Published on:

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 →

Published on:

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 →

Published on:

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 →

Published on:

marriage bluesDo you have a case of marriage blues? Is the spontaneity missing from your marriage? Is your routine so predictable that you feel like you are sleepwalking through your relationship? If so, you are one of many couples who feel marriage is not nearly the paradise you were hoping for when you tied the knot.

Marriage Blues – Underlying Problems

Frequently, when relationships start to become stale, there are stresses on the couple that may wear on the energy and enthusiasm partners bring to their interactions. Some common stressors include:

  • Finances;
  • Long work hours;
  • Health issues;
  • Demands from the kids;
  • Lack of intimacy.

When there is a cloud over all of a couple’s interactions, individuals may begin to feel unhappy, to blame one another, or to start drifting apart.

Defeating the Marriage Blues – Connection

Partners who make an effort to connect with one another in small ways experience more fulfilling relationships that tend to last. In one study of couples’ connections, those who connected only 33% of the time were divorced within six years, whereas those who connected 87% of the time were still married six years later.

Shared Time

If you are not prioritizing time with each other, you can not really expect a fruitful outcome. So, if your partner truly is important, do not wait to express it. Sit down together often just to share your thoughts, enjoy a moment, or hold hands.

Date Night

Some couples try to keep their marriage alive by going on regular date nights. One psychology professor who studied such couples found that repeating the same date over and over is actually less satisfying than you might think. Instead, he suggests mixing it up, and having more exciting dates that are out of the norm. Instead of dinner and a movie, choose a community play or a day at the beach. Challenge one another to do something new and different.

Negative Thinking

For some, it is going to take more than a few fun outings to spice up the marriage. What if when one person makes an effort to do something nice, the other partner becomes full of suspicion rather than gratitude? Clearly, there are underlying issues in such a relationship, and both people need to be ready and willing to get to the bottom of it. One person cannot save a marriage independent of the other. Continue reading →

Published on:

prenuptial agreementIf you are considering getting married, you may be tossing around the idea of having a prenuptial agreement (prenup) made. What exactly are these documents, and is such an agreement the right thing for you? If you are not sure, an experienced family law attorney can answer your questions.

Prenuptial Agreement – The Basics

In California, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act defines prenups, otherwise referred to as premarital agreements. Essentially, they are documents (never simply oral agreements) that take effect once the couple is married. They contain a broad definition of property (basically anything of value), and lay out financial guidelines for the couple. In the event of a divorce, a prenup may spell out requirements for spousal support, but these specifications may not play out as expected.

Spousal Support

Although a couple may agree to the particulars of spousal support when they are engaged, circumstances may be quite different at the time of a divorce. Therefore, these provisions may not be followed as written. Factors impacting the enforceability of spousal support provisions include:

  • Whether or not the recipient of spousal support had independent counsel at the time the agreement was drafted;
  • Whether the financial status of the person expected to pay spousal support is significantly higher or lower than it was at the time the document was drafted.

What is NOT in a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial agreements are not intended to deal with the responsibilities of the parties during the marriage. You will not find expectations related to household duties or sexual activity in these documents. Nor can parties spell out consequences for adultery. Furthermore, prenuptial agreements may not address issues related to children such as custody, visitation, or child support following the dissolution of a marriage.

Common Prenuptial Agreement Mistakes Couples Make

Couples dealing with premarital agreements frequently make a number of easily avoidable mistakes. You can avoid headaches by circumventing the problems that sink some couples who are investigating such a contract:

  • Refusing to discuss having a prenup because it is awkward: Get used to facing difficult conversations now. Talking about it is the only way to come to consensus;
  • Sharing an attorney: Each person should have his or her own representation in these situations;
  • Giving in to concessions that make you uncomfortable: Do not drop an issue just because you want to get the whole thing over with. Stick to your guns and make sure the agreement reflects your wishes.
  • Letting emotions dictate your behavior: This is a business transaction like any other. Think it through, and make logical, calm decisions.

Continue reading →

Published on:

child supportChild support. Raising children is expensive. When a couple chooses not to raise their child together, it does not absolve either parent of the financial responsibilities associated with raising that child. From a legal standpoint, some amount of child support is mandatory from both parents, and failing to provide that support could result in civil and/or criminal consequences. If you are concerned about child-support calculations, a good family law attorney may be helpful.

