Recently in California Category

Mandatory Pre-Marital Education Classes; Is California Next?

April 20, 2014

certificate-of-marriage.jpgA recent ballot initiative in Colorado might just make saying "I do" a little bit more complex by requiring couples engaged to be married to attend a designated number of hours of state-mandated pre-marital education classes before tying the knot. The ballot initiative was proposed by a California organization known as Kids Against Divorce. The organization intends to introduce similar measure across the country in the future. Perhaps California will be next.

According to the Denver Post, the proposed initiative, known as the Colorado Marriage Education Act, would require first time couples to attend 10 hours of marriage education. For those planning to walk down the aisle for the second time, 20 hours of marriage education would be required. And for those walking down the aisle for a third time, 30 hours of marriage education would be mandated before being allowed to get their marriage license. There would of course be an exception for widows, who would be held to the same requirement as those getting married for the first time. After completing the required amount of education, couples would be issued a "Marriage Course Completion Certificate" by the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners.

As with any proposed ballot initiative, requiring couples to attend pre-marital education classes has its pros and cons. Proponents of the ballot initiative argue that it aims to convey the message that a marriage license should be treated like a driver's license, license to practice law, cosmetology license, or any other license. If these other licenses require a minimum amount of education to prepare a person to drive or practice in their career, why shouldn't a marriage license require the same to prepare individuals to fulfill their future role as a spouse and potentially as a parent? Proponents further argue that the requirement wouldn't be overly burdensome and it's worth it to potentially help couples go into their marriage as a stronger couple unit with more knowledge and better prepared for the commitment they will be making. Furthermore, there is the high potential for a reduction in divorces and in turn a reduction in the significant amount of taxpayer dollars spent each year on courts that handle divorces. On another note, proponents argue that many people would benefit from the tax credit that the ballot initiative offers to married couples who voluntarily choose to complete continuing marital education.

However, as would be expected, there are some Colorado residents who vehemently oppose the proposed measure. These individuals are arguing that it is an overstepping of the government to decide what education people should or should not receive before getting hitched. Others seem to feel that they are ready to get married without the need for education classes or that education classes that they are already taking through their church should be sufficient. Or maybe it's the cost associated with the education classes (and paid for by the couples) that is the source of outrage for opponents.

Continue reading "Mandatory Pre-Marital Education Classes; Is California Next? " »

In What State Should I File my Custody Case?

April 18, 2014

custody-case-state.jpgJurisdiction is a complicated issue even for experienced attorneys. It is understandable that family law litigants are often unsure regarding where to file their case especially if the parties live in separate states or cities. In addition, jurisdiction may present a problem if one party would like to modify a previous custody and visitation order and neither party lives in the state which originally issued the order. In San Diego, the family court website will direct potential litigants to the particular family courthouse where a case should be filed. San Diego family court jurisdiction is divided by zip code of the filing party. This means that the filing party only needs to enter his or her zip code and the website will direct him or her to the correct courthouse. However, these web tools do not provide guidance for parties with complicated jurisdictional questions.

In general, before a court can exercise jurisdiction over a case (hear the matter) the court must determine it has subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the parties. The subject matter jurisdiction requirement means that the particular court hearing the case must have the legal authority to hear that specific type of case. For example, a bankruptcy court will not entertain a divorce case and a criminal court will not make rulings in a bankruptcy case. In any custody case, family courts will have subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. Therefore, all requests for custody orders or a modification to a current order should be filed with a family court.

If the parents of a child live in separate states, the state where each parent resides will not likely have personal jurisdiction over the other parent. Personal jurisdiction requires one of the following: (1) living in the state with the intent to remain, (2) personal service while physically present in the state, (3) consent, (4) sufficient minimum contacts, (5) or pursuant to a long arm statue. Each of these methods of acquiring personal jurisdiction involves a complicated legal analysis and citation of legal authority not available to most family law litigants. Considering this requirement, it may seem impossible to get custody orders from a state if your co-parent does not live in the same state.

