Articles Posted in Divorce

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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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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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Unhappy CoupleHow do I deal with a toxic ex-spouse? Some divorces are amicable. Some are not. You may be surprised to find that your divorce has turned your one-time sweetheart into a ball of angry, vengeful, spite. How do you deal with an ex-spouse who seems to go out of his or her way to make you miserable? Following are some tips.

Don’t fuel the fire - For some ex-spouses, the practice of inflicting emotional harm on you is a game that they have to “win.” As such, they take each perceived slight, each harmful mistake you make, and throw it back at you with twice the fury. In this situation, it is often best to take the high road. Let your ex-spouse know that you will not play the game. When protecting yourself against a malicious ex, do not give them anything that can incite their rage or that can be used against you.

Protect your digital self – Many couples share information about their online selves with each other. This information often includes passwords, usernames, profile information, and the like. When your relationship goes south it is a good idea to change that information. Be sure your ex cannot have access to email accounts, private bank accounts, social media profiles, or other important online accounts associated with your name. The last thing you want is your toxic ex reading through your emails.

Set and follow boundaries - It may be likely that your ex-spouse is having a difficult time moving on from the relationship. He or she may still want to be emotionally involved and know the ins and outs of your new life. Do not be afraid to set boundaries. Let them know that you no longer feel obligated to tell them everything that is happening in your personal or professional life. Your ex does not have a de facto right to know about the new promotion or the person you are now dating if you do not feel inclined to share such information.

Involve your friends and family – It may be helpful to keep your friends and family in the loop about your relationship with your ex. Although there is no need to share details, your friends and family can benefit from knowing the degree of separation between you and your ex-spouse. This is particularly helpful when the two of you share a group of common friends. You can communicate the status of your relationship without asking your friends and family to take sides. Often, such communication invokes the social support you need to get through this difficult time.

Show empathy - Although hard at times, it is important to show your ex-spouse that you understand what they are feeling. Letting him or her know that you, too, are struggling with your changed lifestyle can go a long way to diffusing any anger or vengeance your ex-spouse feels toward you.

Getting Legal Help in Santa Rosa California

If you are facing a divorce and have questions about decoupling from your ex-spouse, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer you questions and help you determine the best method of obtaining a divorce given your unique circumstances. For a free consultation regarding mediation or divorce, contact Beck Law P.C. at 707-576-7175 or visit us online.

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Divorce is almost never an enjoyable proposition. Once a relationship gets to the point where one or more spouses want to end their marriage, odds are that they have already experienced years of problems. To make matters worse, the divorce itself can be expensive, combative, and emotionally draining. It is imperative that anyone contemplating a divorce find a highly competent divorce attorney to represent their interests and guide them through a difficult process.

ThinkerWhat to Look for in a Good Divorce Attorney

Here are some qualities you may want to look for when you search for a good divorce attorney:

1. Find an attorney with experience handling divorce cases: It is important to hire not only a family law attorney, but one who specifically handles divorces. Ask your potential attorney how many divorce cases he has handled, or what percentage of his (or his firm’s) hours are devoted to divorces. Even if you already retain an attorney for other personal matters (such as your finances), it is a good idea to find a different attorney to handle your divorce. This is especially true since your personal attorney may also represent your wife, and therefore would have a conflict of interest in relation to your divorce case.

2. If you have children with your spouse, find an attorney with experience in child custody disputesChild custody and visitation disputes tend to pop up during and after divorce proceedings. You will want to anticipate these conflicts and be prepared to present your side of the case forcefully. You probably want to see as much of your kids as you can, and a good attorney can help make that happen.

3. Ask your potential attorney how long the divorce proceedings will last: This will give you an idea of how long the process will take, so that you can plan accordingly. It will also help you discern how honest and competent your potential attorney is. It is important that you are aware of any deadlines and waiting periods that you can expect before you initiate the divorce.

4. Ask your potential attorney how much the divorce will cost you: This is another way to figure out if your attorney is a good choice or not. He should be able to give you a rough estimate of the total costs of the divorce, including court fees, attorney’s fees, and potential costs of mediation. This will also help you to plan financially for what lies ahead.

5. Talk with your potential attorney about what outcomes you can expect from the divorce: Your attorney should be able to give you a range of possible resolutions you can expect from your case. The more experience he has, and the more honest he is, the better he will be able to predict the outcome, allowing you to formulate a plan.

What to Do if You Are Planning to Get Divorced

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classroomIn 1994 Utah became the first state to require that divorcing couples complete a seminar before a court would finalize their divorce. Utah is known as one of the more conservative states in the country when it comes to traditional family values and back in 1994, requiring divorcing couples to attend a seminar was certainly in keeping with that image. According to an article in The New York Times, 48 states now offer some form of classes for divorcing couples. 27 of them require by statute that divorcing parents take the class, while others leave the decisions up to cities, counties, or individual judges.

