Recently in Divorce Finances Category

One Day Divorce - Is it Really as Good as it Sounds?

April 17, 2014

one-day-divorce.jpgOn March 1, 2014, the San Diego Superior Court began offering a "One Day Divorce" option at the San Diego's Downtown Family Court. This pilot program provides the option for eligible parties to complete their entire divorce is just one short day. Sounds pretty amazing, right?!

The goal of the program is for parties to walk out of the courthouse with their judgment papers in hand. Parties first meet with a family law expert to go over the terms of their proposed divorce settlement or the process for a default judgment. Then the parties will receive hands on assistance with completing any forms necessary to finalize their divorce. If all of the forms are completed, the parties may appear in court that same day to receive their final judgment.

Offering an extremely fast and affordable resolution to the otherwise typically lengthy divorce process is what the "One Day Divorce" program aims to do. This seems like quite the innovative option. But it inevitably comes with some pitfalls. For starters, those impacted by the new program won't be as widespread as one would think. Rather, eligible parties are limited only to those who have already filed a petition for divorce or separation in San Diego County at least six months ago, are self-represented, have served the summons and petition on the other party, a proof of service of summons or a response has been filed with the Court, and there are no contested issues. In addition, if either spouse has retirement benefits that were earned during marriage, such benefits must be listed on the petition or response in order to be able to complete the judgment. These limitations narrow down the pool of eligible couples dramatically.

On the other hand, the "One Day Divorce" program doesn't appear to be as limited as the eligibility requirement for a summary dissolution. Unlike summary dissolutions, the "One Day Divorce" program's parameters are not limited to couples who have been married less than five years, have no children of the marriage, do not have any interest in real estate, do not have debts over a specified amount, do not have community assets over a specified amount, agree to waive spousal support, etc. This means that cases involving long-term marriages, spousal support, custody, high assets, etc. may take part in the program. However, such cases may be quite complex and perhaps a "one day divorce" approach wouldn't serve the best interests of the parties. Rather, they might be better off with legal representation to ensure equal bargaining power and knowledge between the parties. Also, the appropriate amount of time and expertise to review all aspects of their divorce might be necessary to ensure that the parties fully understand their situation and have sufficient time to received legal advice before settling.

In any event, the success of the "One Day Divorce" program will heavily depend on its execution. For instance, the "family law expert" that will meet with the parties during the One Day Divorce process poses potential concerns. What will this person's limitations be? Will he/she act as a mediator or give legal advice? Is he/she a licensed and experienced divorce attorney? If the program's intent is to solely help parties who have reached agreement on every single aspect of their divorce and either don't have any further questions or are not able to get legal advice at or during the one day process then perhaps the program will indeed have potential for those truly uncontested cases. But, if the family law expert's role is to give legal advice then that would likely be another story.

Continue reading "One Day Divorce - Is it Really as Good as it Sounds? " »

Protect Your Finances in Divorce

April 15, 2014

protect-finances-divorce-001.jpgOne of the top concerns for the majority of family law litigants is protecting their financial well-being during the divorce process and beyond. Typically, all divorcing parties must make changes to their lifestyle in order to stretch their family budget enough to support two separate households. The reality in most divorces is that both parties will need to make financial sacrifices and cannot afford to maintain their previous standard of living. However, beyond lifestyle adjustments, most parties also have a real fear that their assets and potential income are in jeopardy as a result of the divorce. If you are worried about protecting your finances in divorce, below are a few tips to consider which prevent future loss.

Create Financial Separation after the Date of Separation

The marital estate exists from the date of marriage through the date of separation of the parties. All earnings and accumulations of the parties (except through gift, devise or bequest) during that time is community property and are shared equally between the parties. After the date of separation, the income of both parties becomes their separate property. Thus, if the primary earner contributes to the support and maintenance of an unemployed spouse over and above the amount required by a support order, the supporting party may request reimbursement. In cases where the parties continue to commingle their spending it can be difficult to later asses how much support has been paid post-separation. It is a good idea to consult with a family law attorney regarding whether you should establish your own checking, savings, and/or credit card accounts.

