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same-sex divorceSame-sex divorce. The convoluted history of same-sex marriage in California involves years of legal battles, which ultimately gave same-sex couples the definitive right to marriage. It follows, then, that same-sex divorce has become a part of the California legal scene. That being said, are divorces among same-sex couples more complicated than those between traditional couples? In some instances, the intricacies of the problem can, indeed, seem overwhelming. That is when a local divorce attorney can be a great asset.

Requirements for Every Divorce

When anyone wishes to dissolve a marriage in California, there are some basic requirements, regardless of the specifics of the case. For example, residency requirements must be met. Those requirements include:

  • At least one person must have lived in California for a minimum of six months prior to filing;
  • At least one of the spouses must have resided in the same county for three months or more prior to filing.

What if neither partner is a resident? They can simply file for a legal separation, and amend that when residency is established. If there are no children or significant assets involved, some couples may qualify for a summary dissolution.

Beyond residency, in most divorces there is some amount of wrangling over child custody, visitation, and support; asset and debt division; and payment costs associated with the divorce itself. These issues can be more complex for same-sex couples.

Same-Sex Divorce and Child Custody

Frequently, children in same-sex unions are connected biologically to only one parent. When the court is asked to make decisions related to custody and visitation, that biological information must be considered, along with caregiver roles and other issues related to the best interests of the child.

Same-Sex Divorce and Asset Division

When a couple divorces, assets accumulated during the course of the marriage are equally divided. In the case of same-sex couples, marriage has only been a legal option for a limited time period. What if they have been together for years prior to getting married? Should asset division include items accrued during those years? Arguably, because marriage was prohibited during those years, they worked as a couple to build a life together.

Same-Sex Divorce for Out of State Couples

Many same-sex couples who were married in California may now live elsewhere. If they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage and will not dissolve one, individuals may still dissolve the marriage by filing in the California County in which the marriage occurred.  However, if neither partner resides in California, there may be jurisdiction issues when it comes to deciding issues related to property division, assets and debts, and children. Continue reading →

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violenceDomestic violence is not what most of us thought about while looking forward to this past holiday season. The holiday season and the new year is seen by many as a time of unity and love. But not for everyone. There are those who, spurned and alone, are strangers to the warmth that envelopes so many homes. Feelings of resentment, anger, and vengefulness can bubble up during the holiday season more than at any other time of year. In families, these feelings sometimes lead to violence.  If you were on the receiving end of domestic violence this past holiday season, could it happen again?  You may want to seek legal advice as to how to protect yourself.

Threats Turned to Domestic Violence in California

Sadly, far too often feelings of desperation can lead to deranged behavior that impacts innocent individuals, households, and entire communities:

Three children were killed in front of their mother in September of 2017 in what authorities called a tragic domestic violence incident;

In November of 2017, a gunman killed five and injured ten others in a rampage that occurred after threats toward at least one of the victims.

When You Require Legal Help

If you have been threatened, harassed or stalked, you may need a legal intervention to keep you safe. Remember, violence can occur in many ways:

  • Physical harm due to reckless or intentional behavior;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Inciting fear with irrational behavior, threats, bullying, or stalking;
  • Destruction of property.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

If a romance or marriage ended badly, and threats are mounting, you may need to file a domestic violence restraining order. This is appropriate when it involves close family members, as well.  For other relationships that were not as close, such as neighbors or former friends, a civil harassment restraining order may be necessary. Adult dependents and persons aged 65 and above may file an elder or dependent abuse restraining order. Finally, if you are being harassed or stalked at work, you may require a workplace restraining order. Initially, you will apply for a temporary restraining order (TRO) which generally lasts for a couple of weeks, when a hearing will be held to determine whether there is merit in applying a full restraining order.

Expectations of a Restraining Order

Any restraining order requires the person for whom the order was issued to refrain from contacting you or other members of your household.  That means:

  • No calls, texts, emails or visits;
  • No stalking at work or school;
  • No gun possession.

