Archive for the ‘ Family Law ’ Category

Will Police Enforce Child Custody?

Posted on: October 16, 2017 by in Family Law
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Too many divorced parents have to deal with an ex-spouse who consistently violates the child custody order. A non-custodial parent might routinely be late picking up and returning the children for visitations, or a custodial parent might routinely make the children unavailable. How can you get help enforcing a custody order? Do you need an attorney? Can the police help? You’re about to learn those answers and more about your rights and options as a divorced parent.

Violations of a child custody order related to visitations are not the only violations that some parents must deal with. Most custody orders forbid disparaging comments about the other parent in the child’s presence, but it’s a common problem. And if the other parent – whether custodial or non-custodial – simply disappears with the kids for days at a time, you may begin to have genuine concerns about the safety of your children. What can you do? Where can you turn?

In most of these cases, the best first step is simply to try communicating clearly with your ex-spouse. Calmly, point-by-point, explain what you believe to be the problem, why you believe it is a problem, and how you think the problem can be fixed in a way that is fair to everyone. If you believe that your ex-spouse’s behavior is hurting the child or children, try to explain your feelings without accusations or anger.

SHOULD YOU CALL THE POLICE ABOUT A CUSTODY ORDER VIOLATION?

Keep a written journal of your discussions with your spouse regarding the custody order, and be as specific as possible, but also be forthright and candid – any vindictiveness or any attempt by either parent to manipulate the other parent will probably be spotted by the court. Be certain that you have several certified copies of the child custody order. If you have to call the police about a violation of the court order, they will ask to see it.

Court orders – such as arrest warrants, search warrants, and subpoenas – are issued every day by California courts, and a child custody order carries the same legal authority as any other court order – meaning that it can be enforced by the police. Even so, many police departments in California will resist getting involved in a family law dispute unless a crime like kidnapping or abuse has occurred.

Some police departments in our state will be more helpful than others. The police may try talking to your ex, or they may simply tell you to take your problem to the court. If that happens in southern California, obtain the advice and services of an experienced Long Beach family law attorney.

Still, a parent should not be rushing into a courtroom every time there is some minor violation of the child custody order. While the courts in our state expect adherence to custody orders, they also expect sober and rational behavior. Demanding a hearing just because your ex is thirty minutes late with the kids might even backfire against you.

IF YOU GO TO COURT OVER A CUSTODY VIOLATION, WHAT WILL YOU NEED?

Judges want to see facts, not emotions, wild allegations, or trivial allegations. If you are alleging that the other parent regularly causes the kids to be tardy for school, for example, bring a copy of the school’s attendance records or a statement from the school administration. Carrying yourself calmly and having your facts and documents in order will work in your favor.

If one parent is uncooperative or consistently violates the custody order, a judge can modify the order, impose a fine, or even send that parent to jail for contempt of court. Usually, however, a judge will modify the custody order to address the particular violation. For example, if a parent always brings the child back late after overnight visits, overnight visits might be eliminated.

What if you are the non-custodial parent, and the custodial parent routinely will not make the child available for scheduled court-ordered visitations? In such cases, the court may choose to revise the custody order entirely. However, judges will always work to avoid the appearance of punishing a child by reducing the amount of time the child may spend with either parent.

WHAT IS A CALIFORNIA COURT’S TOP PRIORITY?

In fact, in any legal situation that involves a child, a California court’s utmost priority will always be the child’s best interests. What a parent needs to demonstrate to the court is precisely how the other parent’s violations of the custody order are harming the child and how you have attempted to resolve the situation calmly and reasonably. Always show the court that you are putting your child’s interests first.

If you are a non-custodial parent and you want to enjoy more visitation time with your children, take full advantage of the time you already have. Do not miss visits that are already scheduled, and be on your best behavior. That’s the lasting lesson to take from a recent ruling handed down by California’s Third District Court of Appeals.

In that case, a non-custodial mother had missed a number of scheduled visits, and she seemed to behave irrationally when she did show up. The Third District Court upheld a lower court decision and refused to order additional visitations. The judges held that by missing scheduled visits, the mother generated anxiety and distress in the children, so the court refused to give the mother more chances to cause that anxiety and distress.

WHERE CAN A PARENT TURN FOR LEGAL ADVICE AND HELP?

If you do end up calling the police about the violation of a child custody order, cooperate with them – even if they seem reticent to cooperate with you. A call to the police is almost never the end of a custody order violation complaint, and if you go before a judge, any prior lack of cooperation with the police will inevitably work against you.

If you are on either side of a child custody dispute, a child support dispute, or a child visitation dispute, or if you have any concerns or questions regarding child custody or any other matter of family law in southern California, arrange a consultation with an experienced Long Beach family law attorney. Nothing in this world is a higher priority than your children, so you must be represented by a skilled, experienced attorney who will fight aggressively on your behalf.

Legal Separation Vs. Divorce In California

Posted on: September 22, 2017 by in Family Law
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In the state of California, marital partners who are seeking to dissolve their marriage can choose from a variety of legal options. The alternatives are a “conventional” divorce trial, arbitration, mediation, “collaborative” divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Before you choose to divorce in this state, legal separation is an option that you should thoroughly consider. Here in California, legal separation differs in several ways from an annulment or a conventional divorce.

However, a legal separation can provide marriage partners with some breathing space and some time to reappraise their marital circumstances. In a legal separation, marriage partners remain legally married, but they do not live in the same residence.

