Recently in Celebrity Divorce Category

Gwyneth Paltrow Announces her Split from Chris Martin

April 19, 2014

paltrow-divorce.jpgAfter ten years of marriage, actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced her separation from Coldplay star Chris Martin. According to Paltrow's website, the couple was working hard (separately and together) on their marriage for the past year without any success. Although neither party has officially filed divorce paperwork, the media speculates that a divorce is well underway. Some celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have litigated their personal family law matters in the public eye. However, more private celebrities tend to keep their personal issues out of the public court system.

Private mediation is a great option for celebrities who want to keep the details of their divorce confidential. Although private mediators are available for any family law litigants, not just celebrities, they tend to be too expensive for most cases. Private mediators in San Diego often charge between $400 and $750 per hour for their services. In addition, when you factor into the cost of private mediation the hourly rate for two attorneys (at least one for each party), the cost of private mediation can cost each party thousands of dollars per day. Some cases inevitably drag on for months or even years because the parties have reached an impasse on one or more issues. In those instances, the parties might agree that private mediation is worth the cost.

The media is buzzing with speculation regarding the Paltrow-Martin split. A lot of the dialogue surrounding this divorce is focused on how simple the dissolution process can be when the parties agree to avoid litigation. Media outlets claim Paltrow and Martin will simply put a rubber stamp on their premarital agreement and end their case. However, the divorce process is not that easy - even for celebrities. In California, family law litigants are required to exchange disclosure documents (consisting of an Income and Expense Declaration and Schedule of Assets and Debts) at the outset of the case. In cases where the parties' income and/or assets are complex, the exchange of disclosure documents can be a lengthy and expensive process. Inevitably, celebrities will spend a significant amount of money up front on attorney fees incurred for the preparation of their disclosure documents.

In addition to spending large sums of money and a lot of time in order to adequately complete their disclosure documents, celebrities will also inevitably require extremely specific and complicated settlement agreements - even if a valid and uncontested premarital agreement is in place. Each divorce case must end either by trial or through the filing of an agreed-upon judgment. Preparation of the judgment will likely require multiple drafts and settlement conferences between attorneys. Due to the complexity of celebrity divorce cases, it is not uncommon for celebrities to walk away from their marriages with six figure legal bills.

Continue reading "Gwyneth Paltrow Announces her Split from Chris Martin" »

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" »

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" »

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" »

What Does it Take to Finalize a Divorce in San Diego?

September 20, 2013

California Family Law Judgment FL-180Another one bites the dust. TMZ reports that singer, Ben Harper, and actress, Laura Dern, are officially divorced. In 2010, after five years of marriage and two children later, Harper filed for divorce to Dern's surprise. The couple reportedly tried to reconcile back in 2012, which turned out to be an utter failure. Now a year later, a Judge has signed off so they are officially divorced and will now be restored to their "single person" status.

Read more about the divorce from TMZ.com

So how exactly do divorcing couples, like Harper and Dern, know when their divorce is officially finalized? In other words, when can they truly move on with their lives and know that their marital status has been restored to "single" person status? In California, a divorce cannot be absolutely finalized until: all of the issues are resolved, a judgment has been signed by a judge and processed by the court, and the six month waiting period has lapsed.

Resolution of All Issues

Issues related to divorce (division of property, custody, child and spousal support, etc.) can be resolved by default, agreement by the parties, through court proceedings where the judge makes an order, or a combination thereof.

The California Divorce 6 Month Waiting Period

Many of our San Diego clients are familiar with the "six month rule". This rule is codified in California Family Code Section 2339(a), which states that marital status cannot be terminated any sooner than six months from the date that the Respondent was served with the petition for dissolution of marriage or the date of appearance of the Respondent, whichever occurs first. One purpose of this six-month waiting period in California is to give the parties a chance to reconcile or reconsider pursuing the dissolution. Many divorcing couples will often times give the marriage one last shot. However, if the parties fail at reconciling, like Harper and Dern did, or have simply have no intention at all to reconcile, then they still cannot get a divorce until the six month waiting period has been met. The parties may prepare and even finalize their divorce judgment prior to the end of the six month date, however, they will not become "officially" divorced until the six months has lapsed. However, if the parties do not resolve all of the issues prior to the six month date, then they will not be automatically divorced on that date.

