January 2013 Archives

New Divorce Method - Divorce Hotel

There many paths to ending a marriage in San Diego - including settlement, trial, uncontested divorce and simplified divorce. Many couples struggle for months and even years to work out the complex issues involved in divorce such as property division, support, and custody and visitation. Dutch entrepreneur, Jim Halfens, created a new method of divorce used in the Netherlands called the "Divorce Hotel". Using this method, a couple checks into the Divorce Hotel on a Friday, and with the help of family law attorneys and mediators, checks out on Sunday with divorce papers in hand. Instead of the typical hourly rate, the couple pays a flat fee for their stay in the Divorce Hotel. San_Diego_Divorce_Hotel.jpg

After experiencing great success in the Netherlands, Halfens is attempting to bring his novel concept to the United States, which is known for its extraordinary divorce rate. Halfens is not only negotiating with hotels and local family law attorneys, but also with television production companies. Halfens is attempting to start a new reality show which follows the couples through their stay at the Divorce Hotel. Many prominent divorce lawyers have expressed serious doubts about the practicality of Halfens' concept. These attorneys are concerned that most divorces are too complex and/or acrimonious to be completed in a single weekend. U.S. divorce attorneys do agree that the concept may be successful in cases where the divorcing couple remains on friendly terms and has a relatively straightforward marital estate to divide.

Read more about uncontested divorce here

Many obstacles can prevent the Divorce Hotel method from succeeding. A divorce proceeding can be dragged out because spouses often hide money, undervalue assets, and perpetrate fraud. Discovering these inconsistencies and seeking out the truth regarding the marital estate takes time, money, and a lot of effort by experienced family law attorneys. This work can skyrocket the cost of a divorce by increasing costs, fees, and may even require hiring an expensive expert. In order to combat this reality, Halfens screens the couples that apply to stay at the Divorce Hotel. His team tries to weed out its applicants and only admit those who are willing to mediate and work together to reach a solution. Couples who bicker or barely speak to each other are rejected.

Divorce can be quite complicated, especially in San Diego. Contact us today if you are contemplating a separation, curious about the divorce process, or simply want to schedule a consultation at our office located in Carmel Valley, near Del Mar. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego who represents clients experiencing divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 from all areas of San Diego county, including Encinitas, Escondido, Vista, and beyond.

Tiger Woods Reconciling with Elin Nordegren?

If you have as much money as Tiger Woods, maybe it can buy you love. After a massive cheating scandal broke in late 2009, Elin Nordegren filed for divorce from her successful golf star husband, Tiger Woods. In a record-breaking settlement, Nordegren walked away from her marriage with $750 million. In return for her cash pay-out, Nordegren agreed to never publicly speak out about Woods' affairs with over twenty different women. Despite their incredibly public divorce, just over two years after the couple reached a global settlement, Woods' again proposed marriage to Nordegren.


Apparently Woods is not satisfied with his not-so-new found single lifestyle. His friends say he is incredibly unhappy without his family and has not managed to hold a steady girlfriend since Nordegren. Although Woods has dated several other models since his divorce, he hasn't recovered from his split with Nordegren. On or around Christmas 2012, Woods got down on one knee, presented her with a ring, and "re-proposed" to his former wife. Nordegren is considering Woods' proposal, but only on the condition that he agree to include a $350 million anti-cheating clause in their prenuptial agreement. Reportedly, Woods has no problem agreeing to Nordegren's condition despite the fact that his accountants think he is crazy. Woods is ready to sign on the dotted line, set a wedding date, and return back to his former married life.

Read more about San Diego divorce attorneys

California is a "no fault" state. This means that in a San Diego divorce proceeding infidelity is irrelevant when dividing assets and debts, setting spousal and/or child support, and determining custody and visitation rights of the parties. Despite this default rule, parties have the ability to agree to abide by different rules. As in the Woods-Nordegren reconciliation, parties can agree to put an "anti-cheating" provision in a premarital agreement. Under such a provision, a spouse would be punished if he or she was unfaithful during marriage. If no such provision existed, neither party could be punished by the courts for infidelity. There are strict rules that a divorce attorney must follow when drafting any agreement, especially a premarital agreement, in order to have it enforceable by the courts. It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney to draft any contracts between spouses.

If you are considering divorce in San Diego, a legal separation from your spouse, or have questions regarding scheduling a consultation, contact us here. Nancy J. Bickford is the only divorce lawyer in San Diego representing clients who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS), and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call us today 858-793-8884 for more information about our divorce attorneys in San Diego.

