Articles Posted in Divorce

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covid-19 tools to copeCovid-19 is preventing most of us from doing the things we normally would. If being stuck at home with your loved ones is causing you stress, it does not have to be a sign that your marriage is on the outs.  Sociologists claim that there are two inevitable outcomes for couples locked in together with nothing to do — a jump in birth rates, and an increase in the divorce rate. That being said, there are definite strategies you can employ to avoid the latter category. 

Give One Another Time to Adjust During This Lockdown Period

The new reality is more than a little unnerving. For individuals who are used to being out and about conquering their worlds, being constrained at home is quite a change. It is not just the daily activity that is going to change; a person’s total outlook and mindset must adjust to the new reality. Instead of thriving in their self-created reality, people are switching to survival mode. The psychology of that means a necessary move toward being more flexible. As you and your partner adapt to the new requirements of your life, patience will be an indelible virtue!

Structure Your Days

With your old routines demolished by the pandemic, it may be essential to create new ones in order to salvage your sanity. While vegging out in front of the television may appeal for a period, eventually it is not going to be enough to keep your mind and emotions functioning as you would prefer. That means figuring out specific activities that will bring you satisfaction, and even joy, during this difficult time. Your schedule should include time for exercise, time to connect with others, time to maintain your home, and, essentially, time to reflect and be alone. Designing a plan that both partners adhere to—with some flexibility, of course, will help your relationship more than you can imagine.

Boundaries

Living in a small space will doubtlessly cause some territory wars at some point, so designating workspaces or relaxation spots may be useful. More essentially, agreeing to “rules of the house” relating to family time will certainly be important. 

Communicate

Above all, it is more important than ever to express your thoughts and feelings honestly now. If you need a break, you need to be able to say so. If you have fears—and you would be crazy not to—being able to discuss them openly can help you to manage them. That being said, expressing resentment or blame is never an effective way to solve problems or build a relationship. Hopefully at this point you have already established expectations as to how to communicate about difficult issues in a fair and positive way. If not, do your best to avoid criticizing in a cruel way. Instead, look for value in your partner and work toward resolutions to difficult issues.

Getting Through Difficult Covid-19 Times

Many couples are able to survive these difficult Covid-19 times and come out stronger together on the other side. Unfortunately, that is not true in all situations. In the wake of the pandemic crisis, we at Beck Law P.C., hope families come through these times successfully. Continue reading →

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divorce rate vs coronavirusCan there be a connection between the divorce rate and the coronavirus pandemic? As communities reel from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the mitigation efforts being taken across the globe, families are finding a surprising side effect for which many were unprepared. If the impacts in the United States resemble what has happened in China, we may be seeing a sharp uptick in the divorce rate. 

Xi’an Divorce Rate Soars

In China, a report by the Global Times notes that in the city of Xi’an the request for divorce has spiked to record-high numbers. In fact, a number of government offices are booked up for the foreseeable future with requests for divorce.  Of course, a partial explanation for the bombardment of these offices is the fact that they had all been closed for a month. Beyond that, however, sociologists are pointing to another factor that has impacted the crush of requests. 

Forced Close Quarters Makes for Stress

After experiencing life in quarantine, many marriages have suffered an inordinate amount of stress. The fact of the matter is, the coronavirus itself has provoked a hefty amount of discomfort and worry among people. Add that to being housebound for days, weeks, or months at a time, and conflicts tend to rise along with the divorce rate. Here in California,, families are finding themselves spending more time at home with limited options away from one another. Social distancing, including closures of schools and workplaces, has exacerbated the sense of isolation families have from their communities. As shutdowns have grown to include sporting events, concerts, religious services, restaurants, movie theaters, and public transportation, people have no choice but to spend more time with family at home.

Dealing With the Stress

A disruption to routine can cause anyone a certain amount of stress. A disruption of the magnitude we are seeing related to the coronavirus can be exponentially more difficult because individuals will not have access to many of the usual activities used to decompress. What can you do to not become a divorce rate statistic and make the best of the difficult times? There are actually a number of strategies that can help. Understanding that stress is contagious is the first thing every couple needs to know. Handling these emotions effectively can mean the difference between contentment under pressure, and bitter feuds.