Final Divorce Judgment

Once all issues have been resolved, then all of the necessary paperwork must be filed with the court. Thus, even if all issues have been resolved and the six month rule is met, a divorce is not truly final until there is actually a judgment signed by a judge and processed by the Court. The parties will receive a Notice of Entry of Judgment, which means the Judgment is or has been processed but they need to wait for the rest of the Judgment documents, which will be returned to the person who filed them once the Court is done processing them and it will note the date upon which the parties will be restored to the status of single persons.

If you are interested in properly finalizing a divorce from your spouse we can provide you with information and guide you through the process. Our team of experienced attorneys is prepared to litigate on your behalf. If you wish you schedule a consultation with Nancy J. Bickford, please call us at (858) 793-8884.

Continue reading "What Does it Take to Finalize a Divorce in San Diego?" »

Child Custody and Visitation - Madonna & Guy Ritchie Lead by Example Post-Divorce

August 20, 2013

In January 2009, Madonna and Guy Ritchie finalized their divorce after eight years of marriage. At the time of their split, many rumors surfaced regarding an acrimonious divorce and possible affairs. Madonna is often cited as the source of the "adoption trend" for celebrities. In fact, as a mother of four children, Madonna only has one biological child with Ritchie, their son Rocco. In July 2013, Ritchie had his bar mitzvah at the Kabbalah Centre in New York City. Despite any lingering bitterness between Madonna and Ritchie, both parents attended their son's bar mitzvah and behaved admirably.


Madonna and Ritchie are not the only celebrities to work together for the sake of their children. As we have previously blogged, Charlie Sheen recently spoke out on behalf of his ex-wife Denise Richards in her custody battle with another one of Sheen's wives, Brooke Mueller. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced their surprising split two years ago this summer. However they are often seen together at events supporting their twins. In fact, Lopez and Anthony have even managed to maintain their working relationship post-divorce.

Divorce can be an incredibly difficult time for all parties involved, especially children. It is important for both parents to make every effort to make the transition as seamless as possible for the children. The assistance of a mental health professional may be beneficial for all parties involved. In family law cases, therapists often recommend that both parents remain actively involved in a child's life which may require attending the same events and celebrations. In the interest of promoting stability and normalcy for the children, divorcing parents can decide to continue spending important holidays together with their children. Although the holiday may not be pleasant for the parents, the children cherish time spent together as a family.


Sharing Child Custody at a soccer gameIt is important to consider that in some cases, it may not be in the best interest of the children for divorced or divorcing parents to interact. Where there is a history of domestic violence between the parties or if a restraining order is in place, parents should refrain from all contact.

Additionally, if the parties cannot tolerate each other, engage in arguments in front of the children, or consistently make disparaging comments about the other parent, they should likewise refrain from all contact. Most, if not all, agreements and orders regarding custody/visitation require the parties to co-parent peacefully. Thus, any disparaging conduct may be a violation of a court order.

Continue reading "Child Custody and Visitation - Madonna & Guy Ritchie Lead by Example Post-Divorce" »

A Divorce Attorney's Perspective on Moving Out of the Marital Home

June 25, 2013

SkinnyGirl Bethenny Frankel New York ApartmentYou may remember our previous blog highlighting the celebrity divorce of Bethenny Frankel, founder of SkinnyGirl Cocktails, and Jason Hoppy. Well, their bitter divorce battle continues to grab entertainment headlines, which report that the soon to be ex-couple is actually still living together in their five million dollar New York City apartment with their 3-year old daughter, Bryn. As if a divorce isn't already stressful enough, try living in the same household as your soon- to-be-ex while going through the often long, drawn-out divorce proceedings. Frankel tells PEOPLE, "My living situation is very, very stressful...I don't think it's very healthy for anyone involved. It's very upsetting. You just have to endure it."

