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Statutes of Limitations between Spouses

July 16, 2014

statute-limitations-01.jpgPrior to marriage, it is not uncommon for people to incur debts or obligations to their significant others. For example, in a long term relationship a boyfriend might loan his girlfriend money for a down payment on a new car or money for car repairs. If the couple cohabitates, the couple might have an agreement that the girlfriend will pay all of the household expenses while her boyfriend attends school full time. In another common scenario, a couple agrees that one of the parties will lend the other money for tuition. Significant others can also incur debts to each other by one party providing professional services to the other such as legal or tax preparation assistance. As long as an agreement exists for repayment (either orally or in writing) and other contract requirements are met, the parties have entered into an enforceable contract.

What happens to a debt or obligation between significant others if the parties get married? During marriage all earnings, accumulations, and liabilities acquired by either party during marriage are community property. However, in general, all property (and liabilities) acquired prior to marriage is the separate property of the acquiring spouse. A pre-marriage debt owed by one spouse to the other is by default a separate property receivable for one spouse and a separate property obligation of the other. According to California statues and case law, a pre-marriage debt between spouses is not extinguished by marriage. This means that after separation, the lending spouse may collect the debt from his or her spouse.

statute-limitations-cash.jpgEven if a pre-marriage debt between spouses survives marriage, what happens if the marriage lasts longer than the statute of limitations on collections? In civil cases, a lender generally has a limited period of time to collect money owed to him or her from a debtor. Typically, statutes of limitations range from two to three years depending on the particular cause of action. Because a significant number of marriages last longer than two to three years, the statute of limitations on collection of a pre-marriage debt may expire before the parties seek a divorce. However, California courts have carved out specific rules regarding debts owed between people who get married. In California, the statute of limitations on debt collection is tolled (is put on pause) from the date a lender and debtor get married through the date of separation.

There is an important distinction in this area of law between couples who are married and couples who merely cohabitate. Because California does not recognize any form of common law marriage, couples must legally marry to toll any pending statutes of limitations on debt collections. If a couple cohabitates, all standard statute of limitations will still apply.

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What if my teenager doesn't like the court order?

July 15, 2014

custody-visitation.jpgSo, you have battled with your former spouse in court, attended countless hearings and mediation sessions, spent thousands of dollars on attorney fees and finally won primary physical custody of your child. Most parents are willing to deal with the pain of litigation, the financial stress of attorney fees, and the long court delays if it means getting to spend more time with their child. However, it can be devastating to discover that after all of your sacrifice to get more time with your child, your child does not want to live with you. For a variety of reasons, this is not an uncommon result at the end of a custody battle.

The first consideration in determining the proper reaction to a child's preference on where he or she would like to live is the age of the child. If the child is around age ten (10) or younger, it is important to be speculative regarding the motivation behind his or her preference. Especially in a contentious custody battle, parental alienation may be a factor influencing the child. The child may also prefer to live with one parent over another because that parent is more lenient and lacks discipline. However, more serious issues such as alcoholism, drug use, or abuse may be causing the child to vocalize his or her parental preference. If the child displays a strong aversion to spending time with one parent, the court will likely order an evaluation and depending on the findings, modify custody and visitation. However, at such a young age, the child's preference is not dispositive.

custody-visitation-choice-01.jpgIf the child is a teenager it is much more difficult to set aside his or her strong preference to live with one parent versus the other. As long as alcoholism, drug use, and abuse are ruled out as factors in the case, the teen's preference should be given serious thought. One of the most difficult jobs of a parent is to put the best interests of the child ahead of his or her own. If you were awarded primary physical custody of your teen by the court, but your teen would prefer to live with your former spouse you have the option of permitting the teen to do so. Often children are unable to see the full picture; therefore, it is important to consider whether (considering your teen's preference) it would be in the best interest of the child to live with the other parent.

If you have decided to deny your teen's request to live with your former spouse, that decision may have a negative impact on your relationship with your teen. Your teen may resent you and this hostility could create a stressful living environment. In some cases, respecting your teens wishes can strengthen the parent-child relationship. Ultimately, where a teen will live is up to his or her parents and in each case the parents will have to decide what is best for their child in their unique case.