  • Recognize the symptoms of stress, such as moodiness, agitation, over-eating, substance abuse, or other characteristics;
  • Address behaviors you are seeing in a loving way with your partner;
  • Listen to the worries and concerns of your partner without feeling obliged to “fix” the troubling issues;
  • Provide comfort to your loved one, and then move into potential solutions;
  • Do things together like exercising, board games, or reading aloud;
  • Figure out ways to reduce stress, like taking  bubble baths, trying meditation, or cleaning out cupboards;
  • Continue to check in on one another’s stress level, and ask your partner how you can help things go more smoothly;
  • Focus on being a person who gives rather than takes.  You will find that is a good way to manage both your partner’s stress levels and your own.

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open marriage and divorceAlthough statistically only about 1% of couples agree to an open marriage, polyamorous relationships are certainly more visible than they were even a decade ago. If you are part of the 1%, perhaps you are wondering if an open marriage bodes well for a happily ever after, or if it will swiftly lead to problems that end in divorce. While no two marriages are the same, it is interesting to explore the concept of open marriage, and the potential outcomes of such a decision. 

Defining Open Marriage

While the specific “rules” of an open marriage are decided upon by each couple, some of the basics generally include: 

  • Two consenting adults are joined in a traditional legal marriage;
  • The couple agrees to guidelines related to relationship exploration—potentially including sexual contact—outside the marriage. 

Famous Couples in Open Relationships

A number of famous couples are rumored to have engaged in open relationships, and some have discussed their relationships publicly. A few names with which you may be familiar include:

  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith;
  • Mo’Nique and Sidney Hicks;
  • Shirley MacLaine and Steve Parker;
  • Robin Thicke and Paula Patton;
  • Ethan Hawke and Ryan Shawhughes;
  • Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento.

Potential Issues 

As couples explore the possibility of an open relationship, there are a number of prickly issues that require consideration:

  • Studies indicate that 95% of Americans believe that sexual exclusivity is essential in a relationship. Chances are, if one partner wants to move into an open relationship to spice up what has become a boring marriage, the other may not be too keen on it. The possibility that one spouse feels coerced into agreeing to the arrangement means that while things appear to be open and aboveboard, dangerous feelings may be boiling just beneath the surface.  
  • Jealousy may emerge from either partner at any time. Even the most modern and enlightened among us may fall prey to this, and may manifest as anger, resentment, depression, powerlessness, and other unpleasantries.
  • More sexual partners results in the potential for more exposure to STDs. Besides the obvious health issue here, bringing home an STD can lead to some unhappiness in the marriage.
  • Judgment by friends and family may be hard to endure. Clearly, an open marriage is a non-traditional choice. People are bound to have opinions, and many will feel compelled to share them, adding a strain to the marriage.

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key divorce documentsEssential divorce documents. While a number of questions necessarily accompany any divorce proceeding, some of the most intense and complicated issues often relate to financial matters. To ensure a reasonable settlement and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you got a fair shake, it is essential to have a strong legal voice advocating for you throughout the process. Securing the services of a local divorce attorney is likely the best move you can make.

Three Essential Divorce Documents

Although there are numerous forms and documents that will be associated with your divorce, key financial decisions will be centered around three documents that reveal a lot about your life and money:

  • Tax Returns: You will want a minimum of three years’ worth of your tax returns, along with any documentation associated with them.  In particular, couples who divorce when one or both partners hold ownership in a business will want their attorneys to take a look at these forms. They can literally provide a wealth of information that could impact your divorce settlement.
  • Lifestyle Analysis: It is essential that you complete a detailed analysis of one-time and continuous expenses. This should include anticipated expenses that you will incur down the road, as well as those that are part of daily life. Future expenses, including medical and education costs, should be viewed while considering inflation. Online expense trackers can be helpful in organizing this for you.  
  • Net-worth Statement: Finally, you will be filing an affidavit for the court that provides a clear picture of the financial status of the marriage, including earnings and income, assets and liabilities, and current and projected expenses. One way to get an overview of present costs is to run your credit report, which will help you to get a snapshot of liabilities and joint obligations. You should also consider any assess you have, including items in your safety deposit box, artwork, antiques, etc. This statement will serve to elucidate spending priorities in the context of all other financial information, including retirement accounts and other investments.

Hidden Assets?

In some cases, spouses may have engaged in some tricky shenanigans in order to hide assets. This may include hidden bank accounts, substantial payments provided to entities unbeknownst to you, or unusual payments to utility or phone companies. Sometimes, spending patterns do not match up to reported earnings, providing an indication that there may be secret sources of income.  In the event your spouse appears to be trying to keep the facts from the court, serious dings to their credibility may result, giving you the benefit of the doubt when the facts appear shady. Continue reading →

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contested divorce processWhile the contested divorce process is obviously familiar to your divorce attorney, it is likely something new to you. Getting a general outline of what is in store can help you to be ready for the weeks and months ahead, both practically and emotionally. Breaking the contested divorce process into easily understandable stages can make the whole thing easier to wrap your head around. A local divorce attorney can help to make the entire process easier.

