Archive for the ‘ Divorce ’ Category

What Happens To Home Equity In A Divorce?

Posted on: January 14, 2018 by in Divorce
No Comments

If you are divorcing in the state of California, if you have divorced recently, or if you expect or anticipate a divorce, you will probably have a number of concerns about financial matters.

For example, if you jointly own your home with your spouse, what will happen to it?

How can the value or equity of a home be divided fairly by a divorce court?

Of course, everyone’s situation regarding home equity will be different.

You may be making a monthly mortgage payment, you may already have your mortgage paid off, or you may be renting. Some couples own more than one home.

If you are divorcing in southern California, you’ll need personalized legal and financial advice applicable to your own circumstances.

You’ll need to consult an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney.

When a marriage ends in divorce, the fate of the couple’s home must be determined.

What are the options in a California divorce when the couple’s home – or at least the couple’s equity in their home – must somehow be fairly divided?

Selling may be the easiest solution, but selling the home isn’t always feasible.

Some couples agree to a buy-out arrangement, where one partner buys the other’s half of the home.

HOW IS HOME EQUITY DETERMINED AND DIVIDED IN A DIVORCE?

When a home’s equity must be divided in a California divorce procedure, the home should be appraised by a qualified appraiser.

You subtract the outstanding mortgage amount and any other liens on the home from the appraisal figure to arrive at the home equity amount.

The real estate market – especially in southern California – fluctuates rapidly, so when you divorce, an appraisal should be conducted at the time of the divorce, because any older appraisal will be out of date.

If the home is sold, the divorcing partners should try to agree on how to split the equity.

The divorcing partners will also have to agree on a sale price, a real estate agent, and the terms of the sale.

A dispute regarding the division of home equity will unnecessarily cost both divorcing spouses additional time, money, and aggravation.

If you are divorcing, discuss home equity – and the best way to approach the equity issue – with your divorce lawyer before a dispute arises.

In the state of California, any property that a married couple comes to possess during their marriage will be deemed community property.

Thus, if a home was purchased with community property assets, the home is community property, with each of the spouses owning a fifty percent interest in the home and fifty percent of the equity.

COULD A COUPLE’S HOME EVER BE CONSIDERED PERSONAL PROPERTY?

However, if one partner owned the home individually prior to the marriage, or if one partner inherited the home or received it as a gift, there may be no legal cause to divide the equity.

Property acquired before a marriage or received as an inheritance or as a gift is usually considered personal property, but if the home was purchased by the couple during the course of the marriage, it will probably be community property.

Divorcing spouses have the right to agree mutually to an uneven division of the home equity.

One spouse, in other words, may receive more than the other – sometimes in return for some other consideration – if both agree.

Make sure that you work out such an agreement with the advice of your attorneys, because a judge must sign off on your final divorce agreement, and any agreement that a judge determines is not equitable and fair for both spouses will be rejected.

If one of the divorcing spouses wants to buy the other spouse’s half of the home, the couple will need to arrive at a fair and appropriate price, and they will also need to negotiate a fair division of the commissions, taxes, and the other expenses associated with the sale of a residence in this state.

WHAT SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR DIVORCE ATTORNEY?

Before your divorce begins, discuss the home equity matter with your divorce attorney, and know what your options are in advance regarding home equity in a divorce.

Make your goals regarding the home and the equity absolutely clear to your attorney so that he or she can negotiate, if necessary, for the best possible arrangement on your behalf.

The financial decisions you make in a divorce will have a profound and lasting impact on your life.

At the beginning of the divorce process, divorcing spouses in California must complete a preliminary declaration of disclosure listing all of the marital and individual property acquired both outside and within the marriage.

Divorcing partners also must declare their expenses and incomes in the preliminary declaration of disclosure.

It’s wisest to complete the preliminary declaration of disclosure with your divorce lawyer’s assistance.

Along with protecting your home equity, you should pay detailed attention to your credit card and bank accounts, how and where and your important financial papers are kept, and the particular details of your debts, assets, and retirement accounts.

Work with your divorce lawyer regarding your personal finances to fill in or find any details that may be missing.

WHAT OTHER FINANCIAL CONCERNS MUST BE CONSIDERED?

You may also want to make appropriate changes to your life insurance policy and/or your will.

Some people who divorce, speaking frankly, will have to make some adjustments to their lifestyles and spending habits.

Divorcing partners who have more property, assets, credit, and debts will inevitably face a much more complicated divorce procedure than divorcing couples with more modest finances.

Anyone who is considering, anticipating, or expecting a divorce in southern California should seek legal representation and advice exclusively – and as early as possible – from an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney who regularly handles complicated divorce cases and who regularly prevails on behalf of clients.

No divorce is easy.

You will need a qualified and experienced divorce lawyer who can get the job done effectively while remaining sensitive to your needs and concerns at every stage of the divorce process.

The right California divorce lawyer will offer the advice and encouragement you need while advocating aggressively for the just and equitable divorce settlement you deserve.

What Happens If You Stop Paying Alimony?

Posted on: December 19, 2017 by in Divorce
No Comments

If you and your spouse obtain a divorce in the state of California, could you be ordered to pay alimony? What if the amount you are ordered to pay isn’t fair? How is an alimony amount determined by the court? And what happens if you’ve been ordered by the court to pay alimony, and you don’t? If you’re considering a divorce in California – or if you are already paying or receiving alimony – keep reading to learn more about alimony rights and obligations in this state.

Obtaining a divorce in California can be a complicated legal procedure. If you divorce in Southern California, you should be advised and represented from the beginning by an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. California is a “no-fault” divorce state, so neither spouse in a divorce is obligated to prove that the other did anything wrong or is “at-fault.”

If you are ordered by the court to pay alimony – the law in California calls it “spousal support” – as part of a divorce settlement, you may feel the ruling is unfair. A skilled Long Beach divorce attorney can review your existing spousal support order – whether you are paying the alimony or receiving it – to determine if it’s appropriate and fair. If it isn’t, your attorney can help you seek a change or a “modification” of the court order.