Fortunately, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA") provides clear authority for jurisdiction over custody matters. The UCCJEA states that a child's "home state" shall have exclusive and continuing jurisdiction for child custody litigation. A child's "home state" is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding. If the child is younger than six months old, the "home state" is the state where the child has lived since birth. Therefore a custody case should be filed in the state where the child resides regardless if one parent lives out of state.

Continue reading "In What State Should I File my Custody Case?" »

Can a Child Support Obligation be Avoided by Filing for Bankruptcy?

March 28, 2014

child-support-obligation.jpgBeing awarded child support is very important for financial stability of the child support recipient and his/her children. Thus, the possibility of not receiving the child support that is owed can be detrimental. One question often in the minds of child support recipients is whether the payor spouse can avoid paying for child support by filing for bankruptcy.

Luckily, the Bankruptcy Code is designed to attempt to protect the rights of the former spouse to collect child support due to him or her. Congress apparently realized that child support debt is too important and thus should not be able to be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. Typically when a debtor files for bankruptcy an automatic stay comes into effect which halts creditors from collecting on their debts from the debtor. However, this automatic stay does not apply to enforcement of the collection of child support. The spouse who receives the child support doesn't even have to file any proof of claim or objection to the bankruptcy court in order to enforce his or her right to receive the child support. Rather, an existing order to pay child support debts remains in effect and will continue to accrue during and even after the bankruptcy case is completed. As a result, a former spouse that files bankruptcy cannot avoid paying child support.

gavel-bankruptcy-child-support.jpgHowever, it is important to note that past due child support that was owed as of the date of filing for bankruptcy might not be paid immediately. The automatic stay will often prevent this issue from being addressed until the automatic stay is lifted, especially if there are many credits in line.

Although child support can be extremely burdensome on the payor, filing for bankruptcy is not an effective means of eliminating the financial obligation. A better forum to reduce child support payments is the family law court, if appropriate factors apply of course. However, filing for bankruptcy might help reduce other unsecure debts such that child support obligations may be easier to afford for the payor spouse.

Another important note is that if you are the recipient of child support and you file for bankruptcy, the child support payments you receive are exempt from bankruptcy proceedings, meaning that those payments cannot be used to pay creditors.

Continue reading "Can a Child Support Obligation be Avoided by Filing for Bankruptcy?" »

Free Speech Restrictions Imposed by Family Court

March 25, 2014

Steve-Nash-divorce.jpgThose born and raised in the United States tend to have the understanding that they are free to say anything they wish behind the protections of the First Amendment. However, courts have put a number of restrictions on free speech such as prohibitions against defamation, obscenity, and harassment. In a recent family law case involving basketball star Steve Nash, family courts placed another restriction on the First Amendment. In the Nash case, the Arizona Court of Appeals placed a muzzle on social media communications in family law proceedings.

In nearly every child custody and/or visitation order the judge (or the parties through agreement) will include the following language:

Neither parent shall make negative statements about the other in the presence or hearing of the children or question the children about the other parent. The parents shall communicate directly with each other in matters concerning the children and shall not use the children as a messenger between them. The children shall not be exposed to court papers or disputes between the parents, and each parent shall make every possible effort to ensure that other people comply with this order.

Not surprisingly, this language was included in the Nash joint custody agreement. Following the issuance of this standard admonition, Nash's ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla, was alleged to have made disparaging remarks about him through her social media account, Twitter. As a result, Nash petitioned the court to intervene arguing that his former spouse was violating the non-disparaging clause. Amarilla defended her actions citing the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause in support of her case. The First Amendment has frequently been expanded to include "speech" in the form of electronic communication.

In the Nash case, the court held that Ms. Amarilla's conduct was not protected by the First Amendment and made an order prohibiting both parties from making disparaging comments about each other on social media sites. The court based its decision on the fact that Steve Nash is a highly public figure and therefore the comments made by his former wife were likely to reach their children. The court also noted that social media comments or postings cannot be adequately controlled or maintained to prevent exposure of improper conduct to the children. Ms. Amarilla appealed the trial court's ruling and the Arizona Court of Appeals determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and upheld the earlier ruling.

Since the Nash case was recently decided, its effect on other family law matters is unknown. However, a good argument exists for the position that the Nash case is inapplicable in ordinary divorce matters because the parties' social media sites are not as prolific as those of celebrities.