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How Changing Attorneys Can Impact your Family Law Case

July 3, 2014

changing-attorneys.jpgThere are so many experienced family law attorneys in San Diego that it might be difficult to decide which one you trust to handle your family law matter. In addition, your idea of how your family law matter should be handled can evolve as your case progresses. Especially in complicated divorce cases, litigation can drag out for months or even years. Due to the nature of family law, family law litigants work very closely with their attorneys during the pendency of their actions.

Over time, the attorney and client may reach disagreements about how the case is handled and either party may wish to end the professional relationship. In addition to strategy disagreements, litigants may also change counsel as a result of personality conflicts or other practical impediments to communication. Both the client and attorney may agree to terminate the attorney-client relationship in order to further the client's interest. For instance, the attorney may not have an efficient working relationship with opposing counsel. If the relationship between attorneys becomes too adversarial during the pendency of a case, the entire case could lose focus and become more expensive for both parties. In this type of situation, a change of counsel can give a family law case new direction and focus.

changing-attorneys-butterfly.jpgIf you are a family law litigant and are considering making a change of counsel, it is important to consider how this change may affect your case. First, hiring a new attorney will undoubtedly result in additional attorney fees and delay in your matter. Although your first attorney should not continue to charge you following formal withdraw as your attorney of record, your second attorney will need to "catch up" on your case. The time required for a new attorney to get up to speed on your case will depend on the size of your file, the level of litigation and how long your case has progressed for. The time spent by your new attorney getting up to speed will have a direct impact on the cost of your change of counsel. The longer the new attorney spends reviewing the case file prepared by your former attorney, the more expensive the transition will be.

Family law litigants should not change attorneys as a tactic to delay litigation. If an attorney feels the other side has changed counsel in order to stall the proceedings, he or she can file a motion for sanctions. If the judge determines that the litigant has interfered with the policy of fair dealing and settlement in family law proceedings, he or she will sanction (fine) the offending party.

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Changing Your Mind from Legal Separation to Divorce

July 2, 2014

legal-separation-roads.jpgThe term "Legal Separation" and "Dissolution" are distinctly different in that a legal separation does not result in dissolving the marriage itself, while a dissolution of marriage does indeed dissolve the marriage and will return the parties to their single status. There are several reasons why a spouse may want to file a petition for legal separation rather than a petition for dissolution of marriage. Some common reasons are because of the person's religious background, an interest to maintain certain healthcare benefits, or perhaps because the parties do not qualify to file for divorce because they have not met the residency requirement (there is no residency requirement to file a petition for legal separation in California).

If you initially filed for a legal separation for one of the reasons listed above or for any other reason, but you decide that would prefer a divorce, then you will need to convert your case into one for divorce. In California, you are able to convert your legal separation to a divorce at any point during the legal process, even after your legal separation is final. Either spouse can be the one to request that the legal separation be converted into a dissolution of marriage.

If a judgment of legal separation has not yet been obtained (meaning that you have filed your petition for legal separation but the proceedings are still pending) and your spouse has not yet responded to your petition, then so long as the residency requirement is met, you (the Petitioner) can simply file an amended petition and check the box for "Dissolution of Marriage". Your spouse will need to be served again with the amended Petition. However, if a judgment of legal separation has not yet been obtained but your spouse has already filed his or her Response to your original Petition for Legal Separation, then you may need to request approval from the Court.

legal-separation.jpgIf a judgment of legal separation has already been obtained from the court and you later decide that you would prefer a divorce, then you cannot just file an amended petition. Instead, you will need to start over with a new case by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage and pay the filing fee again.

Regardless of the status of the petition for legal separation, either spouse can petition the Court for dissolution of marriage. Because of this, it is typically better to simply petition for dissolution of marriage from the get-go unless both parties agree to the legal separation or a legal separation would benefit one or both parties. Also, it is important to keep in mind that the six month waiting period to be returned to single status does not start ticking until the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been served on the Respondent, despite the status of the petition for legal separation.

