Published on:

Substance Abuse and DivorceAre you considering divorcing a spouse who has trouble with substance abuse? Anyone experiencing a divorce can tell you that there are all kinds of mitigating factors that may impact divorce proceedings and outcomes. One particular issue that can have a substantial bearing on your divorce agreement is addiction. When one or both partners suffer from drug or alcohol issues, matters may become more complex than ever. A good divorce attorney is your best bet when facing these issues.

Marriages Ruined by Substance Abuse

The statistics on marriages when substance abuse is involved are not encouraging:

  • Close to 30 million people are married to an alcoholic or drug addict.
  • Nearly 10% of divorces are related to substance abuse;

Is Divorce the Right Choice for You?

Experts advise considering divorce under certain key circumstances involving addiction:

  • Married life is substantially impacted due to substance abuse;
  • Self destructive behavior has long-term or severe impacts on you and your family;
  • Your spouse refuses to participate in counseling sessions, or attends sessions with negligible outcomes;
  • Your spouse lies, hides things, fails drug tests, and/or is responsible for “disappearing” money;
  • Your spouse engages in dangerous behaviors while under the influence of prescription drugs, illegal substances, or alcohol;
  • Cheating, beating, or other irresponsible behavior accompanies substance abuse;
  • You find yourself embarrassed and unwilling to face your family and friends due to symptoms and events related to addiction;
  • You make excuses for your spouse’s addiction and related behaviors on a regular basis.

Before Filing for Divorce

As you embark on this difficult period of your life, try to establish a strong support network of family, friends, and professionals. Groups like Al-anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous can help you through the tough days ahead. In addition, some practical things you should consider include:

  • Securing your finances;
  • Helping your spouse to find professional services;
  • Documenting any issues connected to the addiction;
  • Finding support for your children as they experience the divorce;
  • Hiring a responsive attorney.
Your Divorce Agreement

In addition to the typical separation of property and debt issues that all couples face in divorce, (California is a Community Property state) when you divorce an addict, additional measures must be taken, especially when dependent children are involved. It is essential that your divorce agreement include required participation in a reliable drug- and/or alcohol-testing program.  Visitation must be contingent on clean reports, or must be supervised.

Furthermore, you should consider the possibility that the mention of divorce may result in more extensive drug or alcohol abuse. This, in turn, may lead to anger and potential violence. Be sure to secure a safe place to stay for yourself and your children. Continue reading →

Published on:

Tax and Divorce QuestionsAre you considering a divorce, but concerned about the tax implications? It is definitely a good idea to be aware of the financial fallout associated with terminating a marriage. An attorney experienced in family law and divorce can be of assistance with these and other questions you may have as you approach this life changing and economics-altering event.

If We Owe Back Taxes, Who has to Pay Them?

Regardless of who earned all or most of the money when you filed a joint return, you may be responsible for money owed, even if the divorce decree states otherwise. It may come as a surprise that your tax refunds in the future may be used to pay your spouse’s state or federal tax debts. However, you may file for relief from joint liability under certain circumstances.

Can I File an Individual Tax Return if the Divorce is Not Final?

The short answer is yes, if you have a Decree of Separate Maintenance, Judgment of Legal Separation, or Degree of Separation. However, it may behoove you to investigate the possibility of jointly or filing married but separated. Naturally, once the divorce is finalized, you may file as either single, head of household, or widow.

For Tax Purposes, Who Claims the Amount Paid in Spousal Support and/or Child Support?

When it comes to spousal support, the receiving partner must claim that amount as income, whereas the paying partner may deduct all payments. It is therefore a good idea to keep accurate records of all payments and avoid paying in cash. On the other hand, child support payments do not affect taxable income one way or the other.

Who Claims the Dependents?

By default, the parent who has physical custody of children is allowed to claim them on his or her taxes. That being said, parents may come up with their own arrangements. Some versions may include:

  • Each parent claiming all dependents on alternating years;
  • Each parent claiming one or more dependent every year;
  • Evaluating the tax benefits of each parent’s claim and potentially sharing the savings.
Are Other Expenses Associated with the Divorce Deductible?

In some cases you may be able to deduct fees paid to your attorney, accountant actuary or appraiser. In each case, fees associated with tax advice related to your divorce are deductible.  Additionally, some fees paid related to property settlements, such as costs associated with preparing and/or filing a deed, are deductible.