Continue reading "Free Speech Restrictions Imposed by Family Court" »

Coping with Divorce: Is it Harder for Men?

March 11, 2014

mens-health-Coping-with-Divorce.jpgDespite their typical tough exterior, recent studies indicate that men actually seem to have a more difficult time coping with divorce than women. Unfortunately, studies also show that divorced men are more likely to have heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and commit suicide.


One reason why men may have a more difficult time coping with divorce is because oftentimes men don't let themselves properly grieve during the divorce process. Unlike most women, men tend to bottle up their feelings and oppose therapy or other means of getting their emotions out. As a result, they are less likely to lean on others for support and to release their built up emotions and stress stemming from the divorce.


Women, on the other hand, are much more apt to seek assistance from friends, family, a therapist or even a support group regarding their emotions. Doing so helps women to be more emotionally prepared to tackle the challenges and stressors that come with a divorce. Without the ability to properly grieve and reach out to others for support, men are more likely to experience feelings of depression. If men want to properly grieve and allow themselves to heal during and after a divorce, it's necessary to put aside the "Men don't cry" and "I can do this alone" attitude and instead reach out to those who can help with the grieving process. Addressing emotions early on can help the grieving process later on down the road.


Another reason men may have a harder time coping with divorce is because they tend to lose their sense of identity as a result of the divorce. This is especially true when the man's role in the marriage is the "breadwinner" and "protector" and then they become disconnected from their children during or after the divorce. Many men have a paternal instinct to be a provider so when the family dynamic changes because of a divorce, men are often times forced to re-identify their role. Those men who remain very connected and involved in their children's lives, however, tend to have an easier time re-instilling any lost sense of identity and belonging.

Continue reading "Coping with Divorce: Is it Harder for Men?" »

How Much Will My California Divorce Cost?

March 10, 2014

One of the most common questions asked in an initial divorce consultation is "how much will this divorce cost me?" Many prospective clients are surprised when divorce attorneys answer "I have no idea". The only concrete information a family law attorney can provide clients regarding the cost of their divorce matter is the filing fees imposed by the courts ($435 in 2013). Other than basic hard costs and billing methods, divorce attorneys can provide clients with little information regarding the cost of their divorce at the initial consultation because the overall cost is based on a combination of the following factors.

California-divorce-cost.jpgThe Client: A family law client has the ability to greatly influence the cost of his or her divorce. If the client needs a lot of counseling or "hand holding" his or her bills will generally be much higher because the clients repeated phone calls and e-mails substantially increase the time an attorney devotes to the case. Considering the fact that a vast majority of family law attorneys charge an hourly billing rate, daily e-mails and phone calls could potentially add up to thousands of dollars per month.

The Opposing Party: Generally the attitude of the opposing party falls into one of a few categories: (1) emotionally stable and ready to move on with his or her life, (2) angry, vindictive, and willing to do anything to "get back at" his or her spouse, (3) hopeful that the parties can reconcile and therefore doing everything possible to delay the divorce process or (4) self-proclaimed victim who is busy feeling sorry for him/herself. If the opposing party wishes to drag out the divorce process, for whatever reason, there are endless methods of doing this. Delay is particularly easy for a non-represented party who does not incur attorney fees by filing countless motions, propounding burdensome discovery, or litigating every small issue.

The Opposing Counsel: Just like repeated communication with the client can increase attorney fees, onerous correspondence from the opposing attorney can greatly increase the cost of a divorce. This is because attorneys generally have a duty to read and respond to all pleadings and correspondence from the other side. Further, family law attorneys generally have a reputation for either working amicably with the other side to reach a mutually beneficial agreement whenever possible or for using their client's vulnerable state to fuel litigation for their own financial gain. Therefore, the general practice of the opposing attorney will likely minimize or increase the overall cost of divorce.

Judge-divorce-court.jpgThe Judge/Court: Every family law judge in San Diego is different. As such, every judge has a different calendar, schedule, and view of each case. Many of the court calendars are impacted and family law motions go months before being heard.