Learn What you Don't Know

In a typical divorce case, the parties have the most knowledge regarding the particular assets and debts in their own names. While you and your spouse are still amicable and living under the same roof, it is highly advisable to gather information and documents regarding the assets and debts you are not as familiar with. In addition, it will also be helpful to discover as much information as possible regarding the family expenses paid by your spouse and his or her income. Learning what you do not know prior to a nasty divorce can save thousands of dollars in attorney fees and costs and can also prevent significant delays.

Focus on the Facts of the Case - Not Revenge

Vengeful-minded litigants spend significantly more money in attorney fees and costs than they will likely ever recover from their spouses. Further, vengeful tactics tend to prolong the divorce process making it harder for the parties to move on with their lives and establish emotional stability. In addition, California is a "no fault" state which means that marital wrongdoing is completely irrelevant in family law proceedings.

Continue reading "Protect Your Finances in Divorce" »

Spring Cleaning and Your Divorce this Tax Season

April 14, 2014

spring-cleaning-and-divorce-001.jpgDuring this time of year many people get motivated to clean out their closets and clean up their finances. If you are considering pursuing a divorce this year, you will also want to consider using some of that "spring cleaning" energy to prepare for the changes to come. There are a lot of small steps potential family law litigants can take in order to make the divorce process run more smoothly and affordably.

Get your financial documents in order

With tax season in full swing, there is no better time to collect and organize all of your financial documents. Sit down with your spouse and figure out what each of you earns and how much the family spends each month on living expenses. In addition, discuss all of your joint and separate assets and debts. Collecting documentation on these topics such as income, expenses, assets and debts will save you substantial time and money in the divorce process. At the outset of every divorce case, both parties are required to set forth all material facts and information regarding their finances. Gathering these documents and information ahead of time will jump start your case.

Check into your credit score

In order to start a separate financial life from your spouse you may need to obtain your own loans and credit cards. If there is an error in your credit report, it is better to address it before your potential new creditors discover it. Typically repairing your credit can take a significant amount of time. If you are newly divorced, you will likely need credit immediately for a potential refinance, purchasing your own vehicle, or starting a line of credit. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check your credit sooner rather than later.

Get credit cards and bank accounts set up in your name

One of the most expensive and fruitless endeavors in a family law case is the issue of credits/reimbursements for post-separation expenditures. Once you and your spouse have separated, it is much cleaner for the both of you to begin using separate bank accounts and credit cards. If you untangle your finances at the beginning of the case, you can avoid analyzing mountains of paperwork attempting to decipher who spent what post-separation. If your spouse is not aware that you will be filing for divorce, it is advisable to open new accounts with different entities than the ones which hold your current joint accounts.

Begin to process your emotions

Divorce is an extremely emotional process for a majority of parties. However the process of divorce should be logical and analyzed from a financial standpoint. In order to separate your emotions from your financial decisions, you might want to begin processing the idea of divorce early. If helpful, begin speaking with a licensed mental health professional to deal with your emotional needs. Venting to your divorce attorney about marital discord is less useful and much more expensive than a weekly therapy session.

Continue reading "Spring Cleaning and Your Divorce this Tax Season" »

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

March 28, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can My Spouse Force me to Work?

March 27, 2014

spouse-support-income.jpgOne of the most common questions posed by supported parties to family law attorneys is "can my spouse force me to work?" Often times supported spouses are threatened by their high earning counterparts with statements like "you could be earning more money," "you could be earning at least minimum wage" or "I am going to ask the court to make you get a job". The more money earned by the supported spouse, the less money the supporting spouse must pay in monthly support. However, income is not the only factor considered by the court in setting spousal and child support. According to a recent case, In re Marriage of Ficke, the court must take into consideration the best interest of minor children (if any) when making child and spousal support awards.

