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stay at home dadAre you a stay at home dad who is contemplating divorce? As society adapts its expectations as to the make-up and configuration of American families, the courts have had to take a look at age-old traditions when it comes to dealing with issues of child custody, spousal support, and other matters when couples decide to call it quits. Even though every state in the union has laws on the books prohibiting such decisions from being based on gender, sometimes fatherhood is still considered less-than in a divorce. If you are a stay-at-home dad who is contemplating divorce, having your rights protected by an experienced local attorney could mean the difference between misery and satisfaction in the years ahead.

Stay at Home Dad – Custody and Visitation

In California, decisions regarding custody and visitation are required to be based on the best interests of the child. Generally factors such as the age of the children, parents’ roles in caregiving, and the health and safety of the child are weighed heavily. If Dad has been the primary caregiver, the courts must give this strong consideration when looking at physical custody assignments.

Child Support Payments – Stay at Home Dad

The amount of child support the custodial parent receives is the first thing the court will address, before ever looking at spousal support. It will be determined based on the other spouse’s net income, but the court will consider payments made to support other children, health care premiums, and mandatory payments for union dues and/or retirement programs.

Spousal Support

As a stay-at-home dad, chances are your earnings were significantly less than your spouse’s—if not altogether nonexistent. A number of factors are considered when making spousal support determinations, none of them designed to be punitive to either party. Some key factors the court will look at include:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • Your ability to maintain a similar lifestyle as the one experienced during the marriage;
  • Your ability to earn a living without it having a significant impact on your child-care responsibilities;
  • Any domestic violence issues;
  • The age and health of both you and your spouse.

Support payments may be temporary or permanent, depending on these and other factors. Continue reading →

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grounds for divorceWhat are the legal grounds for divorce in California? Not every marriage results in the happily ever after that couples so hoped of achieving. In fact, the current divorce rate in this  country sits at somewhere between 40 and 50%. What we know about divorce—the causes, and the challenges, may not surprise most married people.

Psychological Tasks

Psychologists say that marriages that fail typically have one or both partners who simply have not succeeded with certain essential psychological tasks:

  • Shifting one’s emotional identity from the family they grew up in to their new family;
  • Building an intimate couple identity, while keeping autonomous boundaries alive to protect individual identity, as well;
  • Protecting the sexual relationship from family or workplace intrusions;
  • Sharing in parenting roles, while protecting the private adult relationship;
  • Teaming up together to confront challenges;
  • Laughing together to keep things in perspective;
  • Being available to comfort one another; nurturing one’s partner through good times and bad;
  • Keeping romance alive, despite the harsh realities of life.

Grounds for Divorce in California

Failing to build a psychologically tight knit union can ultimately be disastrous.  So what are the legal grounds for divorce in California?

One less commonly used ground for divorce is incurable insanity. More often, however, because California is a no-fault divorce state, one partner simply claims that there are irreconcilable differences that caused the breakdown of the marriage. That can cover pretty much any reason you can come up with. Most divorce attorneys have heard some pretty interesting stories…

Grounds for Divorce – Believe it or Not…

Clearly, a strong psychological foundation creates the basis for a hardy and healthy relationship. When couples fail to build a life together, marriages tend to eventually crack and fall apart.  Consider these unusual stories:

  • The grounds for divorce for one California woman was that when, after 22 years of marriage she discovered that her husband had voted for the current president of the United States. She felt the vote was a betrayal, which opened areas of dissention they had never before faced.
  • Following 25 years of marriage, another woman in California attempted to make a clean break from what her husband had believed to be a happy relationship. It turns out that, unbeknownst to him, the woman had won over $1 million in the California lotto.  Thinking she’d struck it rich, she hoped to skip out on the marriage and live happily ever after with the cash. Not so fast, said the Los Angeles judge over the case. After discovering that she had failed to disclose all of her assets, the judge gave all of her winnings the man she had hoped to deceive. Her ex-husband wound up without his sneaky wife, but with her secret cache of lottery winnings.

Continue reading →

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child custody evaluationsThe court will often resort to relying on child custody evaluations when there are volatile child custody issues in a divorce proceeding, or if for some reason parents cannot come to an agreement regarding child custody. Child custody evaluations, are conducted by qualified mental health professionals, to make determinations related to the legal and the physical custody of children. Psychologists, whose goal it is to address questions related to the best interest of the child, often conduct these evaluations.