Number/Complexity of Contested Issues: The number and complexity of the contested issues in a divorce case is a major factor in the overall cost. For example, if the parties were married for 15 years but have no children, no real property, no retirement accounts/savings, and both earn similar incomes there will be few issues to litigate. However, if the parties were married for three years but have two minor children, retirement accounts, own a home and only one spouse works, the parties will have to address property division, custody and visitation, and support issues. The more contested issues that exist, the longer and more expensive the divorce will be. However, if the contested issues are not complex, a simple hearing will generally resolve the disputes and keep costs low.

Continue reading "How Much Will My California Divorce Cost?" »

Jennifer Lopez Plans to Take Back Maiden Name Post-Divorce

March 6, 2014

n-JENNIFER-LOPEZ-large-001.jpgMany women choose to take their husband's last name when they get married. Jennifer Lopez, known by many as "JLo", did just that when she married Marc Anthony in 2004. According to her legal documents, JLo's legal name is Jennifer Muniz, which is her husband's legal last name. But, according to TMZ, now that the couple is on the road to divorce "JLo" is adamant about getting her maiden name back!


Just like you made the choice to take your soon to be ex-husband's last name when you got married, you can chose to restore your maiden name post-divorce or just keep your married last name, despite the divorce. Some considerations to think about when deciding whether or not to change your name are the impact a name change has with regards to your children, your profession and your well-being. Some women prefer not to have a different last name as their children and therefore keep their married name. To others, this isn't that big of a deal. If you made a name for yourself at work before marriage and then put work on hold during your marriage, perhaps you will want your maiden name back so you can return to the same industry post-divorce and be recognized a bit easier. When deciding whether or not to change your name back it's also important to think about whether it's worth the extra time and hassle to change your name on your driver's license, passport, financial accounts, etc. Perhaps you are more comfortable with your married name because that's how the people in your community know you, or maybe you want nothing to do with your soon to be ex-husband and want a fresh start. Either way, divorce attorneys will advise their clients that changing your last name back after a divorce is a personal decision and you are entitled to do as you wish. Your soon to be ex-husband cannot force you to change your last name back or to keep your married name.


Changing your name back to your maiden name can be done either at the time of the divorce or at a later date after your divorce is final. However, if you already know that you want your maiden name back, it's a good idea to go ahead and take care of it during the divorce process. A specific provision can be included in your marital settlement agreement such as the following: "This Judgment incorporating the terms of this Agreement shall restore to Wife her former name of ____." Doing so will allow you to avoid any stress or time related to going through the process to change your name after the divorce has already been finalized.

Continue reading "Jennifer Lopez Plans to Take Back Maiden Name Post-Divorce" »

New Spousal Support Laws not as Impactful as Reformers Hoped

March 5, 2014

spousal-support-and-divorce-001.jpgAs we have previously blogged, states along the East Coast have begun a movement to reform spousal support (what their laws refer to as "alimony"). The reformers argue that in many cases spousal support awards persist too long or at too high of a level after divorce. In order to reduce this problem, the reformers propose laws which focus on rebuilding the parties' lives after divorce and encourage supported spouses to learn to take care of themselves. We discussed the potential impact of these new laws and what effect they might have on California legislation. In particular, Massachusetts enacted a new spousal support law last year that was praised as a model for future reform. Although the new law has been in place for a reasonable period of time, reformers are not very satisfied with the results.

In order to accomplish the goal of encouraging spouses to become self-supporting post-divorce, the new "alimony laws" set time limits on spousal support for marriages of 20 years or less and generally stop spousal support payments when the supporting spouse reaches retirement age. By contrast, in California, there is generally no time limit placed on spousal support awards made pursuant to a long term marriage (defined as any marriage lasting approximately 10 years or more).

In addition, the new laws place strict restrictions on cohabitation. Under the reformed laws, spousal support will end if the supported spouse cohabitates with a new partner for at least three months. One of the issues which has arisen regarding the cohabitation clause is whether it applies to supported spouses who moved in with a new partner before the new law took effect. Currently in California, cohabitation is a factor that might be considered a "material change of circumstances" in a post-judgment support modification motion; but it is not grounds for automatic termination of support. California and Massachusetts do seem to share the general public policy disfavoring continued spousal support when the supported spouse moves in with his or her new partner.