Any violations of the order could result in fines and/or incarceration. Continue reading →

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your marriageImproving your marriage in 2018. If you are half of one of the millions of couples who are in an unsatisfying marriage with your spouse, the New Year is here. For 2018, how about resolving to improve things at home?

Taking Steps to Improve Your Marriage

The problems in your marriage did not develop overnight and your marriage is  going to improve overnight, and it is not going to improve without specific, targeted changes. That being said, perhaps it is time to buckle down and get to work:

  • Get your head around the fact that you are going to have to make changes to improve yourself before you can improve your relationship with your spouse. Figure out what you need to do to become better, stronger, more flexible, happier, etc. How can you bring your A-game to your relationship?
  • Focus on one key thing you can do to make your partner happier. It does not have to be a huge thing; just something that will make it clear that you are tuned in to the relationship. Put down your phone during meals; quit commenting on bad driving; take out the trash before it is overflowing. Tiny adjustments can make a world of difference, so jump in!
  • Greet your partner with genuine affection. When you run into friends at the mall, you smile, make eye contact, and find out how they are doing. Why not do the same with your spouse?  That to-do list can wait until after you have asked about the workday and shared a few basic pleasantries.
  • Go to bed at the same time. Even if it is just to share a few moments talking, connect with your spouse at bedtime.
  • Avoid withholding feelings of dissatisfaction. Instead, discuss problems openly and honestly, with an eye toward creating mutually satisfying solutions.
  • Apologize when you are wrong. Whether you forgot something important to your spouse, overreacted to a silly event, or let unkind words slip out. Saying the words I’m sorry with sincerity always helps.
  • Connect. That’s right. It’s more than coordinating schedules or fulfilling your share of the household obligations. Connecting with your spouse is the single most important thing you can do to create a healthy relationship.

How can you do that? Here are some quick and easy tips:

  • Engage your spouse in a topic that he or she is passionate about.
  • Flirt a little.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Surprise him or her for no special occasion.
  • Do something together—take a walk, read a book, share a sundae…
  • Exercise together.

Continue reading →

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former spouseSay you’ve  split up, and really want to stick it to your former spouse. Here are some sure fire ways to throw a wrench into your former spouse’s life, and make your kids suffer at the same time:

  • Argue with your former spouse. Loudly. In front of the kids. Make it extra nasty by throwing in a few eye-rolls and dirty names. Kids need to know just how despicable their other parent is.
  • Talk badly about your former spouse around the kids. Make sure it is clear whose fault the split was, and clearly lay out every shortcoming he or she has on a regular basis.
  • Plan fun activities while your kids are supposed to be with their other parent so they will be reluctant to go with him or her. That will really prove who the better parent is.
  • Turn holidays and special events into a competition. Make sure you get the bigger, better presents every time. Then the kids will know who loves them the most.
  • Speaking of special occasions, stick to the visitation order without flexibility. Who cares if the kids have to miss something special with the other parent? They like you best anyway.
  • Make sure the other parent knows as little as possible about junior’s schedule. Having your ex show up to ball games, music programs, or parent teacher conferences would be a drag for everyone.
  • Discourage contact through email, text, and phone on any kind of a regular basis. You do not want your ex getting into your kids’ heads!
  • Eliminate any contact with the family of your ex. They have no legal rights to the kids, so do not complicate your lives with communications with them.
  • Make sure the kids know just how much of a struggle it can be since their other parent left. Your ex really made all of your lives more difficult, and the kids have a right to know what a selfish person he or she is.
  • When the kids do go for visits, have them spy on the other parent for you. What a great way to find out what he or she is up to nowadays!

Seriously, Folks, the Divorce is Between you and your Former Spouse

Hopefully you realize that your divorce is between you and your former spouse. Kids are kids, and deserve protection from as much of the cruddy parts of life as possible. Instead of making them pawns in your divorce and throughout the rest of their lives, try putting them first:

  • Keep disagreements between you and their other parent private;
  • Keep negative feelings about their other parent, his or her new partner, etc. to yourself;
  • Make visitation seamless and easy;
  • Discuss important matters, from health to upcoming events, with the kids’ other parent;
  • Include all grandparents in the kids’ lives if possible;
  • Let the kids enjoy their other parent without worrying about you.