Partners with children must arrange for child support payments and visitations. You can learn more about the option of legal separation in California – and about whether legal separation may be right for you – by discussing your own situation with an experienced Long Beach family law attorney.

Simply living separately from one’s spouse does not establish a “legal” separation in California. Marriage partners must file court papers to obtain a legal separation. What leads couples to choose legal separation rather than divorce?

Separation is a practical choice for partners with religious principles that forbid divorce. Others choose separation to retain benefits they might forfeit by divorcing. In California, there is one additional advantage to a legal separation. If you are new in this state, you can sometimes expedite the divorce procedure if you file first for legal separation.

HOW IS A LEGAL SEPARATION “CONVERTED” INTO A DIVORCE?

How does that work? Although a marital partner must reside in California for six months before that partner can file for divorce, there is no residency requirement for obtaining a legal separation. The law in California allows marriage partners to “convert” a legal separation into a divorce when the separation has been finalized – or at any time during the process. Either partner can submit a request for conversion.

Thus, if a spouse needs to divorce quickly, but that spouse has not yet established residency in California, the spouse can file immediately for separation, and when the six months for the residency requirement have passed, the spouse can then immediately convert the legal separation to a legal divorce.

A legal separation, of course, is never the last word in a marriage; over time, the partners either must reconcile or begin the divorce process. And the Census Bureau reports that fourteen percent of married couples who choose legal separation later reunite.

For those who are not using legal separation as a way to deal with California’s residency requirement for divorce, there is no tangible, quantifiable legal benefit to legal separation, apart from having some private time to think things out.

Generally speaking, separation is for marriages that have deteriorated to where the partners no longer want to live together, but for whatever reason, one partner or both cannot divorce or are not yet ready to divorce.

Legal separation in California requires the consent of both marriage partners, although a spouse served with a petition for legal separation may refuse to take part in the process but may still allow it to proceed without objection. If the spouse who is served with a petition for legal separation objects to the separation, the filing spouse may have no choice but to continue the marriage or to file for divorce.

IN WHAT WAYS IS LEGAL SEPARATION COMPARABLE TO DIVORCE?

Petitioning for legal separation in California is just as complicated as filing for divorce. This is a no-fault divorce state where a divorce and a legal separation require identical legal grounds – either “irreconcilable differences” or one spouse’s incurable insanity.

The two actions are almost identical, from serving the divorce or separation petition to the full disclosure of both partners’ finances. In legal separations as well as divorces, the partners can personally resolve any disputed issues in the marriage, or a court can make those decisions when the partners cannot reach agreements.

One provision in California family law allows very few marriages to qualify for what the law calls “summary” divorce, which is a much simpler procedure – and usually much less costly – than either legal separation or conventional divorce. However, only marriages of five years or less with no children, no real estate, and limited assets are eligible for the summary divorce process.

WHAT DOES A LEGAL SEPARATION DECREE ADDRESS?

A legal separation decree issued by a California court deals with the same questions as a divorce decree. Both types of decrees divide and distribute the joint marital property. Both types of decrees also spell out the arrangements for spousal support, if any, and if children are involved, both types of decrees specify the precise arrangements for child custody, child support, and visitation.

Both types of decrees are legally binding. The main difference is that legal separation doesn’t dissolve a marriage. In a legal separation, one spouse can remain covered by the other’s health insurance, for example, and neither spouse can marry someone else.

In both divorces and separations, the spouses can reduce their time, expenses, and anxieties by reaching agreements on as many topics as they can before they formally initiate legal separation or divorce proceedings. Having the insights and advice of an experienced Long Beach family law attorney is imperative for anyone who is seeking a legal separation or a divorce in southern California.

In summary, these are the steps that you must take to obtain a legal separation in the state of California:

– Determine the grounds for your legal separation: irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity.

– Complete Form FL-100 and submit it to your county court. The form includes options for both divorce and legal separation. A family law attorney can help you complete the form.

– If you have children under age 18, complete and submit Form FL-105/GC-120. A family law attorney can help you complete this form too.

– Pay the filing fee. Those with low incomes and those receiving public benefits may qualify for a waiver of the fee.

– Have your spouse “served” with the court papers.

Finally, if you are considering a separation or a divorce in Long Beach or anywhere in Orange County, Los Angeles County, or elsewhere in Southern California, obtain the reliable legal advice you need, and arrange to meet with an experienced Long Beach family law attorney.

How Do You Modify A Child Custody Order In California?

Posted on: August 22, 2017 by in Family Law
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You already know that divorce is never easy, and when children are involved, the difficulties multiply. If you and your spouse are parents who are divorcing, try to work out a child custody agreement even before one of you files the divorce papers. If you can come to your own custody agreement, you’ll both save yourselves a great deal of time, money, and aggravation. In southern California, an experienced Long Beach child visitation attorney can help.

When divorce is hostile or acrimonious, and spouses can’t reach any agreement regarding child custody, the decision is made by a judge. The well-being your child or children is your top priority, so if you can’t come to an agreement with your spouse regarding child custody, you must be represented by an experienced California family lawyer. Your attorney can address your concerns, explain how the state’s child custody laws apply in your own case, and advocate vigorously on your behalf.

WHAT IF A CHILD CUSTODY ORDER NEEDS TO BE CHANGED?