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Reluctant to Visit - Parental Alienation

July 1, 2014

Parent-visitation-mom.jpgOne of the most heart wrenching parts of divorce is its effect on the parties' children. Even the most amicable divorce will have a great impact on a child's life; however, the more tension that grows between the parents, the more trauma the child will experience. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for parents to (intentionally and unintentionally) involve children in adult issues including their divorce. One common result of a child's over involvement in divorce litigation is parental alienation. If one parent is unable to protect the child from his or her own negative views the child may become alienated from the other parent.

Definitionally, parental alienation is a disturbance in the relationship between a parent and a child. The child may express feelings of distrust or even hatred for one parent while being inexplicably aligned with the other. A common indicator of parental alienation is the strong reluctance of the child to visit with the alienated parent. In family law cases, by court order or agreement of the parties, a parenting plan will be put in place. As part of the parenting plan, both physical and legal custody will be allocated between the parents. Legal custody is the right of a parent to make decisions regarding the health, safety, and welfare of the child. Physical custody is timeshare of the child between the parents. One parent may have primary physical custody of the child meaning that the child will live a majority of the time with that parent. If one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent will likely have visitation with the child.

Parent-visitation.jpgWith a court order for visitation, a parent is legally entitled to spend the specified times with his or her child. However, what is the parent supposed to do when the child absolutely refuses to go with him or her for visits? In parental alienation cases, when an exchange is scheduled to take place, a child may cry, kick, scream or even make a public scene in order to avoid visiting with the alienated parent. In these situations it becomes the responsibility of the non-alienated parent to encourage visitations. Refusing to follow the custody and visitation orders (despite the wishes of a child) can result in sanctions or even a loss of custody for the primary care parent. Although both parents may carry guilt regarding the divorce, it is important for them to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.

If you believe parental alienation may be occurring with your child, it is important to immediately consult with an experienced family law attorney. A family law attorney can seek court intervention in order to initiate an investigation into your case. Further, family courts can make appropriate orders to get your child the help he or she needs.

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How Long Can My Family Law Deposition Last?

June 25, 2014

depotition-butterfly.jpgHaving your deposition taken can be one of the most nerve-racking experiences for any family law litigant. One of the best ways to dispel your nerves about your upcoming deposition is to gather as much information about the process as possible. You will always have advance notice of your deposition before it occurs so you will have plenty of time to prepare with your attorney. The deposition notice must contain information regarding the date, time and location for the deposition. However, the deposition notice often does not contain an end time because it is hard to predict how long the question and answer session will last.

According to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.290(a), a family law deposition shall not exceed seven hours. Although this general rule seems simple, there are a few exceptions and other factors to consider. For example, the deposition of an expert witness may exceed seven hours. Depositions of parties in family law cases that have been designated as "complex" may also exceed seven hours. If your case does not fall within any of the general exceptions, you may also ask the court for an order extending the permitted length of a deposition. In order to be granted an extension of the permitted deposition length, it is important to show the judge that your case falls outside the norm.

deposition-clock-001.jpgA seven-hour deposition can also take place over the period of one or several days. At the beginning of the case, the attorney may need some preliminary questions answered to determine what the major points of disagreement are. Later in the case, the attorney might finish the deposition by delving into the major remaining issues. In addition, the parties and attorneys cannot ride out the seven-hour time limit by taking several breaks and interrupting the process. At the outset of the deposition, the examining attorney may instruct the court reporter to make notations of all breaks and interruptions in order to get an accurate figure for the true length of questioning. Therefore, although the entire deposition process will likely exceed seven hours, the examiner is entitled to seven hours of pure questioning and answers.

If you and your attorney are conducting the deposition of the other party, it will be crucial to meet and confer regarding the most crucial aspects of the case. Your attorney must decide what questions will be the top priority to ensure those questions are asked prior to the expiration of the seven-hour time limit. In addition, if the question and answer portion of the deposition does exceed seven hours and the other side does not object, the testimony taken after seven hours will not be excluded. A failure to object to the length of a deposition will be viewed as a waiver of the seven-hour time limit.