Who Pays Taxes on Shared Retirement Income?

If you are dividing retirement benefits earned by one spouse, you generally utilize a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This arrangement allows funds to be distributed to two different locations in two separate checks, one for each of you. If the distribution occurs in one check, the retired spouse will be responsible for all taxes on the retirement income. Continue reading →

Published on:

support PaymentsSupport payments in California. Leaving a marriage can be a difficult decision. It is not made any easier by the financial constraints associated with dividing a household. Living separately is obviously going to cost more, and in many cases that means both parties are going to have to adjust the living standards to which they have become accustomed. How are the financial decisions made in California divorce cases? If you are seriously considering divorce, it is time to see an experienced family law attorney.

How are Spousal/Partner Support Payments Calculated?

California Family Code section 4320 lays out specific considerations to factor in when determining how much spousal or partner support payment is appropriate:

  • Time: How long has the marriage or domestic partnership existed?
  • Need: How can each partner best experience an equivalent standard of living?
  • Liabilities: What debts will each partner keep?
  • Assets: Who, if anyone, will stay in the home? What other property is being divvied up?
  • Employment: Will both partners be employed, or will one have primary childcare responsibilities?
  • Previous career advancement: Did one partner support the other through school or licensing programs to propel a career?
  • Training: Will on partner need education or training in order to obtain meaningful employment?
  • Age/Health: Do one or both partners have particular health needs that must be addressed?
  • Domestic Violence: Was there mental or physical abuse in the relationship?
  • Tax Impact: Because tax laws do not recognize domestic partnerships, will tax implications be favorable or unfavorable?

Temporary or Permanent Spousal Support Payments

Temporary support payments may be assigned while a case is pending; judges typically use a formula specific to their own county to make a calculation for the appropriate amount. Once the case is finalized, “permanent” support payments may be ordered based on the factors listed above. Do not be fooled by the term permanent. In this case, it simply means the order becomes valid once the divorce is finalized. It may or may not have time limits.

Changing the Support Payments

Imagine that after the divorce, the person paying support loses a job, or the person receiving support payments inherits a windfall. Either individual may, at some future time, experience a significant change in financial circumstances, prompting a request to change the amount of support. If both partners agree to the changes, a simple stipulation written up and given to the court will result in a new order relatively quickly. On the other hand, if there is a dispute, the individual requesting the change must file a motion with the court. This is something that should be done sooner rather than later, as changes to the order cannot be made retroactively. Continue reading →

Published on:

AnnulmentAnnulment versus divorce. Divorce makes many people wish they could erase their marriage altogether. The fact is that some individuals actually can. In specific circumstances, couples may seek an annulment, which essentially pronounces that what had previously been considered by all to be a marriage never existed at all. This unique legal maneuver requires the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

Who Qualifies for an Annulment?

Legal annulment is not available to just anyone. Grounds for annulment are quite explicit:

  • When the partners are closely related by blood;
  • When one partner is engaging in bigamy (is already married to someone else).
  • When the marriage occurred prior to the eighteenth birthday of one or both of the individuals;
  • If the marriage was based on a fraud, meaning one person misled another to convince them to marry;
  • If one spouse suffers an incurable physical incapacity, or is unable to engage in sexual relations;
  • When one or both individuals is of unsound mind, meaning he or she is incapable of understanding the responsibilities and overall nature of marriage;
  • If one person forced the other into the marriage.

Statute of Limitations for an Annulment

The law does have timelines to file for annulment, depending on the reason for the request:

  • Bigamy: You can file at any time;
  • Age: If you married prior to your eighteenth birthday, you must file within four years after turning 18;
  • Fraud: You must file within four years of ascertaining the fraud;
  • Physical Incapacity: You must file within four years of the marriage;
  • Unsound Mind: You can file any time;
  • Forced Marriage: If you were forced into the marriage, you must file within four years.

What About the Children?

Just as the marriage is erased, the legal presumption of paternity for your children is removed in annulment, as well. Therefore, the judge must grant parentage. The court will also establish custody, visitation, and child support parameters.

Division of Assets

Since you will legally never have been married, you will not be able to take advantage of California’s Community Property laws. Likewise, you will not be entitled to your partner’s pension, retirement benefits, or any form of spousal support or alimony.