It may seem puzzling why Frankel would continue to endure the stress of sharing an apartment with her soon-to-be-ex when she can clearly afford to move into her own place and not have to face Hoppy on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps her reasoning is related to two main concerns related to moving out of the marital home while the parties are going through the divorce process. The first concern is whether moving out of the home will affect a party's claim to ownership when assets are being divided down the road. The second concern is whether moving out could adversely affect a party's standing in his or her battle for primary custody of the child or children.


how will moving out affect my divorce?The martial home is likely a significant asset, if not the most significant asset in many divorces. So it's reasonable that divorcing spouses would worry that "abandoning" the home would make it more difficult for the one who leaves to make a claim on the property in a divorce settlement. If both claim ownership of the home then would that ownership be jeopardized if one party moves out? As California divorce attorneys know, if the home was acquired during marriage then it remains a marital asset subject to distribution regardless of who remains in the home during the divorce process.

If money is not an issue, then many divorce attorneys often advise clients to physically separate when going through a divorce, which usually means moving out of the marital home. A little distance can often times do a world of good for parties who are going through the divorce process. However, when a party does decide to move out of the marital home, there needs to be some serious discussions about the status of the marital residence. Aspects that need to be addressed include: the care, maintenance and financial obligations regarding the home in the interim, items left in the home, and whether the party left in the martial home will have exclusive use and possession of the home. The parties and their divorce attorneys need to discuss the whether the spouse who remains in the home has an expectation of privacy or if the spouse who moved out will be entitled to some use or enjoyment of the home after moving out.


effects of moving out of the marital residence in divorceAnother concern regarding moving out of the marital home is with respect to child custody. Since both Frankel and Hoppy want primary custody of their daughter Bryn, they might be concerned that moving out of their NYC apartment could adversely affect their standing in their battle for primary custody. Until a parenting plan is in place, "abandoning" the marital home could indicate that parent's lack of interest in the child's daily life if the child remains in the marital home with the other parent. This concern can potentially be resolved by establishing an interim custody schedule which ensures that the parent leaving the marital home will have frequent and continuous access to the child. The parent who moves out could also have his or her divorce attorney argue that the purpose of moving out was to reduce ongoing marital conflict out of concern for the child's well-being throughout the divorce proceedings.

Nonetheless, many San Diego divorce attorneys will generally advise clients with custody disputes to just stay in the marital home together if possible, like Frankel and Hoppy are doing. First, it helps to avoid creating a potential new status quo regarding the "primary residential parent" where the divorce process is taking an extended period of time. And second, when the parties continue to live together under the same roof emotions tend to get heated. As a result, there may be more incentive to conclude the divorce quicker by negotiating a divorce settlement.

Continue reading "A Divorce Attorney's Perspective on Moving Out of the Marital Home" »

Is There a Limit On What Child Support Payments Can Be Used For?

June 24, 2013

Basketball - Nash Divorce and Child SupportLos Angeles Lakers star Steve Nash has allegedly been in a bitter child support battle with his ex, Alejandra Amarilla. TMZ reports that Nash allegedly doesn't want to pay up because he is worried that Alejandra, who is an excessive spender, will waste the child support payments by spoiling the kids with expensive luxuries that they do not need. If ordered to pay child support, can Nash limit what Amarilla uses the child support payments for?

Child support payments can be used for anything that is considered "necessary" for the child's care and well-being. This generally includes things such as the child's food, clothing, school expenses, after-school expenses and toys. Costs for rent or mortgage, utility bills and other household items are also typically justified as going towards the basic care of the child.


However, California (like a majority of the states) does not require the parent who receives the child support payments to give an accounting to the other parent of how the child support money is spent. Only ten states allow courts to demand an accounting of expenses and spending of child support money received in ten states (Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington). Also in Alabama, courts are allowed to demand such accounting under certain circumstances.

Child Walking - Child Support Modification San DiegoHere in California, it is merely presumed that the child support money is spent on the child. Thus, the parent who is making the child support payments does not have much say regarding how the money is used once it leaves their hands.