Unlike child support, which virtually everyone agrees is important, spousal support is a controversial topic both inside the courtroom as well as in the court of public opinion. Some would say that if a marriage has endured for a decade or more, alimony should be permanent. Others are critics who would abolish spousal support altogether.

HOW DOES SPOUSAL SUPPORT WORK? HOW ARE AMOUNTS DETERMINED?

In a California divorce, when one partner in the marriage has not worked outside the home or has worked only part-time in order to raise children and/or support the other partner’s career, that partner may seek spousal support. The sum that a court awards will hinge on each divorcing partner’s marital and financial history, income, debts, and assets.

During a divorce, if spouses can mutually agree about alimony, a court will usually accept their agreement. But when alimony is in dispute, the court will determine the terms and conditions of the alimony arrangement. When divorcing partners can agree on an alimony arrangement or on other areas of potential dispute, they save time and legal fees, and they avoid the acrimony and aggravation of having the dispute played out in a courtroom.

In some California divorces, spousal support is ordered temporarily; in other divorces in this state, spousal support is called “permanent.” As a general rule, when a marriage has lasted less than ten years, the alimony is temporary, and payments last for half the length of the marriage. For longer marriages, generally speaking, no time limit for alimony payments is imposed and the alimony is considered “permanent.”

IS ALIMONY EVER REALLY PERMANENT?

But even “permanent” alimony usually does not last for life. When either ex-partner’s life situation changes after a divorce, either ex can request a modification of the court order that spells out the alimony arrangement. In southern California, a Long Beach divorce attorney can help you request an alimony modification.

If you’ve been ordered to make spousal support payments by a California court, the one thing that you cannot do is to stop making payments. It does not matter if you’ve lost your job or if you’ve been unable to work due to an injury. You must request a modification of the spousal support order. If you stop making alimony payments, you could be subject to severe legal action.

What can an ex-spouse do if he or she isn’t receiving the spousal support ordered by the court? If your ex isn’t paying you what the court has ordered, you may have to return to the court accompanied by a qualified Long Beach family law attorney. You and your attorney will have to offer evidence that your ex has not paid or has not paid completely or on time. If your ex-partner’s delinquency is causing financial hardship, you’ll be able to explain that to a judge.

HOW CAN CALIFORNIA COURTS COMPEL ALIMONY PAYMENTS?

An ex-spouse’s failure to pay court-ordered alimony payments can have considerable legal consequences in California. The court can order a wage garnishment, where a percentage of your ex-spouse’s wages is automatically diverted to you through the court. The court can also levy your ex-partner’s bank account and intercept his or her tax refunds.

If your ex-spouse still does not comply with the alimony order and make payments as scheduled, a judge can hold your ex in contempt of court, and in some cases, even order jail time. Drastic legal measures, however, are not always necessary. A family lawyer may be able to help you as a negotiator or as a mediator, and in many cases, an acceptable agreement can be reached with your ex without legal pressure.

If your ex-spouse is already delinquent and currently owes you alimony, do not make any private arrangement with your ex regarding the delinquent payments. Once a divorce is finalized, a judgment or a settlement is in place, and if an alimony order has been issued by the court, an unofficial alimony agreement will have no legal status and will not be enforceable.

HOW IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT TERMINATED?

Ex-partners who pay spousal support often ask the court to end that support after a number of years, and that request is often granted. When spousal support is no longer needed or is no longer appropriate, the ex-spouse who has been paying spousal support has every right to request a court order terminating that support.

Spouses intending to divorce in California should also know that if you are seeking spousal support, and if you have a criminal conviction for domestic violence within the preceding five years, the law in California law grants judges the discretion to deny a spousal support request or to reduce the amount that an ex-spouse would otherwise be eligible to receive.

If you need legal representation right now to help you obtain the spousal support payments that a court has ordered, speak at once with a Long Beach divorce attorney who routinely helps clients enforce or modify spousal support orders. During and after a divorce, effective legal representation is not only imperative – it’s also your legal right.

Top 10 Reasons for Divorce

Posted on: June 23, 2017 by in Divorce
No Comments

The divorce rate is still high in the United States, and even though millions of people have divorced, for those who are single or happily married, the reasons people get divorced can be hard to grasp. The top ten reasons people divorce are listed below, along with some warning signs and red flags that couples need to recognize early if they want to remain happily married. If it’s too late for that in your own situation, and divorce is inevitable or the only choice, speak at once with an experienced Cerritos divorce attorney.

A humor website recently posted the “twelve craziest reasons why people get divorced.” An elderly man in Italy divorced his equally elderly wife after he discovered she had been in an affair – seventy years ago when they were first married. Another Italian man told the court that his wife was possessed by the Devil. A California woman reportedly divorced her husband because he voted for Donald Trump.

A thoughtful reader of these “humorous” news stories will conclude that these marriages had deeper, longer-term problems, and that the Devil and Donald Trump were merely “final straws” after years of unhappy marriage. Understanding the real reasons why people divorce may be the first step in saving a marriage if the spouses are willing to learn from the mistakes that other couples have made. What are the real reasons why people divorce? Here are the top ten:

#1. The Extra-Marital Affair

The leading reason for divorce is still the oldest and most obvious reason – the extra-marital affair. Anger, resentment, and a lack of emotional intimacy can all play a role when one spouse cheats on the other. Affairs often start innocently as casual friendships, according to marital expert Ruth Houston, who says, “It starts as an emotional affair which later becomes a physical affair.”

#2. Love – And the Love of Money

Money can bring people together, but it can also split them apart. Differences in spending habits and different financial goals can turn a marriage into a power struggle over who controls the money.

According to a survey conducted by Money magazine, couples fight about money twice as much as they fight about sex. And if one partner has more debt, discussions about income and spending can quickly become heated.

#3. A Failure to Communicate

Obviously, communication in marriage is imperative, and a failure to communicate effectively can create a marriage where both partners are frustrated and resentful.

Ignoring a spouse or giving a partner the “silent treatment” never builds up a marriage, and good communication is essential to any marriage that’s long and strong.