Now, a Utah lawmaker is proposing a bill that would require couples to take at least part of the seminar earlier in the divorce process. The goal of the legislation is to reduce the rate of divorce among couples with children. The theory is that, if couples are counseled at an earlier date about divorce’s potential impact on their children, they will be more likely to reconsider and perhaps stay together. The bill, which is likely to pass, puts Utah back in the spotlight for an initiative that made it unique 20 years ago but which is commonplace today.

Divorcing Couples Classes Vary in Approach

The classes touch on a variety of subjects, and vary considerably from state to state. The Utah seminar lasts two hours and costs $55. Some states only mandate that parents attend a video session. Other classes feature roleplaying and information about how the divorce could affect the parents’ children. In general, the courses place a great amount of emphasis on protecting children and keeping them out of arguments. There is also some helpful advice about legal fees and finding divorce attorneys.

High Divorce Rates Are Concerning to Some Lawmakers

The Utah bill is not the only attempt by a state to address our country’s high divorce rate. Since California became the first state to allow no-fault divorces in 1969, divorce rates have generally been higher than many policymakers and commentators would like. There have been various attempts to decrease the divorce rate. A pending bill in Oklahoma would prolong the divorce waiting period to six months. In North Carolina, a similar bill would extend the waiting period to two years.

Utah’s divorce rate is slightly higher than the national average. It has decreased in recent years, as the marriage rate has also gone down. Opponents of the divorce seminar bill are skeptical that it would have any impact on the divorce rate. Even if the class were required at an earlier point in the process, once a couple starts taking positive steps toward divorce, it is very difficult to change their minds. More importantly, it is not clear that the state has any role or responsibility in discouraging divorce, and perhaps the resources used for these classes could be spent more effectively on other programs.

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My ex-spouse will not pay child support. Child support is not supposed to be a voluntary commitment for divorced parents. Courts often order one parent to make payments to the ex-spouse who is primarily raising their children, for the express purpose of supporting those children. However, sometimes the parent falls behind and does not meet their child support obligations. There are many reasons why this would happen, such as loss of employment, illness or injury, or simple laziness. But no matter the reason, the parent who should be on the receiving end of the child support will want to know how to get the money they are owed.

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How to Get an Ex-Spouse to Pay Child Support

There are a variety of ways a parent can go about compelling their ex-spouse to pay their court-ordered child support. Among the possible courses of action are the following:

1.    Enter into a private agreement with your ex-spouse: If your ex-spouse genuinely cannot make the court-mandated child support payments, whether due to lack of income, illness, or injury, you can always work out a private agreement that reduces or suspends the payments while your ex tries to get back on their feet. Family courts will generally allow these side agreements and will refrain from enforcing their own orders while the private contract is in effect. However, you should be clear with both your ex and the court that, if the ex does not resume making payments when they are supposed to, you will go back to court to force them to do so. You will probably want to hire a family law attorney to draft an agreement of this sort.

2.    Go to mediation: If you want to address the child support issue in a formal setting without actually going to court, mediation might be a good route. Mediation is less adversarial and less expensive than family court, which is why more and more couples are using this option. Agreements reached in mediation can be more flexible and creative than court-ordered remedies. There are probably a number of licensed mediators in your area, and you can usually get a list from your local court.

3.    Take your ex-spouse to court: This is the most drastic, but probably also the most effective, of your options. You can hire a lawyer and return to family court for a contempt proceeding against your ex-spouse. If you can show that your ex is not meeting their court-ordered obligations, the court will try to find a way to compel them to pay the child support. One way the court may do this is through wage garnishment, where a percentage of the person’s wages are automatically diverted to the court and then to you. Many divorced parents hesitate to take their ex-spouses to court any more often than they have to, but if the well-being of your children is at stake, it may be the only viable alternative.

What to Do if Your Ex-Spouse Will Not Pay Child Support

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The role of co-parenting after divorce. A divorce or separation can be extremely difficult on a couple’s children. All of a sudden, the kids go from living in a seemingly stable two-parent household to being caught in the middle of a bitter break-up. In particular, having to go back and forth between the father’s house and the mother’s house can be a traumatic change. There is no way to completely shield children from the negative effects of this process. However, by putting in place a good co-parenting plan, the separating couple can ease some of the difficulty for their children.

co-parenting

Strategies for an Effective Co-Parenting Arrangement

Here are some suggestions for creating a co-parenting arrangement that works for everyone:

1.    Put your children first: Always remember that your children’s interests are the most important consideration. Their childhood experiences will shape them for the rest of their lives, so it is imperative that you protect them from conflict and negativity as much as possible.

2.    Get a court order: This will make your co-parenting plan legally enforceable, meaning you will have a remedy in the event that your ex violates the terms of the agreement.

3.    Live near your ex: Whenever possible, it is advisable for the two parents to live near each other, so that the children can regularly and easily spend time with both of them.

4.    Respect each other’s parenting style: While the couple’s parenting styles may differ significantly, it is desirable that they respect each other’s methods. Otherwise, they end up undermining each other and confusing their children when it comes to expectations and boundaries.