Contested Divorce – Initial Steps

  • The Complaint and Summons: It all starts with one spouse filing a complaint describing the grounds for divorce and the basic details related to the parties. The court will then issue a summons with the attached complaint to the responding spouse, requiring a response. At this point, it will become clear whether or not this is a contested divorce. A contested divorce will clearly require more time and deliberation.
  • Discovery: The facts outlined in the original complaint and any counterclaims will now be verified.Documents may be requested related for finances and other matters. Assets will be appraised, child custody issues will be examined, and interrogatories will be given to each spouse to answer.  There is a potential that both spouses will be interviewed under oath with a court reporter present to record answers.
  • Motions and Hearings: In the best-case scenario, spouses will be able to resolve the majority of issues with the help of their attorneys. In the event resolution does not occur, a motion will be filed asking for the judge to determine the outcome. Hearings will be held to determine temporary issues while the divorce proceeds. Some temporary issues to be weighed might include spousal support, child custody and support, and possession of the family home. Each of these issues will hold until the divorce is finalized, when a more permanent solution is determined.
  • Pre-trial Conferences/Court-Ordered Mediation: At this point, an attorney will file notice requesting a trial date.  In some cases, a judge may order parties to make one more attempt to determine a mutually agreeable outcome on all matters through conferencing or mediation. While it may be difficult to come to a compromise, this is the last opportunity for the parties to work together to determine the outcomes of their divorce. This is often a time to get a sense of how the judge is looking at the specific issues of this divorce.
  • Trial: A divorce is a civil proceeding, and the actual trial will unfold in several distinct steps:

Contested Divorce Process – Trial

  1. Opening statements from each side;
  2. Evidence to support the claims of the plaintiff, potentially including documents, witnesses, and exhibits, each to be challenged by the defendant’s side;
  3. Presentation of evidence to support the defendant, including cross-examination by the prosecution;
  4. Rebuttal by the plaintiff;
  5. Closing arguments by both sides;
  6. Judge’s ruling on any issues under dispute, along with the judgment for dissolution of the marriage.

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ATROS Automatic Temporary Restraining OrdersWhat is ATROS and what does it have to do with my divorce? Let’s say you have filed a petition for divorce, and your spouse is planning to clean out your savings account in order to move with the kids to another state and reside with the grandparents. Do you have any say in the matter? The short answer is, yes. A good, local attorney can explain your rights in more detail.

ATROS – Family Code Section 2040

ATROS or automatic temporary restraining orders, are included in the Summons of any California divorce. When the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Domestic Partnership is signed, the signatory is legally bound to adhere to the matters addressed by the ATROS, which essentially restricts both partners from a number of actions while the divorce is pending.  Included in the list of prohibited activities is removing any minor children from the state. In fact, even applying for a passport without the consent of both parties and the court is not permitted. Section 2040 has a number of additional restrictions that are worth understanding.

Parties are not allowed to transfer, encumber, conceal, or dispose of any property during this time frame without the written agreement of the other party and the court. This includes both community property and separate property, except under very specific circumstances:

  • When it is in the normal course of business, or;
  • If it is none as a necessity for living, or;
  • When the actions are undertaken in order to pay for attorney’s fees related to the divorce.

ATROS Can Restrict Certain Changes

Neither party may make changes to any insurance policies, including automobile, disability, life and health insurance policies. This restricts the ability of parties to:

  • Cash in on or borrow from policies;
  • Cancel policies;
  • Transfer policies;
  • Change beneficiaries on policies.

The parties may not create or modify a non-probate transfer in any fashion that might impact the disposition of property without the written consent of both parties and the court.

Purpose of ATROS

While any part of the ATROS may be modified if there is agreement on the issues, ATROS are in place in order to protect divorcing parties from unethical actions, like concealing or changing one’s financial status during the course of the marriage or sneaking the kids away from one spouse in order to cause distress. Some describe it as a sort of freeze on financial activity for a temporary period. It can be a crucial action, particularly if one party holds more control over assets than the other. In addition to offering a level of protection to divorcing couples. It also provides more clarity as to the value of assets, since little to no changes are allowed to occur during this period. Continue reading →

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mental health issues and divorceWith millions of Americans struggling with mental health issues, it is no surprise that these problems impact the health and viability of many a marriage. If divorce is in your future and mental health issues are a factor, having an attorney experienced in dealing with such concerns is well worth considering.

