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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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

Requirements for Every Divorce

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

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

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

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

Same-Sex Divorce and Child Custody

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

Same-Sex Divorce and Asset Division

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

Same-Sex Divorce for Out of State Couples

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

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

Threats Turned to Domestic Violence in California

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

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

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

When You Require Legal Help

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

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

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

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

Expectations of a Restraining Order

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

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

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

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

Taking Steps to Improve Your Marriage

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

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

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

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

Continue reading →

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Open and Honest With Your Attorney and Avoid Divorce Wars

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

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

After the Divorce

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

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

Continue reading →

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