But what happens when the parent paying the child support suspects that the money is being used not only to care for their children but that it is also going towards the other parent's personal needs? Unfortunately, not much can be done unless the child's needs are actually being neglected or ignored. The payor parent won't be able to seek a modification in his or her child support order from the court without significant evidence that the child's needs are not being met by the parent who receiving the child support payment.

While the parent paying spousal support may want reassurance that their hard-earned dollars are actually going towards their children's needs, rather than their ex's luxuries, unfortunately the law in California is not set up to provide such reassurance. So if Nash is indeed ordered to pay child support to Amarilla, it looks like he won't have much support from the family law court in keeping tabs on Amarilla's spending.

Continue reading "Is There a Limit On What Child Support Payments Can Be Used For?" »

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Maria Shriver Still Not Divorced?

June 5, 2013

Calfornia SummerIn the summer of 2011 news broke of Arnold Schwarzenegger's affair with his housekeeper and of the child he had with his mistress. His wife, Maria Shriver, was reportedly devastated and ashamed. As Shriver is a Kennedy and comes from a long line of women who stood by their husbands notwithstanding infidelity, the world waited to see if she would forgive Schwarzenegger. Eventually, two months after Schwarzenegger's secret life was uncovered, Shriver instructed her attorney to file for divorce.

The former couple reportedly sorted out their financial and custody affairs quickly considering the size of their fortune, an estimated $400 million. Schwarzenegger and Shriver were married for twenty five years. Considering the substantial length of the marriage it is likely that the $400 million is all community property. Community property consists of all assets and earnings accumulated by the parties between the date of marriage and the date of separation. As divorce attorneys will advise their clients, unless a premarital or prenuptial agreement is in place all community property is divided equally between the parties. As the principles of community property are clearly set forth in the family code, Schwarzenegger and Shriver likely did not have much to argue about when it came to settlement.

Although all of the necessary issues have been resolved in the Schwarzenegger-Shriver divorce, the two are still married. A divorce is not final until a Judgment of Dissolution is entered by the court. A Judgment of Dissolution can be entered pursuant to a Marital Settlement Agreement entered into by the parties voluntarily or by court ordered pursuant to a trial on all disputed issues. Thus far, neither Schwarzenegger nor Shriver has instructed their divorce attorneys to take the final step to file their agreement with the court and have a Judgment entered. There are a few lines of speculation regarding why the couple has not made their divorce official.

It is rumored that Shriver is struggling with her Catholic faith and its prohibition on divorce. Some guess that the parties are in no hurry to finalize their paperwork because they have enough money such that remaining legally married has little to no effect on their daily lives. However, the most popular theory is that Schwarzenegger and Shriver still love each other and are hesitating to end their marriage until they are certain they won't reconcile. Schwarzenegger has publicly expressed his regret for how he treated his wife and children in the past and was optimistic that he and Shriver would be together again. Rumors surfaced as recently as March 2012 that the parties were attending couple's counseling together.

Continue reading "Arnold Schwarzenegger & Maria Shriver Still Not Divorced?" »

California Family Law - Latest Charlie Sheen Custody Battle

May 22, 2013

Charlie Sheen, a regular news-maker in California family law, has four children from his two prior marriages. Two twin boys with ex-wife Brooke Mueller and two girls with ex-wife Denise Richards. After all the dust settled from his two divorces, Sheen's twin boys ended up in the custody of Denise Richards. This unusual custody arrangement worked well for all of the parties. Richards was happy to care for Mueller and Sheen's children because it gave her girls a chance to grow up with their half siblings. Mueller agreed to the arrangement because she has been struggling with addiction and is unable to properly care for the twins. Recently Mueller changed her mind about the current custody arrangement and her family lawyers sought a modification from the family court.