Change can be difficult to effectuate in any area of law where the decision makers are comfortable in their "old ways". Some complain that Massachusetts judges are to blame for stifling the progress of new legislation. These judges are accused of misinterpreting or even ignoring the law which encourages spouses to become self-supporting after divorce. Family law is notorious for giving judicial officers wide discretion. Appeals are not generally successful unless the appellate can prove abuse of discretion.

Continue reading "New Spousal Support Laws not as Impactful as Reformers Hoped" »

Four Common Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce.

March 4, 2014

In October of 2013, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr announced that they will be ending their marriage. However, TMZ reports that despite their impending divorce, they still intend to remain a family and hold no hard feelings against one another. Although this attitude could change as the divorce progresses, perhaps Bloom and Kerr will instead be an example of how divorce doesn't always have to be a nuclear experience. However, this will likely only be achieved if they avoid some of the common mistakes described below.


1. Avoid Responding to the Divorce with Anger
The divorce process can be an extremely emotional time and it's very typical for people to say things they do not mean or to act in uncharacteristic manners. Responding to the divorce with anger will simply create an escalating war between you and your spouse and will lead you nowhere but backwards. Instead, let a little time pass and try to blow off some steam before reacting so that you can move the divorce forward in a reasonable manner.

2. Avoid Bringing a Significant Other Into the Mix
While you might have the urge to announce your new lover as a form of revenge to prove to your spouse that someone else finds you attractive and that you can be happy without your spouse, the divorce process is already potentially volatile so just mentioning that you have a new lover has the potential to absolutely infuriate your spouse. The more infuriated your spouse is with you, the less chance you have of a quick and painless divorce. Thus, it might just be best to wait until the divorce is over before you think about engaging in a new relationship.


3. Avoid Concealing Information
Many people going through a divorce find it quite tempting to omit or conceal pertinent information in their divorce case, typically surrounding finances. If you think that nobody will ever find out, think again. The majority of times someone like a forensic accountant or a private investigator for instance, does find out. And when this happens, you immediately lose credibility and cause increased litigation costs. All in all, hiding information is just not worth it.

4. Avoid Reducing the Time Spent With Your Kids
family-time-and-divorce.jpgDuring the divorce one spouse typically moves out of the family home at some point. When this happens, that spouse tends to get preoccupied with the divorce process, or gets busy with work trying to make more money to be able to afford living away from the family home. As a result, time spent with the kids is often much less than what it used to be. This is one mistake to surely avoid. During your divorce, spending time with your children should be one of your top priorities. It might also be a good idea to keep a journal logging hours spent with your kids and what you did during those times. When it comes to child custody determination this might be helpful. More importantly, spending time with your children will probably help make you feel whole, despite the destruction that divorce is causing.

Continue reading "Four Common Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce." »

Are Women Who are the Breadwinners More Likely to Get Divorced?

February 28, 2014

In our modern world, it is no longer uncommon for the wife to be the breadwinner of the family. Research has actually shown that in more than 40% of households the wife is the main breadwinner. More and more husbands, on the other hand, are becoming stay at home fathers, taking over traditional female roles and running the home front while the wives are out in the working world and taking responsibility for "bringing home the bacon." Divorce attorneys are encountering this type of family dynamic more and more in dissolution cases. This increase in female breadwinners challenges the societal norms and traditional gender-based expectations of men being the financial contributor and women taking care of the house and family.


female-breadwinners-divorce.jpgAlong with this new and rising family dynamic also comes a rise in new relationship challenges. In fact, research findings report that both husbands and wives tend to be less happy when the female is the breadwinner. Given these findings it isn't too shocking that the risk of divorce rises when the wife is the breadwinner. Recent studies even report that the divorce rate is 50% higher when the wife earns more than her husband.


