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california divorceMost people cannot imagine that the joy and expectation they experience on their wedding day will one day turn into a dismal California divorce proceedings. Nevertheless, 50% of marriages nationwide, and 60% of marriages in California wind up in divorce court. If you find yourself looking at divorce, a local attorney can help you through the process. Meanwhile, you probably have all kinds of questions swirling around in your head:

What are the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

Legal separation is an option sometimes chosen for couples who have certain key concerns about divorce, such as

  • Religious objections to divorce;
  • Concerns about obtaining health insurance coverage in the event of a divorce.

A legal separation allows couples to address issues relating to the division of assets and debt, child custody, support, and visitation, and so forth, but does not officially terminate the marriage.

What Grounds for California Divorce are Allowed?

California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that grounds for divorce are generally irreconcilable differences.

California Divorce Residency Requirements

In order to get a California divorce, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for six months and a resident of the county in which your are filing for three months prior to filing.

How can I Protect Myself From Financial Ruin at the Hands of an Angry Spouse?

The court expects parties in a divorce to manage financial matters and property considerations properly. When divorce proceedings are initiated, the court will issue ATROs, which are legal prohibitions on certain activities related to financial and parenting matters. Included in the list of banned activities are the following:

  • Removing minor children from the state without written permission from the other parent or obtaining a court order;
  • Altering insurance provisions, including cancelling policies, cashing in policies, borrowing against policies, or changing beneficiaries;
  • Selling or transferring assets or using shared assets to secure a loan;
  • Concealing assets from the court.

What About My Inheritance?  Is My Spouse Entitled to a Share?

Generally speaking, gifts and inheritance are considered separate property, just like property obtained prior to the marriage. The exception, of course, would be when the inheritance was directed to both parties, or when prior understandings have been drafted that put the inheritance into question.

How Long Will a California Divorce Take?

As soon as the California divorce petition is served, the time clock begins. You can count on an uncontested divorce taking six months and one day from that point. Even though the divorce may not be finalized before this timeframe, the legal proceedings may be concluded much sooner. However, in the case of a contested divorce, the battle may proceed for months or even years beyond the mandatory six months. Continue reading →

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grey divorceThe grey divorce rate for Americans has been on the rise in recent decades. As couples get older, there may be unique concerns if they decide to part ways. In addition to the usual financial and property division issues, health problems, promises to adult children and/or stepchildren, and retirement income are all of special significance.

Grey Divorce Rates for Americans

Grey divorce rates. While 10% of couples over age 50 divorced in 1990, 25% were divorcing in 2010. For couples in second and third marriages, the rates are even higher. Experts say there are two key reasons for this increase in gray divorce:

  • Changing attitudes about gender roles, dating, and divorce;
  • Empty nesting and other life changes that jolt couples into looking at their satisfaction in the relationship.

When divorce does become the road of choice for greying couples, what are the specific issues that must be considered?

Grey Divorce – When Competency is an Issue

If one party is found to be incompetent, several things might be necessary:

  • The medical findings must be verified by a doctor by examining medical records;
  • A guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed to represent the interests of the individual;
  • Third parties including adult children and financial experts may be consulted;
  • Issues regarding long-term care may need to be addressed;
  • Estate planning and promises made to family members (such as responsibilities for weddings and/or college) must be tackled;
  • The possibility of one spouse dying before the divorce is completed may need to be considered.

Long-Term Care Requirements in a Grey Divorce

In some cases, one or both partners may require long-term care to assist with physical and/or mental deficiencies. This can be costly:

  • On average out-of-home care runs nearly $9,000 annually;
  • When it comes to nursing home care, a semi-private room averages nearly $75,000 per year, while a private room averages well over $80,000 annually;
  • Home health care averages over $20 per hour;
  • Living in an assisted living facility can cost roughly $40,000 annually.

Estate Planning

Couples should also take a look at estate planning documents that may have been drafted in previous years. If one spouse dies during the course of the divorce, the other will inherit the entire estate. Another concern centers around power of attorney. Most divorcing couples would not want their former spouse making end-of-life decisions on their behalf. Beneficiary designations may also be worth taking another look, especially with regard to children and/or stepchildren.

Retirement Income

Because California is a community property state, retirement income may have to be equally divided. Decisions as to when and how to disperse these funds will have to be made. This includes looking at social security income.

