SANTA ROSA FAMILY LAWYER BLOG

Articles Posted in

Published on:

spy.jpgPrivate investigation firms have long offered divorce assistance as a primary service. However, these services can be very expensive and can even cost more than the legal fees associated with filing for a divorce. Because filing for a divorce often comes with financial strains, many individuals who would like to hire a private detective to spy on their spouse, simply cannot afford to do so.

SPYING ON YOUR SPOUSE IS EASIER THAN EVER

However, in recent years more and more information is communicated through email, smartphones, and social media. In fact, a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 92 percent of lawyers had observed increases in evidence from smartphones over the past three years. The information gathered from smartphones included text messages, emails, call histories, and GPS location information.

In addition, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, spyware that was once only accessible to governments and corporations are now cheap and readily available to the general public. According to the article, companies selling GPS trackers, nanny cams, and other spy gear reported significant increases in sales. For example, BrickHouse Security reported that sales of its GPS tracker have nearly doubled each year, for the past three years. Another company, SpygearGadgets.com, said sales of their GPS tracking devices had increased 80 percent in 2012 and their nanny cams and hidden camera sales rose 40 percent.

A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE ATTORNEY CAN HELP YOU MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION

An individual who is considering filing for a divorce may want to spy on their spouse in order to obtain various kinds of evidence. Spying may reveal evidence of:

  • Hidden assets
  • Infidelity
  • Neglectful or abusive treatment of children

However, just because it is easier than ever to obtain evidence for a divorce case by spying on a spouse, doesn’t mean it is the best approach in every circumstance. An attorney can help an individual who is considering filing for a divorce to determine what evidence will be helpful and the best way to go about obtaining the information.

For instance, an individual who is considering filing for divorce may want to know whether their spouse was unfaithful during the marriage. But, this information is typically irrelevant to a divorce proceeding in California. Under California law, all divorces are considered “no fault” divorces. The individual seeking a divorce does not have to prove that their spouse did something wrong. In addition, the court will not penalize a cheating spouse by awarding them less property or requiring them to pay more support.

In addition, the privacy laws surrounding spying on a spouse are currently in flux and not clearly defined. Overzealous spying can subject an individual to stalking, wiretap, cybercrime, and trespass laws, as well as civil suits. Therefore, it is important for anyone who is considering spying on their spouse to consult with an attorney who will be able to navigate this emerging area of law.

RELATED BLOG POSTS:
Social Media in Divorce
Steps to Take After a Divorce

Continue reading →

Published on:

Credit Card.jpgAccording to the American Bankruptcy Institute, in 2011, there were a total of 1,362,847 personal bankruptcy filings across America. Of these personal bankruptcy filings, 232,593 were filed within the State of California.

There are many factors that can lead to bankruptcy including: medical expenses, job loss, uncontrolled spending, unexpected disasters, and divorce. The divorce process comes with significant financial burdens. Typically, both partners will incur sizeable legal fees and will have to maintain separate households. In addition, the division of marital assets and child support and/or alimony obligations can impact an individual’s financial health when a marriage dissolves.

For example, last year one of the lead attorneys responsible for securing a $660 million settlement in a clergy abuse case in Los Angeles filed for bankruptcy. He cited legal bills associated with his divorce, totaling nearly $8 million, as the primary reason for filing bankruptcy. The five-year legal battle between the attorney and his former wife centered around her entitlement to half of his $13 million earnings from the settlement.

CALIFORNIA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS CAN HELP

You should consult with a Family Law Attorney immediately if you are seeking a divorce, and your former partner is considering or has filed for bankruptcy. You may have certain legal obligations or entitlements related to your former partner’s bankruptcy filing. An attorney can advise you on how your partner’s bankruptcy filing may impact you.

Given the mounting financial pressure that comes with the divorce process, it is not uncommon for one or both partners to file for bankruptcy to avoid payment of individual debts, community debts, and other financial obligations they may not be capable of meeting.

DOMESTIC SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS

In 2005, the Federal government enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Act. The purpose of this new law was to prevent former spouses from filing for bankruptcy in order to avoid paying child support and/or alimony obligations. Under the new law, domestic support obligations such as child support and alimony are considered priority claims that cannot be discharged during bankruptcy. Therefore, if your former partner has a child support or alimony obligation to you, it will either be paid in the bankruptcy or survive as a debt to you.

PROPERTY SETTLEMENT DEBTS

In addition, under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Act, property settlement debts are non-dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, this type of debt remains dischargeable if your former spouse files for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

CREDIT CARD DEBT

California is a community property state. In a community property state, property acquired during the marriage is owned by both partners, and debt acquired during the marriage is owned by both partners as well. This is true even if your name is not on the debt. Therefore, if your former partner files for bankruptcy and does not pay their credit card debt, the lender can seek payment from you. This is the case even when your former spouse agrees to pay the debt during divorce settlement negotiations, because lenders do not recognize divorce court orders.

Related Blog Posts:
Maintaining Health Insurance After Divorce
Dividing Retirement Accounts in a Divorce

Continue reading →

Published on:

Health Insurance.jpgHealth insurance is a hot topic these days, spurred on by the passage on March 23, 2010, of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The primary purpose of the PPACA is to reduce the number of uninsured Americans while reducing overall medical costs. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the PPACA in the case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. With all the recent developments in this area, it is important to know how health insurance coverage plays out in the divorce process.

If both you and your spouse are employed and maintained health insurance coverage through your respective employers, then maintaining that arrangement should be addressed during divorce negotiations and specifically stated in the marital settlement agreement or divorce decree. If, however, you maintain health insurance through your spouse’s employer, once the divorce is finalized, you will no longer be eligible for coverage. Address the issue early on so that you do not end up with a gap in coverage, which could jeopardize your eligibility for health insurance.

