Recently in Divorce Settlement Category

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

June 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "My Spouse is Hiding Assets - How can I Protect my Interests?" »

Spousal Support and Domestic Violence - Do Victims Have to Pay?

May 11, 2014

spousal-support-balance.jpgIn a typical California divorce case, spousal support is awarded based on the need and ability to pay of the parties. However, if there is a history of domestic violence in a case, the spousal support analysis is not so simple. Embedded within California Family Code and cases is the public policy disfavoring an awarded of spousal support from a victim of domestic violence payable to his or her abuser. In making a decision regarding long term spousal support the court is required to consider all of the factors outlined in Family Code § 4320 including domestic violence. In addition, the family courts can make support and property orders in a proceeding brought under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Family Code § 4320(i) provides that the court shall consider the following circumstances: "Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in [Fam. Code §6211], between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party's child, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party." The Family Code also has provisions creating a presumption that a spousal support award should not be made in favor of a person convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

spousal-support-beach.jpgAlthough the law is clear regarding cases where a finding of domestic violence has been made or where one party has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, what happens if a spousal support hearing is conducted while a domestic violence case is pending? Recently, a California appellate court held that a court may award spousal support in a proceeding brought under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act prior to reaching a conclusion that domestic violence has occurred. Contrary to cases where an alleged domestic violence abuser is requesting support, this recent case addressed the issue of support due to the alleged victim. Domestic violence hearings can get continued out (for months sometimes) for a variety of reasons. The court reasoned that is should not withhold support for an extended period of time just because the domestic violence issues have not been decided.

Domestic violence cases are always emotionally charged and carry significant implications for both parties. It is always important to discuss your domestic violence case with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.

Continue reading "Spousal Support and Domestic Violence - Do Victims Have to Pay?" »

What is Considered "Property" in a Divorce Case?

May 9, 2014

shared-property-room.jpgIn a recent divorce between Black Keys' singer, Dan Auerbach, and his former wife, Stephanie Gonis, the parties divided an unusual asset - a lock of Bob Dylan's hair. This is a perfect example of the family law principle that all property must be divided upon dissolution. In the Auerbach-Gonis divorce, the parties owned a variety of typical assets such as real property, vehicles, and cash; however, all property - including valuable locks of hair must be divided at the time of judgment.

In the beginning of each divorce case, the parties are required to disclose and characterize all property either party has an interest in. "Property" is defined in California Civil Code Section 654 as, "the ownership of a thing is the right of one or more persons to possess and use it to the exclusion of others...the thing of which there may be ownership is called property". Property can be further characterized as "real" property and "personal" property. Generally in dissolution proceedings, real estate (including the marital residence and vacation homes) are the only "real" property divided. All other property is generally "personal" property.

shared-property.jpgUltimately Gonis was awarded Bob Dylan's hair pursuant to the Auerbach-Gonis judgment. According to the California Family Code and applicable California case law, the community estate must be divided equally between the parties. The community estate consists of all the community property acquired by the parties from the date of marriage to the date of separation. In some circumstances, although the estate as a whole can be divided equally in terms of the value each party receives, all assets may not be divisible. It is important to note that all property, including the separate property of both spouses, must be disclosed. Separate property is defined all property acquired by either spouse prior to marriage, after separation, or during marriage by gift, bequest, or devise. If property is determined to be the separate property of one spouse, that property will be confirmed to that spouse in the final judgment without offset for its value.

In a case where a community asset cannot simply be divided in half and distributed to the parties, such as a lock of hair, the parties will have two options. First, the parties can agree on the value of the indivisible item and offset the division of other assets to account for one party receiving the asset in full. Second, the parties can agree to sell the indivisible item and split the proceeds equally. If an asset is easily divisible, such as the funds in a bank account, the parties can each take one-half of the asset without the need for a valuation or sale.

Continue reading "What is Considered "Property" in a Divorce Case?" »

Post-Divorce To Do List

March 26, 2014

beach-post-divorce.jpgIf you are recently divorced or nearing the end of your divorce process, you might want to start by checking off everything on your post-divorce to do list so that you can finally move on and focus on yourself.