Hollywood Divorce Spotlight - Skinnygirl Frankel's Child Custody and Support Requests

As we have previously blogged, Bethenny Frankel, former star of The Real Housewives of New York, and founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, recently filed for divorce from husband, Jason Hoppy. The parties have a daughter, age 2.

Reportedly, the parties' separated on December 23, 2012 and Frankel filed for divorce just shortly thereafter (LA Times) It appears from Frankel's Petition that she is requesting primary physical custody of the parties' daughter and child support payable by Hoppy, in addition to life insurance, exclusive occupancy of their home and medical, dental, vision and orthodontic care for her and the child. Sources estimate Frankel is worth at least $25 million. This begs the question: Is child support appropriate in cases where the custodial parent is an extraordinarily higher earner?

Under Family Code section 4053, "[I]n implementing the statewide uniform child support guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles:

(a) A parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children.

As such, regardless of Frankel's ability to support the parties' daughter, the court is tasked with ensuring Hoppy shares in that responsibility as well, pursuant to the statewide child support guideline. The guideline must account for both parents' actual income. In this case, CelebrityNetWorth.com reports that Hoppy has a net worth of $5 million himself, the majority of which he made as a high end New York real estate agent. His income must be considered in determining whether a support order is appropriate in this case.

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The statewide child support guideline is presumptively correct. If, under the statewide child support guideline, Hoppy is obligated to contribute to the support of Bryn, might he be able to somehow "rebut" the presumption? Could Hoppy perhaps show the court that he too has an extraordinarily high income such that presumed support would exceed the needs of the child, and in doing so successfully rebut the presumption?

Family Code section 4057 provides: "(b) [t]he [presumed child support award i.e. the guideline amount] may be rebutted by admissible evidence showing that...(3) The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the child." To date, no case has defined "extraordinarily high income" for purposes of this section. Rather, it appears to be left to the discretion of the judge to determine what level of income may qualify. A judge may consider the local economic conditions in his or her analysis. But, because under Family Code section 4053 as mentioned above, "children should share in the standard of living of both parents" (Fam. C. section 4053(f)), consider that the needs of a child are relative to the parents' income, even if that income is extraordinarily high.

It should be noted that before a judge can deviate from guideline child support, he or she must first calculate the guideline amount based, generally, on both parents' incomes and their respective time share with the child. Only after that is done can a court go on to make the necessary findings as to why a different amount should be ordered. (Fam. C. section 4056(a)).

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 today.

January is Peak Season for Divorces

January is commonly referred to as a "peak season" for divorces in Del Mar and throughout San Diego County. Although many parties file for divorce in January, their timing may be chosen for a variety of different reasons. Filing for divorce during the holiday season can cause tension within the family and significant hardship if children are involved. In an effort to avoid ruining the holidays for the children or the family, some parties put off filing until January.


On the other hand, the holiday season can be a very stressful time for families causing the final straw in a marriage to break thus prompting a party to file for divorce. Making a decision to file for divorce is best done with a clear head. The holidays can be a time of chaos and tension and therefore may parties decide to "ride out" the holiday season and then re-evaluate whether they still wish to pursue divorce. In addition to the emotional and psychological reasons for filing for divorce in January, many practical explanations also exist.

As we have previously blogged, the date of separation can have a dramatic impact on the division of property. The timing of filing a divorce petition can be used as the date of separation for the parties depending on the particular facts of the case. If one spouse generally earns a significant year-end bonus or commission, it may be wise to delay filing a petition until after the first of the next year. Once spouses separate, all of their respective earnings and accumulations will remain their separate property. This is quite different than the default rule which states that all earnings and accumulations during marriage are considered community property and divided evenly. Although it is impossible to say how a year-end bonus will certainly be divided at the end of the dissolution process, waiting until after the payment is received to file for divorce may save significant litigation on the issue.

Read more about divorce and finance

The end of the calendar year generates a plethora of year-end financial statements. Depending on the finances in each case, the parties can receive year-end paystubs, W-2 statements, student loan statements, statements from any investment accounts, statements from any retirement accounts, etc. Gathering all of this updated financial information can help the divorce process move smoothly. Parties have the opportunity to gather bank statements, tax records, draw up budgets, request mortgage statements and credit card balances before filing. These statements will be utilized to prepare Income and Expense Declarations and Schedules of Assets and Debts. Separating at the beginning of a calendar year can represent a new beginning and clean break for the parties.

Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Please contact us if you are considering legal separation, divorce, or need advice regarding child custody matters.. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call 858-793-8884 for a consultation appointment today.

Update - Ashton Kutcher Finally Files for Divorce

As we have previously blogged, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore separated nearly a year ago. However, neither party had filed for divorce, until now. Early on the parties claimed to be working out all of the details of their marital settlement before involving the court system in their divorce. Despite their year-long attempt at an amicable resolution, Kutcher filed for divorce shortly before Christmas. Media outlets speculate that Kutcher's new girlfriend, Mila Kunis, may have pressured him to file. This is based on the theory that Kutcher intended to give Moore time to heal from the couple's traumatic split and that Kunis could no longer handle letting Moore still have that much control. Besides the emotional implications involved, there are a few legal ramifications of filing for divorce that might have appealed to Kutcher and prompted him to finally take this step.

In California there is a mandatory six-month waiting period between when a spouse files for divorce and when the court has the ability to terminate his or her marital status. This means that if Kutcher intends to re-marry within the next year or so, filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage six months prior to that date would be necessary. Even if Kutcher and Moore agreed upon a final settlement of their estate and submitted their agreement to the court, they would still remain legally married until the six month waiting period had passed.

Learn more about filing for divorce in San Diego

Filing for divorce also has many financial implications. The timing of Kutcher's petition, shortly before Christmas, may not have been an attempt to hurt Moore around the holidays but instead, may have been done in the interest of financial security. Legally married couples can file "married filing separately". If Kutcher files "married filing separately" he will only report his own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. Normally, there are significant disadvantages to filing "married filing separately", however it may be prudent to file separately if you are concerned about the potential liability for tax, penalties, and interest of your spouse.

Legally married couples can also file "married filing jointly". In this case, both spouses file one return together and report both of their income, exemptions, deductions and credits. This may be difficult in divorce proceedings where a party is non-cooperative. It is crucial to speak with a tax preparer in making this decision. By filing his divorce petition in December, Kutcher gave himself the option to use whatever method of filing works most to his advantage.

If you are contemplating divorce, please contact us. The Law Offices of Nancy J Bickford are also well versed in child custody, spousal support or alimony in San Diego, and property division. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

Is her Divorce Putting Frankel's Skinnygirl Fortune in Jeopardy?

Another Housewife is getting divorced. Bethenny Frankel, creator of the Skinnygirl franchise, is divorcing her Husband Jason Hoppy after only two years of marriage. For months Frankel has been fighting rumors that the couple is splitting but she has finally confirmed that a divorce is on the horizon. Frankel released the following statement regarding the divorce, "It brings me great sadness to say that Jason and I are separating. This was an extremely difficult decision that as a woman and a mother, I have to accept as the best choice for our family."


In 2008, Frankel agreed to join the cast of Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York. At that time, only four short years ago, Frankel had a "mere" $8,000 in her bank account. To Frankel, The Real Housewives was an opportunity for her to build her own brand and advertise her Skinnygirl line of alcoholic beverages. It seems as if her plan worked because currently Skinnygirl is the number one fastest growing spirit in the United States. In addition, Frankel is now also a best selling author with her own skin, clothing and health products. Further, Frankel received a $40,000 check for each episode of her reality show. Considering the size and diversification of Frankel's fortune, the first question surrounding her divorce is whether she will have to split everything with her husband. Because the Frankel and Hoppy signed an enforceable premarital agreement, all of Frankel's empire should be safe from division.

Learn more about the divorce process in San Diego

A premarital agreement is an important tool that can be used to protect assets of ambitious entrepreneurs. As a default rule, under California community property laws, any earnings or accumulations of a spouse during marriage is community property. Thus, one of the main functions of a premarital agreement is to alter that default rule and order that any earnings or accumulations of a spouse during marriage remain that spouse's separate property.

A premarital agreement can be especially helpful for a spouse with big aspirations but without a significant fortune entering into the marriage. California community property laws protect all of a spouse's property that he or she had before marriage. Upon agreement or by their actions, parties can convert separate property to community property. However, as a general rule, a spouse's assets before marriage will be remain theirs in full post-separation. On the other hand, pursuant to the default community property rules, if a spouse creates a large franchise during marriage, this franchise is subject to equal division between the parties.

Please don't hesitate to contact us in San Diego if you would like to inquire regarding the divorce process in San Diego, have questions regarding child custody and visitation, or would simply like to set up a consultation appointment with Ms. Bickford. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884.