These simple tips really can help your kids get through a potentially traumatic event in their lives with strong, positive relationships and a healthy future. You love your kids. Now, more than ever, is the time to show it by swallowing the urge to create dissonance between them and their other parent. Continue reading →

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Divorce WarsDivorce wars can happen when couples divorce. Frayed emotions and angry circumstances can combine to make it tempting to try to play dirty. The fact is, resorting to the nasty games of divorce wars make you look bad and does not necessarily improve the outcomes for you. Instead, go into your divorce with everything on the table. Although you want a divorce attorney who fights aggressively for your interests, underhanded tricks really do not pay off.

Being Open and Honest With Your Attorney and Avoid Divorce Wars

As you prepare for your divorce, it is essential that you are open and honest with your attorney.  Particularly when circumstances are strained, you can anticipate that your spouse will attempt to paint you in a bad light. If your lawyer knows everything, preparing for court becomes an exercise of skill. Do not let your attorney be surprised by bombshells lobbed by the other side.  Tell the truth about everything and act in a responsible manner:

  • If you have sent unpleasant texts or emails, do not fool yourself into thinking that just because you have deleted them, they no longer exist. There is every possibility that they will show up if your spouse thinks it will benefit his or her case.
  • If you have assets that you think no one knows about, be aware that the other side will likely have detectives snooping around to see what turns up.
  • If you are in possession of assets that you are pretty sure your spouse is going to request, do not sell those items in spite.
  • Children are people. Do not degrade your spouse in their presence or try to turn them against your spouse.
  • If you are thinking of charging up a load of debt to dump on your spouse, think again.
  • Although most people have social media accounts these days, be careful of what you post on yours. Avoid rash, emotional posts that could get you into trouble later.
  • If you have a new love interest, do not flaunt it. Keep that person away from your spouse, the courtroom, and any other place that might cause the situation to become enflamed.

After the Divorce

Once your divorce is finalized, make sure you follow the court’s orders. Particularly if there are children involved, remain poised to interact in a civil manner. Now, that may be difficult, especially if your former spouse is reading from a divorce wars playbook. Nonetheless, behave with dignity, and be smart:

  • Avoid interactions when you have been drinking or if you are upset.
  • Pay child support with a check so you have a record of the transaction.
  • Document any issues as they occur in case you wind up back in court at a later date.
  • Honor visitation rights, even if support payments are behind. You do not want to be in contempt.
  • Encourage kids to have a healthy relationship with your ex and the in-laws. There is no such thing as too much love for a kid.

Continue reading →

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Holiday SeasonNever do you feel the reality of divorce more than during the holiday season. While some people may experience relief to be away from an unhappy marriage, others will feel the sting of missed traditions, gatherings with in-laws, and even waking up without the patter of little feet and the accompanying excitement. So what can you do to make the most of your new life during the most festive time of the year?

Identify Your Biggest Holiday Season Concern

If you figure out what the scariest part of the upcoming holiday is, you have a better chance of addressing it and feeling like you are in control of your life.  No, things will not be the same.  Embrace that fact, and come up with a plan to alleviate the most critical issues.  Be flexible, and adjust to the situation with grace.

Start New Holiday Season Traditions

What puts you in the holiday mood? Shopping? Watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on TV? Going to church? Spend some time doing the things that bring you joy and fill you with holiday spirit. If you can’t bear doing those things without your former spouse, its time to look at ways to move forward in new and fulfilling ways.

Letting go of the old traditions that you can not access anymore will go much easier if you create new traditions to replace them. If you are used to putting on a huge family dinner on Christmas Day, consider hosting a brunch in mid-morning instead. If particular music brings home the holidays for you, branch out into a new genre. If you simply cannot bear the thought of the changes in your life, maybe it would be good for you to do some volunteer work this holiday season. Serving dinner to the disadvantaged, delivering meals to housebound individuals, or sponsoring a family with economic challenges could brighten the lives of others while providing you a sense of satisfaction. In any way that makes sense for you, create rituals with friends and family that will signify a step in a new direction.