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Dating for Men after Divorce - A Woman's Point of View

June 23, 2014

dating-divorce-003.jpgIf you have not started dating during the divorce process, it is a good idea to remain single through the final stages of divorce (within reason). A lot of the major kinks get worked out and all of your paperwork gets finalized at the end of the divorce process. Depending on the amicability of your divorce, if your soon-to-be ex-wife finds out that you are dating someone new, it may derail the entire settlement/closure of your case. On the other hand, if your divorce is extremely contentious and has been dragged out for years, it may be more reasonable for you to begin dating prior to the end of the case. The most important thing is to gauge the situation and to take into consideration how your new love life could impact you financially and emotionally in your divorce.

Once you are officially single, it is important to have clear boundaries with your ex-wife. Are you calling her weekly "just to catch up"? Do you still have personal belongings in her home? Although it is nice to remain friendly with your former spouse (especially if you have children together), it's probably not a good idea to stay so close. Frequent communication with your ex-wife and trips to her house might create confusion for the both of you during a difficult time. Men should definitely not rush into new relationships just because they are divorced, but it is also healthy to fully separate from a former spouse. Try to avoid pressure from friends and family to "get back out there" if you are not ready. A stereotype persists that men are less emotionally damaged from divorce and that all divorced men are excited to start dating groups of new women. However, if you are not ready for that it could backfire for you creating even more unnecessary drama in your life.

dating-divorce-gym-001.jpgWhen you decide it is a good time to start dating again, it may be a good idea to make some changes to your physical appearance. If you have a gym membership, start going more often. If not, get a membership and start working out on a regular basis. Take better care of your body by eating healthier foods. Show off your new physique with some new clothes. These physical changes will boost your confidence (especially around women) and help improve your overall attitude and mood. When you feel better about your appearance then you can start building a more positive self-image. Overall divorce can be a stressful, exhausting, and devastating process. However, the best way to get past your divorce is to learn from your mistakes, focus on the good memories, and start a new future.

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My Spouse is Hiding Assets - How can I Protect my Interests?

June 19, 2014

hiding-gold.jpgIt is not uncommon in San Diego divorce cases for spouses to accuse each other of improperly hiding or failing to disclose community assets. However, before pursuing any legal course of action for relief in court, it is advisable to collect substantial evidence of misconduct. Often times what seems like wrongdoing at first can simply be explained by clarification of a misunderstanding or the production of supplemental information. In the instance where a spouse is failing to disclose property or making substantial efforts to conceal assets, it may be necessary to seek court intervention. One common thread to accusations of concealment of property is the involvement of a third party.

Obtaining relief from a third party is much more difficult in the family law arena than it is in general civil litigation. In a general civil case or criminal prosecution, any party involved in a conspiracy can be joined in the action and held directly accountable for their involvement. Family law judges hear much more personal types of cases and therefore are hesitant to drag third parties or businesses into divorce or custody disputes.

There are two categories of joinder, mandatory joinder and permissive joinder. Mandatory joinder is used in a limited set of circumstances which are largely procedural. Permissive joinder is a much more arguable area of these laws because the exercise of the court's discretion in making a decision regarding permissive joinder is the "reasonableness" standard. Whether joinder is considered "reasonable" is highly fact driven and the "reasonableness" of joinder may vary greatly from judge to judge. With such broad discretion and open-ended guidelines, it is impossible to predict with any certainty the outcome of a motion for joinder.

hiding-assets.jpgA request to join a third party you believe has been conspiring with your spouse to hide property is within the court's broad permissive joinder criteria. Pursuant to California case law, the court may order joinder of a third party to which one spouse purportedly made an unauthorized gift of community property. For example, if you have evidence to suggest that your spouse is "selling" off community assets to a friend for little to no consideration, you may be able to join the third party who has "bought" community property. Many times, the friend will be holding the property for the spouse until the divorce has concluded and then will return the property to the spouse. These types of cases are difficult to prosecute without substantial evidence of misconduct. However, if you can prove your spouse gifted community property to a third party you may be able to join the third party in your divorce action.