Once the divorce is nearing the end, you probably want nothing more than to move on from it and think about anything else. The fact of the matter is that even once the divorce is over you will still have a long list of financial housekeeping items related to the divorce. Below is a list to help you remember some of these items to take of (to the extent they are applicable to your situation) so that you can work towards turning the page and beginning a fresh new start.

1. Remove your husband's name and UPDATE all of your financial documents, credit cards, utility bills, medical records, employment records, passport, driver's license, auto, health and homeowners insurance policies, IRS records, Social Security Card, Title to real property and any professional licenses to reflect the following changes in your basic information, to the extent applicable:
a. Name change
b. Address change
c. "Single" status instead of "Married"
d. New trustee

2. Update your beneficiary designation on all life insurance plans, IRAs, 401(k), mutual fund accounts, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc. (if your ex-spouse is your current primary beneficiary and you want someone else to be designated as the beneficiary upon your death).

3. Revise your will: you will likely want to revise your will to take your ex-spouse off and designate others to inherit from you. If you are removing your ex-spouse, who was also designated as your Executor then you will also need to choose a new Executor of your estate.

4. Research health insurance options.

5. Think about changing your "Emergency Contact" where applicable if your ex-spouse is currently listed as your only person to contact in case of an emergency.

6. Obtain a certified copy of your divorce decree: to make many of the changes listed above you might be required to produce a certified copy of your divorce decree. Try to obtain extra copies early on so that you don't have to delay the process of checking off items on your to do list.

7. Close joint credit cards and open new bank accounts and credit cards in your name so you can start establishing your own credit history.

8. Talk to a Financial Adviser to start planning for your financial future.

The list of things to change and update post-divorce can be overwhelming. The best way to approach your to do list is to take a look at all the documents you were required to produce during your divorce proceeding and then attack it one at a time. Your Schedule of Assets and Debts that was prepared during your divorce should have a comprehensive list of the accounts that you should think about updating.

Continue reading "Post-Divorce To Do List " »

Does anybody ever win in divorce?

September 10, 2013

Family Law DisputesDue to the nature of California family law, divorce lawyers have a tough job when it comes to pleasing the client. Many divorce lawyers are proficient practitioners who are skilled in court room advocacy, preparing appropriate pleadings, and getting people divorced. However, at the end of a family law case, both parties walk away from each other with less than they started with and the emotional strain of separation. Undoubtedly in every divorce case, bank accounts and retirement plans will be divided, debt will be assigned, valuable property will be sold and the parties must figure out a new way of life. Family lawyers often work tirelessly to ease the stress of divorce for the client by attempting to create mutual beneficial solutions for the parties outside of the courtroom.


Divorce settlement San DiegoIf the parties cannot reach an agreement on all issues in a divorce case, they must face each other as opponents in trial. Any family law trial is incredibly expensive for both parties to litigate. In fact, many trials can be more costly than the item(s) over which the parties are arguing. Another unfortunate reality about litigation in family law cases is that litigation is often funded by the liquidation of the community assets.

This means that the longer the parties battle on, the more the "pot" left to divide shrinks. After all of the arguments, hearings, and trials are over, the parties may not have any assets left to share. In order to avoid that outcome, family law attorneys work to help the client consider the cost-benefit analysis for each dispute.

Family law litigants often become frustrated with the settlement process in cases where one spouse remains firm in his or her positions and is unwilling to compromise on any issue. In these cases, the spouse who is willing to engage in "back and forth" settlement offers may feel cornered and vulnerable. The cooperative spouse will likely see no other option than to yield to every demand of the unreasonable party.

Family Law TrialThe only alternative is a lengthy, expensive and draining trial. The emotional and financial cost of trial is rarely worth a potentially successful outcome. This problem is only compounded when the spouse and his/her attorney are confident they will prevail if a disputed issue is litigated; however, they must rescind their position to preserve the community estate.

There are many opportunities throughout the divorce process for parties to reach a settlement on disputed issues. If child custody and/or visitation are involved in the case, the parties are required to attend mediation at Family Court Services. A mediator will work with both parties and attempt to create a mutually agreed upon custody and child sharing arrangement.