Whether spouses reach their own agreement, or it’s left up to a judge, at some point after a divorce, circumstances will almost certainly change, and the child custody arrangement will require some modification.

A parent may request a modification of the custody order when a parent’s income changes or a child’s needs have changed. A modification may also be requested when:

– One parent has suffered a severe injury or illness.
– One parent wants or needs to move out of the jurisdiction or out of the state.
– One parent has received a criminal conviction or has lost his or her job.
– One parent has married a new partner.
– A new child has been born to either parent.
– The time a child spends with a parent has significantly changed.
– The child’s medical, educational, or other needs have changed.
– Anything else arises that substantially affects the custody order or the child.

To request a child custody order modification from a California family court, have a family law attorney help you complete the paperwork that’s needed to start the process. Again, if you can reach an agreement with your ex-spouse regarding the modification of a custody order, it can save you both a great deal of trouble. However, if your ex-spouse disputes the need for the modification that you are requesting, you’ll both probably be ordered by the court to meet with a professional mediator and work through the mediation process.

A hearing date will be set. A judge then will consider any tentative agreement proposal reached in the mediation process, and that judge will make a final decision on your child custody modification request. If you divorced in a different county or state, it’s possible to move the case to Los Angeles County, but you’ll need the help of an experienced Long Beach family law attorney.

WHY WOULD A CHILD CUSTODY MODIFICATION REQUEST BE DENIED?

Child custody order modifications are not approved for negligible or frivolous reasons. The change in life circumstances must be substantial, and any modification must serve the child’s best interests.

In all matters involving children in California law, a judge is required to consider the child’s best interests as the paramount priority. California law presumes that in most situations, consistent and regular communication and time with both parents is in the best interests of a child.

Thus, judges who determine custody disputes in this state have wide discretion to determine what is in the best interests of a child. If you are seeking custody, a recent conviction or even an arrest, a record of recent drug or alcohol abuse, or any recent history of violent behavior can sabotage your chances to become the custodial parent. An experienced family law attorney can assess your particular circumstances and advise you regarding your wisest course of action.

Sole custody of a child to one parent is ordered by a California court only if that court is persuaded that sole custody is genuinely in the best interests of the child. Sole custody means the other parent no longer possesses any legal authority regarding concerns such as a child’s religious upbringing, healthcare, or education. When sole custody is the court’s order, the court must explain its decision in writing.

But even when a California court authorizes the sole custody of a child to one parent, visitation privileges are usually granted to the non-custodial parent. A judge, however, may in some cases order an agency of the state – or authorize another third party – to supervise those visits. In some cases, a judge will order a custody evaluation to obtain more information about the parents and the child or children before issuing a custody order.

HOW IS A CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION CONDUCTED?

When a “730” evaluation is sought by a judge, a mental health professional will conduct the evaluation and recommend a parenting and custody plan. Most California family law judges now rely on 730 evaluations to help them make custody determinations. A custody evaluation may include interviews, psychological tests, and professional observations and judgments. The evaluation process can take as long as six months. Parents are scrutinized closely during the evaluation period and expected to exercise their best parenting skills.

If the decision regarding your child’s custody is made by a California judge, the law in our state requires that decision to be in the child’s best interests. Thus, in any child custody dispute – or even a dispute over child support or visitation privileges – it’s imperative for a parent to be sober, rational, and cooperative. Making defamatory statements or claims regarding the child’s other parent, for example, never helps you in any divorce-related legal dispute.

An experienced family law attorney can help many divorced and divorcing parents resolve a child custody dispute using the mediation or arbitration process. Mediation and arbitration help many parents avoid an acrimonious courtroom battle. However, if you need to have a child custody order modified and your child’s other parent is uncooperative, you must have the counsel of an experienced southern California family law attorney who routinely and successfully handles child custody disputes.

Relocations, new jobs, and new marriages happen to parents all the time. Injuries, illnesses, and unemployment are frequent as well, and the courts in California understand that everyone’s circumstances change over time. Child custody order modifications are not unusual, but a request for a modification will require an attorney’s help. Don’t hesitate to seek that help. Nothing is more important than your child.

An Overview Of Grandparents’ Rights In California

Posted on: May 18, 2017 by in Family Law
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Far too frequently in today’s world, grandparents may find themselves being pushed out of the lives of their grandchildren, particularly after an event such as a divorce or a legal separation. Often in such circumstances, a custodial parent may try to keep a child away from the grandparents. When a parent does that, it’s painful for grandparents, and it can be damaging to a child as well.

What you are about to read is a brief, general explanation of grandparents’ legal rights in the state of California, but if your own legal rights as a grandparent are being denied or trampled on in Southern California, you will need the personalized legal advice that an experienced Long Beach family law attorney can provide. A good family lawyer can explain your rights and options as a grandparent and help you take legal action if that eventually becomes necessary.

It’s not news that a divorce can be tough on a child. Divorce is precisely the type of situation where a child may genuinely need the emotional support and encouragement that grandparents so often provide. The legal rights of grandparents are honored and respected by California law, so after a divorce, grandparents in this state have every right to ask a court for reasonable visitations with their grandchildren. The court will weigh a variety of factors before making a decision.

WHAT IS A CALIFORNIA FAMILY COURT’S TOP PRIORITY?

