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How to Work Well with Your Divorce Attorney

March 23, 2014

Attorney-client-consultation.jpgOne of the first things that most people do when they decide to get a divorce is to find, interview and hire a divorce attorney to help them through the divorce process. The relationship that you develop with your divorce attorney is an important one as it will likely continue throughout the entire divorce process and even possibly years down the line. Depending on how well you work with your divorce attorney can have quite a significant impact on the pace of your divorce proceeding and the amount of legal fees you will incur. The best way to ensure that you work well with your divorce attorney is to outline your expectations and understand what your attorney expects from you in return.

What You Should Expect From Your Attorney

After hiring an attorney some things that you should expect from him or her include the following:
1) Your attorney should begin with developing a strategy.
2) Your attorney should explain your options to you and help you decide which route to take.
3) Your attorney should consult with you before making any major actions.
4) Your attorney should return your phone calls and/or emails within a reasonable time frame.

On the other hand, you should not expect your divorce attorney to act as a therapist for your emotional issues relative to the divorce, nor should you expect your divorce attorney to act like the attorneys you see on television or to act unethically to appease your unrealistic or illegal expectations.


Understanding What Your Attorney Expects from You

In order for your divorce attorney to attempt to meet and perhaps even surpass your expectations, it is essential that you also understand what your divorce attorney expects from you in return throughout his or her representation of you.

Shortly after hiring a divorce attorney, he or she will likely ask you to provide and produce a significant amount of information and documentation. When your divorce attorney does so, it is very important that you respond in a quick, concise and complete manner. More importantly, it is vital that you always tell your attorney the truth, even when it might be unpleasant, embarrassing or not in your favor. It's very important that you maintain a trusting relationship with your attorney if you want to get the best possible representation and avoid backtracking (i.e. more legal fees for you).


In addition, your attorney will expect you to be well prepared and willing to openly listen to his or her advice. And as you likely suspect, your attorney will also expect to be paid in full and on time

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Allen Iverson's Divorce Finalized

Iverson_Divorce_Final.jpgFormer Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson's divorce has been finalized. The resolution came after the second divorce filing by Iverson's wife, the first having been filed 15 months prior and then withdrawn according to TMZ.

Standing a mere 6 feet (relatively speaking, of course) Iverson was the number one draft pick of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers in 1996. He went on to be named NBA Rookie of the Year for the 1996-1997 basketball season. He continued his career with eleven NBA All-Star nods, and won the All-Star MVP award in 2001. Iverson is father to five children.

According to LA Times.com, in the divorce decree the judge awarded Iverson's wife legal and physical custody of the parties' five children. In doing so, the court did not have kind words to say about Iverson. According to the article, the court stated about Iverson: "he does not know how to manage the children; has little interest in learning to manage the children and has actually, at times, been a hindrance to their spiritual and emotional growth and development."

Iverson will have some visitation with his children, provided he complies with certain conditions imposed by the court. Notably, one condition is that he is not allowed to consume any alcohol for the next 18 months, nor consume alcohol within 24 hours of visiting with his children and, logically, during the visits. Reportedly, he is also required to obtain therapy and attend AA for the next year. According to the LA Times article, the divorce decree states that Iverson has "an obvious and serious alcohol problem, which has caused him to do inappropriate things in the presence of the children while impaired", things such as, the article reports, leaving the children unsupervised.

While Iverson's divorce is in Atlanta, Georgia, here in San Diego, divorcing parents are similarly faced with issues of alcohol abuse and its implications on custody and visitation issues in the San Diego Superior Court. To address such issues, the California Family Code includes specific provisions.

Prior to making an order for joint physical custody, which means that each of the parents will have significant periods of physical custody, the San Diego family court is required to consider the habitual use of drugs or alcohol by one or both of the parents. Specifically, Family Code ยง3011 provides: "In making a determination of the best interest of the child in a proceeding...the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider all of the following: (d) The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent..."

What happens in the case where one parent alleges habitual or continual use of alcohol by the other parent, but the parent facing those allegations denies them? Family Code section 3011 continues: "Before considering these allegations, the court may first require independent corroboration, including, but not limited to written reports from law enforcement agencies, courts, probation departments, social welfare agencies, medical facilities, rehabilitation facilities, or other public agencies or nonprofit organizations providing drug and alcohol abuse services..."

In some cases, there may be a document which can easily corroborate the allegations; in others, it may be a bit more difficult. If it can otherwise be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by a parent, a judge may order that parent to undergo testing for the use of alcohol. If such testing is ordered, it must be done by the least intrusive means. Further, the parent against whom the allegations are made (and thus who is ordered to submit to the test) has a right to a hearing to challenge the results. A positive test cannot alone be the determinative factor in a custody and visitation ruling; the court is still required to balance all factors to determine the best interests of the children.