Obtaining Child Support

There are several circumstances wherein a court may order child support. They include:

  • Divorce;
  • Legal separation;
  • Paternity cases.

Income Considered in Child Support Determinations

Net disposable incomes of both parents are examined when making child support determinations.  The mathematical calculation used to determine the amount of support ordered by the court considers any and all income, including:

  • Salary, wages or earnings from self-employment;
  • Commission;
  • Tips;
  • Benefits from unemployment;
  • Workers’ compensation benefits;
  • Disability benefits;
  • Social security benefits;
  • Pension payouts;
  • Interest or dividend payments;
  • Lottery or other winnings.

Once the gross income is determined for each parent, the net disposable income is calculated by subtracting costs such as:

  • Taxes;
  • Mandatory union dues;
  • Health care premiums;
  • Required contributions to retirement accounts;
  • Costs associated with raising children from other relationships.

Other Considerations

The court will consider other factors, including childcare costs, school expenses, health care costs, and costs associated with visitation when parents live far apart. Some of these expenses are considered add-ons and may be divided equally between parents, or contributions may be based on each person’s disposable income. Additionally, children with special needs may incur further expenses to be considered by the court.

Once the final income calculations have been made, a child support payment is calculated based on the percentage of time the child spends with each parent.

Documentation Needed for Child Support

In order to make the most accurate calculations, parents will be asked to provide a number of documents, including:

  • Tax returns for the past year or two;
  • Paystubs from the past few months;
  • Insurance premium documentation;
  • Certification of mandatory retirement contributions;
  • Child support and spousal support information for other relationships;
  • Receipts for child care costs;
  • Other costs related to extraordinary circumstances.
What Happens to Parents Who do Not Pay Child Support?

Payment of child support is a serious business. When child support payments are not made, the consequences can be embarrassing and troublesome. Wages may be garnished, credit ratings may be impacted, and liens may be placed on property. There are additional consequences that many people do not know about: Passports may not be issued or renewed, and driver’s licenses could be revoked or suspended. The IRS could capture past due funds from tax refunds, and other government funds such as unemployment or workers’ compensation may be taken. Ultimately, criminal charges may be filed with associated fines and jail time. Continue reading →

Published on:

domestic violence superbowl sundayDomestic violence is an epidemic in this country that directly impacts roughly 20 people every minute throughout the United States. Studies indicate that holidays and special events that often revolve around alcohol consumption tend to see an escalation in domestic violence episodes, meaning the weeks ahead could prove to be dangerous for many households. If you suspect potential violence is in your future, a good family lawyer may be able to provide some legal options to help keep you safe.

The Nature of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (DV) involves people who formerly or currently are experiencing intimate relationships with each other. In addition to the physical assaults that leave visible evidence, DV can also involve coercive behavior, bullying, threats, and manipulation. Batterers may engage in any number of behaviors, including:

  • Isolation: Keeping the victim away from family members and other support networks, controlling time and movements, criticizing friends and family, and discrediting the victim in social groups such as church or the workplace;
  • Economic abuse: Controlling the finances, not allowing earnings to occur, ruining credit ratings;
  • Psychological abuse: Verbally attacking vulnerabilities, humiliating, ignoring feelings, stalking, degrading, and other demeaning mind games;
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual name-calling, jealousy, forced sex, denying contraception;
  • Physical abuse: Locking the abused in or out of the home, spitting, biting, scratching, hitting, shoving, strangling, burning, kicking, or throwing objects at the victim.

When looking at the symptoms of domestic violence, there seems to be one key undercurrent – issues of control.

Do Domestic Violence Incidents Increase on Super Bowl Sunday?

There does appear to be evidence that incidents of domestic violence may surge on Super Bowl Sunday. Some blame it on testosterone-filled rooms and angry fans. Others associate it with high levels of alcohol consumption. Whatever the confluence of factors, we know that DV has the underpinnings of control, and many who study the problem are convinced that this one day of the year poses a particular risk to individuals in unhealthy relationships.