Understanding California Child Custody Evaluations

There are two key components to child custody in California:

  • Physical custody relates to the living arrangements of the child.  Either parent may be awarded primary custody, or shared (joint) custody may be given to both parents.
  • Legal custody refers to decision-making powers.  It, too, may be solely or jointly awarded. The parent(s) who have legal custody have the ability to make conclusive decisions related to religious activity, education, medical issues, travel, and other important matters.

Preparing for a Child Custody Evaluation

It is no doubt stressful to even consider undergoing such a high-stakes evaluation. Even the most competent individual with the most outstanding parenting skills tends to be a bit intimidated when under the microscope. Some suggestions to get through it with as little stress as possible include:

  • Choose cooperation over obstinacy. You may resent the entire process, but you will be much better off if you accommodate evaluators, who might otherwise interpret your resistance in a negative way.
  • Treat the evaluation as a job interview. Put your best foot forward by displaying confidence, honesty, positivity, and punctuality. Obviously, express the love and concern you have for your child.
  • Have documentation related to your child ready for the interview.
  • Show the evaluator in word and deed that you have the best interests of your child in the forefront.  

How is the Child Custody Evaluation Conducted?

A number of strategies may be employed over a period of time to learn about the child including:

  • Running observations of the child in various settings;
  • Scheduling interviews with parents;
  • Conducting clinical interviews with the child;
  • Administering psychological tests;
  • Weighing other available documentation, like school records, medical records, and childcare records.

Additionally, extended family, friends, teachers, and other individuals who are familiar with and knowledgeable about the child may be contacted for relevant information. When all data is gathered, it will be evaluated by the psychologist and recommendations will be made to the court based on the best interests of the child. Continue reading →

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questioning my marriageQuestioning my marriage and asking what is the difference between a good marriage and a bad one? While the routines and expectations for every couple is different, one thing is for sure: Even couples in healthy relationships don’t necessarily begin and end every day floating through their relationships unburdened with the weight of questions that haunt those in unhealthy, unhappy marriages:

  • Should I stay or should I go?
  • Is this what marriage is all about?
  • Is this as good as it gets?
  • Are either of us happy?
  • Do I like my spouse?
  • Is this “normal?”

If you are lucky enough to go through every day without asking yourself these questions, or if from time to time some thought is given to such questions but dismissed, then you have already unconsciously made the determination that your marriage is worth it, and you are all in. If, on the other hand, you question whether or not you are in the right place, its time to get honest with yourself.

A Marriage Worth Fighting for

In the event that you are seriously unhappy, it is time to own up to the situation and make some tough choices. Is the life you have created worth fighting for? Is there still a flame there? Do you admire and respect the person to whom you are married? If so, it is possible that you are just in a slump and need to find ways to revitalize your relationship. Experts provide some advice on how to do this:

  • Forgive past mistakes and move forward;
  • Play 20 questions;
  • Plan a getaway;
  • Learn something new together;
  • Schedule a meal with just the two of you on a weekly basis;
  • Be lazy together. Just hang out with movies and junk food to decompress;
  • Show appreciation in new ways:  a note on his windshield, a card mailed to her office, anything novel to bring a smile to your partner.

Questioning My Marriage and Recognizing Things Are Not Going to Work Out

What if you really do not like your spouse? Does the idea of a getaway makes you nauseous, and would you would be far happier working all weekend than spending a day on the couch watching movies together? If you just can not imagine reigniting the flame, or if it was never there to begin with, acknowledging the situation for what it is can feel like a breath of fresh air.  Now, finally, you will begin to see your options.

No One Will Believe it!

You think this will come as a big shock to others. Really? Do you honestly think your kids, your friends, and your family has been fooled all this time? Think about it. Unhappiness is easy to spot:

  • A polite (or not-so-polite) tension hangs over every activity;
  • Snappy tones, eye-rolling, or other telltale signs are clear;
  • That playfulness of the early days has become obligatory civility;
  • There is always an excuse for why you do not show up as a couple;

Continue reading →

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court ordered child supportNon-custodial parents are required by law to provide some level of financial support (court ordered child support payments) to their children in any divorce decree. That being said, why are custodial parents owed nearly $20 billion in California alone? If you have hit a wall when it comes to collecting child support payments from your child’s parent, an experienced local attorney might be helpful.