Insurance Concerns

One party may no longer be eligible for the other’s health insurance following a divorce. How will this be addressed in the divorce settlement? Continue reading →

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stepchildrenIf divorce is not complicated enough, consider a divorce that takes beloved stepchildren out of one’s life. Stepfamilies face all the same challenges that other families do, making the possibility of divorce a reality for many. Navigating the fallout of a divorce that involves stepchildren may be eased with the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney.

What Impacts Views of Stepchildren Toward Former Stepparents?

Naturally, the age of the children and the duration of the marriage will have a major impact on how stepchildren view a stepparent. One study that looked at stepchildren’s attitudes toward their former stepparents found that certain factors had a large impact on those attitudes:

  • How family members reacted to the divorce itself;
  • Configurations of support and resources during the marriage;
  • Biological parent’s attitudes regarding the stepchild/stepparent relationship;
  • Attitudes of stepchildren regarding who constitutes family for them.

The idea of kinship is crucial in relationships that continue following a divorce. Children who consider a stepparent as family are much more likely to maintain a relationship with that stepparent into adulthood. Because biological and legal ties do not bind these connections, it is up to the individuals involved to create a climate conducive to healthy relations if it is in the best interests of the children.

Best Interests of the Stepchildren

Some parents may wish to wash their hands of their former spouse altogether and resist allowing, let along promoting, a stepchild/stepparent relationship. It is advised that parents use caution as they make decisions in this area. It is important to remember that the length of the marriage may be but a blip in the adults’ lives, while it represents a large portion of a child’s life. The attachments formed over that time may be deep and meaningful. Facilitating a relationship may be an important gift to a child who is already struggling with the loss of routine and normalcy that once defined life for them. Always, always, consider the well-being of children while proceeding with a divorce!

Stepparents Who are Denied Access to Stepchildren

If you are the brokenhearted stepparent who has been exiled from stepchildren, there are a couple of options you could consider:

  • Discuss the circumstances with your attorney to determine if he or she can make a persuasive case for legal access to the kids. In some limited situations, it may be possible;
  • Contemplate discussing the situation with the children’s other biological parent. It is possible you may have an ally there who would share custodial visits with you;
  • Consider approaching grandparents or other individuals close to your ex who might see the value of your maintaining a relationship with the children. Maybe a gentle nudge from an trusted voice could influence your former spouse to rethink harsh positions.

Continue reading →

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divorce ratesThere are many studies examining the factors impacting divorce rates. Researchers can tell you, for example, that you age at the time of marriage, location, and even your parents’ marriage can all impact your chances of divorce. They can tell you that couples with lower incomes have higher divorce rates than those with more money. So, how do those facts relate to education levels and specific professions? Not surprisingly, jobs that require no education beyond a high school diploma correlate to more than double the divorce rate as jobs that require at least a four-year degree. So which jobs are connected to the highest and lowest divorce rates?

High Divorce Rates

The profession linked to the highest divorce rate is gaming managers, with a rate of nearly 53%, closely followed by bartenders and flight attendants. Other occupations in the top 10 include employees in the gaming field, machine workers, switchboard operators, telemarketers, and textile workers. The median salary for most of these occupations is right around $35,000. Let’s contrast that with the median income of professions least likely to experience divorce.

Low Divorce Rates

The profession with the lowest divorce rate is actuaries. They divorce at a rate of just 17%.  Divorcing at a rate of nearly 19 % are scientists, followed by clergy at nearly 20%. Included on the list of professions with the lowest divorce rates are software developers, physical therapists, optometrists, chemical engineers, and doctors, who wrap up the top-10 most marriage-friendly professions with a divorce rate of 21.8%. The median income for these professions is $75,000.

What Does it Mean?

What conclusions can be drawn from this information? Should singles who hope to marry avoid bartenders and aim instead for insurance actuaries? Surely your chosen profession cannot be a direct cause for divorce, can it? Researchers are quick to point out that while a correlation between particular occupations and divorce rates is unquestionable, there is absolutely no research proving that a given profession causes divorce. Interestingly, the nature of the occupation seems to be less of a factor than the actual income associated with it.

Other Divorce Rates Factors of Note

Another fact that stood out in the research links job instability to divorce. When workers face lay-offs, or shrinking opportunity, it can lead to increased credit card debt, higher health care costs, and all of the associated stresses of financial insecurity. The compounding emotional costs can be onerous. Continue reading →

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infidelityThe infidelity statistics in this country are astounding. If you are married to someone who does not know the meaning of fidelity, you are not alone. If you are married to a serial cheater, you have probably considered divorce. Should you get to the point that the relationship is just not worth it anymore, an experienced divorce attorney can help.