Grounds for Divorce – Mental Health Issues

In California, one of the reasons you may file for divorce or the termination of a domestic partnership is on the grounds that your partner has been declared incurably insane. Proving this requires documentation of a debilitating condition from a licensed psychiatrist. Divorcing on these grounds is rare, since California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that by and large the majority of divorces are based on irreconcilable differences. This is more likely the course any divorce would take, even if serious mental health issues plague the relationship.

Mental Health Issues and Divorce

In the event you are unable to secure the necessary documentation to divorce on the grounds of insanity, or you simply choose not to go that route, you can still file based on irreconcilable differences, of course. Here, mental health problems may still factor into the terms of the divorce, in ways you may not have considered. With California’s no-fault divorce, community property is equally divided, regardless of who is “at fault” in the relationship. The fact that your partner has mental health issues, diagnosed or otherwise, will not mean that you get a bigger piece of the pie.

Mental Illness Considerations in a Divorce

Various mental illnesses may impact the way you proceed through the divorce process. If you are dealing with a partner who suffers with depression issues, you may have fears about self-harm, causing you to tread lightly through this difficult time.  If your partner is unstable or violent, you may fear for your own safety. Perhaps your divorce involves a partner with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In this case, your partner may fill the coming months with lies and nasty smears to hurt you. Whatever your situation, dealing with a spouse who is plagued with a mental illness will require the careful diplomacy and finesse of an experienced attorney.  

Document Concerns

In the lead-up to your divorce, it is important that you carefully document any interactions that give rise to concerns around safety. It may be necessary to obtain a protective order in some cases. In other situations, a mentally unstable spouse may be unable to fulfill parenting obligations, impacting child custody and visitation arrangements.   Continue reading →

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strained marriageCan a strained marriage and the stress of a government shutdown lead to divorce? There is no doubt about it: Stress has an impact on relationships, and it is generally not a positive impact. So, if you are one of the over 800,000 people whose family has been directly impacted by the government shutdown, or one of the hundreds of thousands affected by the sudden stagnant cash flow in your community due to the shutdown, will your marriage be affected?  It would be almost miraculous if the stress associated with the absentee paycheck did not touch your relationship.  If the stress escalates to the point that divorce is on the table, discussing your situation with a local divorce attorney is a good idea.

Strained Marriage – The Anxiety is Real

Studies indicate that marital satisfaction and longevity are at risk during high stress periods.  The government shutdown certainly qualifies as such for many, many couples with an already strained marriage:

  • Living without a paycheck, particularly for those who are still required to show up, affects families’ ability to make required payments, secure necessary child care, or make essential purchases;
  • Credit ratings are negatively impacted as creditors are dissatisfied with late or missing loan payments;
  • Individuals in the midst of home purchases are suddenly unable to qualify for loans;
  • Formerly self-sufficient families are having to rely on food pantries and soup kitchens for meals;
  • Breadwinners feel helpless as they are unable to earn a living while caught up in circumstances that are beyond their control and understanding;
  • The unpredictability of the situation only serves to amplify the unrest;
  • Employees who used to take pride in their work are left experiencing feelings of humiliation and desperation.

Relationships Within a Strained Marriage

It is no surprise that when individuals are struggling with anxiety and depression that stems from stress, their physical health, mental stability, and close personal relationships suffer, as well. Research abounds connecting stress with troubles in a strained marriage:

  • The original issues of stress and depression sometimes exacerbate other problems that may have been lurking beneath the surface of the marriage, causing them to become more visible and prominent;
  • Stress can translate into frustration, which may lead to impatience, verbal sniping, arguments, and even physical encounters;
  • As communication becomes strained, marital partners may become more defensive, impacting a couple’s ability to experience trust and intimacy;
  • Eventually, positive interactions may diminish, blaming and hostility may rise, and thoughts of parting ways may bubble up.