Court Ordered Child Support Payments – Why?

Parents are obliged to provide for their children, whether or not they are, or have ever been, married. If an individual contests the claim of fatherhood, a paternity test can clear matters up rather quickly. At that point, some amount of child support is legally required for biological children. This court ordered child support is intended to assist in providing a home, food, clothing, and other basic needs. Even if earnings are minimal, the responsibility to contribute to that child’s well-being is indisputable, and court ordered child support payments will generally be enforced until that child is no longer a minor.  Children with special needs may need support beyond that time.

What to do if Court Ordered Child Support Payments are Not Made

In many circumstances, parents work out among themselves how court ordered child support payments will be made. In other situations, parents are forced to ask for wages to be garnished in order to collect court-ordered child support. These earnings assignments direct an employer to withhold support payments from regular paychecks. Within 10 days of receiving the garnishment order, employers must begin holding back funds. Theses monies will be sent to the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU), and will ultimately be sent to the custodial parent.

If the Non-paying Spouse is Not Regularly Employed

A number of things can be done to motivate parents who are not making court-ordered child support payments, including:

  • It can be reported to credit reporting agencies and impact the individual’s credit rating;
  • Passport applications can be denied to persons owing $2,500 or more in back child support;
  • Property liens may be filed against land or houses owned by the individual;
  • Drivers’ licenses and state-issued professional licenses, such as those for cosmetology, teaching, contracting, medicine and others,  may be withheld or revoked;
  • Vehicles, boats, cash, and property can be taken by the Franchise Tax Board if late payments exceed $100 and are more than two months past due;
  • Tax refunds can be intercepted.
  • Unemployment and disability benefits can be captured;

Continue reading →

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divorce or separationIt is easy to fall into the trap of making nasty remarks and selfish grabs for power and material possessions when going through a divorce or separation. After all, chances are you have some pretty big chasms of perspective when it comes to your ex. Even so, a good attorney will advise you that in order to get through your divorce with the least amount of damage, it is best to remain respectful and courteous at all times.

Divorce or Separation – Think Clearly

You may have plenty of reason to be angry, wounded, or vengeful, but put those feelings aside and think about the final outcome you would like to achieve. Stabbing at your former spouse’s vulnerabilities and inflaming already negative emotions will only encourage the same coming back twofold. Along those lines, avoid humiliating your ex by serving divorce papers in a public place, posting unflattering pictures or comments on social media, or otherwise shaming them. You are going to be attempting to reach a settlement. Do not cut yourself off at the knees before negotiations even get started.

Do Not Say Mean Things

There will be arguments, of course, but there is absolutely no reason to make accusations or threats. It is something that will demoralize your former spouse and paint you in a bit of an ugly light, as well. You really do not want a protective order issued against you; nor do you want anything you say or do to indicate that you are unstable. That could be particularly damaging if custody and/or visitation issues will be a part of your split.

Do Not Put the Kids in the Middle of a Divorce or Separation

Do not forget the innocents in this process – your children. Chances are they are going to suffer to some degree regardless of how amicable things are between the adults. Do not make things more difficult for the little ones by engaging them in discussions that disparage their other parent, by making visitation difficult, or by otherwise making them have to choose a favorite parent.

Divide Things Fairly

Although you definitely do not want the property division to be lopsided toward your former spouse, you also do not want to be petty and cheat your ex out of whatever he or she rightfully deserves. Be honest, be reasonable, and go into discussions knowing that you will likely have to part with something you wish you could keep. That is just what happens in divorce.

Deal With the Divorce Before Getting Into Another Relationship

In a challenging situation, the last thing you want to do is make it more volatile by bringing a third person onto the mix. Watching you enjoy a wonderful romance is likely to have a negative impact on your ex. That can mean anything from pensiveness to revenge. So, play it safe and hold off on new relationships. If you absolutely can not put it off, be discreet, by all means. Continue reading →

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parental alienationWhen a divorce gets particularly bitter, parents sometimes resort to parental alienation, using the children as pawns throughout the process. Kids wind up fiercely loyal to one parent, while rejecting the other, all with the encouragement and support of the favored parent. While the nasty feelings between adults may be justified, when children are pulled into the drama in order to boost a parent’s ego or to hurt a former spouse, it can be horrendous. What are the implications of this type of manipulation over time?