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What to Do if Worried about Child Abduction During or After a Divorce

June 18, 2014

abduction-beach.jpgAccording to CNN, Cara Cox was reunited with her mother, Jodie Borchert, 4 years after vanishing from Florida with her father, Aaron Cox, against child custody orders. Cara Cox was just 8 years old at the time when she was taken by her father following a weekend visit. For nearly 4 years there were no leads on Cara's whereabouts. However, a break in the case came on May 12, 2014 when a tip led authorities to a remote area in Mexico, 1,700 miles away, where both Cara and her father were living under aliases. Authorities arrested Aaron Cox and recovered Cara. For Cara's mother, the wait was finally over.

For some divorcing couples, the fear of your spouse abducting your child in violation of your child custody orders is a serious concern. If you are going through a divorce or have recently divorced, there are some precautions that you can take. First, it is important to keep a record of important information about your ex-spouse including his/her social security number, driver's license number, vehicle description and license plate number, physical description, etc. Second, it is important to keep a record of important information about your child including his/her height, weight, hair color, eye color, fingerprints, and any unique physical characteristics. Third, it is recommended that you keep an updated list of addresses and telephone numbers of your ex-spouse's relatives and friends both here and abroad. Lastly, you should take photographs of your child every six months because a recent photo may prove very helpful if your child is abducted by your ex-spouse. Also, as much as you may not want to keep any pictures of your ex-spouse around, keep a recent photo of him/her on hand as well for the same reason.

There are many great smart phone apps to help you keep your child's information handy, such as The FBI Child ID. Created by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this app lets parents store their children's photos plus other identification (height, weight, hair and eye color, age) for quick access if a child ever goes missing. The information is stored on the iPhone only until parents need to send it to authorities. Notable features include safety tips, checklists for what to do if something happens to your child, and shortcuts to dial 911 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Parents also have the ability to email info immediately to law enforcement agencies if the unthinkable occurs. (Free; iPhone, iPad)

abduction-kid-find-app.jpgAnother great smart phone app is Find My Kids. Using GPS in real time, this app helps you keep track of and automatically locate where your child goes with his phone. If he's traveling alone, you can confirm that he arrived at a specific destination, or if he's meeting up with friends, they can confirm each other's locations. Location info is never shared with anyone else beyond those who have permission to see it, and data is saved for later review. Even though the app is free, parents will need to purchase a subscription for the tracking feature. (Free to download, service requires a monthly fee; iPhone, iPad)

If your child has been abducted you will likely experience a tremendous amount of shock and emotions and won't be able to think clearly. Thus, it is important that you take the above precautions so that you are prepared for this awful situation.

If you think that your child is at risk of being abducted by your ex-spouse then is it vital that you have a very clear child custody order that outlines the extent to which your ex-spouse has authority to travel with your child. You should keep a copy of the current order in a safe and easily accessible place. Although court orders are not typically recognized in foreign countries, the Hague Convention is an international treaty that provides a method of returning a child who has been abducted by a parent (in violation of custody and visitation orders) from one country that is a member of the Hague Convention to another country that is a member of the Hague Convention.

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Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Wedding Dilemma and "Pre-nup" Holdup

May 21, 2014

kim-kardashian-kanye-west-lg.jpgKim Kardashian and Kanye West are currently scheduled to get married on May 24th in a non-televised Paris ceremony. Rumors are flying that the wedding will not take place unless both Kardashian and West have signed their premarital agreement (commonly referred to as a "pre-nup"). Apparently, only two week before the wedding, the power couple has not finalized their pre-nup. The Kardashian-West premarital agreement is allegedly much friendlier than Kardashian's previous premarital agreement which was signed prior to her marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries. Therefore, the holdup does not appear to be the result of disagreement of the parties regarding the terms of the agreement. Likely the delay is the result of West's recent management change which has caused additional complications and changes to the agreement.

