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The new trend of “conscious uncoupling”. When actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced her split from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin this past spring, the term “conscious uncoupling” came onto the radar of many Americans. Instead of getting divorced, Paltroconscious uncoupling - Gwyneth Paltroww claimed that she and Martin would continue living together and co-parenting their two children; however the two were consciously uncoupling and were ending their marriage. Since then, media has covered other couples who opted to take this less traditional separation path by deciding to continue living together and raising their kids, but to no longer be romantic partners. One San Francisco couple even held an uncoupling ceremony in front of family and friends, during which they gave back their wedding rings but then returned to the home they still share together.

Conscious Uncoupling

This new trend of separating has led many people to wonder about the legal effects of uncoupling. First, holding an uncoupling ceremony or announcing that you are uncoupling does not, in any way, legally end your marriage. If you were properly married with a valid marriage license and ceremony, your marriage will continue to exist until a California family court officially grants dissolution of your marriage.

If uncoupling does not end your marriage, why are many couples opting for this non-traditional path? While each couple likely has their own individual reasons for this choice, many cite avoiding the stress, time, and money involved in a traditional divorce, and protecting the children from such conflict. These non-couples continue to maintain joint assets, share in child-rearing costs and responsibilities, and live together under the same roof, all while even dating other people.

While conscious uncoupling may work for some couples, there are some legal difficulties that can arise down the line. For example, if one spouse gets particularly serious with another romantic partner and wishes to get married, they will not be able to lawfully do so until a divorce is petitioned and finalized. Uncoupled couples are still legally married in every sense, and this marriage prohibits remarriage to another person.

When it does come time for a legal divorce, however, couples who successfully consciously uncouple may achieve a more amicable and collaborative divorce because they continued to live together, and usually maintained respect for one another and for the best interests of their family. Such divorces can usually be resolved much quicker and at significantly less cost than an acrimonious divorce.

It is uncertain whether conscious uncoupling will become a more common occurrence among married couples. Couples who wish to try this arrangement should always consult with an attorney to discuss all legal implications of their plan prior to deciding against traditional divorce.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Help Today

If you have any questions regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, or any other family-related legal matter, please do not hesitate to call the Santa Rosa office of Beck Law P.C. for assistance. We know how to help with a wide range of domestic issues, including helping individuals and couples in unique sets of circumstances. Please contact us today to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

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divorce cases, social mediaDoes Facebook have a role in divorce cases? Many people believe Facebook to be simply a way to have fun, stay in touch with friends play games, and other light-hearted and harmless activities. However, Facebook has been playing an increasing role in divorce cases each year. A new study shows that Facebook is cited in approximately 33 percent of all divorce cases in the United States, which is an increase from results indicating 20 percent of divorce cases in 2009.

Cause for Divorce Cases?

Facebook has no doubt been a facilitator for meeting new romantic partners or for reuniting with past partners. If this happens to a married individual, online messaging may easily lead to in-person meetings, infidelity and, eventually, to divorce. However, researchers state that it is difficult to tell in how many cases Facebook is the true cause of divorce, since many people who may log on to social media more often or and be willing to stray likely have underlying issues in the marriage already.

Whether or not Facebook is the exact impetus for a divorce is not always relevant as a fact by itself in a divorce case, since California has no-fault divorce. However, Facebook can come into play if each spouse is collecting evidence to build a case against the other in a contested divorce.

Digital Discovery

It should not be surprising that a person puts their best foot forward for a family court in order to seek the best possible custody and support determinations possible. It is therefore not rare for a person to fail to fully disclose everything about their financial situation or their behavior. Facebook and other social media sites can provide photos, status updates, and other material that can be used as evidence that a spouse is spending a lot of money, engaging in questionable behavior, and more. Such evidence can be used to demonstrate to the court that a spouse is not being completely forthcoming.

The same is true in reverse, however. If you post photos of yourself on an expensive vacation or out at bars, your spouse may be able to use it against you in your divorce case. Even if you block or “defriend” your spouse, you may have friends in common that may pass on information that you post or allow your spouse to use their account. In short, you should be aware that Facebook can play a much larger role in your divorce than you may have imagined and should always think twice before posting anything during your case.