Charlie Sheen child custody modification

On Wednesday May 15th, Mueller, Sheen and Richards appeared before a family court judge to litigate Mueller's request to modify custody. Mueller proposed the children be removed from Richards's custody and placed with her brother. When Richards and her family lawyers opposed the request, Mueller accused her of caring for the children for her own financial benefit. If Mueller or her brother had custody of the twins, Mueller would be entitled to $55,000 per month in child support from Sheen. According to her declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Richards refused any money from Sheen to support the twins. She also stated that she did not want any money in the future to help her care for the boys. In light of this evidence, Mueller's argument lost all of its bite and the judge flatly refused her request.

In any California custody case the paramount concern for the Court is the best interest of the child. As a stable lifestyle is usually in the child's best interest, family court judges will always carefully consider any request to uproot young children. Mueller and her attorneys requested her four-year-old twins be removed from their home where they live with their siblings and be placed in the custody of a different caretaker. This traumatic change would likely take a great emotional toll on the children. Unless there is good cause to do so, judges will make an effort not to uproot children from a stable environment.

Although it is not realistic to expect all parents to come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation, it is typically in the best interest of the children if the parents can work together to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to their custody disputes. Throughout San Diego there are plenty of private and public custody mediators available to parents who need help cooperating for the benefit of their children.

Continue reading "California Family Law - Latest Charlie Sheen Custody Battle" »

Celebrity Divorce - Jason Aldean Divorcing Wife Based on Irreconcilable Differences

May 15, 2013

Jason Aldean Celebrity DivorceBack in September 2012, Jason Aldean was caught kissing previous American Idol contestant, turned NBA-cheerleader, Brittany Kerr. However, this kiss turned into quite the smooching scandal considering Aldean has been married for over 11 years to teenage-sweetheart, Jessica Ussery. Not surprisingly, Aldean recently filed for divorce in Tennessee. TMZ reports that the couple cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split.

As San Diego attorneys know, one of the only two grounds for divorce here in California is "irreconcilable differences (see website page entitled "Grounds for Divorce or Legal Separation" for more details on both "irreconcilable differences" and "incurable insanity"). It is quite common for divorcing couples to cite "irreconcilable differences" as their reason for their divorce, but what really constitutes an "irreconcilable difference"? Is it more than just one spouse cheating on the other?

Read more about divorce and irreconcilable differences

Although infidelity alone may seem like a pretty good reason for divorce, such infidelity must lead to "irreconcilable differences" between the couple since California is a no-fault state. (See website page entitled "Grounds for Divorce or Legal Separation" for more details on "no-fault"). In general, "irreconcilable differences means that the spouses can no longer agree on basic, fundamental issues involving the marriage and that they will never agree, such that there is no chance of reconciliation. Thus, when a divorce is based on "irreconcilable differences," any past cheating scandal by one spouse doesn't matter, what matters is that one or both spouses agree that the marriage won't work any longer and that it's clear to a judge that there is no chance that the marriage can be saved.

Learn the answers to frequently asked questions about divorce in San Diego

There is no black-letter list of what constitutes "irreconcilable differences." Rather, it is a quite vague standard and San Diego Family Courts often broadly interpret "irreconcilable differences". Some of factors that San Diego courts may look at to determine if there has been a marriage breakdown may include: 1) difference of interests; 2) long physical separation; 3) antagonistic feelings that are irreversible; 4) resentment; 5) distrust; 6) financial difficulties affecting the marriage; 7) conflict of personality; and 8) lack of mutual concern for emotional needs of each other.

Divorce Irreconcilable differencesAlthough Aldean has urged everyone not to cast judgment on his recent filing for divorce, one can only assume that Aldean's smooching scandal with Kerr likely led to distrust, resentment and irreversible antagonistic feelings between Aldean and Ussery, thus leading to what a court will likely interpret to constitute "irreconcilable differences".

Continue reading "Celebrity Divorce - Jason Aldean Divorcing Wife Based on Irreconcilable Differences" »

Celebrity Divorce - Kris Humphries Skips Mandatory Settlement Conference

April 30, 2013

kardashian-humphries-celebrity-divorce.jpgOn April 12, 2013, Kim Kardashian arrived at the family courthouse in Los Angeles to attend her Mandatory Settlement Conference ("MSC"). As San Diego divorce attorneys are aware, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement and must proceed to trial for court intervention on any issues, they are required to attend a MSC before the trial. An MSC is a settlement conference run by a local experienced family law attorney who attempts to help the parties reach an agreement outside of court. Unfortunately Kardashian and her attorney were the only ones to attend this conference. As it is impossible for two people to reach an agreement when one of them is not present, the MSC did not go forward.

