Archive for the ‘ Family Law ’ Category

Fighting False Allegations Of Child Abuse In A Child Custody Case

Posted on: September 17, 2018 by in Family Law
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Let’s say that you are fighting your spouse in court for the custody of your child. Your child custody attorney is reputable and experienced, your own record is spotless, and there is no reason why you should not be granted legal custody of your child.

But when you arrive at the courthouse for the child custody hearing, your lawyer takes you aside and explains that your spouse has accused you of something heinous – abusing your own child.

Suddenly, your confidence evaporates. You’re innocent, but you know that it is virtually impossible “to prove a negative” – that is, to prove conclusively that you are not a child abuser.


California divorce lawyers and judges frequently see false accusations of child abuse in child custody and divorce cases. The accuser will be your spouse, ex-spouse, or the child’s other parent if you were never married, hoping to gain an edge in the custody or divorce battle.

How can you defend yourself against a false accusation of child abuse? Especially if the custody of your child is at stake, you must be able to offer an effective defense that not only refutes the false accusation but also helps you to win your child custody battle.

Keep reading for a brief look at the problem of false child abuse accusations in divorces and custody disputes – and what you can do if you are the target of a false child abuse claim.


Let’s face it. Any bogus child abuse accusation is going to mean trouble. A false child abuse accusation could trigger a police investigation, a restraining order, or the loss of child custody.

If you are accused of child abuse in a divorce or custody battle, you could even be arrested and charged with a crime. You could lose your job – and your good reputation. If you are not guilty of child abuse, you must fight the accusation – aggressively and decisively.

If you are involved in or expecting a divorce or child custody dispute in southern California, it is imperative to have the advice and representation that a family law attorney can provide.

Once a false accusation of child abuse has been made, an accuser in many cases will petition the court for a restraining order and/or for sole custody of the child.

Your attorney’s job at that point will be to cast doubt on the accusation, challenge the accuser’s motives, and if possible, prove that the abuse allegation is, in fact, false.


Here in California, several measures are in place that are designed to deter divorcing parents from making bogus accusations of child abuse.

For example, if a court finds that a parent lied about child abuse to improve the chances of gaining the child’s custody, the court will take this to mean that the dishonest spouse is not making the best interests of the child a top priority but is instead trying to manipulate the court.

If this is the court’s finding, the parent who made a false allegation may be allowed only limited and supervised visitation. The falsely accused parent can petition the court to have the accuser pay for the accused’s legal fees and other costs arising from the bogus accusation.

Subsequent to a divorce, a wrongly accused parent may also file a request for a modification of the custody order.


Divorces are often intense, emotional ordeals, but parents must place the best interests of their children above any other considerations.

When a divorcing or divorced parent makes a false claim of child abuse, it unfairly undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, and it is also an attempt to exploit the court.

Which, as you might imagine, judges do not appreciate.

If you are divorcing and you are a parent – or if you are a parent who is already divorced – it never helps your children or your case to make a false accusation of child abuse against your spouse or ex-spouse.


The most effective thing you can do to win the custody of your child or children is to have a skilled Cerritos family law attorney advocating aggressively on your behalf.

At the beginning of the divorce process, both parents start with joint custody rights and with the right to request sole custody, but the court’s priority in these cases will always be the best interests of the child or children.


If you want legal custody of your child, avoid these mistakes:

1. alcohol or substance abuse or addiction
2. irrational or violent behavior
3. a felony conviction
4. disparaging comments in the child’s presence about the child’s other parent
5. false – or exaggerated – accusations against your child’s other parent
6. failing to heed good legal advice

A bitter, angry, or critical parent will be remembered by a judge, and if you’ve been angry or irate in the presence of social workers, teachers, or police officers, those persons could testify against you at a custody hearing.

Domestic violence and child abuse are real and serious problems in the state of California, and sometimes a child abuse charge made in a child custody dispute is a legitimate and true charge.


If your child is genuinely at risk from his or her other parent, you must have the insights and sound advice of a family lawyer. Your attorney will help you obtain a restraining order, or if it’s appropriate, will help you file a police report.

Nothing is a higher priority than your child. A custody battle can be one of the most trying experiences of your life. A false allegation of child abuse can be devastating. You will need the advice of a knowledgeable family lawyer.

In Cerritos, an experienced family law attorney will help a parent avoid the mistakes discussed here and will provide the aggressive representation that a parent battling for child custody will need.

Especially if you are falsely accused of child abuse, you must have an attorney who has successfully dealt with such false accusations on behalf of previous clients. If your relationship with your child is at stake, nothing is more important.

How Do Across-State-Line Parenting Plans Work?