The simple answer to the question above is "No," your spouse cannot force you to get a job, work more hours, or pursue a higher earning position. In addition, the court will not specifically order you to work or to get a specific job. However, the supporting spouse can petition the court for an imputation of income. If a request for an imputation of income is successful, the court will assess an income level (based on ability and opportunity) for the supported spouse and use that amount for purposes of calculating support. For example, if the court determines the supported spouse has the ability and opportunity to earn minimum wage, the court will use a monthly minimum wage number as the income for the supported spouse. As a result, the court does not force the supported spouse to work but essentially pretends he or she is earning up to his or her full potential when setting support. If the supported spouse receives a lower amount of support based on imputation of income, he or she may need to obtain employment in order to meet monthly expenses.

In In re Marriage of Ficke the wife, Julie, was recently laid off from a position where she was earning over $700,000.00 per year. Her husband, Greg, also earned a substantial income during marriage. At the time the court made its support award, Julie was only earning $251.00 per month. However, as a result of different job offers that Julie turned down and the findings of a vocational evaluator, she was imputed with a monthly income of $13,333.00 per month. Julie was awarded a 95% timeshare with the children and $1,368 in monthly child support from Greg. The court also made an award of spousal support payable by Julie to Greg. Julie appealed this order arguing that the court failed to contemplate her inability to work in such demanding positions considering her timeshare with the children. Julie reasoned that such high paying positions required her to work days, nights, and weekends which interfered with her care of the minor children.

Ficke stands for the position that although both parents have an equal responsibility to financially support their minor children, the trial court should not impute income to a custodial parent (like Julie) unless such imputation would benefit the children. California cases have recognized that time spent with children by a parent is incredibly valuable. Therefore, an imputation of income to a custodial parent will not be in the best interest of the children when the imputation deprives the children of considerable time with their parents.

Continue reading "Can My Spouse Force me to Work?" »

Obamacare May Make Divorce More Affordable

November 19, 2013

Divorce, Obamacare, and health insuranceAs we have previously blogged, healthcare can be a big financial concern for divorcing spouses. In many cases, one spouse provides health insurance for the entire family through his or her employer. However, upon divorce, the non-providing spouse must obtain his or her own health insurance. This can be a difficult process if he or she has a pre-existing condition and is denied coverage or if the premiums are prohibitively expensive. Additionally, obtaining health insurance can be especially problematic for those part of the "gray divorce" trend.

Divorce attorneys have noticed that the number of divorces involving spouses over 50 years old has been increasing. This phenomenon is known as the "gray divorce trend". Many spouses in this age group are even holding out to finalize their divorce until they reach the age of 65 and are eligible for Medicare. Another tactic employed by spouses who cannot obtain outside health insurance upon divorce is to file for legal separation. These couples become legally separated but remain married to maintain their health insurance benefits. This strategy is not always a permissible option under an employer's healthcare plan and the employee spouse may be charged with fraud and required to make financial restitution.

Beginning January 1, 2014, health insurance may not be such a financial hardship for the uninsured divorcing spouse. Health insurance may be more affordable and more accessible under the Affordable Care Act. Under this Act, health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge exorbitant premiums on the basis of a pre-existing condition. The knowledge of the spouse's ability to purchase affordable healthcare will take a significant amount of fear out of the divorce process.

Obamacare, Insurance, and DivorceSince health insurance is a factor considered in support calculations, divorce attorneys anticipate that Obamacare will also have an impact on that area of family law. When calculating child support, the Court will consider the health insurance premiums paid by both spouses and adjust accordingly. The "uninsured spouse" will typically be forced to pay extremely high premiums to obtain insurance and therefore his or her need for support is greater. This means that currently the supported spouse may argue for higher spousal support awards if they are obtaining new health insurance. With the introduction of Obamacare, the supported spouse may have a reduced need for support as healthcare may be more affordable. Additionally, many people may be eligible for a government tax credit toward their health insurance premiums. Undoubtedly, supporting spouses will ask family law judges to take this into considering when calculating support.

