myself as I imagine her sunny personality between two bickering partners. But that’s what a divorce mediator does.
“We end in agreement,” she says. “It doesn’t always start out that way; we have had some screaming matches! But there are rules to keep things positive, not raise your voice. Sometimes, if there’s no one interrupting, and they hear themselves say something over and over, they think, ‘Hmm, that doesn’t sound so good.’”
Ah, sweet harmony, more or less, in the end.
Ellie Tipton Ortiz
Ellie believes she may have come to this career by way of her own family. She describes her brother as being particularly affected by their parent’s divorce. The feeling of the family falling apart inspired her to reach out and help people.
“I made a video from the heart about why to do mediation,” she said. “It’s less damage to families. If parents can get along, kids aren’t damaged by that poison coming home.” Plus, a traditional divorce can take a long, embattled time. “Three years versus three months. It’s more friendly: not enemies.” (themediatoroc.com tells the specifics of divorce mediation, and her laguna-legal.com gives an overview of what they do.)
I can imagine she’s seen all the good, the bad, and the ugly that can transpire between two adults, but I can’t help myself from asking if any of them ever get back together. “Yes!” Ellie says. “A lot of times people get it in their head to divorce, then they get it off their minds, and out of their system.”
Ah, sweet mystery of life.
How did this seemingly happy-go-lucky person become the go-to mediator in Laguna Beach? “I’m a technical person,” she explains, “not artistic/creative. It’s why I’m good at mediation. I’m not emotional.”
Ellie started by doing regular legal court certified documents, “Then people started asking me to mediate. I didn’t even know I was mediating, but people told me, ‘You were the best!’” So she carried on with what she does best, and she’s glad of it.
“I feel like I’ve made the biggest difference in divorce mediation. I think I have a gift,” she says.
Organizing and Uniting
I met Ellie several years ago through her involvement with The Woman’s Club. She has been on its board for five years, and served as its president for two years. Within organizations, just as within partnerships, there can be political differences, and that’s where Ellie Ortiz shines. “My mediation skills help with political differences, like at the Woman’s Club,” she says. “I was good at uniting and bringing people together.”
Ellie in her comfortable and calming office
As the president, Ellie created an historical wall at The Woman’s Club celebrating Laguna’s history. She also started a charitable assistance program for Laguna Beach School District families. The Woman’s Club provides supplies such as backpacks, school supplies, and sports equipment, and liaises with the schools to reach out to provide for those in need.
Additionally, Ellie is part of Soroptimist International of Laguna Beach, does volunteer events for Glennwood House, and is an affiliate member of the Laguna Board of Realtors. “We do community things like Taste of Charity,” she said. “They all do so many wonderful things, and I want to be involved with all of them!”
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to her husband, Roland, but he kids her, saying, “Remember us? We’re your charity!”
Woman of the World
Ellie is culturally Persian, and her husband, raised in Argentina, is Spanish and Italian. Their multi-cultural family includes Jake, 19, Cameron, 17, and Layla, 15. They are most certainly globetrotters.
In 2007, Ellie and Roland figured it was a good time for the family to experience living abroad. Their children were young enough that they were open to the idea too. So they packed up their stuff and moved to a small fishing village in Spain. The kids were immersed in public school there, loved it, and now they all speak Spanish fluently.
“It was the best time!” said Ellie. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Roland is a motorcycle/Moto GP enthusiast. He created a business for lifestyle European motorcycle brands called Euro Papi, and he collects and restores vintage motorcycles. (“We have five in our living room!” says Ellie. “It’s our museum.”) While in Spain, the both of them travelled around on motorcycles, visiting his family in the north, and their many new Spanish friends.
Click on photo for a larger image
Ellie and Roland Ortiz with one of his vintage motorcycles
During the summer, when the kids were out of school, the family returned to Southern California, near where Ellie grew up in Laguna Niguel…a beloved little town called Laguna Beach. “It’s closest to the European lifestyle,” says Ellie.
For two summers they rented the former home of Rita Hayworth. “We made the best friends and the best memories there.” On the third summer, they moved back to Laguna Beach for good.
Home is where the heart is
Now Ellie runs her business, Laguna Legal, in town, and Roland continues Euro Papi online (EuroPapiUSA.com). You may see him tooling around town on one of his vintage cycles with a group of friends. “He calls it ‘Putt-putting around,’” laughs Ellie. “But, he’s happy, I’m happy!”
The kiddos are in school – Jake studying to be a diesel mechanic to work on oilrigs in Canada. Cameron’s at Pomona studying medicine and writing, and Layla is at Laguna Beach High School where she’s also a tennis player.
One thing Ellie loves to do is cook, and she loves it even better when joining up with Layla. “My daughter is a really good cook!” she boasts. “I love cooking with her. She’s like a precise surgeon!” I know that Ellie is a really good cook – specializing in Persian fare such as the herb and vegetable stew, Ghormeh Sabzi. It’s a dish she may bring to one of the many charity functions she attends.
Cooking, sharing meals with family, and entertaining are the things that balance Ellie’s time. She’s really good at uniting and bringing people together in all sorts of ways, political divide or no. And she does it all with joy and energy. It is fitting that she was drawn to a profession symbolized by the scales of balance.
You will surely see Ellie Tipton Ortiz at non-profit events in Laguna Beach, usually lending a volunteer hand. You may see her professionally, working out equitable solutions, and you may see her sipping a latte at the café Zinc.
Trust me, you’ll know her by her smile.