Posted on: July 8, 2018 by in Family Law
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Everyone knows that parenting is a difficult job. If you are a divorced parent, the job is even more difficult. But what if you have to share custody of your child with your ex-spouse who lives in another state?

Without regard to the reason why a parent may choose to move out-of-state, sharing custody of a child in two different states will require the parents to create a comprehensive parenting strategy and a flexible visitation schedule. A child support lawyer in California can help further explain your legal options.


Most family courts in most states will not prohibit a parent from relocating to another state – but it can and has happened. Any modification to the custody order and parenting plan ordered by a California court must be approved by that court.

The court must determine how the child custody and visitation rights of the parents will be affected by a relocation, and the court must also ensure that any modification to the custody order and parenting plan is in the child’s best interests.

Generally speaking, a parent wishing to move out-of-state with a child must pass a two-part test:

1. First, show the court that the move is being made in good faith for legitimate reasons.
2. Secondly, show the court that the move is in the child’s best interests.


A custody dispute may arise if a parent with a child’s sole or joint custody seeks to relocate far enough away that the current child custody and visitation arrangement becomes unworkable.

If the remaining parent does not agree to the move, that parent may choose at that time to seek custody by requesting a modification of the court’s child custody order.

If you are a parent on either side of a child custody, visitation, or relocation dispute in southern California, you are going to need the advice, insights, and guidance of a family law attorney. Get that legal help as early as possible.


When one parent wants to relocate to another state, creating a fair, reasonable, and flexible schedule for visitations is often the key to avoiding or resolving a legal dispute.

Even when a child’s parents are living in adjacent neighborhoods, putting together a visitation schedule that works for everyone involved can be a nearly impossible task.

Obviously, it is a task that gets substantially tougher if great distances and different states must be taken into account.

If the parents cannot agree on a two-state child custody and visitation plan, a judge will impose a resolution that is in the best interests of the child.


First, however, that judge will order the parents to attend mediation. Mediation is an out-of-court procedure that gives the parents one last opportunity to reach their own voluntary agreement regarding child custody and visitation.

If the parents fail to find common ground in mediation, a child custody and visitation order will be issued by the court. That order will be binding on both parents.

Although it is rare, a California family court has the authority to deny a parent’s request to move to another state. If you are the relocating parent, the way that you present your request to the court can make the difference.

That is why you must be advised and represented by a California family lawyer who has abundant experience handling child custody cases, relocations, and modifications of custody and visitation orders.


What will the court take into account when considering a parent’s relocation request? The questions a court may ask include but are not limited to the following:

1. Is the new area and the new residence comparable to the current area and residence?
2. Is the new location child-friendly? Are parks, libraries, and hospitals nearby?
3. Will there be opportunities for the child to make new friends?
4. Is the relocation temporary or permanent?

If you are the parent who is planning to relocate to another state, you cannot make that move abruptly, and you must plan ahead.


You must inform your child’s other parent of your intention to relocate at least 45 days before you plan to make the move. Here is what the law says:

“To the extent feasible, the notice shall be provided within a minimum of 45 days before the proposed change of residence so as to allow time for mediation of a new agreement concerning custody.”

Of course, if you are the relocating parent, you must understand that if your child’s other parent challenges your relocation request, that challenge will probably take more than 45 days to resolve. You should notify your child’s other parent immediately when you decide to relocate.

Everyone understands that the future is unpredictable. When you choose divorce or learn that your spouse is divorcing you, it is impossible to know how your life will change over the next few years.

Even if neither parent moves out-of-state, child custody arrangements, parenting plans, and visitation schedules can – sometimes quickly – become impractical, burdensome, or outdated.


A divorced parent who is requesting or challenging the modification of a child custody order in California should bring any issues that are unique about your child to the attention of the court.

For instance, if your child has a learning disability, health issues, or behavioral problems, the court will need to know so that the court’s final decision is genuinely in the child’s best interests.

Child custody and visitation disputes are often acrimonious and are always emotionally difficult. That’s natural, of course, because your child’s safety and well-being is your top priority.


If you need legal representation immediately, or if you merely need some guidance and legal advice for planning your family’s future, an experienced Long Beach family law attorney will address your concerns and help you choose the best options for yourself and your child.

Nothing is more important than your child. If you need legal help to ensure your child’s well-being, get that help immediately.

Can Spousal Support Payments Be Modified?

Posted on: October 23, 2017 by in Family Law
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If you have been ordered to make spousal support payments in a divorce proceeding, you may wonder if these orders can be modified from time to time as your circumstances, or your ex-spouse’s circumstances change.  The answer is yes.  Below, our spousal support attorneys take a look at some of the changes that may be considered to modify or terminate a spousal support order.