Infidelity by the Numbers

More people surveyed reported infidelity than many of us would imagine. Consider the 2017 statistics:

  • One or both partners report to infidelity in over 30% of marriages;
  • Nearly ¼ of men admit to infidelity;
  • Women confess to cheating at a rate of 14%;
  • More than one-third of cheaters say the affair was with someone at work;
  • Almost one-fifth of cheaters say it happened with an in-law;
  • Over one-third of cheating occurs on business trips;
  • One in 10 affairs start with an online experience;
  • Women report revenge as a motive for affairs 14% of the time.
  • After cheating once, cheaters are 350% more likely to indulge again than those who have never cheated;
  • Affairs most often occur two years into a marriage.

How to Get Out of the Marriage

Experts have several suggestions as to how to proceed once you have made up your mind to leave your cheating spouse. Consider the following:

  • Make a confidential appointment with a divorce attorney, and keep it to yourself. If your spouse suspects that you are considering divorce, it may prompt some scurrying to hide evidence of the affair or of assets. Keep your plans close to the vest.
  • Do not fool yourself into believing your spouse will be fair and rational in this process. Protect yourself, your assets, your children, and everything else. Assume the worst. It will will be much better to be pleasantly surprised than to be devastatingly betrayed.
  • Move your half of any liquid assets into your own private account. California is a community property state, meaning that you are entitled to your half. Cheaters generally have secret money hidden somewhere, so do some sleuthing or hire someone to do it for you.
  • Do not allow yourself to be manipulated. If you have decided to split, you have some good reasons, right? There is no point in complaining about how hurt you are and giving your spouse the chance to make promises that will not be kept. Your spouse does not care about you, clearly.  Do not present any opportunities for your soon-to-be ex to exploit any feelings you may have.
  • Believe in yourself and stay focused on getting the life you deserve. You did not come to this decision easily, did you? Things will be tough, but never forget that you deserve a satisfying life. Fight for it.

Continue reading →

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legal separationIf your marriage just is not working, perhaps it has crossed your mind for your and your spouse to take a break from one another. Many couples feel unease about the finality of a complete split and opt for a legal separation in lieu of a divorce. Knowledge about the process and legalities of legal separation can help couples to make informed, well-reasoned decisions.

What is a Legal Separation?

The truth is, a legal separation gives couples the chance to divide their assets and debts and live separate lives if they choose, without completely terminating the marriage. The process is similar to that of divorce, with one person filing for the separation, and the other responding. Assets must be declared, custody arrangements must be made if minor children are involved, and support payments must be agreed upon. Ultimately, the couple becomes two separate entities, while retaining their legal marital status.

Some Legal Terminology to Know

Those entering such an agreement may be unfamiliar with some key terminology that will be applicable to their circumstances:

  • Date of Separation: This is the date that reflects the intent of the couple to separate, and is the date around which community property determinations are made. Any assets and debts accrued before this date will be split evenly between the parties, whereas anything attained after this day will belong to the individual who acquired it.
  • Judgment of Legal Separation: This is a document addressing the agreements upon the attainment of legal separation. It includes financial matters, custody issues, and support arrangements.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Legal Separation?

There is no waiting period for a legal separation to go into effect, assuming both parties agree to the stipulations in the Judgment of Legal Separation, nor are there residency requirements associated with legal separation in California. Once that document is signed, the final Judgment may be entered and the separation is legit. So, as soon as the paperwork is complete, couples can become legally separated.

Benefits

Couples have many reasons to consider legal separation rather than severing the marriage altogether. Some common factors include:

  • Indecision as to the desired outcomes;
  • Health insurance issues;
  • Immigration concerns;
  • Religious beliefs forbidding divorce.

Tax Implications

Your marital status is important to consider as you file with the IRS. You are allowed to file as Single, and may claim Head of Household if you keep a household for a minor child. Likewise, you could choose to file as Married, or as Married filing separately. Continue reading →

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living togetherLiving together? Research has long indicated that couples who wed at a young age are more likely to divorce than their older counterparts. What about couples who choose to move in together before tying the knot?