Punitive Spouse Status

In certain rare cases, you may be able to prove that you believed the marriage to be legal under California law, and you may be able to argue that you are entitled to typical marriage assets and support. Continue reading →

Published on:

Spousal SupportDetermining Spousal Support. Divorcing couples often have questions regarding the financial obligations of a higher-earning spouse toward a lesser-earning spouse. In some instances, one spouse may not have held gainful employment at all, leaving him or her with potential financial woes were it not for spousal support ordered through the courts. This complex issue requires the consideration of multiple factors. An experienced divorce attorney can help you maneuver the paperwork and pitfalls of this and other matters you will encounter in the course of a divorce.

Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Support

Just how much financial support might the court order, and for what period of time? Factors examined will include:

  • The duration of the marriage/domestic partnership;
  • Necessities required for each person to maintain a similar standard of living;
  • Current and potential earnings of each person;
  • Other obligations, such as child care, that would impact the ability to work;
  • Health issues and age of the individuals divorcing;
  • Assets and debts;
  • Previous support from one spouse to another while getting an education;
  • History of domestic violence;
  • Tax issues.

How Long Will Spousal Support Payments be Ordered?

The courts will look at the above considerations and make a determination as to the amount and duration of payments. Generally speaking, payments will last for at least half as many years as the length of the marriage. Some marriages of lengthy duration may require support payments until the remarriage or death of the receiving spouse.

Changes in Support in Future Years

Either partner may request changes in the amount of support at a future date. There are some basic situations in which this might occur:

  • The financial status of one of the individuals changes significantly, giving the court reason to consider alternative arrangements;
  • The individual receiving support remarries or enters a domestic partnership;
  • The court issued a Gavron Warning during the initial divorce proceedings, indicating that the supported spouse must work toward self-sufficiency within a reasonable period of time, at which time support would be decreased or eliminated.
What if the Person Ordered to Pay Support Fails to do so?

If an individual ignores a court order to pay spousal support, his or her wages could be garnished. As a last resort the payer could be cited for contempt of court, and jailed for that reason.

If Wages are Garnished, can Employers Punish an Employee?

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees due to a court ordered garnishment. An individual who experiences retaliation or loses a job under these circumstances may have a legal case against his or her employer. Continue reading →

Published on:

Divorcing missing spouseDivorcing a spouse that is missing? Is it possible to divorce your spouse when you have no idea where he or she is? The short answer is yes, but you will have to go through some extra work, wait about six months, and you may not get a final court order on the division of resources, child custody issues, and child support. In this situation, hiring an experienced divorce attorney is a must.

Divorcing by Publication

When a spouse disappears with no forwarding address, divorce may be obtained by publication. The Petitioner (the person seeking a divorce) must demonstrate that a diligent search has been conducted and the missing spouse was unable to be located. Therefore, that spouse cannot be served, nor can the divorce papers be delivered by certified mail.

Divorcing a Missing Spouse? What is a Diligent Search?

The courts expect that a sincere effort to locate the missing partner has occurred. Thus, a number of steps must be taken:

  • A thorough search of phone books and directory assistance in the area where the Petitioner lives and where the missing spouse was known to have lived last;
  • Talking to friends and relatives who might have knowledge of the missing spouse’s whereabouts;
  • Contacting the post office in the area where the missing spouse lived to ask for a forwarding address;
  • Investigating tax and property records to see if the absent spouse owns any property;
  • Communicating with previous landlords and employers about the location of the missing spouse;
  • Checking voter registration records;
  • Hiring a private investigator to try to find the missing spouse.

If, after completing these steps, your spouse still cannot be found, you may submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This documents any and all steps you have taken to locate your spouse.

Filing for Divorce

At this stage, you must complete an Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons and several other legal documents in order for the court to issue an Order of Publication. The Order allows for the publication of the summons in the newspaper, and it must be published weekly for a total of four consecutive weeks. There must be a minimum of five days between each publication.

Your Spouse’s Rights

Following the four weeks of Publication of Summons plus 28 days, your spouse has another 30 days in which to file a response. Barring any response, you may file a Request to Enter Default Dissolution of Marriage. The divorce will become final six months from the date of the first publication of summons. Continue reading →

Published on:

long-term marriageDealing with a divorce can be especially difficult for someone in a long-term marriage . Studies show that men over 65 are divorcing at double the rate of the 1980s and women are divorcing at triple their former rate. In fact, 5% of all divorces in this country are “gray divorces.” Along with the usual splitting of assets that all divorcing couples face, older couples have some unique challenges.

