SANTA ROSA FAMILY LAWYER BLOG

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courthouse.jpgIn California, divorce actions can either be resolved through judgment and settlement reached after court proceedings, or through a mutual agreement established in mediation. In some cases the latter method of mediation is the most efficient in terms of cost and time. As our experienced Santa Rosa divorce attorneys know, resolving a divorce proceeding through mediation can be less stressful on all parties involved, including the children. However, mediation may not be for everyone. As with all family law matters, it is crucial to get advice from a family law professional to learn what options are best in your specific situation.

Mediation
Mediation usually involves a few sessions where the spouses meet with a mediator. The sessions are held within a set period of time, often a month. During these sessions, the mediator attempts to help the spouses resolve any issues that either party may have regarding their separation. Essentially, the mediator’s objective is to uncover any underlying interests and/or concerns that each spouse may have but are not able to resolve on their own.

Through open dialogue, the mediator helps the spouses establish agreements that address the discussed issues and concerns–from property division to support issues. These agreements are tentative and can be changed by the parties. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the spouses to reach a final agreement on all issues, allowing the creation of the Marital Settlement Agreement to be signed by both spouses. The Marital Settlement Agreement is drafted pursuant to the rules of contract law, thereby making the agreement an enforceable contract.

Mediation in California Divorce
Recognizing the complexities and stress involved with resolving a divorce in the courtroom, the California system makes a strong effort to offer several opportunities for the spouses to avoid the court system and reach an agreement before going to trial.

As discussed in a previous post, many people are overwhelmed with the divorce process and the paperwork. California law appreciates this and therefore requires that spouses and their respective lawyers meet before trial, allowing the parties a chance to establish a Settlement Agreement without being forced to face the complicated court system. During this required session, an unbiased attorney acts as a mediator and attempts to get the parties to reach agreement on some or all of the issues. The issues that cannot be resolved during the session will go to trial.

Getting Legal Help in Northern California
There are various advantages to resolve a divorce through mediation. This is particularly true if a couple has only a few disagreements or property division issues. However, more contentious cases, or those with complex property division issues, often must be resolved in the traditional sense–with each party having an advocate on their side arguing in court for their interests.

Regardless of which method an individual chooses, each Northern California family law attorney at our firm can help protect the individual’s legal rights in a divorce proceeding.

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The emotional distress of a divorce is usually multiplied when children are involved. Naturally, in many proceedings perhaps the primary concern of the spouses involves the specific custody arrangements for the children. Unfortunately, sometimes being so involved and worried about the legal process causes the parents to overlook the mental state of the children and how the divorce proceeding might affect their emotional condition. It is certainly important to understand the legal process of divorce and child custody, but our Santa Rosa divorce attorneys also recognize that understanding the mental and emotional effects of the legal battle on the children is extremely critical.child.jpg

According to an article in Life123, studies have shown that divorce can cause extreme negative effects on a child’s mental, psychological and physical health. It is important that these risks be accounted for to ensure the divorce is not unduly detrimental on the children. Compared to children who are products of a family whose parents stayed together, children of divorced parents are more likely to experience psychological challenges. The stress of divorce causes a higher chance of being diagnosed with attention deficit order and related behavior issues. Also, according to studies, it is common for children of divorced parents to feel compelled to mature at a much quicker pace by assuming adult responsibilities, such as those associated with care-taking roles. This expectation to act adult-like may cause increased anger and resentment towards the parents for separating.

Not only are children from divorced households at a higher risk of mental and psychological issues, they are also more likely to develop health problems, such as asthma, headaches and depression following the divorce. Such ailments may be physical manifestations of the mental and emotional stresses that children endure during the divorce process.

Fortunately, there are ways for parents to lessen the negative effects of divorce on the children. Our Santa Rosa divorce attorneys advise parents who are in the midst of a divorce proceeding to be mindful of not just the legal consequences of the process, but also the turmoil that the legal battle displaces unto the children.

It is common for children of divorced parents to blame themselves for the separation. To counteract this misconception, it is imperative for the parents to reassure the children that they are loved and that they are not the cause of the divorce. Further, it is important to communicate with the children and let them express their feelings regarding the divorce. Forcing the children to suppress their emotions and not allowing them to freely explain their thoughts can worsen the expected anger that is festering within, accelerating the development of mental and psychological challenges.

Unfortunately, parents in the midst of a divorce battle sometimes forget that they still have care-giving responsibilities that they need to fulfill in order to maintain the mental and emotional stability of their children. Our Santa Rosa family law attorneys appreciate that divorce matters are often emotional and complex situations. Each Northern California family law attorney at our firm has the experience to resolve the divorce proceeding as amicably and efficiently as possible so as to minimize the negative effects on not only the parents, but also the children.