Living Together – What the Numbers Reveal

Studies suggest that couples who live together actually experience more stress than those who are married. In fact, nearly half of cohabiting couples choose not to get married at all. Of those who do eventually tie the knot, the risk of divorce is higher than for couples who never lived together. However, if those couples make it past seven years in a marriage, the chance for divorce drops off to be equal to the rate for couples who did not cohabitate prior to marriage.  Here are some other facts of note:

  • Couples who live together separate five times more often than married couples do, and reconcile one-third as often.
  • Infidelity is a more likely occurrence for cohabitating couples than for married ones;
  • Domestic violence rates are higher among couples who lived together prior to marriage;
  • Couples who live together before marriage typically earn less than their married counterparts throughout life.
  • Depression and substance abuse levels are higher among couples who cohabitate than for married couples.

Living Together and Commitment Theory

Some research indicates that couples who marry after living together tend to simply slide into the greater commitment of marriage because it seems a logical next step, whereas couples who actually choose to move from single life to marriage make a committed decision. The theory is that couples living together do not weigh the love factor as heavily as those who do not cohabitate.

Age is Still the Key Determining Factor of Marriage Success

On the other hand, according to one researcher, the age at which couples commit is the issue, whether it involves formal I do’s or not. The decision to live together or to get married right out of high school has statistically shaky results. So, how old is old enough?

Studies indicate that by age 23, when most individuals have had the opportunity to graduate from college and achieve financial independence, they are more successful in committed relationships.

Living Together – Erroneous Assumptions

Whether couples decide that cohabitation is a good step for their relationship or not, they should not misconstrue the difference between cohabitation and marriage. Cohabitation is necessarily more ambiguous than marriage, often with lesser commitment and/or responsibility. Many couples view it as a bit of a test, providing an easier way out if circumstances dictate. Continue reading →

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divorce courtNobody loves divorce court, despite the fact that roughly half of couples will spend some time there. If you are on your way to see the judge, you may not know what to expect or how to prepare for the big day. Your divorce attorney can give you an idea of the physical structure of the room and the basics of what to anticipate. Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Promptness Counts in Divorce Court

It should go without saying, but by all means, be on time to court. In fact, be early.  If you are late or do not show up at all, it gives the court a bad impression. Beyond that, you are giving your ex the opportunity to put his or her version of things into the court record without any opportunity to refute it. This is a big day: Be on time.

What to Say in Divorce Court

You will be asked questions. When that happens, answer them with as little fanfare as possible.  Stick to the facts directly related to the actual question, not the back-story or related events. You do not want to waste the judge’s time and wear his or her patience. Whatever you do, do not speak out of turn or interrupt. Treat everyone in the room, including your ex, with respect.  Listen carefully, and provide considered responses.

What Not to Say in Divorce Court

It should be obvious, but bears pointing out: Do not use expletives or colorful language that is offensive. Avoid any displays of agitation or skepticism, from eye rolling to facial expressions revealing disgust. No pounding the table, gasps, sighs, or headshakes. You want to maintain a respectful demeanor from beginning to end.

What to Wear to Divorce Court

When you are headed to court to end your marriage, you will not have control of the proceedings or what your soon-to-be ex has to say. What you will have control of  is yourself. So, putting some thought into what to wear and the image you wish to present is worth considering.  Choosing precisely the right attire for court can be tricky. Here are some basic tips to consider while eyeing your own wardrobe:

  • Whatever your station in life, pull yourself together into a neat, clean package. Demonstrate self-respect, organization, and stability.
  • Choose classic, yet elegant styles. It demonstrates that you are used to quality and that you are upstanding and respectable.
  • Avoid anything that is ostentatious or suggestive. You do not want to look like a gold-digger.

Here is is how a few celebrities addressed the issue of what to wear in court:

  • In her divorce from Matthew Mellon, Tamara Mellon chose a grey pencil skirt and cardigan to project a look of confidence and control.
  • Nigella Lawson, in her divorce from Charles Saatchi, showed up to court in a black tailored suit, demonstrating that she was well put together and self-assured.
  • Natasha Ramlogan always wore modest black dresses and heels for court appearances, creating a look of simple feminine elegance.

Continue reading →

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family petCustody of the family pet as a negotiation tool in a divorce? Divorce can involve much more than property disputes and ways to carve up assets and debts. If you are concerned about what is going to happen to Fido when the split occurs, you are not alone. After all, about half of marriages in this country wind up in divorce, and over 60% of households have a pet. So, when the marriage comes to an end, where do the cuddly creatures wind up?