Contact an Experienced Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney for Help Today

If you are facing divorce, there may be many factors–such as your social media use–that you do not necessarily realize may significantly impact your case. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to advise you on what to do and what not to do during the course of your case to try to ensure the best possible results for you. At Beck Law P.C., we can handle every aspect of your divorce case in the most efficient way possible, so please contact our office for help today.

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divorce depositionWhat is a divorce deposition? Just like each marriage is different, each divorce case is also different. Some divorces are uncontested with few major issues and with couples agreeing on a settlement relatively easily and efficiently. Other divorces may have complex family law issues, such as high asset property division, enforcement of a premarital agreement, child custody battles, alimony battles, and much more. More complicated cases will understandably require more time, energy, and legal tools to settle all of the necessary issues. One such legal tool that is used in some complex cases is the deposition.

What to Expect From a Divorce Deposition

A divorce deposition is a method of gathering answers to various questions in a legal case. A divorce deposition does not take place in a courtroom, but instead generally takes place in an attorney’s office or conference room. Both attorneys will be present, as well as a court reporter who takes down the transcript of all of the questions and answers. The individual being questioned may be a party to the divorce (i.e. one of the spouses) or an outside individual serving as a witness. While depositions may be more costly than other methods of obtaining answers, sometimes this is the best way to receive the thorough answers you need for the best outcome in your case.

Though a deposition may seem more informal than a court proceeding, telling the truth is just as important as if you were in front of a judge. Making false statements in a deposition can result in allegations of perjury, which can be a felony under California law. For this reason, you should always be honest in answering deposition questions. The same goes if you do not know the answer to a question–admitting you do not know is usually the best thing. Furthermore, you should always admit when you do not understand a question because, if you do not say anything, the court will assume you understood.

Prior to a deposition, a quality attorney should always prepare you for what to expect during the process. An attorney should remind you that a deposition is not the time to argue or get emotional regarding your spouse or other matters. You should also avoid talking over one another during the deposition so the court reporter gets a completely accurate version of the transcript.

All in all, depositions in divorce are not very common. However, they do occur and they can be an important tool in particularly complicated cases. A skilled family law attorney should be able to recognize when a deposition is appropriate in your case.

Contact an Experienced Santa Rosa Divorce Deposition Attorney for Assistance Today

Whether your divorce has few issues or numerous complexities and contentions, you should always have the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney. A divorce lawyer can identify the different issues you will face and the most efficient ways to handle those divorce issues, such as depositions or alternative dispute resolution techniques. If you are facing divorce, call the Santa Rosa law office of Beck Law, P.C. for assistance today.

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Child Support EnforcementChild Support Enforcement in California. When a judge officially finalizes your divorce—approving any settlement agreements, issuing orders for child support or spousal support, and legally dissolving your marriage—you may feel a sense of relief that your legal battles are over. Unfortunately, too many parents will find themselves back in court to address issues that arise regarding their agreements. One issue in particular that leads people back into the courtroom is child support enforcement.

Child support orders are based on specific formulas that take into consideration the respective incomes and expenses of both parents, as well as the basic needs of any children in question. For this reason, the majority of child support determinations in California are considered to be fair and to reflect the responsibilities of both parents to financially support their children. However, simply because a court issues an order—and even if that order is fair—does not mean that the parent ordered to pay child support is going to comply with the court order.

Because most parents rely on child support payments to cover the major expenses of raising one or more children, it can have a serious effect on your living standards if the other parent falls behind on payments. For this reason, many parents seek to legally enforce child support orders.

Methods of Child Support Enforcement

California family courts and the state Department of Child Support Services understand the importance of paying child support as ordered, so there are several different methods of enforcement. These include the following:

  • Having the court hold the parent in contempt;
  • Fines and sanctions for failing to comply;
  • Possible criminal charges;
  • Garnishment of wages, benefit checks, or bank accounts;
  • Liens placed on property;
  • Suspension of driver’s license.