Continue reading "Obamacare May Make Divorce More Affordable" »

Divorce Disclosure Requirements and Offshore Assets

November 5, 2013

San Diego point lomaIn divorce cases where the parties have offshore assets, those assets are generally not reported to the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). However, California family law imposes a strict fiduciary duty of disclosure on all divorcing spouses. Throughout the pendency of a divorce case, the parties are under an ongoing obligation to disclose all material facts and information regarding income, expenses, assets and debts.

This includes unreported income and assets hidden overseas. If a spouse has made efforts to conceal income or assets from the federal government he or she may feel very conflicted about disclosing that information in a state dissolution matter. Therefore, the spouse may be torn by a desire to cooperate with the divorce process and make full disclosures yet fearful of criminal and pecuniary penalties which may be imposed by the IRS. In many cases, both spouses may be aware of the offshore assets or at least suspect they exist.

If a California family court determines that a spouse has failed to meet the strict fiduciary disclosure requirements, he or she will likely be sanctioned in an amount sufficient to deter repetition of the impermissible conduct. In high asset/high income cases, the amount of the sanction could be staggering. In addition, failure to disclose an asset exposes the non-disclosing party to the possibility of the court awarding 100 percent or an amount equal to 100 percent of the asset to the other spouse. On the other hand, if a spouse's failure to disclose offshore assets and/or reportable income to the IRS is discovered by federal authorities, the spouse will likely face time in jail in addition to substantial financial penalties.

In these cases, the client has limited options. The client could attempt to amend prior tax returns to fully comport with IRS requirements and immediately disclose all hidden assets/income in the divorce case. If a client pursues this option, there is still no guarantee of avoiding federal prosecution. If this option is no longer available, the client could enter the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program ("OVDP"). The OVDP was started in 2012 and allows taxpayers to voluntarily disclose offshore assets before they are uncovered by other means. Entering the OVDP can help taxpayers avoid criminal prosecution; however, they will likely still face harsh financial penalties for nondisclosure.

It is incredibly risky for a divorcing spouse with hidden assets or income to fail to make efforts to become compliant with IRS regulations. In a divorce proceeding, attorneys and clients spend substantial time and resources digging into the finances of both parties. It is unlikely that hidden assets or income will remain uncovered under such scrutiny.

Continue reading "Divorce Disclosure Requirements and Offshore Assets" »

How Will Divorce Affect My Social Security?

October 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

Read more from about qualifying for divorced spouse benefits

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

How Does Divorce Affect My Credit Score?

September 11, 2013

Money sign - how does divorce affect credit?Along with the emotional challenges of a divorce, financial challenges often also accompany a divorce proceeding. In relation to the many financial challenges, one question that often comes to the mind of our San Diego clients is:

How does divorce affect my credit?

The fact that you are now divorced won't directly affect your credit, credit scores or credit history. This is because your creditworthiness is not based on your marital status. However, divorce can indirectly affect your credit in a number of ways, and usually not in a good way.

Most couples incur joint financial debts during the marriage. These may include credit card debts, car loans, mortgages, etc. While a divorce decree may order one of the spouses to pay off a given joint debt through a court order or settlement, each joint debt is linked to both spouses unless certain steps are taken to sever the union. Therefore, if the party who is ordered to pay the debt makes late payments or just completely fails to pay, both spouses will end up with red flag on their credit reports and as a result their credit scores will likely plummet.

Luckily, there are ways in which you can deal with joint financial obligations between you and your ex-spouse in an effort to avoid a significant negative impact on your credit.

Credit Cards

It is very common for married couples to have joint credit card accounts. After a divorce, once the credit card debt has been allocated to one spouse or the other, the best way to avoid a negative impact on your credit score it to make sure that your name is removed from the credit card accounts that you are no longer responsible for. If your name is removed from the credit card then the creditor can no longer seek collection from you. Therefore, if your ex-spouse fails to pay the credit card debt, it will only affect his/her credit and not yours.