In addition, before any issue proceeds to trial, the parties are required to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference ("MSC"). At the MSC, a family law expert will work with the parties in an attempt to settle all issues which could potentially go to trial. Both of these services are provided without charge for family law litigants. WCENY8KDWAEH

Continue reading "Does anybody ever win in divorce?" »

Enforceability of Unfair Terms in Marital Settlement Agreements

June 12, 2013

San Diego Divorce CourtIn January 2013, divorce attorneys were abuzz as our local Court of Appeal took a strong stance with regard to enforceability of Marital Settlement Agreements ("MSA's"). In San Diego family law cases, the parties to a divorce have the ability to enter into agreements regarding any area of their case. Settling issues such as child custody/visitation, support, and property division is advantageous to the parties because they have the opportunity to craft unique provisions which meet their individual needs. San Diego family courts are limited by the California Family Code and local/state guidelines in what types of orders they can make. However, when parties and/or their divorce attorneys draft their own settlement terms it is imperative to consider all possible future scenarios before signing a Marital Settlement Agreement.

In the unfortunate case of Marriage of Hibbard, the parties to the divorce agreed that spousal support "shall not be reduced to an amount lower than two thousand dollars per month" and would only terminate upon Wife's death or remarriage or the death of Husband. In this case, the parties were married for thirty years from 1971 to 2001. At the time of separation, Husband and Wife were both lawyers. Husband earned $84,000 per year and Wife earned $24,000 per year. In 2011, Husband's post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") fully manifested and hindered his ability to work. Husband's PSTD symptoms began in 1970 after he served in combat in Vietnam.

In 2012, unable to work more than a few hours a day and drowning in debt, Husband filed a motion in family court to modify spousal support. After shutting down his law practice, Husband only expected to receive $4,040 per month in income from disability and Social Security. Wife opposed Husband's request to modify support stating she was only receiving $1,738 per month in teacher's retirement and Social Security. Wife also stated she was similarly unable to work. The trial court held that it was unable to modify spousal support outside of the terms of the marital settlement agreement and therefore refused to reduce support lower than $2,000 per month. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's decision.

Marriage of Hibbard is a great example of the importance of carefully considering and drafting Marital Settlement Agreement provisions. Before singing their Marital Settlement Agreement, the Hibbards could have easily imagined a situation where Husband would be financially unable to pay Wife $2,000 per month in spousal support. However, they did not provide any exceptions to the blanket prohibition on a spousal support award lower than $2,000 per month. The Court upheld their agreement despite its unfair applicability to the parties' current circumstances. Marital Settlement Agreements are interpreted under general contract laws which hold that contracting parties have the right to enter into any agreement of their choosing. Divorce attorneys will advise their clients that the role of the court is not to re-write agreements but rather to enforce them as written.

Continue reading "Enforceability of Unfair Terms in Marital Settlement Agreements" »

Divorce in California - Will Dodger Divorce Settlement be Tossed Aside?

May 8, 2013

Dodger divorce reopenedThe U.S. peered into the private lives of Jamie and Frank McCourt, owners of the Dodgers, as they publicly litigated their contentious divorce in California. The former couple's dispute over ownership of the California baseball team resulted in what is rumored to be one of the world's most expensive divorces. After substantial attorney fees and costs were racked up throughout the proceeding, the McCourt's reached a divorce settlement in October 2011.

In consideration for relinquishing any rights to the Dodgers, Ms. McCourt received $131 million tax-free in addition to several expensive pieces of real property. Despite receiving what seems like an enormous amount of money, Ms. McCourt and her divorce attorney now want the settlement thrown out as the Dodgers were later sold for $2 billion. Assuming the Dodgers were a community property asset, Ms. McCourt settled for $770 million less than she would have received if the proceeds of the sale were divided equally.

Read more about property division and divorce in California

The basis of Ms. McCourt's request to set aside the Marital Settlement Agreement is fraud. She argues that her former husband deliberately misled her regarding the true value of the Dodgers. At a recent court hearing, Mr. McCourt's divorce lawyers argued that Ms. McCourt is not entitled to set aside the settlement because she willingly agreed its terms and her recent claims are baseless. If the judge agrees with Ms. McCourt and sets aside the judgment, the parties and their attorneys will re-litigate all issues related to the Dodgers. The court will have to determine, under California family law provisions, whether the Dodgers were community property or the separate property of Mr. McCourt. Prior to settlement, the court determined that the parties' post-marital agreement giving Mr. McCourt full ownership of the Dodgers was invalid.