Learn more about the San Diego divorce process

As attendance at a Mandatory Settlement Conference is not optional, MSC's tend to foster settlement in cases in which the parties could not previously reach an agreement. By the time an MSC is set by the Court, discovery is coming to a close and both parties should have enough information to reach an agreement. MSC's give the parties and divorce attorneys a chance to sit down in person and attempt to hash out the disputed issues. This may be the first time in the entire case that the parties and attorneys communicated together in person. With the time and expense of trial fast approaching, parties can be highly motivated to settle the case at an MSC. It is evident that Humphries was not motivated to settle his divorce case. In fact, as we have previously blogged, he had dragged out the process for over a year.

After clearing out the courtroom for the celebrity divorce hearing, the Court was not pleased when Humphries "no-showed". As a result, the Court, on its own motion, set a hearing for sanctions to be imposed against Humphries. On April 19, 2013, the Court convened to give Humphries a chance to explain his disrespectful behavior towards the Court and the divorce process. Sanctions could have been awarded by California family courts, however in an unexpected turn of events, Judge Goldberg has granted Kim Kardashian a divorce from Kris Humphries. The judgment has yet to be fully entered, and is expected to be finalized by the court by June 16th.

Read more articles from the Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford about celebrity divorce

In San Diego, family law attorneys often request the court order sanctions against the opposing party. Under Family Code §271, the Court may award monetary sanctions if it determines that one party is frustrating the public policy to promote settlement. It is clear by Humphries failure to appear at the mandatory settlement conference that he was intentionally frustrating the settlement of his divorce case. Thus, at the April 19th hearing, if Ms. Kardashian had not asked the court to drop the sanctions matter (as reported by Today), the Los Angeles court could have imposed a sanction against Humphries. Had this happened, it would have likely been pursuant to Family Code §271. The amount of sanctions is usually set at an amount sufficient to deter repetition of the party's bad behavior.


Continue reading "Celebrity Divorce - Kris Humphries Skips Mandatory Settlement Conference" »

George Clinton's Wife Demands Full Disclosure in Battle Over Spousal Support

April 1, 2013

Divorce Blog Guitar
Funk music innovator, George Clinton, and his wife of 23 years, Stephanie Clinton, are now amidst a battle over spousal support. TMZ reports that Stephanie is now seeking Clinton pay up and is requesting the court to order both temporary and permanent spousal support. Clinton is reportedly not too pleased about this request because he had previously claimed that the couple had been separated for many years and they didn't have any shared bank accounts or real estate. However, Stephanie is requesting that the court make Clinton disclose all of his finances, including taxes, bank accounts, etc. Stephanie wants to know exactly how much spousal support she is entitled to after their 23 years of marriage. The question remains, to what extent does Clinton really have to disclose?

As divorce attorneys know, declarations of disclosure are essentially the backbone of a divorce case. In California, Preliminary declarations of disclosure are mandatory. Final Declarations of disclosure, on the other hand, may be waived by both parties. With regards to disclosure, California Family Code Section 2100(c) requires complete disclosure of all assets and all debts that the parties may have any interest in. The disclosure must occur early in the divorce or legal separation process, and must occur together with a disclosure of all income and expenses.