In any legal action that concerns a child, the leading priority for California courts is almost always the best interests of the child. However, because of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, grandparents in California (and the forty-nine other states as well) do not have an absolute legal right to visitations, even when those visitations may, in fact, be in a grandchild’s best interests. Why aren’t grandparental visitation rights absolute?

Making grandparental visitation rights “absolute” would infringe on the right of parents to make decisions regarding their children – a more important (or “weightier”) right according to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the year 2000, that court struck down a Washington state statute that explicitly allowed for grandparental visitations – if those visitations were deemed by the court to be in the child’s best interests – even against a custodial parent’s wishes.

However, even in the face of parental opposition, there remain instances where the courts in California may grant limited visitation rights to grandparents. Grandparents may be granted visitation rights such as a weekend a month or a week or more in the summer. In other cases, the visitation rights of a grandparent may be severely restricted, and in some extremely rare cases, grandparents can be kept away entirely from their grandchildren.

WHERE CAN GRANDPARENTS TURN FOR LEGAL HELP?

Obviously, every family is different, and when a grandparent seeks visitation rights, the court must consider the facts, details, and circumstances that make the case unique. If you are a grandparent in southern California and you are seeking the right to visit your grandchild or grandchildren, discuss the details with an experienced Long Beach family law attorney. A good family lawyer can review the case and provide the sound and honest legal advice a grandparent will need regarding your rights and options.

In California, when a grandparent goes to court to request visitation rights, the court will want to know if a pre-existing bond and relationship have been established between the child and the grandparent. If so, that will be helpful to the grandparent’s case. The court must attempt to balance the grandparent’s rights and the child’s best interests with the custodial parent’s right to make decisions about who spends time with the child.

California grandparents who are seeking the right to have visitations with a grandchild should be prepared to tell a judge about the nature of their relationship with their grandchild, to explain why grandparental visitations are in the child’s best interests, and to offer any other evidence or testimony that may help the judge learn more about your special relationship with your grandchild.

Generally speaking, when a child’s parents are married, and the parents and child live together as a family, if both parents are agreed about denying visitations to a grandparent, that grandparent may, in the end, have no legal option. However, and even when the parents are married, there are several exceptions that may open a door for grandparental visitations. If the parents are living separately, if the whereabouts of one parent remain unknown for thirty or more days, or if the child is not living with either parent, it is possible that a court may permit limited grandparental visitations.

WHEN GRANDPARENTS SEEK RIGHTS, IS COURT THEIR ONLY OPTION?

Whether the parents of a child are married or divorced or even unmarried, going to court is not necessarily the only option for grandparents who are seeking the right to visit a grandchild. In fact, it may be best to attempt to resolve these issues outside of the courtroom through mediation, and if you go directly to a California court, the judge will most likely order mediation anyway. Formal mediation can often lower the level of animosity among family members, and it can reduce your legal expenses too.

Mediation is a way to discuss your needs and concerns openly and safely. Moreover, a mediated settlement is often more acceptable to everyone involved than a court-imposed mandate that may leave some family members with resentments and bruised feelings for years to come.

Many California family law attorneys also serve as family law mediators, but if mediation is court-ordered, the court may not allow your own lawyer to take part in the mediation process, so be sure to discuss the process with your attorney first.

When a parent or parents cannot care adequately or appropriately for a child, grandparents may seek legal guardianship. In California, if you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights or requesting guardianship, representation by a skilled and dedicated attorney is imperative.

Family law in California specifies no particular legal path for grandparents seeking visitation rights, so in each case, a grandparent should consult an experienced family law attorney and carefully consider that attorney’s recommendations. Your relationship with your grandchild – and the future of that relationship – is what will be determined when you take legal action.

What Are The Fees For A Divorce In California?

Posted on: April 18, 2017 by in Family Law
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What does it cost to get divorced in California? Like almost everything else in the law, the best answer is “it depends.” This is a general introduction to the basic costs of a California divorce and the factors that can increase or reduce those costs. Any specific figures mentioned here are general and hypothetical. Of course, every couple is different and every divorce is different, so if you seek to divorce in southern California, at some point you will need to speak directly with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney about what your own divorce might cost.

You may have more of a say about the cost of your divorce than you think. For instance, an uncontested divorce is often the best divorce option when the spouses are concerned about fees and costs but have no particular bitter feelings toward one another and are ready to move on with their lives. However, the rules for an uncontested divorce are precise, not every divorcing couple in California will be eligible. To obtain an uncontested divorce in California:

  • The time between the marriage and the separation date must be five years or less.
  • There are no minor children and neither spouse is pregnant or seeks spousal support.
  • One spouse must reside in California for at least six months and in the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least three months.
  • Both spouses must sign an agreement to divide all assets and debts.
  • There are no outstanding debts over $6,000 (apart from car notes) and neither partner owns any real estate. Any lease agreements must end within a year of the filing of the divorce petition and may not include an option to buy.
  • Apart from vehicles, total marital assets are less than $38,000, including retirement and deferred compensation, and neither spouse individually owns assets valued over $38,000.

In California, an uncontested divorce is called a “summary dissolution of marriage.” If spouses are eligible for a summary dissolution, they will have considerably less red tape and paperwork to deal with, and they will not be required to appear in court. A summary dissolution should cost $3,600 to $6,000 – total for both spouses – although the final figure number may be more. However, if there are no disagreements and everyone works together cooperatively, the cost of the divorce can probably remain below the $6,000 figure.