Practicing clear communication and changing old habits isn’t easy, but that’s sometimes what it takes for a marriage to flourish.

#4. The Non-Stop Argument

While some couples fail to communicate, others seem to never stop communicating – loudly and negatively. From bickering over the chores to disputes over the kids, arguments that seem like a shouting match that never ends are sure to kill a marriage. If you’re in a partnership that’s more like an argument than a marriage, you need to seek marriage counseling before the argument is brought to a permanent conclusion – in a divorce court.

#5. Weight and Appearance

Yes, it’s unfair. And yes, it’s shallow, but the truth is that gaining weight really is a frequent reason why people divorce. We all want our partners to look good for us, so if you’re picking up six or eight pounds a year, consider your spouse, reconsider your diet, and start working out. Exercising regularly and adhering to a healthy diet is something that we all need to be doing anyway.

#6. Reality Sets In

Young people in particular – although not exclusively young people – often start a marriage with genuinely unreasonable, unrealistic expectations. Your partner is someone who’s flawed and makes mistakes, someone who can sometimes be thoughtless. So are you.

Expecting perfection from someone can generate real stress, and it sets up your spouse for inevitable failures. It’s better in the long run if you can flip your perspective and lower your expectations for your spouse. He or she is only human.

#7. The Need for – and Lack of – Intimacy

Married couples need to “feel’ something like a psychic or spiritual connection. They need intimacy, and they need to feel that intimacy. Without a feeling or sense of connection, you can feel like you’re married to a stranger – or to a mystery.

Intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex, and sometimes it’s hard to define, but we know what a lack of intimacy is – it’s thoughtlessness and the “cold shoulder.” If you are constantly getting that cold shoulder, it may be time to consider a divorce.

#8. Partnership and Equality

A marriage isn’t a master-slave relationship and it isn’t a parent-child relationship either. If one partner feels forced to take on more responsibility, it can reduce that person’s view of the other partner and lead to resentment. Every couple must learn to live as equals, sharing the challenges and responsibilities of the marriage. An unequal marriage – where one partner dominates in almost every aspect of the relationship – probably will not stand the test of time.

#9. Immaturity – At All Ages

Surveys consistently find that divorced persons feel that they were unprepared for marriage, their partner was unprepared for marriage, or they were both unprepared.

The divorce rate is highest for people who are still in their 20s, and nearly half of all divorces take place in the first ten years of a marriage. That tells us that a lot of people really are not ready for marriage or understand what it requires.

#10. Physical or Emotional Abuse

When someone is being abused in a marriage, whether physically or emotionally, it may be time to seek a divorce. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the abuser is a “bad” person. Most abusers have deep emotional issues that may date back to their childhoods. Nevertheless, there is no reason to tolerate abuse, and the victim of abuse must do whatever it takes to remain safe and healthy – including, in many cases, getting a divorce.

Marriage is work, but even the best couples will face difficult challenges, and when they cannot resolve those challenges, they may choose divorce. Address these matters early in your marriage – when they first emerge. And if you need to obtain a divorce in Southern California, consult an experienced Cerritos divorce attorney who will make certain that your divorce is resolved justly and that you are treated fairly throughout the divorce process.

Will I Have To Attend A Mandatory Divorce Settlement Conference In California?

Posted on: March 17, 2017 by in Divorce
No Comments

If you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce in Southern California, knowing what to expect can help you in a number of ways. Start by reading as much of the divorce paperwork as you can. That way, you won’t be surprised unexpectedly by anything that happens in your divorce trial. Before a trial, both spouses must fill out and exchange various documents confirming their assets, properties, income, and expenses. A Los Angeles divorce attorney can help a divorcing spouse understand and accurately complete the legal documents and additional paperwork.

While a very few divorces are undisputed – which makes the process easier – most divorcing spouses are dealing with some type of dispute regarding property division, child custody, child support, and/or alimony. When these disputes cannot be settled early in the divorce process, judges in California can order a mandatory divorce settlement conference.

At a “trial setting” session prior to a divorce trial, lawyers for both spouses confer with the judge. If the lawyers are ready, the judge may schedule a date for the divorce trial or may instead set a date for a mandatory divorce settlement conference.

Mandatory divorce settlement conferences are designed to reduce the issues in dispute in a divorce, and these conferences can be conducted in several ways. A judge may take part in the conference or may appoint a professional mediator to help the disputing spouses reach some agreements. A divorce settlement conference is typically conducted thirty days before the trial date.

Particularly when the custody of a child or children is in dispute, a settlement conference will be ordered to give parents one final chance to reach an agreement they can both live with. Both spouses will need to be at the settlement conference.

WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE A DIVORCE SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE?

Prior to a divorce settlement conference, the spouses must file with the court a legal brief that includes an outline of the facts in the case, a summary of the arguments they will make, and an itemized list of the pertinent financial details. Your divorce attorney can file this brief on your behalf. The attorneys may meet prior to the conference or at the start of the conference about the possibility of settlements.

If the court has appointed a mediator to facilitate the settlement conference, the mediator will explain the procedure either at the start of the conference or by contacting the spouses several days in advance. Typically, both parties present their cases after the rules are explained. The mediator or judge may then meet separately with each side.

A mediator or judge may ask questions and explain to each side the flaws in their arguments and the potential outcomes and consequences of the conference. After each side meets with the judge or mediator, the attorneys have another opportunity to negotiate the remaining differences.

Spouses and their attorneys are required to stay and negotiate until a settlement is reached or until the mediator or judge believes that a settlement cannot be reached. Some conferences run for a full day. If a settlement is reached, the attorneys or the mediator will draft the paperwork, the judge will review it, and in most cases the judge will sign the agreement and make it binding.

If some matters can be settled by negotiation but others cannot (for example, the spouses agree on child custody but not on alimony) the judge may sign the partial settlement and hear arguments regarding any other disputes at trial.

WHAT ARE THE BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR A DIVORCE IN CALIFORNIA?