Take Care of Yourself

Despite the stresses you are facing, it is important that you take time to pamper yourself. Get enough exercise and rest, and avoid overindulging in holiday food and drink. Find time to unwind with a good book, relaxing music, meditation, or conversation with a trusted friend or family member.

Holiday Season Gratitude

Even though this may be the toughest holiday on record, you still have a lot to be grateful for, right? Pay attention to the little things. Notice the glory of a sunrise, the scent of goodies baking in the oven, the sounds of carolers at the mall. Instead of counting up all the things that make you miserable, start counting the things that you appreciate. Continue reading →

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holiday season divorceA holiday season divorce? Is your marriage on the rocks? If it is, the holidays will not magically repair things. In fact, some studies indicate that the stress of holiday shopping, traffic, and family gatherings can put even more strain on relationships. One survey revealed the somewhat astonishing fact that over 8% of married individuals contemplate separation or divorce during the holiday season. The statistics for women are even higher; nearly 13% of them have divorce on the brain. The majority of respondents say they will wait until after the holidays to bring up the topic of a split, but about 30% report just wanting to “get it over with,” and will be presenting their plans to split before Christmas. Either way, an experienced divorce attorney can help get you through it.

Holiday Season Divorce – Think it Through

Obviously, ending a marriage is a huge decision. Before doing anything rash, spend some time really evaluating your situation. Is a holiday season divorce what you really want? Have you explored options to save the marriage? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the seasonal pressures, and reacting by trying to escape your life? Be sure divorce is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a particularly stressful time.  Once you broach the subject with your spouse, it may be difficult to turn back.

If A Holiday Season Divorce is What You Really Want, Give up the Guilt

If you have deliberated and come to the conclusion that there is no option but to divorce, then accept the decision and move forward. Many people who experience guilt feel horribly about the impact of this decision on the family, but if you truly believe it has to happen, it is probably best to just get it done. If, on the other hand, guilt is associated with the way you have handled yourself, you may need to do what you can to make amends and become a better version of yourself moving forward. Either way, extricate yourself from a relationship that has no chance with as much grace as possible.

Should You Wait Until After the Holidays?

When should you tell your partner how you are feeling? Every situation is different, of course. If you have concerns about the safety of yourself or your children, then by all means make a hasty departure. Otherwise, timing the discussion can be tricky. Splitting shortly before or during the holidays has the potential to stain future years with an unpleasant memory for you, your children, and your spouse. Is the desire to get out of your marriage so urgent that you would risk bringing back a flood of painful memories for everyone involved at this time of year? No one wants to associate the holidays with feelings of sadness. Would waiting a few weeks be worthwhile? Continue reading →

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Holiday VisitationHoliday visitation after a divorce. Managing child visitation scheduling, let alone the emotions, associated with the holidays can be tricky. Ultimately, the best thing parents can do is to remember that its your job to make things easier for the kids. Here are some tips on how you can do that:

Maintain or Create a Good Relationship with your Ex for the Sake of the Kids

It goes without saying that you should do everything in your power to minimize tensions with your former spouse when the kids are present. Beyond old-fashioned courtesy, you should never badmouth your ex to the kids. Do just the opposite, pointing out their good qualities. Ask your former partner for a framed picture of themselves to display in your child’s room. Create a stress-free relationship by encouraging phone and email communication on a regular basis.

Holiday Visitation – Arrange Schedules Early

Coordinate with your former spouse about special events, relatives from out of town, and other things that might impact the holiday visitation schedule. Do not hold children back from fun activities with their other parent out of spite. Show them that you get pleasure from knowing they are happy and well taken  care of.

Holiday Visitation – When Kids do Not Want to Leave Home to Visit the Other Parent

Even if they resist, kids need to spend time with the non-custodial parent if it is part of the legal agreement. In most cases, it is a temporary panic that will recede with time. Help children who fear leaving home by reassuring them that they will have fun with their non-custodial parent. Tell your child you will plan something fun to do together when they return. If they are anxious about being away, give them something from home to take along for comfort, like a favorite book, blanket, or toy. Having something of the custodial parent, such as a scarf, or even a photo, will comfort some children.