Gravon Warning

If you are considering asking the court to modify or terminate your order to pay your ex-spouse alimony, start by hiring an attorney.   Ask them to check and see if the order includes a “Gravon Warning.” This is a clause that requires the person receiving support to become self-sustaining within a certain, but reasonable amount of time.  They should be able to show evidence that they are moving toward the goal of being self-sufficient.  If they are not making an attempt to do so, you may request an adjustment or termination of your obligation.

Changes in Income

Once a ruling is made for spousal support in a divorce case, life goes on.  Things may change in your financial life, as well as your ex-spouses.  You may have a major pay cut or financial downturn.  Your spouse may get a huge pay raise, or another windfall.  All of these are reasons that you might want to make an appeal to the court for a change.

Going Through Bankruptcy

This will not weigh in your favor when asking the court for a modification in your spousal support order.  Alimony is not a dischargeable debt in bankruptcy.  You can petition the court because you have a reduction in income, or a business loss, but not on the bankruptcy itself.

Your Ex-Spouse’s Disability

This is another area that calls for legal counsel.  If your ex-spouse does not work, and is not trying to gain employment or become self-sufficient, you can request an independent medical evaluation.  Once you’ve obtained that, the evaluation can be considered, as you bring in a vocational counselor to determine what types of employment are suitable.  A person with a disability due to a back injury can, obviously, be unable to work in a warehouse, but they may be able to do other work.  Claiming a general disability due to stress or depression should be verified by a physician that is a specialist in those practices.

Remarriage and Cohabitation

Typically, you will not have to continue spousal support after your spouse remarries.  If they are living with someone else, or “cohabitating,” then it can be assumed that their need for supplemental income has decreased, at least.  In either case, you want to make sure that you go through the court to have the order amended or removed.  Don’t just assume that it’s alright to stop paying.

Make Your Appeal

If you feel a change is justified in your spousal support order, make an appeal to the court with the help of a spousal support attorney.  If you adjust the amount of payment yourself, without going through the system, it may bring you trouble with the law.  Make your ordered payments, until you receive and amended order.

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 a Cerritos child custody 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Unmarried Parents and Child Custody in California

Posted on: October 14, 2017 by in Family Law
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In California, when a child is born to parents that are husband and wife, the law makes the assumption that the child is conceived and born as a result of that marriage.  The husband and wife are said to be “mother” and “father” … the child’s parents.  If the parents are not legally married when the child is born, the legal status of the parents change. Can child custody lawyers in California help?

Determining Paternity

According to California law, there are two ways to determine paternity of a child if the parents are not married.  The most common way is for the father to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP), according to our child custody lawyers.  This is usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, and as part of the paperwork surrounding the happy event.

The other way to determine parentage is through a court order.  In this case, the court determines who is the child’s father.  This sometimes involves a court-ordered DNA test.

This is the way throughout most of California.  In Sonoma County, it’s a bit more complicated, as several forms must be filed and answered.  How smooth or difficult this procedure is depends a lot on whether it’s contested.

The Status Quo

Several factors will be considered in a custody case hearing.  In preparation for the hearing, the attorney will evaluate the case, including history, “status quo,” and future projections for the child’s wellbeing.  The status quo considers how things are working now.  How is the child used to living their life, and sharing their parents? If the arrangement has been working well for the child, this is what the court will generally default to.  If, as a parent, you are trying to make changes in the status quo, you should be prepared to show why these current arrangements are not in the best interest of the child.

Get it In Writing

There may be an assumption that once parentage has been determined or decided, that a parent has an automatic right to see their child.  This is not so, and can depend a lot on how the parent with physical custody feels.  That’s why it’s always better to get a custody and visitation agreement in writing.  Don’t leave your relationship with your child up to someone else’s whim.  If you do not have a legal custody and visitation agreement in force, you may pay more in child support, and have less power to object to being denied visitation.  You will not have any recourse if communication between parents breaks down, and your informal agreement is not honored.

Take the Right Steps

To recap, follow the proper steps to ensure that you have a chance to parent your child and be a part of their life.  Determine parentage early, preferably at birth.  Establish a sensible support system for the child that involves both parents.  AND… get a legal agreement in writing.  This last step is important because it protects the future parent-child relationship.  Don’t leave things to chance if you are not married to your child’s other parent.

For more information, speak to our child custody attorneys today.

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, but you will still need the help of a divorce attorney in Cerritos.

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 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.


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.


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 a 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 a trustworthy 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, a Long Beach child custody 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 a skilled 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.


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 a family law attorney.


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.

A skilled 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.


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.

A 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 a 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 child visitation 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.


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.


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 a skilled 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.


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 a qualified 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.


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.

A trustworthy 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.


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.


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.


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 a skilled 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.