Domestic Violence and Getting a Restraining Order

If you are in a relationship in which you feel controlled by someone else, you may very well be a victim of domestic violence. Studies indicate that disputes about infidelity, chronic substance abuse, and untreated issues related to mental health can all be red flags. Before things get out of control, you should consider getting a restraining order against someone who has violent tendencies.

Do not put yourself and your children at risk by listening to tearful apologies from your abuser or promises for happier times. The fact is that circumstances generally do not improve without significant intervention. Continue reading →

Published on:

divorce attorneyIs there a divorce attorney in your future? If so, there is no doubt a number of emotions swirling through you right now. Whether you are initiating the proceedings or you are reacting to the demands of your spouse who’s hired a divorce attorney , the coming months will hold many challenges. Now, more than ever, it is essential that you keep a clear head and proceed with decorum and grace. And certainly, find a divorce attorney who connects with you.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney – Think Before You Act

Yes, you’re upset. Sure, you have valid reasons for feeling that way. Keep the end goal in mind as you maneuver through the coming days, weeks, and months. Ultimately, you want to get through this unscathed and emotionally healthy, so avoid some of the common pitfalls that befall vulnerable individuals facing stressful situations:

  • Avoid name-calling and derogatory remarks, particularly if you have children. Chances are that type of behavior will come back to bite you.
  • Be sensible with your social media accounts. Do not post nasty messages about your ex, ridiculous partying pics, or threats to “get even.”
  • Do not move out if you want custody of the kids. It could diminish your chances.
  • Do not rack up a bunch of debt on credit cards just to stick it to your ex. Judges see through that kind of childish behavior.
  • Start cataloging your possessions. California is a community property state. Anything accumulated during the course of the marriage will be evenly split.
  • Document concerns if you want to fight for custody. It could be a tough battle.
  • Be prepared for claims against you by being totally open with your attorney.
  • Make sure items of personal value to you are safe. You do not want an angry spouse destroying your heirlooms in an effort to get under your skin. By the same token, do not be a knucklehead yourself. Preserve items that are particularly meaningful to your spouse.
  • Make copies of important documents, account numbers, and tax information.
  • Focus on moving forward, not on injuring your ex;

After the Divorce

You might feel empty, bludgeoned, or angry after it is all over. Follow these tips to get emotionally and physically healthy after a divorce:

  • Give yourself time to mourn. You have lost something and it is ok to feel bad.
  • Work through emotions before you start a new relationship.
  • Focus on your own good qualities. You have a lot to offer.
  • Figure out what you like to do for fun, and do it.
  • Shake it up. Get out of old routines and create new ones.
  • Explore your town as a single person. Being alone does not have to mean being lonely.
  • Move forward. Your life is different, and so are you. Embrace it with gusto.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Spousal Support Tax Law ChangeHow does the new spousal support tax law for 2018 affect couples currently divorcing or considering a divorce? On Friday, December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the new tax reform bill into law. The changes went into effect on January 1, 2018.

The tax law preceding the new tax reform bill of 2018 made payments of spousal support (alimony) deductible to the payor and taxable to the recipient.

The prior law held: “Amounts paid to a spouse or a former spouse under a divorce or separation instrument (including a divorce decree, a separate maintenance decree, or a written separation agreement) may be alimony for federal tax purposes. Alimony is deductible by the payer spouse, and the recipient spouse must include it in income.”

Spousal Support Tax Law Change

Under the new law, spousal support is no longer tax deductible to the payor nor is it taxable to the recipient. While the new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018, this change will not affect anyone who is divorced prior to December 31, 2018. Consequently, parties who divorce prior to that date will be “grandfathered” in to the old law regarding tax consequences of spousal support. There will be no effect on those parties who divorced prior to December 31, 2018.

The number of payors of spousal support who took the support deduction on their federal tax returns in 2015 was approximately 600,000. While nothing will change for them, the payors who divorce after December 31, 2018 will no longer have the benefit of deducting their support payments.

The new spousal support tax law rules won’t affect anyone who divorces or signs a separation agreement before 2019, but undoubtedly this new spousal support tax law will change the landscape of divorce cases, family law litigation and settlements for years to come in terms of how parties approach spousal support. Continue reading →

Published on:

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 →

Contact Information