From the date when the non-filing spouse is served with divorce papers, a divorce in California takes a minimum of six months – and usually somewhat longer. In the weeks prior to a divorce trial, your Los Angeles divorce attorney will keep you updated about any negotiations with your spouse’s attorney and anything else you’ll need to know regarding your case. The divorce rules and procedures in California are precisely the same for both opposite-sex couples and same-sex married couples.

Whenever a couple can reach agreements on potential disputes over alimony, custody, child support, and the division of marital assets, they can avoid substantial costs and aggravations, and a formal divorce trial can often conclude quite quickly or be avoided entirely. A divorce in California requires at least one spouse to reside in the state for at least six successive months and to be a resident of the county where the divorce papers are filed for a minimum of three consecutive months.

Juries do not decide divorces in the state of California. All final orders and decisions in California divorce trials are made exclusively by family law judges. When the disagreements that separate two spouses cannot be settled, a trial may become unavoidable. It is imperative for a divorcing spouse to remain focused throughout the entire divorce process and to know what to expect in a mandatory divorce settlement conference and in a divorce trial.

Under California’s no-fault divorce laws, no one has to prove that anyone has done “wrong” or has “fault.” A claim by either partner of “irreconcilable differences” is sufficient to obtain a divorce in California. While it is imperative to know what to expect in a settlement conference or in a divorce trial, preparing yourself emotionally may be even more important.

You can help your case by being as objective and truthful as possible. Even the slightest exaggeration, deception, or misrepresentation of the facts will hurt your credibility and your interests in a divorce settlement conference or a trial.

WHAT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR COUPLES SEEKING TO DIVORCE?

Couples who are divorcing in this state have a number of options including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce. These alternatives can save a couple money, time, and most of the aggravations and inconveniences of a contentious divorce trial. A good California divorce lawyer can help divorcing spouses decide exactly which alternative is the best path for their divorce.

Your goal in a divorce is justice – to be treated fairly throughout the entire divorce process. The division of assets and the issue of alimony often become complicated and contentious. Child custody and child support disputes are almost always highly emotionally-charged. An experienced attorney who routinely handles all aspects of California family law can make all the difference in a settlement conference or a divorce trial.

Divorce And Real Estate: What Happens To The Family Home?

Posted on: February 23, 2017 by in Divorce, Uncategorized
No Comments

When a married couple buys a home in the state of California, it’s their community property, and if the couple divorces, the home must be “split” 50/50. When a marriage ends, the division of the family home is often a central point of dispute. Divorce often means a new lifestyle, a smaller home, or even a move to a new community.

For most spouses who are divorcing in California, selling the family home during the divorce is usually the best way to split the home. Of course, both parties will want the maximum possible benefit from the sale, and that’s where conflict can surface.

WHAT ARE THE WAYS A HOME CAN BE DIVIDED?

What are your options when you divorce in California and the family home must be divided? When you seek a divorce in this state, it’s imperative for you to understand all of your options and alternatives. In Southern California, to make sure that you are aggressively represented and that your legal rights are protected throughout the divorce process, work from the very start with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. If you and the spouse you are divorcing can agree, these are some of the options for splitting the family home:

  • Selling the home: The easiest way to split a home is simply to put the home on the market and then divide the proceeds 50/50. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this solution won’t be available in many divorces.
  • A buy-out or sell-out agreement: In a buy-out, one spouse simply buys the other spouse’s half of the home. If you and the spouse you are divorcing agree to a buy-out, a good divorce lawyer will look out for your long-term interests.
  • Remaining at the home: Certain divorcing couples may be able to share a house until a divorce is complete, but this plainly isn’t feasible for most couples during the divorce process. If the two of you choose to remain under one roof during the divorce procedure, establish clearly understood limitations and rules.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU MUST NOT DO DURING A DIVORCE?

However, one of the worst moves you can make just prior to a California divorce is voluntarily moving out of the house. If your name is on a lease or a mortgage, you are not obligated to leave. Sleep on a sofa or set up a tent in the back yard if you must. But do not move out before any divorce papers have been filed. If the case goes to a trial, your spouse’s lawyer can claim that you “abandoned” your family, and you’ll have a difficult time refuting the charge.

Dividing and distributing the marital assets is always a daunting challenge in the divorce process. If selling is the agreed-upon option for the home, selling also means that the divorcing spouses will have to select an agent, determine a selling price, and agree on the terms. Make sure the sale price takes into account your expenses: mortgage loan balances, legal fees, interest accrued, recording fees, transfer taxes, and property taxes. A real estate agent can help you determine the right selling price. Divorcing spouses who agree to sell their home will want the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer as well as a trustworthy and experienced real estate agent.

If a buy-out is the agreed-upon option for the home, and you are bought out by your spouse, have your name deleted from the title. If you are the one buying out your spouse’s share of the home, know the details regarding the mortgage, the principal-interest ratio, the taxes, and the homeowner’s insurance. If you plan to buy out your spouse’s equity in the home, you’ll need the ability to qualify for a mortgage by yourself.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD DIVORCING SPOUSES CONSIDER REGARDING THEIR HOME?

If you sell the home, you also must decide if either spouse will remain in the home until the sale. When divorcing spouses are parents, the parent with custody frequently stays in the home. If the house does not sell quickly, then provisions for the additional mortgage payments will need to be included in the final divorce settlement. Repairs, maintenance, and other expenses that selling a home entails will also have to be considered. If the valuation of the home is below the current mortgage balance, divorcing spouses may choose to wait and sell the home after market conditions improve.

As you can imagine, a number of factors must be considered when you sell your home during a divorce. Financial details are a substantial part of any divorce, so the more properties and assets you and your spouse own, the more complicated a divorce will be. While you should seek specific personal advice about finances during a divorce from an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney, the suggestions provided here can help you keep your finances in order during and after the sometimes-lengthy divorce process:

  • Pay thoughtful attention to how your house is titled, where your important financial documents are stored, and the details regarding your assets, your debts, and your retirement benefits.
  • Pay thoughtful attention particularly to your retirement plans. A divorce can effect your retirement savings, military retirement payments, corporate pensions, and Social Security entitlements.
  • If the final divorce settlement lets you, close, split, or personally refinance mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. Your own credit score shouldn’t suffer simply because your former spouse makes late payments or no payments at all.
  • A divorcing parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Establishing a life insurance policy can guarantee those payments are made if the non-custodial, support-paying parent dies while the child support order is in effect.
  • Keep on top of your own financial situation, because expenses really do rise when you are on your own. Two may not be able to live quite as cheaply as one, but the reality is that the single life really does cost more.