However, not that many divorcing couples in California will qualify for an uncontested divorce. In many divorces, there are disputes over the division of property and assets and over spousal support. When divorcing partners are parents, there may be a dispute over custody, child support, or visitation rights. Each matter in that is in dispute will increase the cost of a divorce in California.

HOW MUCH DOES THE DIVISION OF PROPERTIES, ASSETS, AND DEBTS COST?

Even when the division of properties, assets, and debts is undisputed, the paperwork can take four to six hours of an attorney’s time. It might sound easy, but determining who owns what can be quite complicated, especially if the property and assets that must be divided are extensive.

If there are disputes and lengthy negotiations, the cost rises, and when properties must be liquidated, the cost rises again. If one partner or spouse is attempting to hide assets, there may be additional investigative costs to uncover those hidden assets.

Disagreements over property and assets can take up a lot of time. One or both spouses may insist on an appraisal to decide a home’s fair market value. And even after an appraisal, a fair and equitable division of real estate holdings can be quite challenging and often the most complicated issue in a divorce. An experienced Long Beach divorce attorney can probably give you an estimate – early in the divorce process – of what the division of property, assets, and debts will cost in your own case.

HOW MUCH WILL CUSTODY AND SUPPORT DISPUTES COST?

If the spouses cannot reach an agreement regarding child custody, the attorneys may spend hours on the phone, writing letters, and meeting in person to negotiate. Even complicated child custody disputes can usually be settled in about six hours of negotiations or less, but obviously, the longer and more difficult the negotiations, the more expensive the whole process becomes. This is why it’s imperative to work out as much as possible with your spouse as early as possible in the divorce process.

Child support is usually easier to determine than spousal support, particularly if all of the finances are fully disclosed. California has formal guidelines to help judges decide the appropriate amount of child support that should be paid to a custodial parent by the non-custodial parent after a divorce.

If parents cannot agree on a child support amount, a California judge will use the state’s guidelines to impose a child support order. Your divorce attorney knows what the guidelines require, and in most cases, your attorney can quickly give you a rough estimate of the amount of child support that will be required.

Spousal support (alimony) is different, because divorcing partners may disagree about the standard of living during the marriage or about the length of time spousal support should be paid. Spousal support negotiations often consume more hours than any other matter in a divorce. There is simply no way to estimate the cost – especially if the finances are complicated and the emotions are running high – but most divorce attorneys charge by the hour, so every additional complication will add to the cost of a divorce.

WHAT IS THE COST OF A DIVORCE TRIAL?

The cost of a divorce trial is almost impossible to estimate, but if your divorce must end with a divorce trial because the spouses cannot agree on anything, it can cost thousands, and if the finances are complicated, a divorce trial can cost tens of thousands. Compromising where you can and agreeing with your spouse on as many matters as possible is really the only way to reduce the cost of a California divorce. When everything is in dispute, the cost of discovery requests, interrogatories, subpoenas, depositions, and transcripts can pile up fast.

CAN A SPOUSE BE ORDERED TO PAY THE OTHER SPOUSE’S LEGAL FEES?

In most cases, a California judge will not require your spouse to pay your attorney fees. In very rare instances, California judges will order one spouse to pay the other’s attorney fees, but only – when the finances are so unbalanced that the proceeding would otherwise be entirely unjust. In such a case, the needier spouse can ask the court to review the finances and determine if the more advantaged spouse should pay all or part of the needier spouse’s attorney fees.

Most California divorce attorneys are willing to work with their clients and can offer someone seeking a divorce several ways to pay after discussing your full range of legal options. There is no way to predict the final amount that a divorce will cost in the state of California, but in many cases an experienced California divorce attorney can give you a rough cost estimate very early in the divorce process.

Tools To Help Co-Parents Maintain Clear Communication

Posted on: February 9, 2017 by in Family Law
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Co-parenting can be a challenge, and ongoing communication and cooperation between parents can make it easier to manage. However, conflict and miscommunication make it more difficult for co-parents to work together effectively. Even if they recognize that they cannot speak calmly face-to-face or by phone, lengthy emails and vague text messages often keep the friction going.

For example, a parent may send an email that includes multiple requests for things like schedule changes and expense reimbursements, but the important facts get lost in the paragraphs of emotional commentary. This can make it hard for the receiving parent to focus on and respond to just the requests. Rather than letting information become unclear, co-parents who can communicate clearly and make information accessible in both homes may be able to avoid conflict and costly setbacks.

As a way to help reach this point, many co-parents turn to alternative tools for communication. Several web-based tools exist which help co-parents to thoroughly document and organize their communication and help them get straight to the facts. Some of these tools only provide co-parents with one capability like messaging, but replacing long, unfocused emails with long, unfocused messages isn’t really a solution to make communication clearer. Co-parents who regularly face problems with messaging may have more success in communicating if they use other tools to share information.

One set of online communication tools for co-parents that does more than provide messaging can be found on the OurFamilyWizard® website. This suite of web and mobile-based tools provides co-parents with a variety of features for scheduling and track parenting time, log expenses and facilitate reimbursements, sharing documents and other information, and more. Its features are equipped with templates that prompt each parent for complete and timely information, which helps co-parents to continuously update each other with the relevant facts having to do with their children.