Car Loans

One way to get either your name or your ex-spouse's name off the car loan is to title the car in the name of the spouse who gets to keep it and then have that spouse refinance the auto loan in his or her name only. Refinancing a vehicle is typically pretty easy and once the refinance is done, the spouse whose name was removed will no longer be responsible for the future loan payments.


If you bought a house while you were married, there is a good chance that both you and your ex-spouse are on the mortgage loan. So even if only one spouse continues to live in the home after a divorce, both spouses are still liable to pay the mortgage. Removing one spouse from the mortgage can be a bit tricky but it is definitely a priority if you don't want your credit to be negatively impacted.

If you are worried about how a divorce may affect your credit score, it may be a good idea to get assistance from an experienced family law attorney to help guide your through the divorce process and insure that you take the necessary steps to avoid a credit nightmare. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney representing clients in San Diego, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call 858-793-8884 to receive assistance today and take steps to ensure that your credit score is not adversely affected by your divorce.


Getting a Mortgage After Divorce - Is it Impossible?

August 27, 2013

House after divorceA divorce almost always results in a change in housing for one or both spouses. As if qualifying for a new mortgage isn't hard enough, unfortunately, getting a mortgage after a divorce can be further complicated by several factors related to the dissolution. During a divorce proceeding, family lawyers frequently answer the question:

"How do I get a mortgage after a divorce?"

Mortgage lenders look at your overall debt-to-income ratio to see what you quality for. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that the following liabilities will be considered as part of your ability to qualify for a mortgage:

  • Child and Spousal Support Obligations: Lenders will look for any undisclosed financial obligations such as the payment of child support or spousal support pursuant to the divorce decree. These financial obligations will, unfortunately, reduce your ability to qualify for a mortgage because they are looked at as debts, which reduce your income.
  • Credit card debt, student loans, and automobile loans: These liabilities will also be considered as part of your ability to qualify for a mortgage unless you are able to prove that your ex-spouse is responsible for the credit obligation by showing twelve months of canceled checks or bank statements.
Although getting a mortgage after divorce can be complicated by the above factors, with some extra planning, discipline and awareness, it surely is not impossible. Here are some tips to help make it easier to get a mortgage after divorce:
  • Disclose receipt of child support and/or spousal support: The income received as child support and/or spousal support pursuant to your divorce decree can be used to help you qualify for a mortgage.
  • Carefully review your credit report: Make sure the accounts on your credit report belong to you only, not jointly with your ex-spouse. This can be quite a process and time some time to sort through but it is worth it because, for instance, if your ex-spouse pays a debt (pursuant to the divorce decree) late that is on your credit report, it will negatively affect your credit score and make it harder to qualify for a mortgage.
  • Provide evidence that ex-spouse is responsible for current mortgage: You can improve your ability to qualify for a new mortgage if you own a house and are currently on a mortgage with your ex-spouse but the divorce decree awards the home to your ex-spouse and he/she is willing to provide evidence that they make the mortgage payments on the home.

Continue reading "Getting a Mortgage After Divorce - Is it Impossible?" »

California Alimony Calculation - Fringe Benefits as Income Available for Support

August 13, 2013

California Alimony CalculatorOne of the biggest battles in many contested divorce cases is the issue of spousal support (also commonly referred to as alimony) and analysis of California spousal support factors. The most prominent factors a court typically considers when making a spousal support award are the supported spouse's needs and the supporting spouse's ability to pay support. Therefore, the supported spouse wants to make sure the court considers every single source of income the supporting spouse has available for support. The supporting spouse wants to minimize his/her income as much as possible without misleading the Court or the other party. One issue that has been litigated in California courts is whether fringe benefits or "perks" received through employment are income available when calculating support.