Bring your beneficiary designations up to date and ask your Long Beach divorce attorney about the changes you’ll need to make to your will and other legal documents after a divorce. California law does not require you to hire an attorney to handle your divorce, but an experienced California divorce lawyer can help you understand your rights in a divorce and provide the legal guidance you need – right from the start.

Can You Marry A Robot? New Frontiers In Family Law

Posted on: January 27, 2017 by in Divorce
No Comments

For many people, Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court decision that finally made same-sex marriage legal in every state, was the end of a long journey – the victory that marriage equality activists had sought for decades. However, as marriage equality takes effect in a growing number of nations, a Los Angeles family law attorney might tell you that same-sex marriage isn’t the “end” of anything. Instead, it’s only the beginning of the many pressing challenges that the institution of “traditional” marriage will be facing in the 21st century.

A woman in France, for example, has told the Daily Mail that she is in love with a robot and wants to marry it. “I’m a proud robosexual, we don’t hurt anybody, we are just happy,” the woman, identified only as Lilly, says on her Twitter page. Lilly is not alone. Dr. David Levy, the author of Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution Of Human-Robot Relationships, predicts that human beings will routinely marry robot spouses by 2050. “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans,” Dr. Levy writes.

Dr. Levy was also one of the speakers at the “Second International Conference on Love and Sex With Robots,” which was held in December 2016 at the University of London. The Conference’s website tells visitors, “Within the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Human-Robot Interaction, the past few years have witnessed a strong upsurge of interest in the more personal aspects of human relationships with these artificial partners.”

The website further explains: “This upsurge has not only been apparent amongst the general public, as evidenced by an increase in coverage in the print media, TV documentaries and feature films, but also within the academic community. The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots provides an excellent opportunity for academics and industry professionals to present and discuss their innovative work and ideas in an academic symposium.”

WHAT ARE THE OTHER CHALLENGES TO TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE?

If marrying a robot does not appeal to you, perhaps you’d care instead to marry a bridge. That’s right. In 2013 a woman married a bridge in France at a ceremony that included fourteen guests and a blessing from the mayor of the small village where the bridge is located. Jodi Rose married Le Pont du Diable Bridge in Céret, southern France after visiting dozens of bridges all over the world. She told the Daily Mail, “He gives me a safe haven.”

Most of us, however, would probably prefer to marry other human beings, but even when you restrict your potential marriage partners to the human species, traditional marriage is still under assault – everywhere. Last year, a judge in Argentina allowed a 33-year-old Argentine woman to marry her 32-year-old stepdaughter. Although Argentina’s Civil Code outlaws any incestuous or parent-child marriage, the Argentine judge ruled that all of that nation’s citizens have “the right to be treated with dignity by the laws in all dimensions of life, including marriage.”

Here in the United States, polygamous or “plural” marriage – the marriage of more than two persons – is the next likely legal challenge to traditional marriage. Noah Feldman, who is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, wrote an article titled “Polygamy Is Constitutional” for Bloomberg View in 2016. Feldman believes that the U.S. Constitution implicitly allows for plural marriage, and he says it’s strange that plural marriage is not currently allowed.

WHY ISN’T PLURAL MARRIAGE ALREADY LEGAL?

Already, you may legally have multiple sexual partners, and you may conduct private religious ceremonies legally. On that basis, Feldman contends, it seems that there is nothing in the Constitution that would make plural or polygamous marriages unconstitutional. But should a state be obligated to recognize a plural marriage as the equivalent of a two-person marriage? Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has already written, in Obergefell, that there is a “fundamental” right to marry “the person” of your choice, and that everyone should have the opportunity to exercise that right.

If cases concerning plural marriage – or even robot marriage – eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the judges will decide if the “fundamental right” to marry the person of your choice is outweighed by a “compelling state interest” in preventing such a marriage. In criminal law, for instance, your right to privacy is “fundamental,” but the government’s compelling interest in stopping impaired drivers allows the police to detain drivers at DUI checkpoints without warrants or even reasonable cause. We know why drunk drivers must be stopped, but Feldman asks: What would be the “compelling” state interest in forbidding plural marriage?

WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIONS TO PLURAL MARRIAGE?

Opponents of plural marriage argue that these marriages often involve exploitation and even abuse. In 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declared that polygamy is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and cited concerns that the lack of “equality of treatment with regard to the right to marry” meant that polygamy violates the dignity of women and should be outlawed.

However, Feldman contends that plural marriage is not “necessarily” abusive, and he says that the preferable constitutional solution is to criminalize exploitation rather than plural marriage. And some judges, it seems, are prepared to affirm plural marriage. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said, “there is no reason to think that three or four adults, whether gay, bisexual, or straight, lack the capacity to share love, affection, and commitment, or for that matter lack the capacity to be capable (and more plentiful) parents to boot.”

Located in Hawaii, the World Polyamory Association is actively promoting what the group calls “triad” marriage. And “Loving More,” a Colorado-based nonprofit, claims that over 10,000 “polyamorists” already live in “semi-married” arrangements in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Clearly, plural marriages would open up plenty of complications regarding divorce and child custody. If you are currently divorcing, anticipating a divorce, or involved in a child custody dispute in Southern California, discuss your concerns with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney.

Polygamous marriage, of course, is nothing new historically and it is not unusual, either. It’s already accepted in most Muslim nations, and even in the Old Testament, kings like David and Solomon had scores of marital partners. Harvard law professor Noah Feldman concludes his argument by insisting that plural marriages should be legalized by the states and honored by the courts.

What Is The “Fathers’ Rights” Movement?