OurFamilyWizard® tools can help get co-parents out of the habit of messaging by offering several other easy-to-use features to help break down requests and other information to just the hard facts. However, there may be cases where some information must be shared in long form. If a parent does need to send a message, they can use ToneMeter to analyze the content of their message for emotionally charged content. This gives the parent a chance to recognize where the tone of their message could be received negatively and allows them to adjust their tone before sending.

Using one central zone for communication also makes it easier for co-parents to share their activity with counsel, if necessary. Using online co-parenting tools like OurFamilyWizard®, both parents have access to accurate, print-ready reports. Plus, parents have the option to link their attorney or other professionals working with their family to oversee the communications on the website. Even so, co-parents who can communicate clearly may be able to avoid constant conflict that requires attorney intervention or return trips to court.

No matter how co-parents feel about each other, shared parenting is a responsibility that should be managed with care. Maintaining clear communication and reducing conflict are two positive co-parenting goals, and using the right communication tools can support these objectives.

7 Ways To Lose Child Custody

Posted on: November 25, 2016 by in Family Law
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Family law is changing rapidly in California and every other state, so if you are involved in a dispute over child custody, you must have the help of an experienced family lawyer who stays abreast of current court rulings and related legal developments. In some California divorces, experienced family law attorneys can help divorcing parents resolve a child custody disagreement in arbitration or in mediation proceedings and without the need for a trial.

Unfortunately, in other California divorces, custody and visitation may be aggressively contested, and a parent will need the counsel of an experienced Long Beach family law attorney. Nothing is more important than your children. If you are divorcing with children in California or any other state, and you want custody of your child or children, there are some mistakes you simply cannot make. Those mistakes are listed and discussed below.

According to Doreen Yaffa, Florida Board Certified Family Law attorney in Boca Raton, Florida, “You don’t really ‘lose’ your children in a divorce or a paternity action. The term ‘child custody’ is no longer used by the state judicial system in divorce cases involving minor children. As of 2008, changes in Florida divorce and marital laws invoked terms such as ‘time sharing’ and ‘parenting plans’ when discussing the children, their visitation and other issues related to their upbringing and general welfare after their parent’s divorce.”

Dan Thorne, founder of the PRAXES parenting program and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has worked with many families in the process of divorce, from separation through the ongoing squabbles between parents over their children. “Child custody is determined by the parent’s ability to provide what’s termed, ‘in the child’s best interest.’  Most parents want some form of legal and physical custody, to be part of their child’s life. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always end up to be the case,” Thorne says.

He explains that “One reason for the loss of child custody is that a parent relinquishes rights and just phases out of the child’s life, due to personal problems or unwillingness to take on the challenges of parenting. Another reason is the parent’s inability to care for the child, due to a criminal record, a history of drug or alcohol use, or a history of physical abuse and/or neglect of the child. A final reason is because the parents’ animosity towards each other is so intense that one parent says, ‘I give up’ and walks away from the child to avoid contact with the other parent.  There are numerous examples of these happening with either the mother or father, which leaves one parent taking both roles and dealing with the struggles of being a single parent.”

“Luckily, loss of custody doesn’t have to be permanent,” Thorne says. “A parent who once was negligent can rehabilitate themselves and have the courts reconsider their situations, or vice versa. Also, as children become older, they can have more say in which parent they live with. Parents need to consider their options carefully during the divorce process, because the decisions they make at that time have long ranging consequences which affect not only them, but deeply affect their children for years to come. Divorce is one of the major traumatic factors which affect children and increases their risk of behavioral problems as they mature.”

From the start, the divorcing parents of minor children should understand that both parents begin the process with joint custody rights and with the same right to pursue custody. The presumption that mothers will inevitably be awarded custody no longer really exists. Actually, today, fathers who seek primary custody of their children prevail in just about fifty percent of the cases. The court’s role in a California custody dispute is to work exclusively for the best interests of the child or children.

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Physical custody and legal custody are the core issues in a child custody dispute; their resolution governs how visitation and related matters will be resolved. A parent with legal custody decides where a child lives, attends school, and receives medical care. Physical custody refers to the parent who provides daily supervision. Many divorcing spouses in California eventually settle on joint physical custody so that a child can spend plenty of time with both parents.

Oakland personal injury lawyer Jeffrey Nadrich suggests that when bitterness runs high between divorcing spouses, a custody proceeding can be brutal. Especially if one spouse has experienced some form of abuse or injury while married. Sometimes entirely fabricated accusations are made; more often, exaggerated accusations are made that blow the truth out of proportion. If you want to keep the custody of your children, you need to avoid certain behaviors and even certain appearances. For parents who are seeking custody and for those who anticipate that they will be seeking custody in the near future, here is a list of seven ways that parents often lose a child custody dispute:

  1. NOT BEING THE PRIMARY CARETAKER

In a typical household, one parent takes more responsibility for the children’s basic needs. That parent is considered the “primary” caretaker, and that parent has an advantage in a custody case. If you are not spending time with your child – eating, playing, driving, teaching – you will be at a disadvantage. If you are not actively involved in the raising of your child, you are probably not going to prevail in a custody dispute. There is no more certain way to lose a custody case than to demonstrate to a judge that you are not really very active in the raising of your child.