Many companies offer alternative compensation or perks to employees such as car allowances, cell phones, business meals, and company-provided day care. Parties and attorneys often debate whether these "non-cash" perks should be considered income from which the supporting spouse can pay support. Under California law, perks can be considered as income available for support if the benefit is not being divided as an asset and it has an economic value which can be added to the spouse's income for the purposes of support calculation.

Learn more about division of property in divorce

Cell Phone as Fringe Benefit in Alimony CalculationIn cases where a benefit will directly reduce the supporting spouse's monthly expenses, divorce attorneys will argue that it should be considered as income for support purposes. For example, if the supporting party's employer pays for his/her cell phone every month and the cell phone is not limited to company use, the supporting party will not have to pay monthly cell phone premiums for personal use of a cell phone.

Likewise, if a company pays for the supporting party's gas or auto insurance, the supporting party will not pay those expenses out of pocket. In these situations, the fringe benefit will likely be valued and included as income available for support.

Another major issue of contention in this area of law is whether the value the benefit assessed should be considered "taxable" or "non-taxable" income. According to the divorce attorneys at the firm, one California case holds that tangible benefits should be included as taxable income. However, until the employee actually pays taxes on such benefits it is unfair to consider them as gross deductions.

Business Lunch as Fringe Benefit in Alimony CalculationIn addition, some benefits such as a business meal may not reflect the cost of a normal meal. The supporting spouse may get to eat a $50.00 lunch on the company's dime; however, if he/she had bought their own lunch, he/she would likely have spent less than $10.00. The court will use discretion in considering a request from a party or divorce attorney to categorize these types of benefits as income where the result might seem unreasonable.

Read more about the effect of divorce on taxes and finances

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a San Diego spousal support calculator, and analysis of the factors affecting spousal support in California is complicated. Often times, a person will need to rely on the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer in order to understand the theories and process involved.

Continue reading "California Alimony Calculation - Fringe Benefits as Income Available for Support" »

Tips for Locating Hidden Assets in Divorce

July 11, 2013

Hidden Assets in DivorceFormer NFL player and Super Bowl champ, Jeremy Shockey, and Daniela Cortazar enjoyed a brief eight months of nuptial bliss before Shockey filed for divorce in January 2013. TMZ now reports that Shockey "is playing dumb with his finances according to his soon-to-be ex-wife." Cortazar claims that Shockey's net worth is over $15 million but apparently Shockey is pretending to know nothing about his finances in his legal documents. Shockey is even refusing to provide information regarding his net worth. Cortazar is asking a judge to punish Shockey with fines or jail time. More importantly though, to get a fair share in the divorce settlement, Cortazar should take prudent measures to make sure that Shockey doesn't have any hidden assets tucked away.

Hidden assets are those assets which are not readily visible typically because signs of ownership have been concealed or disguised by the other spouse. Hidden assets typically include liquid assets such as bank accounts, mutual funds, stock and bonds. These types of liquid assets can easily be transferred into another person or entity's name. Sometimes, these assets are even transferred into accounts in banks offshore which prohibit being touched under the laws of the particular country.

Learn more about divorce and property division

Stocks as hidden assets in divorceHidden assets are particularly important in divorce cases because when a court does not know about a particular asset, it cannot properly divide the asset or award it to one party or the other. Hiding assets is clearly illegal because both spouses lawfully have a claim to all marital property during a divorce proceeding. Therefore, being attentive to marital finances can help ensure that your divorce settlement is fair to you.

The first step in hunting down hidden assets during a divorce proceeding requires a diligent tracking and study of all financial records. Looking at old financial statements may help to identify suspicious transactions. For instance, an asset may initially be present in financial documents and then suddenly it has disappeared near the time of divorce or during divorce proceedings.