Posted on: December 22, 2016 by in Divorce
No Comments

If you are a father, whether you are married or divorced, you have rights. The courts are supposed to honor relationships between parents and their children, but many dads feel they are compelled to pay too much for child support while having too little parenting time. If you are the legal father of your child, it is imperative to insist on your parental rights during and after a divorce. Even if you are not granted full custody, you should have visitation privileges, and you should be assured that your rights as a father will not be taken from you.

The “fathers’ rights” movement emerged originally in the 1960s. It is essentially a loosely-organized group of activists who deal with family law issues such as child custody and child support that impact fathers and their children. It’s not exclusively male – many of the supporters of fathers’ rights are the second wives of divorced fathers. Fathers’ rights activists and supporters are often people who had scant interest in law or politics prior to being divorced, people who feel the family courts have treated them unjustly.

WHY HAS THE FATHERS’ RIGHTS MOVEMENT GROWN?

Let’s be frank. Despite the law’s official “gender-neutrality,” most courts still routinely favor the mother in a custody case. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the growth and expansion of the internet has allowed for wider discussion of fathers’ rights issues, expanded publicity, and increasing activism about the issues of interest to fathers’ rights activists. High divorce rates and societal changes in the expectations we have of parents have contributed to the movement’s growth.

More specifically, the fathers’ rights movement works and advocates for strong relationships between fathers and their children subsequent to divorce. The activists focus almost exclusively on the concerns of divorced or divorcing fathers. Organized fathers’ rights groups tend to form and dissolve quickly, often breaking up over disagreements about the movement’s philosophy and tactics.

The few fathers’ rights groups that have operated for decades – such as Families Need Fathers (active in the United Kingdom since 1974) and the Lone Fathers Association of Australia (active in that nation since 1972) – survive primarily on the efforts of key, dedicated individuals. It’s not uncommon for divorcing fathers to become temporary fathers’ rights activists during a divorce and then to lose interest after their personal parenting disputes have been resolved.

IS “FATHERS’ RIGHTS” A CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERAL MOVEMENT?

Fathers’ rights activists tend to be independently-minded, cannot be characterized as “conservative” or “liberal,” and use a variety of methods and strategies to achieve their goals. In fact, the movement has both conservative and liberal factions, so while activists agree about discrimination against fathers, they disagree about why that discrimination exists and how it can be stopped.

Some sociologists view the fathers’ rights movement as a strand of a broader “men’s movement” that includes everything from the Christian “Promise Keepers” group to the online “MGTOW” (“men going their own way”) movement. Warren Farrell, a veteran of the fathers’ rights movement since the 1970s, characterizes fathers’ rights as part of a larger “gender transition movement” that is reforming traditional views of fatherhood and motherhood.

Farrell also says that the fathers’ rights movement has been good for kids by pushing for more kids to be raised equally by both parents, thus providing more academic, psychological, social, and health benefits for children. All of the research – for decades – has confirmed that children raised by two parents are less at risk for criminal behavior and addiction. Fathers and mothers each make a unique contribution to a child’s development. In fact, Farrell believes the fathers’ rights movement is more genuinely a children’s rights movement with fathers acting as activists and advocates for children. All factions of the fathers’ rights movement makes these claims:

• Fathers are discriminated against because of gender bias in family law and the personal bias of judges.
• Child custody and child support rulings frequently represent a denial of equal rights.
• The influence of money has corrupted family law.

HOW DO FATHER’S RIGHTS GROUPS ADVANCE THEIR AGENDA?

The political efforts of the fathers’ rights movement have primarily consisted of lobbying and campaigning for formal legal rights for fathers, and sometimes for children, and to work for family law reforms in the areas of child custody, support and maintenance, domestic violence, and the family court system itself. Apart from political activism, fathers’ rights groups also provide counseling, support groups, and help to fathers and children going through separations and divorces.

Divorce is not easy for anyone. If you are a father who is divorcing or anticipating a divorce, you may feel humiliated, belittled, angry, and filled with despair all at the same time. It can be a whirlwind of emotions. Fathers who are either already divorced or going through a divorce also have real concerns about burdensome payments for child-support and visitation privileges that very limited. Despite fathers facing a better legal situation now than they did in prior to the 70’s, truly equitable legal fairness is still something that we hope to see in the future.

For now, however, it is absolutely imperative to have experienced legal representation in a divorce or a child custody dispute, especially if a father genuinely believes that he is more capable of being the better custodial parent. In Southern California, fathers who are divorcing or anticipating a divorce should discuss their circumstances with an experienced Long Beach family law attorney.

If you are not listed on the birth certificate as the father, legal paternity can be determined with an easy DNA test that is typically conducted with a swab of the cheek from the child and yourself. If the mother and you were not married at the time the birth certificate was created, it is very important that you establish your parental rights legally. If you are divorcing, if you are fighting for the custody of your child or children, or if you need to establish legal paternity in the state of California, a Long Beach family law attorney can help. Fathers who seek to protect their rights as parents don’t need to go it alone.

While the fathers’ rights movement dates back to the 1960s, there is no corresponding “mothers’ rights” movement. Although the National Organization for Women (NOW) adopted a resolution opposing the fathers’ rights movement in 1996, there simply hasn’t been much interest in forming a counter-movement. Freelance writer Trish Wilson, who has written extensively about the fathers’ rights movement, says, “Feminist groups have not taken much interest in divorce and custody and how both affect women.”

Infographic – Marriage & Infidelity

Posted on: November 3, 2016 by in Divorce, Infographics
No Comments

We have all heard the statistics surrounding marriage and divorce in the United States. In many of those divorces, infidelity in the marriage is a major problem. It tears apart the foundation of trust. However, this infographic shows that the majority of marriages where there has been infidelity (by either partner) do in fact survive. You may be surprised to learn which partner is more likely to stray, admit they strayed, and who would continue the relationship if they thought they would not get caught.

marriage-infidelity

 

Share this Image On Your Site

Celebrity Divorces and Adoption: Who Gets Custody?