So why is it that women who earn more than their husbands have a much less chance of a successful marriage? Perhaps it's because couples don't discuss and define their financial and support roles and come to some kind of agreement - something that could be addressed in a premarital agreement. It might be that expectations become muddled and lead to an increase in relationship conflicts. Or perhaps it's because the women are shouldering all of the financial burdens by working long, tiring hours and yet the men are perceived to be failing to take on a comparable amount of responsibilities on the domestic front. Research also suggests that the social stigma attached to a female breadwinner is also the culprit of subconscious anger and jealousy in marital relationships because the women are more likely to feel that their husbands are not pulling enough weight in the marriage.

Continue reading "Are Women Who are the Breadwinners More Likely to Get Divorced?" »

Kelly Clarkson Marries With No Premarital Agreement?

December 24, 2013

Kelly Clarkson marries with no prenupAmerican Idol winner Kelly Clarkson married fiancé Brandon Blackstone on October 20, 2013 in a quiet Tennessee ceremony. Although Clarkson has won 3 Grammys, 4 American Music Awards, and 13 Billboard awards throughout her successful singing career, no premarital agreement was reported before her wedding. Clarkson has been known to frequently "Tweet" about her happy relationship with Blackstone; however, even the happiest couples sign premarital agreements in some cases.

A premarital agreement, often referred to as a "pre-nup," is a contract containing spousal support and/or property division terms that would control in the event of a divorce. Without a premarital agreement, the community property laws of the State of California control property division upon divorce. Celebrities and high powered business people are the first ones to come to mind when discussing pre-nups; however, divorce attorneys report a jump in these agreements between people from all walks of life over the past ten years.

Many family law attorneys attribute the rise in premarital agreements to the fact that more people remarry later in life and are now looking to protect existing separate property assets. In addition, considering that many people are marrying for the second and third time as they get older, they also enter into premarital agreements to protect their children from their first and/or second marriages. Premarital agreements become more crucial when people enter into marriages with a significant amount of wealth or property. However, they can be entered into by any couple when they marry and can be altered over time as the parties acquire wealth and property.

If a couple marries without a premarital agreement but later wish they had taken that legal step, they have the option of entering into a post-nuptial agreement. A post-nuptial agreement can serve the same purposes as a premarital agreement. The only major difference between a premarital agreement and a post-nuptial agreement is that a post-nuptial agreement is signed after marriage. Therefore if Clarkson and Blackstone would like to reach a legally binding agreement regarding property and/or spousal support in the event of divorce, they could easily do so by signing a post-nuptial agreement.

Many couples avoid premarital agreements
because of the stigma attached to signing one. Engaged couples considering a premarital agreement may not discuss it with their significant others or family in order to avoid accusations that they don't believe their marriage will last. Singing a premarital agreement does not mean that the parties are already considering divorce or that they don't trust each other. In fact, a premarital agreement can be a great tool to get couples talking about financial issues and improve communication on these topics.

Continue reading "Kelly Clarkson Marries With No Premarital Agreement?" »

The Significance of Hitting the Ten-Year Mark in Marriage

December 23, 2013

10 year marriageSo you've been married for 9 years and you know your marriage has hit a point where you are ready to get out. Perhaps you and your spouse have talked about your impending divorce or maybe it's just a thought you've had in the back of your mind lately.

Either way, is it worth it to stretch the marriage past that ten-year mark? In California, there are several reasons why it might be in your best interest to reach the ten-year marriage mark before seeking to get a divorce

Spousal Support

There are special spousal support rules in California for marriages that are ten years or longer in duration. If a marriage lasted less than ten years, the court will typically order spousal support for a period equal to one half the length of the marriage. However, for a marriage that lasted more than ten years (from date of marriage to the date of separation), the court recognizes it as a "marriage of long duration". This means that the court retains jurisdiction over spousal support and may not set a termination of spousal support date without the parties' agreement. Thus, the spouse entitled to spousal support may be entitled to receive spousal support for life or until remarriage. The parties will be required to come back to court in the future to determine whether the spousal support obligation will continue.

Military Benefits

A marriage lasting at least ten years is also important if your soon-to-be ex-spouse is in the military and will be eligible for retirement benefits. If you were married for at least ten years and that time overlaps with ten years of military service, then you will be eligible to qualify for direct enforcement. This means that your portion of military retirement pay will be paid directly to you by the military finance office (who will garnish the service member's retirement and pay the ex-spouse directly), rather than the service member writing you a check each month.