There are several options available. If your spouse’s employer has more than 20 employees, then you are eligible to apply for continued health insurance coverage under the federal law known as COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act), passed by Congress in 1986 to provide for the continuation of group health coverage that might otherwise be terminated. A divorced spouse may elect COBRA coverage for a maximum of 36 months, but be warned: COBRA is usually more expensive. Under COBRA, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium plus two percent (2%) for administrative costs.

If your spouse’s company has fewer than 20 employees, a second option in the state of California is to elect coverage under the California plan know as Cal-COBRA, which is basically an extension of the federal COBRA law for California residents who do not qualify for federal coverage. Cal-COBRA is “a mini COBRA health insurance plan set up by the California government.” See http://www.cobrainsurancedirect.com. You may elect Cal-COBRA for a maximum of 36 months, but it too is expensive. Under the plan, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the premium plus ten percent (10%) for administrative costs. Given the cost and time limit associated with COBRA and Cal-COBRA, you may want to check into private plans, which may be cheaper and more permanent. If you are employed, a third option may be to obtain health insurance coverage through your employer.

If children are involved, it is important to keep in mind their health insurance coverage issues, including which parent will provide coverage and who will pay the co-pays and other out-of-pocket medical expenses. Such issues should be raised during divorce settlement negotiations and made part of the marital settlement agreement or divorce decree.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Social Media.jpgDivorcing couples face many pitfalls and trials during the process, both in the divorce proceedings and the emotional strife that accompanies it. In the modern age, where seemingly everyone has at least one social network account, it is easy to reconnect with childhood friends, first romances or college roommates. However, social media networks also present difficulties during a divorce where you can see pictures of your spouse looking very friendly with someone new or read his or her status update about going out to dinner with friends when you believed they could not make the children’s school event because of work.

When going through a divorce, you need to use social media very cautiously. In fact, you should assume that every tweet or status update could be used by your spouse against you. Even if you are no longer “friends” with your spouse on Facebook, “followed” by them on Twitter or “connected” to them on LinkedIn, it may still be possible for your spouse to see the information that you post. Even with your privacy settings at the highest level, the information posted may make its way back to your spouse one way or another. Mutual friends, acquaintances or family might be able to access your posts. In addition, the confusing privacy settings on sites like Facebook could lead to your information going beyond the friends you intended. For example, on Facebook, if a friend “likes,” “comments” or “shares” your status, then that person’s friends can often see the status as well.

If you do use social media and are in the midst of a divorce, then you should consider the following:

· If the thought is not too difficult, consider deleting your social media profiles. It may seem like a drastic step, but the difficulty of “rebuilding” your social network is likely much less than the cost of your spouse finding unfortunate information on your social network page or finding emotionally damaging information about your spouse’s life.

· If you cannot bring yourself to delete your social media accounts, then you should at least think twice about posting anything. While you may initially think that it is okay to post a picture of yourself giving a toast at your friend’s wedding, your spouse may argue that it is an example of heavy drinking in front of your children. Such evidence could be used by your spouse to hurt your case for custody, regardless of the truth.

· Go through your friends and followers on all of your social media accounts, carefully considering which connections to keep. You should probably remove access to anyone who you think might share your information with your spouse. It is important to remember that our spouse can subpoena anyone to testify in your divorce or custody proceedings.

· Be careful about changing privacy settings. Facebook, in particular, has a habit of changing privacy settings that could allow your information to become more widely available. Constantly checking your privacy settings can help to prevent any unintentional sharing of information.

· Never, ever, ever share conversations that you had with your attorney. Sharing your attorney’s legal advice could waive the attorney-client privilege, which could allow your private communications with your attorney to be used against you.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Moving.jpgWhen one parent wants to relocate with the minor child in a custody case, they will usually need either the consent of the other parent, or they will need a court order granting the move away orders request. This issue comes up often when one parent wants to move out-of-state for a new job or because they are getting remarried.

Issues that come up in a move away request are how the move would affect the minor child or children involved, how visitation and/or custody would be affected by the move, the reason for the move, and like all child custody matters, whether it is in the best interest of the child to make the move.

If a parent wants to move, it is not impossible to simply get the other parent to consent to the move. The law usually requires notification to the other parent of the proposed move before a court action is filed, and it is important to offer a reasonable visitation schedule to the other parent, since a move will usually make it more difficult for the other parent to maintain the current visitation schedule.

If the other parent does not consent to the move away request, then you will usually need to file a request with the court to be able to move with the minor child or children, unless a prior order already gives you the right to change residency without the consent of the other parent. In a court hearing, there are some presumptions that favor the parent with primary custody of a child. However, those presumptions can be overcome, as it is important to make a clear case to the court why the move will benefit the minor child or children.

One of the most important factors is which parent has been providing a stable environment for the child. Other important factors are comparing the schools – for example is the new school better for the child than the old school – and also community statistics. A judge is more likely to grant a move away request where the parent is moving somewhere with a lower crime rate and better schools, than the other way around.

An important caveat to remember is that a move away request is not automatic, even if you are the primary custodial parent. A request should be made with plenty of time to spare before the planned move; this is not something to request at the last minute. A court may not allow you to move with the child, which means you could still move, but custody would switch and the child would stay with the other parent.

Also, a move away court dispute can be very costly, so it makes better financial sense for parents to try to work out an arrangement that allows the move but maintains sufficient contact with the other parent. With modern technology, this is much easier, with parents able to video chat with their children over the internet from anywhere in the country, or even the world. Also, often the parent who doesn’t have as much visitation time during the school year after the move could have most of the time during summer and holidays.

Last caveat, do not try to move away just to get an advantage in a custody case. If you aren’t doing something with the child’s best interest in mind, that could really backfire in a custody case.

Continue reading →

Contact Information