Posted on: October 14, 2016 by in Divorce
No Comments

It is without a doubt the biggest Hollywood divorce story since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ended their marriage in 2012: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are calling it quits. Ms. Jolie has filed for divorce from Mr. Pitt, and she is petitioning for the physical custody of their six children. The couple have agreed to a temporary custody arrangement that was crafted by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The agreement involves therapists and requires random drug testing.

It is too early to tell if the Pitt-Jolie divorce is going to be quiet or contentious. Since both stars possess plenty of property and wealth, the kids will almost certainly be the focus of any dispute. DCFS made the temporary custody recommendations and gave the couple only two options – agree to the recommendations or take the whole matter to court. These are the terms of the temporary agreement:

  • Ms. Jolie has temporary physical custody of the six children through October 20.
  • Mr. Pitt gets visitation, but a therapist must be present at the initial visit, and the therapist may then decide if Mr. Pitt can have unmonitored visitation.
  • Mr. Pitt is subject to random drug and alcohol testing. TMZ says that his first test was negative for drugs and alcohol.
  • Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie will each receive individual counseling, and the family will undergo family counseling together.

TMZ says that Ms. Jolie agreed to the arrangement because her focus is on “healing” her family and her children. It is only a temporary agreement, however. By the time you are reading this, DCFS could amend the agreement or turn the whole matter over to the courts. During this time, and behind the scenes, Mr. Pitt, 52, and Ms. Jolie, 41, are having “productive discussions” regarding the custody of the children, according to ET Online.

WHAT WILL THE COURTS WANT TO SEE?

One Los Angeles County divorce attorney told HollywoodLife.com, “The fact that things have quieted down is a good sign for everyone.” That lawyer says that the final parenting plan may “involve mediators, parenting plan coordinators and other mental health professionals too, making sure that all parties’ needs are met. At the end of the day any judge or court wants to see that the children involved are being properly taken care of throughout the legal process.”

1

The children are reportedly at a rented home in Malibu with their mother as the divorce process unfolds. The media and internet have been filled with speculation about why Ms. Jolie has chosen divorce. Unconfirmed rumors spread by the news media – and now also by the social media – make celebrity divorces far messier and much more complicated than the divorces of couples who are not public celebrities.

Speaking of regular, not-famous people, if you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce in southern California, before you take any legal measures, you should speak with an experienced Los Angeles County divorce attorney. Ms. Jolie and Mr. Pitt will very likely want to resolve any disputes swiftly and quietly, and they will be able to do that under California’s no-fault divorce laws.

Family law in the state of California does not force you to retain an attorney’s help in a divorce proceeding. You may represent yourself, but it is not a very good idea. Divorcing couples in California should also consider arbitration, mediation, or collaborative divorce. Especially when a divorce is uncontested, these options can save both spouses time, money, and considerable emotional grief.

WHAT DOES JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY ACHIEVE?

If the final parenting arrangement includes joint legal custody, both parents will have the right to make decisions about the children’s residences, healthcare, education, and religious training. “That’s secure and it’s healthier for the kids,” one Los Angeles family lawyer told the Los Angeles Times. The couple’s oldest son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, is 15 years old, and at that age he may spell out his own wishes regarding custody to the judge. If his wishes are rational and reasonable, under California law they must be considered – along with a number of other factors – by the court.

2

Before they wed – only two years back – Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie had three of their own children, and they also adopted children from Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Cambodia. Ms. Jolie is a special envoy for the United Nations, and Mr. Pitt has been a vocal advocate for same-sex marriage and has contributed considerably to disaster relief efforts in Haiti, New Orleans, and other spots around the world. He released this statement to People magazine: “I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids. I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”

IS BRAD PITT UNDER INVESTIGATION?

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services will not confirm or deny if Brad Pitt is under investigation. “We have very strict confidentiality laws that don’t allow us to confirm or deny the subjects of our investigations,” spokesperson Amara Suarez told HollywoodReporter.com. Sgt. Barry Montgomery of the L.A. Police Department said on September 22 that the LAPD is also not investing Mr. Pitt. Sgt. Montgomery said, “We understand how rumors get spun up, and hopefully we can put a few of them to rest.”

Nonetheless, a number of reports have surfaced about Ms. Jolie claiming Mr. Pitt was abusive to their oldest son on a recent flight from France, and because it happened in the air, the FBI is determining if its agents should investigate. An FBI spokesperson told HollywoodReporter.com that, “In response to your inquiry regarding allegations within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; specifically, an aircraft carrying Mr. Brad Pitt and his children, the FBI is continuing to gather facts and will evaluate whether an investigation at the federal level will be pursued.”

3

Before World War Two, divorce was rare – even in Hollywood. Most spouses with marriage troubles did not even bother to go to court. Those couples lived unhappily, together or apart, because only wealthy couples could afford divorce. Fortunately, those times are over for all of us. Today there is no reason for anyone, whether you are a movie star or you clean a movie star’s home, to stay in a failed, hopeless marriage.

Late-Life Divorce: What You Need To Know

Posted on: September 30, 2016 by in Divorce
No Comments

The rising rate of divorce among couples over 50 years old has generated a great deal of discussion and concern. While there are demographic factors that can explain the rising number of “gray” divorces, the fact that older couples are divorcing more has a number of implications for all of us. Joan Fradella, a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator with Divorce thru Mediation, Inc., makes this observation:

“Late life divorce, or gray divorce, can be scary for different reasons than younger divorces. You know that you have given it your best effort, but it may feel more difficult to start over as a newly single person…. The biggest concern is that you now have to split assets that you together worked a lifetime to build. Both parties may have a deep emotional attachment to the marital home because you raised your children there, but it may have to be sold so that you can each afford a suitable home.”

Ms. Fradella adds, “You have to figure out a way to be together at your children’s weddings, and a way to be grandparents together. You cannot expect your children to figure that out for you…. Sometimes, long buried resentments may surface, but it is better to work through that the best you can, be civil to each other, and mediate an amicable divorce, thereby preserving your assets. You still have a lot of living to do, although without each other. Change never feels easy, especially in later years. It is important to remember that many of the changes we have already gone through in life have turned out for the better in the long run.”