Why Divorce After Decades Together in a Long-Term Marriage?

Older couples have often experienced many significant events together. Some couples grow closer through these life milestones, while others drift apart. With a longer life expectancy, a person in his or her mid-sixties most likely has at least a couple of decades ahead. That can be a long time if an individual is dissatisfied with his or her marriage.

Leaving a Long-Term Marriage

Alimony agreements are frequently short-term for young divorcees who agree that financial support is necessary while one spouse gets an education or a firm footing in the working world.  For older divorcees, alimony may be awarded for life. Another significant factor to consider is that retirement funds and pensions will likely be evenly divided. The marriage home may be sold and the money split between partners, or one partner may retain the home and give up something else. California is a community property state, so any assets accrued during the marriage will be split equally.

Another important consideration is health insurance. If one partner is covered by the other’s health insurance, it is critical that no gaps in coverage occur. When the divorce is finalized, your spouse’s employer can no longer cover you, even if minor children are covered. Luckily, COBRA coverage may be available if your spouse works for an employer with 20 or more employees. Eligibility depends on notification within 60 days of the divorce, so it is critical that you contact the provider quickly. This coverage lasts only 36 months, so it is important to become familiar with other options if necessary. If a spouse worked for a smaller company, Cal-Cobra is available. Although slightly more expensive and available for just 18 months, it is an option for some former dependent spouses.

Because men often earn much more money during the course of a career, social security benefits may be based on the man’s earnings rather than the woman’s work record. When a marriage has lasted at least 10 years, a woman may be able to enjoy benefits from her former spouse’s work record. The benefits end upon remarriage. If a person is at least 62 years old and is remarried, and the second spouse dies, that person may claim benefits from the first spouse (if the marriage lasted 10 years or more) or from the second spouse (if the marriage lasted 9 months or more prior to the death). Continue reading →

Published on:

out of stateCan my former spouse move out of state and take our child? The question is all too familiar to many individuals who have gone through a divorce. Initially, maybe both parents lived reasonably close and custodial arrangements were relatively simple. But what happens when one spouse gets a job out of state, gets remarried and is compelled to move, or simply chooses to start life over someplace else? What if your ex moves out of state, or just further away without your knowledge or without changes in the visitation agreement? In these situations, an experienced family law attorney might be worth calling.

Child Custody Arrangements – Moving out of State

Physical custody of children in a divorce can either be joint or sole. If the spouse who is moving out of state has sole physical custody of the child, it is presumed any move would involve the child. That being said, both parents must work through an agreement as to what new visitation will look like. This might be done through mediation, but, if that method is unsuccessful, the court will have to make a determination. The spouse who is moving may have to agree to longer visits for the non-custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent may have to live with far fewer visits.

In a joint custody situation, the bottom line is the same. While the court cannot prevent either parent from moving, it can definitely rule against taking a child if the disruption is considered too severe.

Remember, the best interests of the child are always the court’s bottom line.  That means considering several issues:

  • The relationship of the child with each parent;
  • The relationship of the parents with one another;
  • The relationship of the child with siblings and step- or half-siblings;
  • The degree to which visitation is currently utilized;
  • Whether or not the move is designed to restrict access to the child;
  • School, routines, etc.;
  • The wishes of the child, depending on the child’s age;
  • Quality of life for the child.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

What if the parent who moves wishes for the court in the new state to make custody rulings?  The UCCJEA has been adopted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It lays out the circumstances under which the court may make a decision regarding custody, and when another state must accept that decision. The general expectations are:

  • It is the child’s home state, and the child has lived there for the previous six months and has noteworthy connections to the community through schools, medical visits, and/or family;
  • The child is currently in the state and is at risk of abuse or neglect if sent back to another state;
  • Another state does not meet the criteria above, or has declined to make any custody decisions.

Continue reading →

Published on:

abusive marriageAre you trapped in an abusive marriage? If you want to get out of the relationship, but have fears about how your spouse will react, you are not alone. Studies show that roughly 40% of women in California suffer from physical violence with an intimate partner at some time in their lives. If you find yourself in such a situation, an experienced, discreet attorney may be able to help.