5.    Communicate with each other: Both parents need to be able to communicate regularly and effectively, so that you both know what is going on in your children’s lives. This will help avoid misunderstandings, both with each other and with your children.

6.    Stay involved in your children’s activities: Both parents should stay as involved as possible in their kids’ school and extracurricular activities. Even if the parents would prefer not to be near each other, it is important that they can be civil with each other when they are in public or with their children.

7.    Create a shared document that both parents can access:  You should develop a Google Doc or other cloud-based document that both parents can access and utilize to share information about their kids. You can use this document to, among other things, coordinate scheduling and maintain emergency contact numbers.

8.    Hire an attorney: Each parent should hire their own attorney who has experience drafting co-parenting plans. Having an attorney on retainer will come in especially handy if there are child support or custody issues involved in the divorce or separation.

What to Do if You Have Children and Are Separating from Your Spouse

If you have children and are going through a divorce or separation with your spouse, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and provide you with advice and guidance regarding your concerns.

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Same sex couple married in CA seeks same sex divorce in Mississippi. Simple? Not exactly.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham asked a Mississippi court to recognize her same sex marriage, which took place in California, so that she could file for divorce within the State. Although the couple was married in California, they resided in Mississippi for the duration of their marriage. Czekala-Chatham could file for divorce in California because the State exempts same sex couples from residency requirements that ordinarily require at least one divorcing spouse to be a California resident for six months prior to filing. In part, this is so same sex couples who marry in California but reside in states where their marriage is not legally recognized do not have to face the burden of establishing residency before they can file for divorce. However, California courts will not always be able to issue significant rulings related to property ownership, debt, alimony, or children.
Because California cannot issue certain rulings regarding property ownership, debt, alimony, and children, it is not a viable option for some divorcing same sex couples.
In a telephone interview, Czekala-Chatham explained that failing to get divorced could have serious repercussions. Czekala-Chatham has children from a prior relationship and is concerned that her spouse could contest her will and take her children’s inheritance if they failed to get a divorce. According to court filings, Czekala-Chatham is seeking the couple’s marital home in Mississippi as well as, alimony in the divorce. Czekala-Catham says she will go all the way to the State’s Supreme Court in order to have her same sex marriage recognized because she doesn’t see another way out of the situation. If the State were to recognize her marriage, it would not permit same sex marriages in Mississippi, which remain banned under Mississippi law.

Same Sex Marriage.jpg
Since the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, several states have faced similar requests.
Several other states which have bans on gay marriage have been faced with similar requests since the U.S. Supreme Court struck downs segments of the federal Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer. For instance, the Texas Supreme Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over same sex divorce cases, even though it does not allow same sex marriage. Oral arguments are scheduled for next month. At least two same sex couples have filed for divorce in the State.
However, Mississippi College constitutional law professor, Matt Steffey says the Mississippi case is a long shot because the right does not exist within Mississippi law. He believes the issue of same sex divorce will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Back in June of 2010, New York became the 50th and last state to pass some form of No-Fault Divorce Legislation, 40 years after that of California.  What with the recent debates over same-sex marriage and, now, polygamy have raised questions about the nature of marriage and how the institution of marriage has evolved over time. Progressives generally favor a more expansive and inclusive definition of marriage, with the institution adapting to changing social conditions. Conservatives warn that there could be negative and unforeseen consequences to these changes, and that therefore we should tread lightly when it comes to modifying such an esteemed human institution.

Ring in Book

However, it is possible that both sides are ignoring a much older and more consequential change to our marriage laws. Since 1969, all the states, one by one, have reformed their family law codes to allow for no-fault divorce. Traditionally, American courts would only grant a divorce after establishing that one party had committed a breach of the marital contract. No-fault divorce, in contrast, is dissolution of marriage that does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party.

A Brief History of No-fault Divorce

The earliest known examples of no-fault divorces occurred in Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. The decrees providing for no-fault divorce were seen at the time as revolutionary attempts to deemphasize marriage in the Soviet Union. In the United States, the Sexual Revolution, feminist movement, and anti-establishment sentiment of the 1960s helped place the idea of no-fault divorce on the political agenda.

In 1967, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws was tasked with drafting a uniform marriage and divorce code for consideration by state legislatures. The various drafts of the NCCUSL’s uniform code all liberalized the current divorce laws on the books in most states. This code had no binding impact on state legislatures, but was deeply influential on family law statutes from the time it was first drafted.

Two years after the NCCUSL began meeting, the California state legislature passed the California Family Law Act of 1969. The Act was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan on January 1, 1970, and included a provision allowing for dissolution of marriage when one party cited irreconcilable differences. This effectively made California the first state to allow for no-fault divorce and as previously mentioned, 40 years later, in 2010, New York became the last state in the US to pass a no-fault divorce statute.

While there are still some who argue against no-fault divorce, it is now the law of the land in California and the rest of the country. There is no question that it has made divorce easier, particularly for those who lack power or control in their respective marriages. Continue reading →