Social Security Benefits

Another benefit of a marriage of at least ten years is that the Social Security Administration considers it to be a "long-term marriage," making you eligible for Social Security benefits based on your soon to be ex-spouse's earnings record when you reach the age of retirement (as long as you aren't remarried to another person at the time). Read more about retirement benefits and divorce.


No matter how good the financial benefits seem for a marriage lasting longer than ten years, there are some situations in which you should not wait. If, for instance, there is any danger to you or your children, then it is important for you to focus on your safety rather than the potential benefits of staying in the marriage for a longer period of time.

Continue reading "The Significance of Hitting the Ten-Year Mark in Marriage" »

How Will Divorce Affect My Social Security?

October 25, 2013

Effect of divorce on social securityDivorce can have a devastating effect on many aspects of the parties' lives. In some cases, the parties may not even realize the full effect of the divorce for years to come. For example, in the heat of litigation many spouses may not consider how divorce will impact their social security benefits. In order to get specific information regarding your case, it is important to consult with a divorce attorney who is a financial specialist. However, below are a few general principles to consider.

The first factor to consider in any social security analysis in the context of divorce is the date of separation, and accordingly, the length of the marriage. Neither spouse will be entitled to the other spouse's social security benefits unless the marriage lasted 10 years or more. A marriage which lasts 10 years or more is typically considered a "long-term marriage". For the purposes of spousal support, if a marriage lasts less than 10 years, the length of a spouse's spousal support obligation is generally limited to half the length of the marriage. In a marriage of long duration, the term of spousal support will likely not be limited to half the length of the marriage. Therefore, the length of the marriage will be a significant issue in the context of social security and the divorce in general.

If you are looking to collect social security benefits based on your former spouse's earning record, the next factor that your divorce attorney will ask you to consider is your marital status. You cannot collect social security benefits based on your former spouse's earning record if you are currently married. However, if you remarried following your divorce and your second marriage ended in death, divorce or annulment, you may still be able to collect social security benefits as a result of your first marriage. Further, the benefit you would collect based on your former spouse's earning record must be higher than what you are eligible to collect based on your own earning record.

In order to collect social security benefits as described above, you must meet age requirements and your spouse must meet eligibility requirements. The minimum age to collect social security benefits is age 62. In addition, your former spouse must be eligible to collect or currently receiving social security benefits. In other words, you cannot collect benefits based on your former spouse's income if he or she is not eligible to collect. If your former spouse is eligible to collect his or her social security benefits but has elected not to receive them yet, you must have been divorced for a minimum of two years before you can collect based on your former spouse's earnings. If you are considering a divorce, the effect it may have on your social security benefits is another factor to keep in mind when planning for your retirement years.

Read more from SSA.gov about qualifying for divorced spouse benefits

Continue reading "How Will Divorce Affect My Social Security?" »

Kris Jenner and Bruce Jenner Separated

October 24, 2013

It is no secret that Kris and Bruce Jenner have recently experienced some marital troubles. Kris Jenner has been in the public eye since her late ex-husband, Robert Kardashian, represented O.J. Simpson during his murder trial. Bruce Jenner has his own claim to fame as a gold-medal winning Olympian. Since their initial entrance on the public scene, Kris and Bruce Jenner have become reality T.V. celebrities by starring on the hit show, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians". "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is a reality show that follows the life of the Kardashian-Jenner family. True to reality show fashion, the show chronicles the personal lives of Kris and Bruce, including their marital discord.


In the past few seasons of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" Kris and Bruce have been struggling with finding their own space in their shared family home. In order to reach some sort of compromise, the Jenners have experimented by renting out other homes for Bruce to stay in from time to time. Some of the Jenner children have criticized this marital arrangement by stating that it is one step toward divorce for the parties. The couple had previously announced that they were living separately but that they are much happier that way. The Jenner children have proven wise beyond their years when it comes to their observations about living apart and divorce. Kris and Bruce have now announced that they have completely separated. If the Jenners do pursue a formal divorce, their current living arrangement may greatly impact the divorce proceeding.