Read more about fiduciary duty and divorce in California

Types of Disclosure:

Such disclosure requires preparation of the following documents by divorce attorneys:


  1. Schedule of Assets and Debts;

  2. Income and Expense Declaration;

  3. Statement of material facts regarding valuation of all community property assets;

  4. Statement of material facts regarding obligations that the community is liable for; and

  5. Disclosure of any investment opportunity, business opportunity or other income-producing opportunity.

Divorce Declaration of DisclosureWhile these forms may seem fairly simple and straightforward, it is very important that divorce attorneys advise their clients to be extremely open and comply with the full disclosure requirement. This means that that ALL liabilities and ALL assets must be accurately disclosed. This often requires the client to spend a lot of time thumbing through old files of financial statements to find the most recent balances and accurate information. It is also vital that divorce attorneys remind their clients that the disclosure requirement applies to assets and liabilities that the client may have in the future, such as potential business opportunities that the client is aware of. Even though the client may think that an asset or debt is a separate property item, it must still be disclosed in accordance with California Family Code Section 2100.

Learn more about property and divorce

Failure to Disclose = Sanctions?!

Failure to comply with disclosure requirements can result in significant sanctions, so clients should think twice about leaving out an asset or two. For instance, in In re Marriage of Feldman (2007), 153 Cal. App.4th 1470, the Husband failed to disclose numerous transactions and the formation of new companies, which were all quite significant. Wife found out about these assets by other means and filed for sanctions pursuant to California Family Code Sections 1101(g), 2107(c) and 271(a). The court held that husband could be sanctioned, and as a result Wife was granted $250,000 in sanctions! The court reasoned that Husband had an obligation to fully disclose all material facts and information regarding all assets in which the community has or may have had an interest.

So, despite his reluctance, it looks like Clinton is going to have to fork over some financial paperwork so that a fair determination can be made regarding how much spousal support Stephanie is entitled to. If he fails to do so, looks like some pretty hefty sanctions may be in his future.

Continue reading "George Clinton's Wife Demands Full Disclosure in Battle Over Spousal Support" »

Celebrity Divorce - Deion Sanders Awarded Full Custody of Children

March 25, 2013

Deion Sanders Divorce - holding handsFormer MLB and NFL legend, Deion Sanders, is use to battling to the top. But this time, his three children were on the line. As we have previously blogged, Sanders filed for divorce in 2011. Luckily for Sanders, he came out on top again when a Texas judge recently awarded him full custody of his 9 year old daughter. Sanders had also previously been awarded full custody of his two sons, 11 and 13, but had only been given joint custody of his daughter with estranged wife, Pilar. This leaves us to wonder, what exactly does Sanders' "full custody" award entail? As divorce attorneys know, in California, two types of custody exist: "legal" and "physical". Each type of child custody may be awarded solely to one parent or shared jointly between divorcing parents.

Legal Custody:

Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make decisions about the child's health, welfare and education. If a parent is awarded "sole legal custody" by the court, then he/she is the only one who has the right to make such decisions and may do so without consulting with the other parent. However, when divorcing parents are awarded "joint legal custody," they both have the right to make decisions about the child's health, welfare, and education.

Since Sanders has been awarded sole legal custody of all three children, he now has full range to make decisions about where the kids will go to school, whether they should receive medical care and whether they will engage in religious activities, without consulting with Pilar.

Read more about the divorce process in San Diego

Physical Custody:

Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child lives after divorce. The parent who has physical custody is the one who has the right to have the child physically with them and in their home. Physical custody, like legal custody, can be awarded solely to one parent or shared jointly. When a divorce lawyer makes an argument for "Sole physical custody," this means that the child will reside with only one parent. That parent is typically referred to by attorneys and the court as the "custodial" or "residential" parent. Divorce lawyers and judges refer to the other parent as the "non-custodial" or "non-residential" parent. It is important to note that the court can still order visitation time for the non-custodial parent.


Learn more about the family law attorneys at the firm

"Joint physical custody" means that a child's time is divided equally, or close to equally, between both parents. Family lawyers in San Diego will draft such custody orders so that each parent has separate but significant periods of physical custody. Typically, parents share joint legal custody of their children. Divorce attorneys will argue for sole legal custody if one parent is deemed unfit, the parents are completely unable to make decisions together, or it would be in the child's best interest to have sole legal custody with one parent. For Sanders, winning the child custody battle with Pilar now means that all three kids will be living with dad!


Continue reading "Celebrity Divorce - Deion Sanders Awarded Full Custody of Children" »