An attorney can advise you of the best method of child support enforcement in your particular situation.

Ways Not to Try to Enforce Child Support

No matter how far behind a parent is on child support payments, you should not take the matter into your own hands. For example, many people may feel tempted to refuse visitation rights to a parent who is not up to date on child support. This is not allowed, however, as it will go against any visitation order issued by the court.

Additionally, you cannot enforce child support payments that were not officially established by the family courts. For instance, if a spouse agreed to pay you $300 per month to contribute to child support but you never took the matter in front of the family court, you cannot enforce the continued payment of that amount. First, you must establish court-ordered child support before you can enforce it.

Contact a Santa Rosa Child Support Attorney to Discuss Your Case Today

If you need assistance enforcing a child support order in Sonoma County, or with any other type of family law matter in Sonoma County, Lake County or Mendocino County, your first call should be to an experienced family lawyer at Beck Law P.C. We are committed to helping individuals and their children receive the support they deserve. If you are facing a family law case, call our office for help today.

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Celebrity DivorcesCan my spouse stop our divorce? After a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed, spouses may argue over many issues before the divorce is finally granted by the California family court. Issues that may cause contention include property division, spousal support, and child custody. One issue that many people may not consider is whether the divorce should be finalized at all. One recent media story highlights what can happen when one spouse refuses to cooperate with the divorce at all.

Can Refusing to Sign the Papers Stop Our Divorce?

The Kardashian family has repeatedly been in the news for high-profile divorces. For example, mom Kris Jenner recently filed for divorce from longtime spouse and former professional tennis player Bruce Jenner. The most recent story arises from reports that professional basketball player Lamar Odom is refusing to sign divorce papers filed by daughter Khloe Kardashian approximately ten months ago.

Not only does Odom seem unwilling to sign the divorce papers, but representatives for Khloe state that they cannot locate him. This raises the question: what happens when one spouse does not want to finalize the divorce? The answer to that question depends, of course, on each particular situation. In the Kardashian-Odom case, Khloe has two main choices. First, she can dismiss the divorce case completely and agree to remain married; or second, she can file a Request to Enter Default with the family court.

In civil lawsuits, plaintiffs can often obtain a default judgment if the defendant in the case never responds. The same is true for some divorce cases in California. If your spouse does not respond for a certain period of time, and if you meet certain legal requirements, you can request that a court go forward with the divorce proceedings without the cooperation of your spouse. As long as there are no children or property issues, a court can grant a default divorce based on the presence of one spouse. Note that a court will not make important determinations such as custody or child support without both spouses present.

Once you receive a default, you must still wait the required six months plus one day time period before the judge will issue the final dissolution judgment. However, a default divorce can save a significant amount of time and energy by eliminating the need to track down your spouse and convince them to cooperate with the many stages of a divorce proceeding. Because this process is faster than a contested divorce, many spouses may even choose to take the default or uncontested divorce path together if they agree on the terms.

Contact an Experienced Santa Rosa Divorce Attorney for Assistance

Everyone knows that divorcing spouses often disagree on many issues, including whether they should even proceed with the divorce. No matter the unique issues in your divorce, an experienced divorce attorney at the Santa Rosa office of Beck Law, P.C. can help you. We fully understand California divorce laws and how they apply to a wide range of situations. If you are facing divorce, contact our office for help today.

Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons

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Going through a divorce and settling all related issues can be trying. Most people want to put the marriage and legal issues behind them once the divorce is finalized. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Frequently, a former spouse will return to court in the years following a divorce in order to revisit legal matters or raise new complaints. Each time you return to court can be costly, and acrimonious tendencies may arise again. It is always important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side, one who can help you get the outcome you deserve and make the process of returning to court easier amark sanfordnd less costly.

The Ongoing Case of U.S. Representative Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford is a member of the United States House of Representatives and a former governor of South Carolina. In 2009, Sanford disappeared unannounced for several days; his assistant claimed Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he returned, Sanford admitted to having an affair with a woman in Argentina. Sanford’s wife, Jenny, subsequently filed for divorce. The divorce was granted and finalized in 2010.