  1. NOT PARTICIPATING IN TYPICAL PARENTING ACTIVITIES

Along the same line, if you are not currently participating in some kind of typical parenting activities, your likelihood of prevailing in a child custody dispute is low. Do you routinely take part in school conferences and events, or in activities like Little League or Girl Scouts? Do you take your child to the doctor, the library, or the zoo? Do you know the names of your child’s teachers? If these answers are all no, you probably will not become the custodial parent.

  1. HAVING SUBSTANCE OR ALCOHOL ABUSE ISSUES

If a judge even suspects that a parent is involved with drugs or has an issue with alcohol, that parent probably will not be awarded custody. Most judges take substance abuse accusations quite seriously, and any allegations will be examined with random drug testing and psychological evaluations. If you are a parent with a substance abuse issue, seek help now. If your drug or alcohol abuse has resulted at any time in domestic violence, you will almost certainly be denied custody. Parents who are chronic offenders, violent criminals, and those facing years in prison may in some cases actually have their parental rights terminated by a California court.

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  1. LEAVING A TRAIL OF NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR

A great deal of personal behavior that in the past was private is not private today. That angry telephone call might be recorded. Evidence of bad parenting – or just bad personal behavior – can now include text messages, photos, videos, voice mails, and emails. Sometimes, that’s precisely the evidence that can sway a judge’s custody decision. If you are prone to impulsively ranting at your children, spouse, or third parties, there’s probably a record of it somewhere, and you will be at risk for losing custody.

  1. EXPRESSING DISAPPROVAL OF THE OTHER PARENT

Judges tend to favor parents who support their child’s relationship with the other parent. According to Dean Tong, an MSc. and Diplomate with the American Board of Forensic Examiners, “Not placing the child’s needs in front of your own and not fostering or nurturing the child’s relationship with the other parent and denigrating or vilifying the other parent in front of the child is in totality legal suicide on your prospect for child custody.”

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A parent who is angry, bitter, or critical is poisoning the child’s relationship with the other parent. If you want to show a judge that awarding custody to you is in your child’s best interests, understand the value of your child’s relationship with the other parent and act to encourage that relationship. Obviously, this can be quite difficult in an acrimonious divorce, but it’s what a judge almost always wants to see.

  1. LACKING SELF-DISCIPLINE

To prevail in a child custody dispute, a parent must act consistently with self-control. A parent who cannot remain calm will be at a severe disadvantage. A judge will remember anger expressed in court. Likewise, a parent who behaves irrationally in front of attorneys, social workers, teachers, or police officers will face a great deal of negative testimony at a custody proceeding. A parent who is dedicated to winning custody must exercise self-discipline and put the child’s interests first.

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  1. NOT FOLLOWING SOUND LEGAL ADVICE

A divorce or a custody proceeding is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. Whether you seek primary custody, joint decision-making, or a say about the parenting plan, your top priority is making sure that your children – and your relationships with them – are secure. You will need to work with and listen to an experienced and knowledgeable family lawyer with a reputation for excellence and a record of success. In southern California, an experienced Long Beach family law attorney can help you avoid the mistakes discussed here and can also provide the insights and legal services that a parent fighting for custody will require.

Grandparents and Visitation Rights

Posted on: August 22, 2016 by in Family Law
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Far too often in the United States, grandparents are excluded from the lives of their grandchildren, frequently after a major family change like a legal separation or a divorce. A recent survey by the AARP tells us more than a third of all grandparents in the United States provide financial support to their adult children for their grandchildren. Nevertheless, family law attorneys in California and other states often find themselves fighting on behalf of grandparents for visitation rights.

As a rule – and of course, there are exceptions – keeping a child from spending time with grandparents is not only unfair, but it’s actually damaging to the child as well as painful to the grandparents. In Southern California, if you are being prevented from seeing your grandchildren, an experienced Long Beach family law attorney will probably be able to help. Grandparents should know from the start, however, that the law regarding grandparental visitation is complicated, and unfortunately, not all grandparents seeking visitations with their grandchildren will be successful.

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In fact, since the year 2000, it’s become much harder for grandparents to win visitation rights from the courts. That’s the year when the Supreme Court tossed out a law in Washington state that permitted courts to allow visitation rights to grandparents when the court deemed that grandparental visitations were in a child’s “best interests.” As a result, in California and the other forty-nine states, grandparents no longer have an absolute legal right to visitation, even when visitation is in the grandchildren’s “best” interests.

WHAT OPTIONS DO GRANDPARENTS HAVE?

Of course, there are exceptions when the court may be able to allow limited visitation rights, but the current law makes it possible in many cases for parents completely to remove grandparents from a child’s life. A parent’s rights are the top legal priority according to the Supreme Court. Winning visitation rights can, therefore, be a considerable legal challenge for grandparents. When both parents do not want grandparental visitations, changing that situation requires a grandparent to present extreme conditions to the court.

But that doesn’t mean grandparents in such circumstances are hopeless. Under current California law, to give a grandparent legal visitation privileges with a grandchild, the court has to find that there is a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered” an emotional bond that is in the best interests of the grandchild. The court must also then balance the best interests of the child with the legal right of the parents to make decisions for and regarding their child. In general, state courts are going to rule in favor of the parents, but there may be exceptions when:

  • The parents are legally separated.
  • A parent’s whereabouts have been unknown for at least thirty days.
  • One parent supports the grandparent’s desire for visitations.
  • The child does not live with either parent.
  • A stepparent has adopted the child.