Strained Marriage – Positive Interventions for Stress

However temporary the stress may be, it is certainly real for those under its grip.  Suggestions to deal with the strain include:

  • Physical Interventions: Exercise, yoga, or breathing exercises;
  • Mental Interventions: Discussing options with supportive family members and friends, engaging in distractions like puzzles or books;
  • Emotional Interventions: Watching funny movies or spending time with friends and having the opportunity to laugh as you temporarily escape the stress;
  • Spiritual interventions: Praying, enjoying nature, and meditation;

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high asset divorceIs a high asset divorce any easier? When Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced their separation and pending divorce, speculation spanned all kinds of topics, from the reasons behind the split after a quarter century of marriage to questions about how the couple would divide their many assets. After all, Amazon’s Bezos is purportedly worth nearly $140 billion. He is notably the most wealthy man in the world, and the 28th largest landowner in the United States, with properties in Beverly Hills, New York City, Washington D.C., Texas, and Washington State. As luck would have it, every acquisition that has occurred over the course of the couple’s marriage is joint property. That means it will be a high asset divorce  with assets having to be split equitably between the spouses.

High Asset Divorce – Financial Decisions

As one observer noted, people who are rich are generally pretty savvy, and they know they are going to have to part with a chunk of change when they get a divorce. They also realize that they can pay out the big bucks to attorneys while they go through a long and bitter battle, or they can settle things more amicably by simply coming to an agreement as to who gets what, keeping the money in the family, so to speak. Sure, there is still going to be emotional strain—even trauma. But in a high asset divorce when there is a lot of money to spread around, it can make parting a bit quicker and easier. The theory goes like this: When very large amounts of money are involved, there is simply more gauze for the wounds.

Other High Asset Divorces

When Google founder Sergey Brin split with wife Anne Wojcicki, they kept things pleasant, remaining friendly in public, and choosing to raise their kids jointly. They had $50 billion in cash and assets to divvy up in their divorce.

Su Ann Hamm settled for roughly 5% of her husband’s net worth, a paltry $975 million. Husband Harold kept the lion’s share of the couple’s assets, and continued merrily on with his career as an oil and gas executive.

After five years of marriage, Frank and Jamie McCourt divorced. Things proceeded despite bad feelings, and she walked away with a check for $130 million.

Complications Always Possible with a High Asset Divorce

Naturally, money does not solve every problem. There can still be pretty rough emotions around child custody and/or visitation issues, and there may be particular possessions that are held dear by both parties. In some cases, there are significant challenges to a high asset divorce due to ownership of property across multiple jurisdictions. The divorcing couple’s attorneys need to be pretty nimble and willing to investigate particular rules, procedures, and timelines in each. Continue reading →

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who moves out in a divorceWho moves out? Let us say you have already had that difficult conversation, and your spouse knows that you want to get a divorce. Now what? Do you keep living together in the family home while the legal process moves forward, or does one party pack up and move out? Ultimately, of course, separate living arrangements will have to be made, right? When and how that happens is largely up to you and your spouse. A knowledgeable local divorce attorney can help you figure out the best way to proceed.

Who Moves Out – Making an Amicable Agreement

The best-case scenario, of course, involves a grown up discussion about what works best for the family, particularly if children are involved.  This will save you money, emotional turmoil, and time. Obviously, this can get more complicated than you might imagine.  Splitting one household into two can be a tricky endeavor. In addition to the actual physical location for the spouse who is leaving, and the financial implications of such a move, the couple will have to think about all of the items in the family home. Is the spouse who is leaving expected to purchase all new furniture, kitchen appliances, and towels? Or can you come to an agreement as to what moves out along with the spouse who is leaving? These discussions will likely be stressful, emotional, and fraught with wavering stances on a variety of specifics.  That is why it is always a good idea to put any agreements in writing.

Who Moves Out – A Court Order Forcing One Spouse Out

Sometimes, one spouse is legally entitled to the home. When the court finds that one party has the legal right to remain on the premises, the other may be ordered to leave. This might be the case if the home belonged to one spouse prior to the marriage, for example.

In particularly contentious situations, it is sometimes necessary to get the courts involved in removing one party from the family home. According to Family Code 6321, there are certain circumstances in which this might have to happen, involving an emergency wherein one party is at risk of immediate impending harm:

  • There is a history of domestic violence and the court finds that it is necessary to exclude one partner from the home in order to protect the other partner and minor children from future violence. In such a situation, the determination of who stays in the home may be may on a temporary basis, and may not consider which partner is legally entitled to the home;
  • The individual being excluded from the home has made threats to physically harm the spouse or custodial children in the home;
  • Emotional or physical harm would likely be the result if the excluded party were to have access to the home;
  • Witness statements substantiate that specific incidents of abuse have occurred , and a restraining order is necessary to protect residents of the home.

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