The Sanford’s legal battle did not end upon the dissolution of the marriage. In 2013, Jenny Sanford filed a claim alleging Rep. Sanford violated their divorce agreement by trespassing on her property. Rep. Sanford stated he was in the home watching the Superbowl with his son; Jenny later dropped the claim. In July 2014, a legal dispute arose regarding trust fund contributions for two of their four sons. A family judge ordered them to participate in mediation to resolve the issue.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jenny Sanford recently filed a complaint making several requests of the court. She stated the requests were based on a “substantial change of circumstances,” but declined to provide more information until the record was sealed. Her demands included the following:

  • That Rep. Sanford attend anger management and parenting classes, and undergo a psychiatric evaluation;
  • That the court appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the children;
  • That visitation between Rep. Sanford and the couple’s youngest son be limited;
  • That neither parent speak disparagingly of the other in the presence of their son;
  • That neither parent become intoxicated by prescription drugs or alcohol in the presence of their son;
  • That neither parent expose their son to a member of the opposite sex who seems like a “paramour” for an overnight visit.

In response to the complaint, Rep. Sanford stated that any accusations of alcohol abuse or psychiatric issues are “preposterous, crazy and wrong.” Some speculate that Jenny Sanford is still bitter that Rep. Sanford remained with his Argentinian girlfriend. No matter who is telling the truth, it appears the Sanfords are ready for another court battle.

Contact an Experienced Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney for Assistance

If your divorce was finalized but believe new issues may arise, contact an experienced divorce and custody lawyer at Beck Law, P.C. in the Santa Rosa area. We can help you with your divorce or custody case, and provide the tools for a out-of-court settlement to save you time and money.

Photo Credit: TheDigitel Beaufort via Wikimedia

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couple in a sports carUnmarried Couples? According to modern trends, more and more Californians are living together outside of marriage, whether for personal, financial, or other reasons. Even absent the traditional nuptials, however, such couples may, for all intents and purposes, behave just like married spouses–having children, sharing income, purchasing a home, or the like. But what happens when such couples split up? Without the formal act of marriage there can be no divorce. Many people wonder how California courts deal with questions of property and child custody in such situations.

Common Law Marriages in California?

There is a common perception that any couple who lives together long enough enters into a “common law” marriage. So how long must a couple live together before their relationship is considered a common law marriage? In fact, there is no such thing as common law marriage in California. Although the practice once existed, common law marriages were abolished in California back in 1895.

Given that there is no common law marriage, what happens to couples who live together for many years and then split? One can easily see the unfairness of such a situation. For example, a couple may act like married spouses, with one person earning a majority of the income and another taking care of the kids and managing the household. Without a legal marriage, if this couple splits, all the income and assets brought in by the working person would be that person’s property. The other person would be left with nothing. Recognizing this unfairness, California courts have recognized some protections for couples who live together without the formalities of marriage.

Division of Assets for Cohabitating Couples

In a landmark case during the 1970s, the California Supreme Court outlined the manner courts were to handle couples who had lived together without marriage. The court held that property acquired during cohabitation is governed by judicial decision and not the normal community property laws that govern divorcing spouses. Thus, courts are to rely on principles of contract law, looking to the actions and intentions of couples to determine whether there exists any express or implied-in-fact contract regarding property.

Implied Contracts to Share Property

For a person to recover assets after years of cohabitation, they must essentially prove the existence of a contract that entitles him or her to a reward (e.g., a portion of the other person’s property, future financial support, etc.). Such a contract can include an express agreement, such as a written or oral contract. Additionally, such a contract may include a contract implied-in-fact.

The best case for arguing that there was an implied-in-fact contract involves a long-term, marriage-like relationship. This is the situation where a couple has lived together for many years, conducting themselves much as would a married couple. One person may work while they other stays home. They may purchase property together, such as vehicles or a home. They may have children together, raising them as would a married couple. In such a situation, a court may find that there existed an implied-in-fact contract to share the home and all other property acquired during the relationship.