If you are divorcing and retiring more or less simultaneously in southern California, there’s no way around it. You’re going to need the insights and services of a good divorce lawyer. Speak first with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney who will explain your options, guide you through the divorce process, and advocate on behalf of your long-term interests. The following recommendations may also help:

  1. If you lose half of your retirement savings, some of your retirement goals may be out of reach. Determine what is important and plan a way to finance it.
  2. Settling the divorce out-of-court lets you control the settlement – rather than the state.
  3. Learn about Social Security. You may be able to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s employment. This is a smart option for many divorcing spouses.
  4. Older couples may want to consider legal separation. It costs far less than divorce, and it is usually less stressful and acrimonious, too.

A divorce after fifty can present a variety of challenges, but if you are over fifty and divorcing, you can’t let your healthcare coverage become a problem. Once you know that your marriage will be dissolved, take action to keep your current coverage and look to replace it. If you are worried that the spouse you are divorcing may cancel your employer-provided insurance or fail to continue making payments, tell your attorney, and together you can take steps to retain your coverage.

AFTER A DIVORCE, HOW CAN YOU RETAIN HEALTHCARE COVERAGE?

If you will require private healthcare insurance after the divorce is final, begin the process at once. Take your time to learn and consider the available policy options. The least expensive health insurance is employer-provided, so if you are covered through your job, you are probably in good shape. If your coverage is through your spouse’s employer-provided insurance, you may be entitled to coverage under COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, explained below. If neither spouse has healthcare coverage through a job, that puts you back to square one, seeking private individual coverage. Individual plans include:

  • preferred provider plans (PPOs)
  • HMO plans
  • less expensive plans with limited hospital and physician access
  • plans with no deductibles, no co-pays, and no waiting periods
  • umbrella plans that include dental, vision, and prescriptions
  • catastrophic plans
  • mini-med plans (these offer limited coverage to persons with preexisting conditions)

An individual health insurance plan can be purchased through an insurance company website, an insurance agent, or a purchasing group such as a professional or trade association, a credit union, or an organization like the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). Even before you search for health insurance in earnest, speak with several agents to learn some options and get some ideas to help you search. Below, some key insurance terms are defined to help you make the best choice:

  • Deductible: the amount you must pay before insurance starts reimbursing you.
  • Co-pay: the percentage of the split between the policy holder and the insurance company. For example, under some plans, the insurer might pay 75 percent with the policyholder paying 25 percent.
  • Covered expense: an expense totally or partially reimbursed by the insurance company. Some policies pay only for a “reasonable and customary charge,” so if the actual amount is higher, the policyholder may have to pay the difference.

Generally, private insurance cannot arbitrarily be cancelled, but it may be legitimately cancelled for any failure to pay the premiums or for any failure to disclose pertinent information about your health or your medical history. It is best to seek non-cancellable, guaranteed renewable healthcare coverage. If you can’t find or afford it, then seek a “conditionally renewable” policy so that you can’t be singled out for cancellation. If a private, individual plan is not right for you, consider the alternatives listed here:

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

With a health savings account that you can open through your bank or through an insurance company, you can make tax-deductible contributions (deposits) up to $3,000 a year (and more if you are over age 55). Your deposited funds may then be used for qualifying medical expenses at any time. However, to be eligible to open a health savings account, you must have a health insurance policy with a high deductible.

COBRA COVERAGE

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a set of laws that apply if you have healthcare coverage through your spouse’s employer. COBRA offers “qualified beneficiaries” up to 36 months of continuing health insurance coverage after a divorce. COBRA applies to companies with twenty or more employees, unions, and state and local governments. COBRA does not cover federal employees, but they typically enjoy similar benefits. Spouses of military personnel may obtain essentially the same benefits under Tricare.

Your spouse’s employer’s human relations department will know who your COBRA plan administrator is. Contact the plan administrator within 60 days after the divorce is final about your need to have continuing COBRA coverage. You will receive a notice with directions and a deadline for choosing coverage. The first premium is due within 45 days after you select a plan. COBRA coverage ends three years after the date that the divorce becomes final, or:

  • if premiums are delinquent
  • if the employer stops offering coverage or goes out of business
  • if you obtain equivalent group coverage
  • if you become eligible for Medicare

HIPAA AND OTHER OPTIONS

In some circumstances, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) lets you purchase individual or group health insurance with no exclusion for a preexisting medical condition. State insurance risk pools offer help to individuals who can afford private health insurance coverage but who have been rejected for private coverage due to a preexisting condition. Medicare is the federal government’s health insurance program for those age 65 and over. Details about Medicare may be obtained from the Social Security Administration.

No divorce is ever easy, but gray divorces do tend to be less acrimonious. Illinois attorney Joshua E. Stern says, “When people get divorced later in life, particularly after a long marriage, I’ve noticed that the parties tend to stick to their private agreements. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to make sacrifices during the marriage, whether to assume more domestic work or to stay in a demanding job to support the family.”

Stern adds, “The spouse who gives up his or her career expects to be financially supported later in life. The spouse who works a demanding job may expect his or her spouse to return to work at some point and assume more of the financial responsibility. When a divorce happens later in life, the parties have operated under their private agreement for some time. They are far more likely to inform their lawyers and the court what their agreement was and what they believe a fair settlement is. I’ve found far less wrangling over spousal support and property division when people are divorced later in life.”

Anita A. Chlipala, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of Relationship Reality 312 cautions that “Disconnection is the culprit for divorce, especially later in life. This shows a failure of the friendship and intimacy in the marriage. Couples need to work on their connection, but they may have focused on the kids, taken their spouse and love for granted, thought marriage shouldn’t take work, etc.”

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC, and Certified Imago Therapist with the Marriage Restoration Project notes that “While there are certain events that can push a marriage over the edge, many couples are successfully able to weather a lousy marriage for a long time.” However, for many today, “weathering a lousy marriage” is no way to live. If you are divorcing in southern California and you are 50 years old or older, an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney can address your concerns regarding retirement and healthcare, help you understand your options, and refer you to the experts and agencies that can provide more of the answers you may need.