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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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divorce papersIf you have been thinking about leaving your spouse, one of the very first things that needs to happen is that your spouse must be served with divorce papers indicating your legal intent to divorce. These documents must be served within a specific time requirement of action in order to give the respondent adequate time to make a response, if so desired. What does this mean, and how long does it take? These, and all of your divorce questions, can be answered by an experienced family law attorney.

Divorce Papers – What Documents are Served?

There are three documents that will be served:

  • A family law summons;
  • The actual petition for divorce;
  • A response form.

Who Serves the Divorce Papers?

While many individuals rely on a professional process server to serve the divorce papers or the county sheriff to serve a summons, the law requires only that the server be 18 years of age or older and not be a party to the divorce action. That means friends, co-workers, and adult family members could all serve the divorce papers to your spouse.

How are Divorce Papers Served?

These documents may be served in one of several ways.  The most common means are outlined below:

Personal service:

When a server hand-delivers the divorce papers to a respondent, it can take place in any location including the respondent’s home, place of work, in a restaurant, or simply on a street corner. A server may schedule delivery of the papers, or may simply serve divorce papers spring them on an unsuspecting individual. As soon as the divorce papers are received, they are officially considered to have been served. For this reason, personal service is widely viewed as the best choice in serving process, since receipt is easily confirmed by the server.

Mail service:

A server may send the documents to a respondent’s home, P.O. Box, or work address. In this case, the server must document the service with a proof of service form indicating when and to whom the papers were mailed, and the location from which they were mailed. This proof will be provided to the petitioner, who then must file it with the court. The respondent is considered to have been served five days after the documents have been mailed.

Service by Publication

In some situations, a spouse may not be able to be easily located. Then the court may allow for an ex parte application of the order.  In this case, the summons must be published weekly for four consecutive weeks in an approved newspaper. In this instance, the service is complete after 28 days. Continue reading →

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Financial Impact of DivorceThe emotional and logistical implications of divorce are unquestionably hefty issues of concern whenever a couple parts ways. Equally stressful can be the financial impact of divorce. Knowing the financial facts and understanding financial obligations is central to a fair negotiation in divorce court. Sharing the facts with an experienced Santa Rosa divorce attorney can ensure a minimum of disruption to your fiscal situation.

Property and Debt – Financial Impact of Divorce

California is a community property state. That means that anything, including property, assets, and debts, that has been acquired over the course of the marriage is jointly owned, and must be equally divided in the course of a divorce. Excepted from the equal split are those things obtained prior to the marriage, after a permanent separation, or through inheritance or gift.  Determining the characterization of property or debt during a divorce depends on three factors:

  • Where did it originate?
  • Was the character of the item changed in any way by either of the divorcing parties?
  • Are any applicable statutory presumptions applicable?

When it comes to debt, it is critical that you are aware of all debt that has been incurred over the course of the marriage. Ordering a credit report is a good way to see exactly what is owed and to whom. Financial advisors recommend trying to pay off any existing debt, if possible, and to refrain from growing the debt. Canceling credit cards is not a bad idea.

When deliberating as to the property and debt sharing, one partner may agree to take on a bill in exchange for a greater share of the assets.

Financial Impact of Divorce – Tax Deliberations

Taxes can add or reduce your net worth by thousands of dollars, so it is important to weigh the options carefully. Issues to consider include:

  • Dependent exemptions for minor children;
  • Head of Household claims;
  • Deductions for attorney’s fees;
  • Rules for deducting maintenance payments;
  • Rules regarding child-support.

Retirement Savings – Financial Impact of Divorce

Generally speaking, retirement plans are to be shared by both spouses. It is important to familiarize yourself with penalties for early withdrawal. Beyond that, your financial comfort in later years may be at risk if continuing contributions are not made. Putting together a plan for your silver years is as important as the asset division at the time of the divorce. Continue reading →

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

What are the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

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

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

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

What Grounds for California Divorce are Allowed?

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

California Divorce Residency Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Long Will a California Divorce Take?

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

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

Grey Divorce Rates for Americans

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

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

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

Grey Divorce – When Competency is an Issue

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

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

Long-Term Care Requirements in a Grey Divorce

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

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

Estate Planning

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

Retirement Income

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

Insurance Concerns

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

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

What Impacts Views of Stepchildren Toward Former Stepparents?

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

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

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

Best Interests of the Stepchildren

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

Stepparents Who are Denied Access to Stepchildren

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

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

Continue reading →

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

High Divorce Rates

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

Low Divorce Rates

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

What Does it Mean?

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

Other Divorce Rates Factors of Note

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

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

Infidelity by the Numbers

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

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

How to Get Out of the Marriage

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

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

Continue reading →

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

What is a Legal Separation?

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

Some Legal Terminology to Know

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

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

How Long Does it Take to Get a Legal Separation?

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

Benefits

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

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

Tax Implications

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

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