It can be a Battle if You Both Love the Family Pet

If you are a pet owner, you may not find it hard to believe that many individuals cannot imagine life without coming home to a wagging tail or a purring pet. Many people have extremely tight connections with their family pet. Particularly when they have been in a loveless marriage, people tend to look for affection and comfort from the non-judgmental, unfiltered adoration of their pets.  When both partners have that kind of bond with a pet, there is a good possibility that neither will feel good about losing that connection, and the courts may have to intervene.

Using a Family Pet as Leverage in a Divorce

Sometimes only one partner is particularly attached to the family pet, and the other partner knows it and uses that information as a weapon in the divorce.  Nasty divorces are certainly not the exception. If you cherish your pet, do not be surprised if your vengeful spouse uses it as a negotiation tool. The threat to gain custody in order to get you to give up something of financial value is not unheard of. Do not give in to extortion. California is a community property state.  The pet is worth a certain dollar amount, in many cases not more than the value of your patio furniture. Do not be bullied into giving up the equity in your home to keep your furry friend.

Keeping Your Family Pet

If it comes down to a judicial decision, several factors will come into play in determining pet custody. In many ways, the court considers what is in the best interest of the pet:

  • Is there a prenuptial agreement dealing with custody? If so, that may solve the problem.
  • Did one of you own the pet prior to getting married? If so, that person may have a stronger claim to the pet.
  • Who is the pet’s primary caregiver? The feeding, medical care, and cleanup responsibilities may indicate that one person is a better or more consistent caregiver. You could get evidence of this, such as letters from neighbors attesting to the fact that you regularly walk the pooch, or a note from the vet extolling your fantastic pet-parenting skills. Even receipts from the pet store showing that you made pet purchases, or the pet license with your signature on it are indicators that you are the primary individual who cares for your pet.
  • Whose life is best equipped to handle a pet? Where you live, the hours away from home, and the travel schedule you keep are all under consideration in a contested pet-custody case.

Continue reading →

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spousal support for menSpousal support for men. Courts often award spousal support to lesser earning spouses following a divorce. While nearly half a million people in this country receive this maintenance support, only 3% of recipients are male. Why is that?

Why is Spousal Support for Men so Rare?

It seems crazy that such a small percentage of men receive spousal support when roughly 40% of females are the primary breadwinners in American homes. Family law attorneys speculate on key reasons for this imbalance:

  • Men consider it emasculating to require support, so they do not ask for it;
  • Men sometimes want a clean break with no attachments;
  • Some men wish to keep the peace to make co-parenting smoother;
  • Women fight bitterly to keep their hands on their earnings;
  • Judges in parts of the country have a difficult time accepting gender equality.

One San Francisco Bay area legal mind agrees, saying he encounters stereotypes regarding gender roles all the time. A recent divorcee compared palimony to hitting a girl – something no self-respecting man would ever do.

Are Gender Roles Shifting?

As much as gender roles have shifted in modern times, many men find the idea of receiving an allowance from their former spouse humiliating, and they are just not inclined to go through the battle to get it. Meanwhile, women’s attitudes toward paying their ex-husbands reinforce the idea that any man who can not support himself is a real loser. Forget the fact that stay-at-home dads gave up careers and educational opportunities while they ran the kids to soccer games and piano lessons for years. As enlightened as couples might have been when they made those parenting agreements earlier on, suddenly the old stereotypes crop up again when it comes to palimony.  

So, when higher-earning men face divorce, they go into it accepting the fact that alimony may likely be a part of the package. Higher earning women are much less inclined to be willing to let go of their earnings without a fight.

Spousal Support for Men Justified?

Regardless of gender, there are cases in which spousal support is clearly justified. Both partners presumably brought some level of value to the partnership, often at great financial cost to one person. Support is the logical outcome after a divorce.

Spousal Support for Men – California Law

In California, the court has many factors to consider when awarding spousal support, but gender is not one of them. More relevant to maintenance payments are the following issues:

  • Earning capacity of both parties;
  • Education and marketable skills of each party;
  • Earning levels of one party that were diminished due to domestic responsibilities;
  • The degree to which one party supported another in obtaining education or career opportunities;
  • Financial needs required to maintain the standard of living to which the couple has become accustomed;
  • Length of marriage;
  • Ability to pursue gainful employment in light of childcare responsibilities;
  • Age of each person;
  • Health of each party.

Continue reading →

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