Other tips on finding hidden assets include the following:

  • Get a credit report on your spouse. Credit reports may contain information regarding financial accounts or credit that are unknown to you.
  • Look for payment of excess income tax and then a subsequent filing for the tax refund after the divorce.
  • Have items such as artwork, hobby equipment, antiques, original paintings, etc. appraised.
  • Be diligent about locating any cash kept as traveler's checks. You can do this by tracing bank account deposits and withdrawals.
  • Look for any inconsistencies which may indicate delayed disbursements of bonuses or stock options.
  • Be aware of any income that isn't reflected on either financial statements or tax returns.
Read more about property division and divorce in San Diego

Continue reading "Tips for Locating Hidden Assets in Divorce" »

Recent Family Law Case Clarifies Breach of Fiduciary Duty Remedy

July 9, 2013

San Diego Family Law JusticeIn San Diego Family Courts, Judges take the issue of breach of spousal fiduciary duty very seriously. Harsh punishments are available in family court for nondisclosure of assets, failure to provide truthful information regarding income and assets and other misconduct. In April 2013, the California Court of Appeal ruled in In re Marriage of Simmons, a case of first impression. In this case, Mr. Simmons failed to disclose a separate property savings account with a value of $245,850.24. As a result of Mr. Simmons's breach of fiduciary duty, the trial court awarded Ms. Simmons the account in full. However, the appellate court reversed that award.

California Family Code § 721
imposes "a duty of the highest good faith and fair dealing" on spouses when dealing in transactions with each other. Family Code § 1100 clarifies that duty by stating that it "includes the obligation to make full disclosure to the other spouse of all material facts and information regarding the existence, characterization, and valuation of all assets in which the community has or may have an interest..." During a divorce case, both spouses are obligated to disclose all assets regardless of whether those assets are community property or separate property. The court may impose various sanctions for failure to disclose an asset. If a spouse discovers an undisclosed asset he or she may request 100% of the asset or an amount equal to 100% of the asset as a remedy.

Although the Family Code is clear regarding the availability of the "value of the asset remedy" if the asset is community property, Mr. Simmons disputed the availability of that remedy with regard to separate property assets. The appellate court agreed with Mr. Simmons and, for the first time, ruled that the "value of the asset remedy" is not available if a spouse has only failed to disclose separate property assets. However, despite the appellate court's inclination to rule in favor of Mr. Simmons, it was still aggravated by his pattern of misconduct. Therefore, the appellate court remanded the case back to the trial court level directing the trial court to consider any additional sanctions it would like to impose against Mr. Simmons. Various other family codes, such as Family Code § 271, are available to the trial court as authority upon which to base an additional sanctions awards.

Under Family Code § 271, the court may impose monetary sanctions against a party for obstreperous conduct which impedes the policy of settlement in a divorce case. The court is not limited to an amount of sanctions and may impose them in an amount sufficient to deter future misconduct. Under this provision, the Simmons trial court may decide to order $245,850.24 in sanctions against Mr. Simmons for failure to disclose his separate property asset.

Breach of fiduciary duty is a complex divorce issue that requires representation by a competent attorney. Don't settle for less when determining your rights.

Continue reading "Recent Family Law Case Clarifies Breach of Fiduciary Duty Remedy" »

Divorce & Remarriage in San Diego - Considerations for the Blended Family

May 7, 2013
Considerations for Your Second Marriage and New Blended Family

Blended Family Remarriage After Divorce.jpgThe United States, especially California, has a bad reputation for its "high" divorce rate. However, along with the high rate of divorce is also a high rate of remarriage. Considering the amount of marriages and remarriages, it is not surprising to family law attorneys that 65% of remarriages involve blended families. "Blended family" is the term used by divorce attorneys to describe families including children from a previous marriage of one or both spouses. Blended families will face some unique challenges. With proper planning and awareness, individuals who intend to remarry after divorce in Del Mar can give their marriage a better chance.


One of the issues that can arise when two families come together after experiencing divorce is finance. Each family may be accustomed to a particular lifestyle that will have to change when the two families combine. Financial planners and family law attorneys recommend that blended families keep three separate bank accounts if both spouses earn income.