Getting Legal Help in Santa Rosa

Ending a long-term relationship, whether a marriage or otherwise, can be complicated. If you have questions about assets you share with your significant other, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer your questions and help you determine the best legal strategy given your unique circumstances. For a free consultation regarding division of assets, or any other family law question, contact Beck Law P.C. at 707-576-7175 or visit us online.

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Marriage and MoneyMarriage and Money

Marriage and Money. Marriage can be challenging, especially when it comes to family finances. Many studies suggest that financial issues are the most common sources of contention in a marriage and a common cause of divorce. Following are some of the mistakes that married couples make when handling questions about money.

  • Not dealing with a spouse’s debt – It is common for you and your spouse to enter a marriage with a certain amount of debt, or to acquire debt during the course of a marriage. For example, you or your spouse may acquire debt for education, to start a business, or to pay for medical expenses. A common mistake that people in a marriage make is to treat a spouse’s debt as only a problem for the spouse. Either spouse’s debt affects both people in a marriage. Even debt acquired by a spouse before the wedding day can negatively impact your credit rating. You and your spouse should make a plan to handle all debts as a couple.
  • Keeping financial secrets – Some people in a marriage may be tempted to keep secrets about their finances from their spouses. Such secrets may include hidden debts, hidden assets, undisclosed bank accounts, or the like. Some may make large purchases with the intent of hoping that their spouse doesn’t notice, or may open new credit cards without discussing it with a spouse. In marriage, the best policy is honesty. This doesn’t mean you have to share all assets or have only a joint bank account. But it does mean that you need to disclose financial information that will affect your spouse and your marriage. In many cases, your spouse may find out about your financial secrets eventually and you will have to deal with their hurt and anger.
  • Ignoring your different views about money – People have different spending habits, as well as different values concerning how their money should be spent. Some meticulously account for every dollar and cent, while others just check in every so often to make sure the bank account is above zero. Many sources of contention in a marriage stem from the fact that married spouses approach financial issues in different ways. Often these approaches relate to the way you or your spouse may have been raised. In any case, couples benefit from taking the time to identify shared financial goals that each spouse is willing to work toward. In this manner, each spouse can harness their unique approaches to spending and saving in order to work toward a common goal.
  • Failing to recognize that it is sometimes not really about the money – Many couples argue about financial issues, but sometimes the issues are not really about the money. In many instances, money is a proxy for other battles, such as control, power, autonomy, or the like. If one spouse insists on managing all of the household income and severely limiting the other spouse’s spending, the issue isn’t really about money but rather about the balance of power and control in the marriage. Likewise, if a spouse spends frivolously, racking up a growing pile of debt, the problem may not really be the money but rather about commitment and trust. If you and your spouse are constantly arguing about money it may be wise to take a step back and ask whether the argument is really about something else.

Getting Legal Help in Santa Rosa California

In many instances, money problems may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marriage issues. If you have questions about divorce, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer your questions and help you determine the best method of obtaining a divorce given your unique circumstances. For a free consultation regarding divorce, or any other family law question, contact Beck Law P.C. at 707-576-7175 or visit us online.


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senior coupleA gray divorce may not have been on one’s bucket list, but as noted in a recent story by The New York Times, the divorce rate among those fifty years and older has doubled since 1990. These so-called “gray divorces” are expected to rise in the coming decades, with as many as 800,000 predicted to occur annually. In addition to the heartache and headache of ending a marriage, these divorcing couples face another problem: financial strains. Just as retirement was right around the bend, many recently divorced seniors find that their post-divorce retirement accounts are too small to provide for their twilight years.

Grey Divorce in California

According to California law, divorcing spouses are entitled to fifty percent of all community property assets. Community property is presumed to be any property acquired during the course of marriage. Such property may include the family home, the family business, bank accounts, vehicles, and many personal assets. Absent an agreement between divorcing spouses, a California court will divide these community property assets right down the middle.

Retirement Accounts as Community Property in California

What about pensions and other types of retirement accounts? In California, any interest in a pension, retirement, profit sharing, or other employee benefit plan acquired during marriage is considered part of the community property. Note that the value of these assets only include that portion accumulated during the marriage, and does not include contributions made before marriage or after separation.