San Diego Family Law Declaration of DisclosureAs divorce attorneys will advise their clients, under the California Family Code, the commission of perjury on the Final Declaration of Disclosure is a legal basis to set aside a judgment. At the end of each divorce case in San Diego, the parties are required to complete a Final Declaration of Disclosure, unless a proper waiver is effectuated. The Final Declaration of Disclosure is a series of forms, which are signed under the penalty of perjury, on which the parties list the value of all assets.

Learn more about fiduciary duty in divorce

Ms. McCourt's attorney argues that she relied on the most recent figures presented to her in accepting the settlement. If Mr. McCourt in fact lied on those forms, Ms. McCourt may be able to set aside their judgment subject to statute of limitation requirements. The court has the ability to limit the set aside only to those portions of the agreement which were materially affected by the nondisclosure. In this case, only the portions related to the Dodgers would be addressed.

Continue reading "Divorce in California - Will Dodger Divorce Settlement be Tossed Aside?" »

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" »

San Diego Divorce Timeline - What You Can Do to Speed it Up (Part 2)

April 23, 2013

As we have previously blogged, there are two distinct divorce paths that spouses can take in a San Diego divorce proceeding, the litigation path and the mediation path. As the case goes on, parties may end up using a combination of the two approaches. Part one of this blog explained the litigation process and its many disadvantages such as its high cost and lengthy waiting periods. By contrast, the mediation process is more efficient, less expensive, and less stressful for all parties involved, especially the children.

The Mediation Path

divorce-timeline-pt-2.jpgIf the parties and their attorneys determine that they are able to work cooperatively with the other side and that court intervention is not necessary, they may elect the mediation process outlined below. A mediated divorce typically proceeds as follows:

The parties must first decide if they will retain independent counsel, usually a divorce attorney experienced in advising clients in mediation. In addition, a third party neutral will be selected, regardless of whether the parties have retained counsel or if they will both meet with the neutral unrepresented.

Read questions frequently answered by divorce attorneys

Next, the parties should determine which issues are settled and which issues are disputed. For example, in a Del Mar divorce the parties may realize they agree to divide all of their property equally, but happen to disagree on a reasonable amount of monthly spousal support.

As in the litigation process, the parties must also complete their Declarations of Disclosure including a Schedule of Assets and Debts and an Income and Expense Declaration. However, the parties will not engage in expensive and lengthy discovery because they have decided to cooperate with each other informally.
Once the parties have met with the mediator and agreed on all terms of the settlement, the mediator may draft a martial settlement agreement and file all necessary paperwork with the court.

Learn terms commonly used in a San Diego divorce proceeding

It is evident from the above timeline that a mediated divorce take much less time, effort and money than a litigated proceeding. The better the parties work together to resolve their disputes, the lower the cost of the divorce. There are no "winners" if a divorce case goes to trial because each party will have incurred significant expenses and emotional scars. In mediation, parties have the flexibility to create their own terms and solutions which are mutually beneficial.

Continue reading "San Diego Divorce Timeline - What You Can Do to Speed it Up (Part 2)" »

"Shocking" Case Voids Prenup in Divorce

March 19, 2013

A New York appeals court is making waves throughout the family law community as a result of its recent controversial ruling. Before Elizabeth Cioffi-Petrakis and Peter Petrakis got married, they entered into a premarital agreement, commonly known as a "prenup". At trial, the court ruled that the premarital agreement was void. On appeal, the trial court's decision was upheld. Many attorneys throughout the U.S. believe that this case may have enormous implications on every premarital agreement case in the future. Divorce attorneys are surprised that the premarital agreement was held void and by the court's rationale.

divorce-prenup-fraud.jpg

The basis for voiding the premarital agreement in the divorce proceeding was "fraud in the inducement." Just four days before her wedding to Mr. Petrakis, Ms. Cioffi was presented with a prenup and an ultimatum. Although Ms. Cioffi's parents had already spent $40,000 on the wedding, Mr. Petrakis told Ms. Cioffi that he would not marry her unless she signed the agreement. Moreover, Mr. Petrakis orally promised to tear up the agreement and put her name on title to their home as soon as the couple had children. In reliance on Mr. Petrakis' oral assurances, Ms. Cioffi signed the prenup. Once the couple had children, Ms. Cioffi pushed Mr. Petrakis to follow through with their oral agreement and he refused.