If this approach is followed, each spouse maintains his or her own bank account in which his or her income is deposited and both spouses share one joint account. Each month both spouses deposit a percentage of their income or a fixed amount into the joint account from which all household bills and expenses are paid. Using this method, the blended family can avoid conflict and resentment regarding how much money the spouses spend on their own children. Additionally, maintaining separate accounts can protect both spouses from the other's debts including child support and spousal support obligations from a prior marriage.

Read more about divorce and finances from the lawyers at the firm

Real Property

Many times after a divorce, one spouse will continue to live in the marital residence. If both spouses in a blended family own a home from a prior marriage, they will be faced with the emotional and complicated decision of where to live together. All children will likely not want to leave their home after a divorce but neither spouse may feel comfortable living in the home of his or her new spouse's ex. One possible solution is to sell both homes and to purchase a new home together that fits the needs of the blended family. However, both parties should be aware of possible tax consequences of selling their home.

Premarital Agreements

After experiencing a painful and expensive divorce, couples can be a little hesitant to jump into a new marriage to try again. After a divorce, many Del Mar couples opt to sign a premarital agreement (commonly referred to as a "prenup") or a postnuptial agreement (if they are already married) to provide a bit of comfort when entering a new marriage. Formal agreements allow the parties to clarify ownership of assets and protect savings that may have been set aside for the children's future. If new issues arise after the parties have entered into prenup or postnuptial agreement, the parties can consult with an attorney to amend their current agreement or draft a new one.

Continue reading "Divorce & Remarriage in San Diego - Considerations for the Blended Family" »

Family Law and the Lottery - Pedro Quezada Settles $29,000 Child Support Debt

April 26, 2013

family-law-lottery.jpgRecent winner of the $338 million Powerball jackpot, Pedro Quezada, has more money now then he probably knows what to do with. However, soon after coming forward as the winner of the fourth-largest Powerball jackpot in history, authorities revealed that this new multi-millionaire was wanted for outstanding child support payments totaling $29,000. Astoundingly, the arrears dated all the way back to 2009! Luckily for Quezada's ex-wife and his five children, who range from ages 5 to 23, Quezada can now finally pay up on the $29,000 of child support that he owes. According to the Passaic County Sheriff's Office, Quezada appeared in court recently to do just that.

The fact that Quezada was $29,000 behind on child support payments may leave many divorcing spouses left wondering what their recourse may be when the other spouse isn't paying up on ordered child support payments. Although not too common, this is especially the case when the obligor spouse (i.e. the spouse who has been ordered to pay child support) suddenly gets lucky enough to hit the lottery jackpot. It is likely that Quezada consulted with a family lawyer soon after winning the lottery.

Learn family law terms commonly used in California


Family law attorneys often console clients by letting them know that when the obligor spouse fails to make child support payments, the receiving spouse has several options to enforce the child support order. Although there are quite a number of options, family lawyers will advise that the best option to pursue often depends on what the obligor spouse has and where he or she works. These options include, but are not limited to, mandatory wage withholding, liens on personal property (such as bank accounts or vehicles) or real property, fines/possible imprisonment, license suspension and various methods of interception.

One such interception method used by family lawyers to enforce a child support order is known as the "Lottery Winning Intercept Program," which in essence automatically deducts money from the obligor's California State Lottery winnings and then forwards that money to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) to pay past-due child support. However, family lawyers can only use this method after all taxes and tax liens have already been satisfied. (California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 708.730 & 708.795).

Read more from The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford on divorce and finances

family-law-windfall.jpgLuckily for Quezada, he likely still has plenty of money left over after accounting for his taxes and tax liens. It is reasonable to think that the $29,000 in child support payment that he owed is now likely just a small chuck of change to him, and he probably won't even notice a $29,000 deduction from his lottery winning.

Continue reading "Family Law and the Lottery - Pedro Quezada Settles $29,000 Child Support Debt" »