Parental Alienation

Psychiatrists report that parental alienation (PA) leads to serious pain for children of divorce. After all, when children are forced to pick sides in a divorce, they necessarily must choose which of two beloved parents to adore and which to cast off. This can lead to problems for children, including:

  • Depression and lowered self-image;
  • Inability to form trusting relationships;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Self-loathing.

Detecting Parental Alienation

When PA becomes part of a child’s life, judgments become black and white. One parent is all-wonderful, the other is a complete ogre. There are no nuances, no benefit of the doubt for the targeted parent. Every word and action is immediately judged in the most negative of contexts, giving that parent no credit for any attempts at establishing a positive relationship. Researchers point to eight symptoms of PA:

  • Targeted denigration of one parent;
  • A child’s clear preference for one parent over the other;
  • Flippant justifications of a child’s disparagements of the targeted parent;
  • A child’s sense of responsibility to protect and/or defend the favored parent;
  • A child’s apparent guilt-free judgment or ill-treatment of the targeted parent;
  • Animosity toward the targeted parent that is adopted by the child’s family and/or friends;

Many of the children in these situations truly believe that their attitudes were formed objectively without the influence of the favored parent. This is referred to as the independent thinker phenomenon, and is symptomatic of the systematic brainwashing efforts of the preferred parent.

Strategies Parents Use to Create Parental Alienation

Researchers note a number of things parents do to create this vicious animosity, including:

  • Undermining the authority of the other parent;
  • Asking the child to “spy” and report on the other parent;
  • Applying unkind or cruel labels to the other parent;
  • Making comparisons between oneself and the other parent that puts the target parent in a negative light.

Long Term Effects

Parents who work to turn children against another parent often achieve their goal of creating heartbreak for the alienated parent. In addition to that, they cause horrific suffering for their children. These problems can last for many years after the divorce. Continue reading →

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hidden assetsNeed help finding hidden assets? If you are considering, or midway through a divorce, there is the possibility that your spouse would like to hang on to more than his or her fair share of the marital assets. In some cases, there may have been a secret cache throughout the entire marriage, while in other situations, a hasty burial of resources may be underway.  In any case, the only way to get a fair shake is to uncover whatever it is that your spouse would like to hide. An experienced local divorce attorney could be key to success in that department.

Finding Hidden Assets – What Should You Look for?

All kinds of assets could be hidden. Among the most common are:

  • Stocks;
  • Cash;
  • Mutual funds;
  • Insurance policy cash value;
  • Bonds;
  • Gun collections;
  • Artwork and antiques;
  • Other undervalued property.

How and Where to Look

How does one go about finding hidden assets? Those experienced in the matter have several ideas. It is essential to request documentation relating to all financial accounts and records when your divorce is in the discovery phase.

  • Start with tax returns. Since most people do what they can to avoid the ire of the IRS, you might find indications of resources you had no idea about previously. Going back through documents for a minimum of five years should reveal inconsistencies that could be important.
  • Checking accounts could reveal surprises like investment properties or other income-generating enterprises.  
  • Records from savings accounts may point you toward closeted assets that your spouse would like to keep mum about. Look for unusual deposits and/or withdrawals.
  • Look into courthouse documents, where loan applications can be found. It is important to take a peek at such applications because assets and value estimations will be there.
  • The county tax assessor will have records related to land or home purchases.
  • New purchases for artwork, antiques, vehicles, and so forth might be a prime place to hide assets, as your spouse undervalues such items.
  • Custodial accounts are a prime place to place money under a child’s social security number.
  • Investments with unreportable interest, such as certain bonds, are easy to hide because many spouses are unaware of their existence.
  • Find out if your spouse’s employer is delaying a bonus, stock option, or other benefit in order to protect it from you.
  • Assets might also be hidden with other friends or family, so looking into those relationships might be worthwhile.