As long as the parties sign their agreement prior to the wedding, does it really matter when it gets signed? The answer to that question is "yes". Timing of the execution of premarital agreements is crucial especially if the agreement contains spousal support waiver provisions. In order to limit some of the objections to enforcement of premarital agreements, the party against whom enforcement is sought should be presented with the agreement and advised to seek independent legal counsel at least seven (7) calendar days before the date the agreement is signed. This procedure will ensure the parties had enough time to thoroughly consider the legal ramifications of the premarital agreement rather than just signing it immediately upon receipt.

prenup-agreement.jpgAlthough Kardashian and West will likely sign their premarital agreement just days before they walk down the aisle, their agreement will likely not be held invalid due to the timing of its execution. As long as Kardashian and West had ample time to review the agreement and seek the advice of counsel, they should be able to count on enforceability if a challenge were to be made on that basis. Further, although a court may conclude that the execution of a premarital agreement was done appropriately, the premarital agreement may be held invalid for a number of other reasons.

In particular, parties should be cautious to enter into agreements which seem "unconscionable" or especially unfair to one party. The unconscionability of a premarital agreement can invalidate the agreement if the agreement was unconscionable when executed or even if it has become unconscionable at the time one party is seeking enforcement. Competent legal representation of both parties at the time of negotiation and execution of a premarital agreement can save both sides significant time and money in the event of divorce if one of the parties has a reasonable basis to invalidate the agreement.

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Make Post-Divorce Co-parenting Easier With Apps

May 18, 2014

apps-phone.jpgIn today's day in age, most of us are guilty of being hooked on technology. If you're going to spend a significant portion of your day on your technology devices, then why not use that technology to your advantage when going through or after a divorce. Both during and after a divorce, problems often arise between spouses when there is co-parenting involved. However, there are several apps that you can download on your smart phone or iPad to help make co-parenting with your ex-spouse easier.

2houses: This app makes co-parenting easier by offering digital tools to allow both parents to easily communicate and make arrangements with regards to their children. The app offers everything from school to activities to medical issues. Both parents are able to view a joint calendar. There are also tools to help divorced parents sort out who will pay for what related to their children. Expenses can easily be entered and then the app will determine when a balance is achieved based on the input information that the parents put in. The journal on the app also allows both parents to share information about the children. Lastly, the information bank gives both parents access to vital details, such as phone numbers, immunization records, shoe size, etc.

Our Family Wizard: This app includes a calendar, journal, message board, expense log, info bank for safe storage of family information, and a notification center. Parents can utilize this app to share messages, communicate regarding expenses and update your ex-spouse about your child's appointment, all without having to involve the child as the messenger.

apps-kids.jpgCozi: This is another great app for sharing calendar items, to do lists and contacts with your ex-spouse. For instance, you might want to add contact information for your child's soccer coach or doctor's office so that both spouses have quick access to the contact information when he/she has custody of the child. The calendar is also great because it is a shared calendar, meaning if you add your child's dentist appointment on the calendar it will automatically show up on your ex-spouse's calendar and you can even send him/her a reminder through the app.

Baby connect: Keeping track of your child's feedings, diapers, sleep, medicines and activities can be difficult when custody of the child is changing hands between mom and dad. Using this app will help you keep track of all of this.

Skype: Skype is a great way to facilitate "face-to-face" communication via video chat between your child and the other parent when the child is in your custody.

These are just a handful of apps that help to make co-parenting life easier. Utilizing one of these apps has the potential to reduce tension, stress and fighting between the parents by allowing them to communicate without the need for face-to-face contact or using the child as the "messenger." In turn, both parents will more effectively stay informed about what it going on in their child's life, even when the child is in the other parent's custody.

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Is Phone/Email Harassment a Basis for Restraining Order Against Ex-Spouse?

May 15, 2014

phone-harassment.jpgAccording to Fox News, a Florida man called his ex 145 times over the span of a mere 11 hours. Although he has been released from jail on bail, he now faces charges of aggravated stalking. If this situation were to occur in California, would the man's actions perhaps warrant an order of protection in the realm of domestic violence? Could he face any criminal consequences for his actions?