Holiday Visitation – When it Comes to Gifts…

One-upmanship benefits no one. It is so much better to take the competition out of gift giving and remember what the holidays are really about – the spirit of giving, connections with loved ones, and gratitude. By communicating with your former spouse about the spirit of the holidays, as well as about specific gifts you are getting for your child, you can avoid frustrations and disappointment all around. If you really want to help your children through the strain of having two families during the holidays, consider helping them choose a small gift or make a homemade card for the non-custodial parent. What better way to give your children permission and encouragement to love both parents?

Traditions Gone Amok

If your family has had holiday traditions that can no longer occur, replace them with new activities that your children can enjoy. Encourage your ex to take over some of the things that the family once did all together so your child can look forward to spending time there, as well. If there are some activities that can still be done with everyone together and it feels comfortable, there is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading →

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Getting DivorcedIs getting divorced in your future? When couples say I Do, they are thinking of a happily ever after. No one imagines that the bliss of their wedding day will eventually fall to the depths of divorce. Yet statistics show that one in five couples experience marital disruption within the first five years of marriage. Over half of couples suffer a separation, divorce, or death after 20 years together. The question newlyweds all ask is, why? Why do feelings of devotion take a 180-degree turn for so many couples?

Getting Divorced. A Psychotherapist’s Explanation

Psychotherapist Esther Perel notes that all couples experience the same types of problems  The difference in successful marriages hinges on the ways in which partners communicate and relate to one another. Specifically, couples who overtly focus on interacting with kindness, empathy, and understanding seem to endure, while those who resort to blaming, ostracizing, and suspicion tend to have less happy unions.  That being said, what are the issues that couples of all stripes face, and that lead to divorce most often?

Problems that May Lead to Getting Divorced

  • Infidelity, whether physical or emotional, takes a serious toll on any relationship. Whether the betrayal involves a one-night-stand or a long-term relationship, recovering from a cheating episode is an extraordinary challenge.
  • Financial difficulties can cause serious stress for couples, especially if partners have different spending patterns, or if one partner’s earnings intimidate the other.
  • Death of a child or other extreme stresses can take a toll on even the strongest of relationships.  Dealing with serious illnesses, losses, or significant unexpected changes in life can devastate one or both partners, making teamwork and connection difficult, if not impossible.
  • Addictions can destroy families because one partner is unable to put the marriage and family before the addiction. While many people successfully overcome addictions and save their marriages, many simply do not.
  • Religious differences may not seem important on the wedding day, but down the road there may be some serious issues over how to raise the children. Maybe one spouse even wants the other to convert. Serious religious issues can be difficult areas in which to compromise.
  • Weight gain, though seemingly superficial, may lead to a dearth in intimacy and is often cited as a reason to call it quits.
  • Growing apart is often named as the reason for getting divorced. As the years progress, couples find they have different interests and passions, and simply do not share much anymore. Empty nesters, in particular, may feel the need to strike out on their own.

Continue reading →

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SpyingSpying on your spouse? Angry divorce proceedings often lead individuals to seek proof of wrongdoing. Sometimes the quest for this proof takes the form of spying in order to ascertain whether or not a spouse is cheating, to discover a secret cache hidden away somewhere, or to catch the unwitting spouse in the midst of other activities that might persuade a judge of massive personality flaws that might otherwise go unnoticed. While the temptation to hire a private eye or to actually perform your own sleuthing may be real, such actions are at best misguided, and at worst, illegal. Seeking local legal representation might be a wise choice.

Spying for Proof of Extramarital Affairs

Let us say that you have pictures or other irrefutable proof that your spouse has engaged in extramarital activities that are unseemly. Having this proof in hand will not help you in the divorce settlement. Why? California is a no-fault state, meaning punishments cannot be handed down from the bench for immoral behavior.  Property accumulated during the course of the marriage will be divided in compliance with California’s community property laws, regardless of tawdry behavior by your spouse. The only exception is when domestic violence is a factor in the divorce.

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