Such investment accounts may include 401k plans, 403k plans, IRAs, military pensions, veteran’s educational benefits, ERISa funds, Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPS), or the like. Note that Social Security payments, compensation for military injuries, or workers’ compensation disability awards are not considered community property.

Dividing Retirement Accounts During a Divorce

Divorcing spouses have two options when dividing retirement plans during a divorce: reservation of jurisdiction and a buy-out.

  • Reservation of jurisdiction - One option is for divorcing spouses to wait until the retirement funds are distributed to divide the assets. In short, when the employed spouse retires the other spouse receives a percentage of each pension check. The court will determine the percentage by dividing the number of years when the spouses were married by the total number of years that the employed spouse participated in the pension plan. Under this scheme, the court retains jurisdiction to ensure that retirement funds are properly distributed between divorced spouses. Under the Federal Retirement Equity Act of 1984, a court may prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which requires an employer to follow the terms of the order when distributing retirement benefits. Preparation of a QDRO is an often expensive part of a divorce proceeding.
  • Buy-out - A second option for divorcing spouses is a buy-out. Under this scheme, a court will determine a present value of the pension fund (often by the use of an actuarial evaluation) for purposes of letting one divorcing spouse buy-out the other divorcing spouse’s interest. With a buy-out, the employed spouse will own the pension plan in its entirety and the other spouse will receive other community property assets of proportional value.

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girl with mother in the parkOne critical child custody question for someone facing divorce. What will happen to the children?. Where custody is in dispute, divorcing spouses must rely on a court to make a decision regarding child custody. Many parents approach custody hearings wondering whether the court will give preference to a child’s mother over the father.

Child Custody in California

Under California law, child custody actually includes two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the actual place where the child will live–the child’s legal residence. A parent who has physical custody has the primary responsibility to house, feed, and care for the child. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions for the child, such as decisions regarding the child’s education, schooling, health, religion, or the like.

A court can award physical and legal custody to both parents (joint custody) or to one of the parents (sole custody). A court may also grant physical custody to one parent while granting legal custody to another. It is not unusual for a court to grant physical custody to one of the parents while determining that both parents will maintain legal custody (e.g., make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing). Additionally, the court will often grant the non-custodial parent certain visitation rights.

What Happens In A Dispute About a Child?

Child custody decisions are complex and may result in many different types of outcomes. Where parents are able to co-parent a child and agree to share in parental responsibilities, a court may award legal and physical custody to both parents (e.g., joint custody). Likewise, when there is only one parent in the picture, the court may award legal and physical custody to the parent who is still around (e.g., sole custody). Courts may struggle though when both parents want custody of a child but will not agree to joint custody. In these situations, California courts must act in the best interests of the child.

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

Legally, a court must act in the best interests of the child when determining custody. To do this, the court will consider a number of factors, including:

  • The emotional bonds between the child and the parents;
  • The ability of a parent to provide for the child, including income, job history, etc.;
  • The criminal history of a parent;
  • Whether there exists a history of physical or sexual abuse;
  • The presence and nature of substance abuse problems;
  • Any relevant characteristics of a parent, including race, age, gender, sexual preference, etc.;
  • Any physical or emotional handicaps;
  • The geographic locations of parties involved; and
  • The needs of related parties, such as siblings or other family members.

It may surprise some that courts do not favor mothers over fathers in custody disputes. The only issue is what will be best for the child. Under this standard, neither father nor mother has any advantage. However, the court will make its decision based on the unique circumstances of each family.

Many parents feel that children should get to choose which parent should be given custody. In many circumstances, a court will consider a child’s preferences, but these preferences are not a controlling factor.

Getting Legal Help with Child Custody in Santa Rosa California

Child Custody disputes are difficult and may have a lasting impact on you and your family. If you involved in a custody dispute, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer your questions and help you prepare for your custody proceeding. For a free consultation regarding child custody, divorce, or any other family law question, contact Beck Law P.C. at 707-five seven six-7175 or visit us online.

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