Unfortunately, divorce attorneys often deal with clients who are being abused by their ex or their soon to be ex and need legal protection from such abuse. Harassment may be considered a form of abuse. If the client and the other person have a close relationship (i.e. they are divorced, separated, dating, use to date, living together, used to live together or closely related) and the client has been abused or harassed by that other person, it falls within the realm of domestic violence. Divorce attorneys will typically assist the client with getting a domestic violence restraining order against the other person.

phone-harassment-teenager.jpgA restraining order, also known as an order of protection, is an order by the court that sets forth what conduct is or is not permitted between a person who has committed threats or violence against another person. Behavior that constitutes domestic violence for purposes of seeking an order of protection can be physical abuse, sexual assault, making someone reasonably afraid of being hurt, or harassing, stalking, disturbing someone's peace, etc. First, a Temporary Restraining Order must be obtained. Then, the Court will set a date for the parties to return to Court and request that the Restraining Order be made a Permanent Order. Also, according to Family Code 6320(a), "The court may issue an ex parte order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls"

Depending on the severity of the situation, you can also pursue criminal prosecution against the abuser or harasser. In fact, California Penal Code Section 653m (b) provides that "Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor." So your ex calling you over 145 times during the span of a mere 11 hours, like what recently happened in Florida, could not only warrant an order of protection but may also be considered a crime punishable pursuant to the California Penal Code. Of course, excessive phone calls or electronic contacts that are made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business, would not be punishable under the Penal Code.

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Bankruptcy and Divorce in California

May 13, 2014

beach fence.jpgIn every California divorce proceeding, both parties must take a good hard look at their joint and individual finances. This is because, at the outset of the divorce process, both parties are required to provide an exhaustive list of all assets, debts, income and expenses. This aids in the division of property and determination of support. However, sometimes once all the facts are laid out in black and white for the parties, they realize that they have much more debt than they originally thought. If the parties' financial situation is dire enough, one or both parties may file bankruptcy.

If you are going through a divorce and are considering filing bankruptcy it is important to discuss this decision with both a bankruptcy attorney and a certified family law specialist. Together, these professionals should be able to give you all of the information necessary to make the decision regarding whether to file for bankruptcy or not. If you decide you would like to file for bankruptcy, you should consider the timing of your filing and the effect it will have on your divorce case.

Once a party to a divorce action files bankruptcy, the bankruptcy case operates as a stay to all proceedings regarding the division of community property that is the property of the bankruptcy estate. The stay does not operate to prevent proceedings to collect, modify or enforce child and/or spousal support payments against current income. Further, the divorce proceeding itself is not stayed. However, a dissolution proceeding cannot be completed until all property is divided. If property division is stayed pursuant to an ongoing bankruptcy case, the resolution of the divorce case will likewise be stayed.

If a divorce judgment is entered in violation of a bankruptcy imposed stay of proceedings, the divorce judgment is still valid. However, the divorce judgment will have no legally binding effect on the bankruptcy case. The divorce judgment is effective and binding as between the parties but has no legal effect on the bankruptcy authorities. The bankruptcy court does have the option to deflect jurisdiction to the family court to establish the character or title to property held in the debtor's estate. Unless and until the bankruptcy court deflects such jurisdiction to the family court, the property of the estate will be controlled by the bankruptcy court. In the context of a post-judgment motion or case where the parties to a family law matter were never married, filing bankruptcy does not stay a request to establish or modify child or spousal support.

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More than Two Legal Parents Recognized in California Family Law Courts - Part 2

May 12, 2014

multiple-parents.jpgAs blogged about in Part 1 of my previous blog entitled "More than Two Legal Parents Recognized in California Family Law Courts" new legislation was enacted changing the traditional perception of "family" in the California court system. Until recently, children were presumed to have only one or two parents. Having three parents was not even a consideration. However, under the new law, which went into effect January 1, 2014, Courts are now able to recognize that a child may have more than two legal parents.

The modification of Family Code Section 3040, as discussed in Part 1, gives the Court authority to allocate child custody and visitation among all parents in the case of a child with more than two parents. Such allocation must be based on the best interest of the child, including stability for the child by preserving established emotional bonds and patterns of care that the child has had. While the modification of Family Code Section 3040 focuses on custody and visitation, the addition of Family Code Section 4052.5 sheds light on the Court's authority to allocate child support when a child has more than two parents.