Read more entries about premarital agreements

At the time Ms. Cioffi signed the prenup she was represented by an attorney and all other typical enforceability requirements were undisputedly met. The written agreement also contained a provision specifically stating that both parties were precluded from relying on all prior or contemporaneous oral agreements. Notwithstanding that provision, both courts ruled that the premarital agreement void by applying the contract principal of fraud.

In Del Mar and across California, if both parties are represented by counsel from the onset of negotiations, there is no required waiting period that must pass before the parties can sign an enforceable premarital agreement. However, if only one party is represented by counsel, the unrepresented party must consider the agreement for a minimum of seven days before signing it. As long as these and the additional statutory requirements are met, many family law attorneys feel that premarital agreements are extremely difficult to set aside.

Learn more about Del Mar divorce lawyer Nancy Bickford

In a 1938 California case, the court determined fraud is an appropriate basis for setting aside a post-marital agreement. It would seem that New York was not too far off the mark when it applied the generally accepted contract defense of fraud to family law. More and more, divorce lawyers are seeing the stricter standards applied to civil litigation at large are being applied in family courts.


Continue reading ""Shocking" Case Voids Prenup in Divorce" »

Settlement in San Diego Divorce Cases

April 10, 2012

The State of Alaska is reforming the way a divorce case proceeds through the court system. The new program named the Early Resolution Project is aimed at resolving divorce cases quickly and efficiently. One distinguishing characteristic of Early Resolution is the emphasis on settlement. Under the program, the Anchorage Superior Court addresses several divorce cases in one afternoon on a biweekly basis. On this afternoon, the parties are give free legal advice and encouraged to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

1330873_courthouse.jpg

Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides envisioned the program as a result of her experience in the Alaskan family court system. She was concerned because many divorce cases are assigned a court date that is several months after the initial filing. This waiting period caused the parties to become firm in their positions and unwilling to compromise. Judge Joannides proposed to attempt to resolve these divorce cases early in the process and has seen promising results. In the first year, eighty percent of cases settled as a result of Early Resolution.

Besides a quick resolution to the case, the Early Resolution program and others like it offer a number of fringe benefits to the parties. Like any case that settles early in the litigation process, a divorce settlement can save the parties a great amount of money. Litigating a family law case in San Diego involves filing fees, court costs and attorney's fees. If a case settles early, the parties will not be responsible for any further costs and fees. Another benefit to dispute resolution is the preservation of the relationship between the parties. Litigation has the tendency to ruin the relationship between the parties indefinitely. However, in family law cases involving children, it is crucial for the parents to maintain a co-parenting relationship. Although the California Family Code is often clear, family court judges have an element of unpredictability. The facts of a case may be disputed and therefore the outcome can be uncertain. If parties reach a settlement they are in control of the outcome of the case. In family law cases, the outcome often has life-changing consequences for both parties. In order to have input in the final decision, the parties much reach an agreement.

The San Diego family court system has a program similar to Alaska's Early Resolution Project. In San Diego, the family court judge will assign the parties a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) date before any case will proceed to trial. Unlike in Alaska, the MSC will occur toward the end of the parties' case. The MSC will take place at the San Diego Superior Court where the parties have been litigating their case. A settlement conference judge will be assigned to the case. These judges are experienced local family law attorneys who have volunteered their time to help parties resolve their cases before trial. Because they have so much experience with San Diego family law, the settlement judges are able to help the parties predict what the judge will likely do at trial and reach a settlement agreement based on the probable outcome. The benefit to reaching an agreement during the MSC is avoiding trial. The parties are able to avoid the cost, time and emotional toll of a trial.

Alaska's Early Resolution Project also relies on local attorneys to volunteer their time to help needy clients. These attorneys are able to get family law experience without becoming entrenched in long drawn-out cases. Before the biweekly court appearance, the volunteers are able to scan the divorce case file and begin to formulate possible solutions for the parties. A MSC is slightly more formal in this respect. The parties to an MSC are required to submit a Settlement Conference Brief to the settlement judge at least five court days prior to the MSC outlining the disputed issues and their proposed solutions.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding custody. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County 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 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.