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Celebrity Divorce - Brendan Fraser Fights to Lower his Support Obligations

March 11, 2013

Celebrity_Divorce.jpgBrendan Fraser and Afton Smith married in 1998 and divorced nine years later in 2007. At the time of their divorce, Fraser was ordered to pay Smith approximately $900,000 per year for spousal support and child support for their three children. Now, Fraser claims that he can no longer make the required payments, which, if made on a monthly basis, total $75,000 per month. Fraser has filed a motion in family court seeking a post-judgment modification of child and spousal support.

In San Diego, after a divorce is finalized, family courts generally have the ability to change support orders if facts and circumstances have materially changed since the first orders were made. If the moving party can prove to the court a "material change of circumstances" he or she may be granted a post-judgment modification of support. One of the most common changes of circumstance relied upon by courts is a change in income for one or both parties. If the spouse ordered to pay support has experienced a significant decrease in earnings, the court may lower his or her support obligation.

However, it is important to note that San Diego family courts only have the ability to modify the support order back to the date a motion was filed. If one spouse gets fired and does not file a motion to modify support for a few months, he or she may owe a significant amount of back child and/or spousal support. Regardless of a spouse's current income, his or her obligation to pay support will not change until a motion is filed with the court. Even in cases where a judge determines that a material change of circumstances exists and that support should be modified going forward, he or she is not required by law to make the order retroactive to the date the motion was filed.

Learn commonly used divorce law terms

Fraser alleges that he has had an increasingly difficult time finding acting jobs since the third film in the "Mummy" franchise wrapped in 2008. However, according to IMDB, Fraser has worked on 17 projects since then. Smith claims that Fraser is lying to the court about his true income and hiding his assets. Smith has good reason to be suspicious of his earnings claims. At the time of their divorce, Fraser claimed that he would make $0 from future acting work. In fact he went on to star in movies grossing up to $2 billion worldwide. When confronted with this information, Fraser claimed deals like this were not "set in stone" at the time of his divorce. It is crucial for a spouse to present an accurate depiction of his or her income to the court in a family law case. If Fraser is in fact misleading the court and his ex-wife, he may face harsh penalties and sanctions.

Please contact us if you are contemplating legal separation, thinking of learning about divorce, or have questions regarding division of assets in divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorce, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights.

Kanye West Deposed in Kardashian Divorce

December 27, 2012

The divorce proceedings between reality star Kim Kardashian and athlete Kris Humphries have by far exceed the length of the couple's 72-day marriage. Recently, Kardashian's new boyfriend, rapper Kanye West, was deposed by Kris Humphries' lawyers. During a deposition, the deponent must answer a series of questions while under oath. This means that any lie told during a deposition may constitute perjury. Humphries' deposition of West may have been an attempt to invalidate his premarital agreement. Many speculate that the premarital agreement contained an infidelity clause and that Humphries is attempting to show Kardashian violated it by starting a relationship with West before the date of separation.

In response, Kardashian's lawyers argue that Humphries' postponed arguments to invalidate the straightforward premarital agreement is simply a delay tactic to draw out the divorce proceeding. Despite Humphries' alleged attempts to extend his litigation with Kardashian, the judge assigned to the case has set a trial date. The former couple will appear on February 15, 2013 and argue their case before the court. As long as the trial date is not pushed further back by Humphries' legal team, Kim Kardashian should finally get a resolution to her second marriage.

Hollywood_Deposition_Divorce.jpg

Common Family Law Terms Learn more about family law

Depositions are a common form of discovery in family law proceedings. Discovery is the process in which the parties can formally ask each other for documents and information in order to gather all relevant facts in the case. Although expensive, depositions can provide attorneys an opportunity to ask the parties and/or other witnesses for the information needed to proceed to trial or to negotiate settlement. Other forms of discovery such as special interrogatories are available to ask parties questions under oath. However, special interrogatories can be less effective than deposing a party because the lawyer is only permitted to ask follow-up questions after receiving a response. This question and answer process can continue for months because each party is entitled to 30 days to respond to interrogatories.

If discovery is not complete, and both parties do not have all the relevant information in a case, it is difficult for a court to rule or for the parties to reach a settlement. If the discovery process is drawn out such in the Kardashian-Humphries case, the entire dissolution process can take years to complete. Thus, it is important to retain a lawyer familiar with the discovery process and deadlines. Once a trial date is set by the court, such as in the Kardashian-Humphries case, discovery is subject to a cut-off date. After this date, no further discovery may be propounded.

Divorce can be a frightening and a daunting process. If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding spousal support or child custody, please don't hesitate to contact us. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights, call 858-793-8884.