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Determining the Best Interest of the Child

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Ensuring the well-being of a child is an important issue that the courts in California take seriously. Determining which party gets custody, whether legal or physical, obviously has a very big impact on the welfare of the child. Although courts have the authority to make decisions regarding child custody, the parents of the child are also at liberty to establish an agreement between themselves without forcing the court to make the decision. Due to the various options available, our experienced Santa Rosa custody attorneys encourage those seeking custody or in the midst of a custody battle to get in touch with a lawyer in order to be fully informed of the details of the often-complex process.

An individual seeking custody of the child has the option to forgo the court system and make efforts to amicably resolve the issue with the other party who also has legal rights concerning the child. Adopting this option has the potential to save a lot of time, money and stress. Further, filing for custody does not guarantee that the court will decide the matter exactly as one parent wishes. The filing parent runs the risk of getting less visitation rights than he/she expected. Because of the unpredictability of the court system, many choose not to get a custody order, and instead make an informal agreement with the other parent. Of course there are risks with the latter option given that the agreement is not legally binding.

In California either parent can have custody of the child or the parents can agree to share custody. When the court is involved in a custody issue, it will address two parts of custody – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody addresses relates to where the child will live on a daily basis. Legal custody deals with which parent will have the right to make important decisions for the child in regards to issues like education, healthcare and religion.

supreme court.jpgFull joint physical custody allows both parents to have substantial and frequent contact with the child, with both parents having equal input with regards to major decisions concerning the child’s life. However, joint custody requires parents to be able to work together amicable at all times to ensure the best for their child. If personal animosity or disagreement gets in the way, then the custody arrangement may not be stable in the long-term.

At the end of the day, because of the various factors involved with either filing for custody or resolving the matter privately, it is imperative for an individual seeking custody to contact an experienced Northern California family law attorney to determine which option is best for them.

The Santa Rosa child custody attorneys at Beck Law have worked on these cases for decades. We understand the various factors that a court may consider when deciding on these matters. Each parent’s economic situation, the location of a child’s school, the emotional state of the parents, and similar issues will all come into play. There is not necessary clear rules on how the court must rule in each case–advocacy plays a powerful role.

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You’ve Heard of the Prenup…
Most are familiar with the prenuptial agreement, more popularly known as a “prenup” – a contract between two people who plan to marry. A prenup will normally deal with the economic issues, such as property division, that may arise if the marriage breaks apart. As our experienced Santa Rosa divorce attorneys know, however, there is generally no legal prohibition to anything else that either spouse would want to include in the document. Therefore, a prenup ensures certain legal rights and protections prior to entering into the marriage. couple_walking.jpg

Although there is the legal option of establishing a prenup, many couples do not draft a prenup. After all, one likely wouldn’t even be contemplating marriage if they did not have a strong belief that their marriage would succeed. However, in the event that such optimistic couples come to endure hardship during their marriage, there are legal options to help in saving the marriage and clarifying legal issues after marriage but before divorce.

There is also a “Postnuptial Agreement
According to a study released in 2007 by The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been an increase in the use of postnuptial agreements by troubled married couples. A postnuptial agreement, known as a “postnup,” is formed during the marriage. A married couple often enters into a postnup in order to resolve certain issues in an effort to avoid divorce.

For example, married couples often have financial issues that threaten the longevity of their marriage. In such cases when husband and wife cannot work out issues on their own, they have the option of seeking legal counsel to help establish an agreement that would resolve the issues that threaten their marriage.

The study by The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that nearly half of the lawyers polled reported an influx of clients requesting the drafting of postnuptial agreements. Since 2007, when the study was released, there has been a steady increase in the number of couples establishing postnuptial agreements.

Our Santa Rosa family law attorney understands that a couple may decide to draft a postnuptial agreement for various reasons, not just for financial issues. There have been cases where a wife demanded a postnup after her husband had been charged with his third DUI and where a father demanded that his daughter draft a postnup with her husband or else forfeit legal rights in his will. Therefore, as past postnup cases illustrate, these agreements can be drafted for almost any issue that a couple may have in their marriage.

Whatever the reason may be, the objective of postnuptial agreements is to protect the legal rights of both husband and wife during the marriage as well as after the marriage should the couple decide to separate. Our Santa Rosa family law attorneys appreciate that such matters involve complex legal and personal issues, and a case-by-case approach is always necessary. Consider taking a moment to get in touch with the legal professionals at our firm to see how we can help resolve various family law matters, including drafting postnuptial agreements.

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