Continue reading →

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joint business adventure and divorceAny divorce involves deep emotions, crushing decisions, and complicated relationships that extend beyond the couple itself. When couples are joined in both marriage and a joint business venture, things can get even more complex. In these situations, the counsel of a local attorney is essential.

Joint Business Venture – Steps to Consider

While some couples may contemplate remaining in joint business venture bliss together, others know from the get-go that working together is not a viable option. How can everyone come out a winner with so much at stake? Experts have some tips as to how to proceed:

Compartmentalize: It is important now, more than ever, to separate issues that do not belong together. Financial issues and business interests should be handled independently of childcare and emotional matters. While unraveling the feelings from the business side of the relationship can be difficult, it is much easier to establish a win-win outcome when individuals are able to step back and handle business concerns rationally.

Get the joint business venture support you need: Things are going to be tough for a while. You will need a shoulder to lean on in the moments that seem overwhelming, as well as trusted legal counsel. Understand that there are many ways to carve up a business, and plowing through those options can be exhausting. If you choose to continue working with your former spouse, examining any potential shifts in roles, financial interests, and decision-making authority will be critical. If you decide to make a total break, that will carry its own set of concerns.  

  • Look at your options with clarity: If the business has run smoothly while utilizing the talents of both you and your spouse, is it possible to continue, despite the failed relationship? Or will the divorce impact your ability to interact professionally? The climate at work is going to be set by the two of you, so if you are not going to be able to remain genuinely positive at work, looking for a new partner may be your best bet.
  • Create explicit role definitions: If you do decide to give the business a chance together, make sure you both understand precisely what role each of you will be playing at work. Nobody wants to be micromanaged, so having clearly delineated responsibilities will be essential. Determine just how much collaboration will be workable for you.
  • Re-evaluate the situation over time: If you choose to continue working together, be sure you have a contract that takes a fresh look at the terms down the road. Who knows how you will feel once the dust settles and you take a look at the situation. Maybe you will have established a new, comfortable rhythm. Perhaps you will have discovered that what you thought would be a conciliatory working relationship just never evolved into the professional repartee you were hoping for. Either way, having a contractual obligation to re-examine and tweak things later will be helpful for both you and your former spouse.

If you choose to get out of the business altogether, get a fair valuation of the company. Have a professional examine records and come up with a fair buyout plan. Then walk away and do not look back. Continue reading →

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contested divorce californiaThings can get complicated in a contested divorce. If you are ready to seek a divorce from your spouse or domestic partner, and anticipate their reluctance to proceed quickly and fairly through the divorce process, you may be headed for a thorny experience. Things can get sticky in these situations, requiring the help of a local Santa Rosa divorce attorney.

Putting Together the Initial Divorce Petition

As you and your attorney draft the divorce petition, you will go over relevant documents to make decisions relating to the division of marital assets and debt, issues related to child custody, child support, and spousal support. For example, if minor children are involved a form FL-105 (UCCJEA) must be filed, but those are items your attorney will take care of in addition to providing guidance as to the legal expectations of a fair settlement.

If You can Not Locate Your Spouse/Domestic Partner

In the event you do not know where your spouse/partner is, you will be forced to go through a process to notify them of your plans. A notice must be posted in local newspapers for several months before you can proceed any further.

The Papers Have Been Served, but are Contested

Your spouse or domestic partner has the legal right to challenge the request. If your spouse or partner agrees to parts of the document, but not others, they can simply write up their position, clearly stating what they support and what they contest. The Response form must be returned within  30 days of getting the Petition. From here, there are a couple of options:

  • Seek mediation as a way to come to an equitable agreement that both parties can accept;
  • Proceed to court and let a judge decide.

Contested Divorce and The Discovery Process

During the discovery process, both parties may request documentation and details related to assets, debt, income, and any other pertinent information. This may occur through depositions, written interrogatories, or requests for documents. There will be deadlines to respond to these requests, and, if there is foot dragging and/or deadlines are missed, your attorney can help to move things along. Meanwhile, the court may order temporary child support and/or spousal support until the divorce is finalized.

The Trial

Both sides will be able to call character witnesses or other experts, and will be allowed to cross-examine opposing witnesses. Both parties may restate their case in a closing argument.  At that point, it is all in the hands of the judge. Continue reading →

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