Facts About Abusive Marriages and Domestic Violence

  • Women aged 18-24 are 11% more likely to have experienced physical violence in the past year than their older counterparts;
  • Women who were pregnant in the past five years are 12% more likely to experience violence than those who have not been pregnant;
  • Three-fourths of women who live in violent homes have minor children living in the home;
  • 5% of homicides statewide were related to domestic violence in 2008, with a total of 113 fatalities;
  • Of those fatalities, 88% were women.

Divorcing an Abusive Spouse – What You Need to Know

If you wish to extricate yourself from and abusive marriage, you may face an angry spouse who threatens your safety and that of your children. Be aware of several key points:

  • A contested divorce will take at least six months;
  • Courts are more likely to consider physical and/or sexual abuse than emotional abuse, which is an issue when seeking Abuse Prevention Orders;
  • The court can impound your address, meaning it will be blacked out in all court documents so your spouse will not know where you live;
  • Restraining/protective orders can be issued requiring your spouse to stay away from you and your children;
  • If there is not documentation of your injuries, you may be regarded as hysterical, or worse, vengeful in your pursuit to defame your spouse;
  • You may be asked to go through mediation prior to getting your divorce granted;
  • Your abuser will likely have some form of visitation rights with your children, meaning you may be in contact for years to come.

Protect Yourself Right Now

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799 SAFE. They can tell you about resources and local agencies that are set up to help women and children who need protection from abusers.  In the meanwhile, here are some things you should be doing:

  • Keep your plans hidden. Do not keep phone numbers, filers or other information related to domestic violence in the home where your abuser may find them;
  • Have an emergency plan to escape during an violent emergency; keep an overnight bag with prescriptions and other essentials ready to go if you can safely hide one;
  • Make your plans to leave permanently during an open window of time when your abuser will not be around to stop you;
  • Try to hide some money or get your own credit card, but make sure you have a PO Box to receive mail;
  • Find out about shelters that could accept you and your children;
  • Leave your cell phone behind so your abuser cannot track you;
  • Keep a journal, pictures, medical bills, and any other documentation if you can do so safely;
  • Keep online information safe;
  • File formal charges and get a protective order.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Custody ArrangementsIssues with Child custody arrangements? Although divorce and broken domestic partnerships are all too common in the country, your own experience is personal and potentially heart wrenching. Naturally, the most traumatic splits often involve children and custody arrangements. If you are seeking to end your relationship with a spouse or domestic partner and minor children are involved, it is imperative that you have an experienced family law attorney by your side from the beginning.

Considerations in Determining Child Custody Arrangements

California statute expressly commands that the best interests of the child be factored in when determining custody arrangements. A number of specific elements are included in this determination, with an eye toward consistency for the child:

  • Age of the children;
  • Relationship with other children in the home;
  • Type and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child;
  • Physical and/or mental health of everyone involved;
  • Parent attitude toward facilitating an continuing relationship with the other parent;
  • Care-giving history;
  • Stable and loving setting;
  • Physical environment and space;
  • Ability to provide adequately for the emotional and physical needs of the child, including medical care;
  • Current levels of attachment to the home, school, neighborhood, etc.;
  • The child’s wishes, when old enough to express them;
  • Domestic violence issues;
  • Illegal drug use or abuse of legal substances;
  • False accusations made by one parent against another.

Potential Child Custody Arrangements

Most people think of custody as having to do primarily with where the child lives, but there is another type of custody worth noting in California:

Legal custody refers to decision-making ability for the child. It may be awarded in one of two ways:

  • Sole custody: One parent has the final say on all major health, education and welfare decisions;
  • Joint custody: Parents share all major decisions.

Physical custody may be sole or joint as well. A parent having sole custody has the child most of the time and provides visitation with the non-custodial parent. In a joint custody arrangement, an attempt to provide equivalent amounts of time with each parent is made.

Custody arrangements are always particular to the specifics of each case. In fact, while one parent may have physical custody, the other may have legal custody.  A judge whose primary consideration is the best interest of the child views each situation carefully.

Child Visitation

In a situation in which one parent has less than half of the time with a child, visitation orders will be necessary. These comes in many variations, with four basic frameworks:

  • No visitation:  When physical or emotional harm is a risk;
  • Supervised visitation: When a professional agency, another adult, or the other parent is required to be present during the visit to ensure the child’s safety;
  • Scheduled visitation:  When the court lays out a schedule in concert with both parents;
  • Reasonable visitation:  When parents work out an open-ended visitation agreement based on communications between them.

Continue reading →

Contact Information