If a grandparent is granted visitation rights for one of these reasons, and if circumstances later change so that none of these conditions apply, one or both parents may petition the court to terminate the grandparent’s visitation rights, and the court will almost always grant that request. Of course, when it’s possible, it’s always best to try to resolve these matters outside of a courtroom. Before going directly to court, for example, grandparents seeking visitation rights in Southern California may want to consider mediation. It’s a process that can reduce the level of acrimony between the parties while also keeping costs to a minimum.

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Mediation is a way to discuss openly and safely your own concerns while working to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the grandchildren. If you go directly to a California court, a judge will probably order mediation anyway. Some courts may not allow your lawyer to participate in the mediation process, so be sure to talk with your attorney before entering into mediation.

HOW DOES A GRANDPARENT ASK A COURT FOR VISITATION RIGHTS?

A California grandparent who wants the court to order visitation with a grandchild must file a petition with the court with the help of a family law attorney. If there’s an ongoing divorce, child support, or domestic violence case involving the grandchild, the process will be somewhat different. What’s certain is that you’ll need a seasoned family lawyer’s insights, advice, and legal services.

In California, there’s no official statewide form for grandparents requesting visitation privileges, but courts in several jurisdictions have developed their own forms. Be sure that you have an attorney to help you complete the required paperwork – any mistake could end your hopes of winning visitation privileges. What’s most important for grandparents in this situation – when mediation has failed – is what they tell a judge when they finally have that opportunity.

WHAT SHOULD A GRANDPARENT SEEKING VISITATION TELL A JUDGE?

Grandparents seeking visitation rights with a grandchild will need to explain to a judge the nature of their relationship with the child; why it is in the child’s best interests to have visitations with you; and anything else that you think may be important or helpful for the judge to know about your relationship with your grandchildren. A discussion with a Long Beach family law attorney can probably help you identify and articulate your feelings, reasons, and concerns.

When you file the legal papers to request visitation, California law requires you to give notice to the parents (or to the stepparents or anyone else with physical custody of the child). The legal papers must be served by someone at least 18 years old who is not a party to the case. Personal delivery will be required in some cases; in other cases, you’ll be allowed to notify the parties by certified mail. Your attorney can help you make sure that all necessary parties are notified properly.

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After the parties are notified, there may be a court hearing. As mentioned previously, you may be ordered to mediation. If no agreement can be reached, the judge will decide the case based on what the court perceives to be the best interests of the child balanced against the right of parents to make decisions in their children’s lives. Every case and every family is different, and California law does not specify any precise legal path for grandparents seeking visitation rights, so the best hope for California grandparents seeking visitation rights with their grandchildren is to speak with an experienced family law attorney and to adhere to that attorney’s advice.

Consequences of Failing to Pay Child Support

Posted on: November 18, 2015 by in Family Law
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A court will pass a child support order at the time of finalizing a divorce decree, and you, as the paying parent, will be required to make youngster assist payments every month. Remember, the local child support agency will be able to track whether you are behind on your youngster assistance payments. For help understanding more about your youngster assist obligations, speak to a Los Angeles child support attorney.

Just some of the consequences of failing to fund youngster support can include a blot on your credit rating. These payments are reported to all the major credit reporting agencies, and failure to fund youngster assist is also reported.

You might find that your application for the renewal of your passport, or issue of a passport is denied by the US State Department unless you have cleared all of your youngster assist payments. That can happen if you owe more than $2,500 in unpaid dues.

If you fail to pay youngster assist, the Local Child Support Agency also has the right to file a lien against a property like a home or a piece of property, when you fail to pay youngster support. Your state-issued license, like a lawyer’s license or contractor license, could even be suspended for failure to pay assist.

Your income tax refunds can also be used as a source to pay back your child assist dues. The agency could even take a proportion of the disability payments that you currently receive to pay off the child assist dues. To learn more about your child assistance obligations, talk to a Los Angeles family lawyer. For help protecting yourself if your spouse takes action against you for failure to pay child support, schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles child support lawyer.

Legal Reasons for Annulment in California

Posted on: November 11, 2015 by in Family Law
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An annulment will allow you to declare and establish that your marriage was never legally valid, or should never have occurred. In an annulment, or a nullity of marriage or a nullity of domestic partnership, a court will declare that the wedding was not legally valid.

An annulment, therefore, even though it ends your wedding, is very unlike a divorce, which will establish that the marriage was legally valid, but is now terminated. Talk to a family lawyer in Los Angeles to learn whether you qualify for an annulment.

There are only a few grounds on the basis of which you can get a legal annulment of the marriage in California.

• You must prove that you and the other person in your wedding are actually close blood relatives.
• You must demonstrate that one party was already married to someone else, or was in a registered domestic partnership with another person at the time of the wedding
• You must prove that you were below the age of 18 at the time of the marriage
• You was demonstrate that one party was of unsound mind at the time of the marriage
• You must prove that the marriage was the result of fraud
• You must demonstrate that the wedding was the result of force or coercion
• You must prove that your spouse is physically incapable of consummating the wedding and continues to be physically incapable of doing so

The burden of proof on you to prove that any of these criteria are true in your case is heavy. In fact, it is actually easier for you to divorce than to prove that your marriage was invalid. You cannot simply state that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences, and now want to get an annulment. With an annulment, you are trying to prove that the wedding should never have occurred in the first place.

Speak to a family lawyer in Los Angeles for help getting an annulment.