Family Code Section 4052.5 dives deeper into the realm of recognizing that a child can have more than two legal parents and gives family law courts the authority to divide child support obligations among all parents under certain circumstances. Specifically, Family Code Section 4052.5 provides, in part, the following: "The statewide uniform guideline, as required by federal regulations, shall apply in any case in which a child has more than two parents. The court shall apply the guideline by dividing child support obligations among the parents based on income and amount of time spent with the child by each parent, pursuant to Section 4053." However, this section further provides that "... the presumption that the guideline amount of support is correct may be rebutted if the court finds that the application of the guideline in that case would be unjust or inappropriate due to special circumstances, pursuant to Section 4057. If the court makes that finding, the court shall divide child support obligations among the parents in a manner that is just and appropriate based on income and amount of time spent with the child by each parent." [emphasis added]. In other words, the Court may deviate from statewide uniform guideline in the case where a child has more than two parents, when it is just and appropriate to do so.

multiple-parents-kid.jpgGiving Courts the discretion to allocate child support obligations (or receipt of child support) to more than one parent is significant because it allows for the financial responsibility of a child post-divorce to be distributed among all parents who are involved in raising the child based on each parent's income and respective time spent with the child. As a result, children are afforded the legal opportunity to be financially supported by all of the adults that play a central role in his or her care.

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More than Two Legal Parents Recognized in California Family Law Courts - Part I

May 10, 2014

three-parent-family.jpgIf you open up a fresh copy of the 2014 Family Law Code and do some heavy reading, you might notice the modifications to Section 3040, 4057, 7601, and 8617 as well as the addition of Section 4052.5. Back in October 2013 new legislation was signed which now allows California Courts to recognize that children can have more than two legal parents. Although conservative groups viewed this new legislation as an attack on the traditional family structure, the purpose of these new and modified sections is to address changes in family structure that are often present in California. These include the "not so uncommon anymore" situation of a same-sex couple having a child with a biological parent of the opposite sex.

The basis for the legislation apparently arose as a reaction to a 2011 court decision (In re M.C (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 197) that involved a same-sex couple who ended their relationship for a brief amount of time. One of the women conceived a child with a man (and began raising that child with the man) prior to resuming her relationship with the other woman, whom she ended up marrying shortly thereafter. After a fight put one of the women in the hospital and the other in jail, the child was sent to foster care because although all three adults seemed to meet the criteria to be a legal parent of the child, the biological father did not have parental rights under the law at the time. The court reasoned that it was prohibited from recognizing that more than two people may claim a right to parentage.

In response to the Court's ruling in In re M.C., the Family Code was modified to give Courts the authority to expand the interpretation of the parent and child relationship. Specifically, Family Code Section 7601 provides that Courts are not precluded from making "a finding that a child has a parent and child relationship with more than two parents."

three-parent.jpgAllowing the Courts to recognize that a child may have three or more legal parents is quite significant for purposes allocating custody and financial responsibility during and after a dissolution proceeding. With regard to the allocation of custody and visitation, Family Code Section 3040 has also been modified to provide for the following: "In cases where a child has more than two parents, the court shall allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including, but not limited to, addressing the child's need for continuity and stability by preserving established patterns of care and emotional bonds. The court may order that not all parents share legal or physical custody of the child if the court finds that it would not be in the best interest of the child as provided in Sections 3011 and 3020." [emphasis added].

As a result of this modification, Courts have the ability to prevent children from being separated from an adult that he or she has always known as a "parent" simply because of a technicality in the law. This modified section allows Courts to place the interest of the children first by giving them the authority to protect children from the emotional and psychological impact of being separated from one of his or her parents. Thus, rather than having to place a child in foster care, the Courts are now able to consider the presence of someone who has played a vital parental role in the child's life.

Continue reading "More than Two Legal Parents Recognized in California Family Law Courts - Part I" »