Under the California Family Code, all earnings and accumulations acquired by the parties during marriage is community property and divided equally upon divorce. All property acquired before marriage and after the date of separation is separate property and confirmed to the party that acquired it. The point at which the Court will draw a line in the sand between community and separate property is called the "date of separation". The Court will find that parties are separated when two criteria are met. First, the parties must be living separate and apart and second, at least one party must have the intent never to resume the martial relationship.

As Kris and Bruce Jenner are currently living separate and apart, it would not be difficult for one party to claim he or she had the requisite intent to end the marriage and therefore claim an earlier date of separation than the other. Another factor to take into consideration is the possibility that the Jenners have an enforceable premarital agreement, commonly known as a "pre-nup". As both Kris and Bruce had been married and divorced before they married each other, they would be prime candidates for a premarital agreement. In a premarital agreement the parties have an option to make agreements outside of default California community property laws thereby make other arrangements for distribution of earnings and accumulations during marriage in the event of divorce.

Continue reading "Kris Jenner and Bruce Jenner Separated" »

Divorce Tips from Celebrity Divorce Attorney Laura Wasser

October 15, 2013

Laura Wasser - Hollywood Divorce
Laura Wasser is an LA divorce attorney who represents Hollywood's most famous celebrities. Considering her clientele, Wasser encounters her fair share of drama in her practice. Recently Wasser published a new book entitled "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way" full of intriguing divorce stories and advice for any divorcing couple. Although Wasser has been involved in many divorce battles, she provides her readers with the following ten tips for a civilized divorce.

  1. Marriage is a contract. Although this "tip" seems harsh, it is true. Marriage is a contract between adults and when that contract ends, parties must wrap up their relationship in accordance with default California community property laws (unless a premarital agreement is in place). Further, once the relationship originally established between two people has changed, a new relationship must be discussed and negotiated.
  2. Divorce is a business transaction. Another harsh reality regarding divorce is that it is a business transaction. It may be difficult to calmly divide up the life you shared with your spouse, but emotional outbursts will only hinder the process. Wasser recommends parties keep their cool when negotiating divorce issues. Taking unreasonable positions in an attempt to punish your ex-partner will inevitably increase fees and delay the divorce process.
  3. Dissolve it before it gets ugly. The dissolution process will proceed more smoothly if the parties have maintained amicable feelings toward each other. If the parties still respect and care for each other, they are more apt to reaching mutually beneficial resolutions in the event of a dispute.
  4. Before discussing divorce, consider what you want to say. The opening discussion regarding divorce can set the tone for the entire dissolution process. If the parties openly discuss their options and agree to proceed in a collaborative manner, the divorce will likely proceed much smoother than if the parties open the dialogue with insults and threats.
  5. Keep your feelings to yourself. By wrapping up family, friends and co-workers in your divorce you may disclose too much information. It is important to keep the details of your divorce confidential by only sharing them with your attorney and a therapist if you are seeing one.
  6. Be prepared to share. If you have been the primary earner in the marriage you should be prepared to split all of your marital assets and to pay child and/or spousal support. This legal principal applies regardless of gender. The Court will order a female breadwinner to pay support just as a male breadwinner. Additionally, the parties should begin considering sharing their children and the difficulties of being apart from them.
  7. Do not behave badly in front of your children. For the well-being of your children, it is always best to make every effort not to involve them in the divorce process. This requires both parents to refrain from making disparaging remarks about the other in the presence of the children.
  8. Be graceful under pressure. In the event your spouse takes a "less than graceful" approach to the divorce process, it is important to remain stoic. Regardless of the poor behavior of one party, it is not appropriate to retaliate.
  9. Split assets together. Parties can save significant attorney fees and costs by reaching agreements together regarding smaller assets such as personal property in the family home. Often couples walk through the family home together and discuss what they would like. Read more about property division methods
  10. Don't sleep with your ex-partner. Having a sexual relationship with your ex-partner post-separation can greatly impact your divorce case. A sexual relationship implies the marriage is not over and may change the date of separation.

Continue reading "Divorce Tips from Celebrity Divorce Attorney Laura Wasser" »