Recently in Divorce 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" »

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 " »

Beware of Steep Fines for Violating the ATROS

March 24, 2014

divorce-cost-fines.jpgThe moment a divorce commences, automatic temporary restraining orders ("ATROS") take effect and they remain in effect until entry of the final judgment. Specifically, the Petitioner is bound by the ATROS once he or she files the Petition and Summons and the Respondent is bound by them after he or she is served with the Petition and Summons. The ATROS can actually be found on the second page of the Summons.

According to California Family Code Section 2040(a), these ATROS restrain both parties from doing the following:
1) Removing their minor children from the state without prior written consent from the other party or an order from the court;
2) Transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any real or personal property (even separate property) without the other party's written consent or an order from the court. There are, however, exceptions if the action is within the usual course of business, for the necessities of life, or to pay reasonable attorney fees;
3) Cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage (i.e. life, health, automobile, disability, etc.) held for the benefit of the parties and their children for whom support may be ordered; and
4) Creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonprobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer, without the other party's written consent an order from the court.

Despite being aware of and bound by the ATROS, parties going through a divorce often ignore them, thus disregarding the potential penalties for their violation. Perhaps if the parties were aware of how steep the penalties for violation of the ATROS can be, they would think twice before violating them.

Violation of the ATROS can result in some pretty hefty fines and even time behind bars. (See Family Code Section 233). Specifically, Penal Code Section 278.5 provides that "every person who takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals a child and maliciously deprives a lawful custodian of a right to custody, or a person of a right to visitation, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment..." Willful and knowing violators of any of the other orders may also be subject to a $1,000 fine, imprisonment or both pursuant to Penal Code Section 273.6.

Continue reading "Beware of Steep Fines for Violating the ATROS" »

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

Continue reading "How to Work Well with Your Divorce Attorney" »

Shannon Miles, San Diego Family Law Attorney Passes the CFLS Examination.

March 18, 2014

photo__1910961_p_shannon_miles.pngThe Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford would like to congratulate SHANNON MILES, on passing the CFLS examination.

Born into a military family in Quantico, Virginia, Ms. Miles attended California Western School of Law, graduating in 2006. While at Cal Western, Ms. Miles studied Family Law and Community Property. Ms. Miles clerked for a family law firm and civil litigation firm while in law school. Ms. Miles also served as a judicial extern for the military judges at Camp Pendleton.

Ms. Miles started with our firm in 2012. Prior to joining The Law Office of Nancy J. Bickford, Ms. Miles worked for the law firm of Moore, Schulman & Moore for four years, practicing exclusively in the area of family law. She is trained in Family Law Trial Advocacy and is a graduate of the San Diego Family Law College of Trial Advocacy. She also holds a degree in Communications from the University of California, San Diego. Ms. Miles participated in Cal Western's Consortium for Innovative Legal Studies and attended law school abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic and at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland. While in Prague, Ms. Miles studied International and Comparative Law. While in Galway, she studied Human Rights and International Criminal Law at the Irish Centre of Human Rights. Ms. Miles also spent a semester abroad while at UCSD in Alcala de Henares, Spain studying Spanish Literature.
Ms. Miles is a member of the State Bar of California, and the San Diego Family Law Bar Association. Ms. Miles is presently an Associate Member of the J. Clifford Wallace Inn of Court and prior to that, served for two years as an associate member of the Fiorenzo V. Lopardo chapter of the American Inns of Court.

Professional & Bar Association Memberships
State Bar of California
San Diego Family Law Bar Association
J. Clifford Wallace Inn of Court

Continue reading "Shannon Miles, San Diego Family Law Attorney Passes the CFLS Examination." »

How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part II

March 18, 2014

prepare-family-law-court.jpgMy previous blog, "How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part I" I discussed how to mentally prepare for court, what to bring with you to court and what to do when you arrive at court. Part II aims to prepare you for your day in court by helping you becoming oriented with who you will see in court and how the proceeding will occur.

Who You Can Expect to See In Court

As you likely know, from watching a little too much Law and Order perhaps, the judge is the person who presides over the court. However, there are no jury trials in family law in California. In addition to the judge, there are typically three other people in most courtrooms: the bailiff, the court clerk and the court reporter.

The bailiff is a uniformed officer and is usually the first person that you will talk to when you check into the courtroom. The bailiff's primary job is to maintain order in the courtroom. The bailiff also acts as the middleman in handing documents from the attorneys/parties to the court clerk or to the judge directly.

The court clerk sits near the judge and is in charge of managing the court. Prior to the morning calendar, the court clerk will give the judge all of the case files. Once court is in session, the court clerk will be the one to administer the oath to any witnesses and also serve as a clerical assistant to the judge.

The court reporter is the person who is in charge of recording everything that is said while the court is in session. Following the hearing, you or your attorney may request the court reporter to prepare a transcript, which is a verbatim script of the court proceedings.

Typical Order of Events in Court

Calendar Call: The first thing the judge will do once he takes the bench is to do a calendar call in alphabetical order to determine how many cases are going to be heard and the time estimate for each. Based on this information, the judge can put the cases in the order of his choosing. Once the calendar call is completed, the judge will typically call the cases with the shortest time estimates first.

Statement of Appearances: Once your case is called, both the attorneys and the parties will step forward and take their place at their respective tables (Petitioner on the left of the podium and Respondent on the right of the podium). The attorneys will state their appearances for the record. If you are not represented by legal counsel then you are responsible for stating your own appearance.

Administer Oath: Next, the court clerk will administer the oath to both parties and instruct them to raise their right hands and say "I do". This means that your testimony will be given under penalty of perjury such that you can be convicted of a crime if you knowingly tell a lie during your testimony.

Determine Resolved and Unresolved Issues:

Before the actual hearing begins, the judge will want to determine which issues, if any, have been settled by agreement and which ones still remain unresolved. The judge will review any written agreements or listen to statements regarding settled issues. The judge will then ask the parties if they understand the agreement and then he/she will typically make a statement accepting the stipulation and confirming that the agreement is a court order. Once this is completed the actual hearing will begin.

Continue reading "How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part II" »

How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part I

March 14, 2014

family-law-court.jpgDuring a dissolution case, also known as a divorce, you will likely be required to attend a court hearing at some point during the process. Regardless of what type of hearing it is, getting oriented with the family law court and properly preparing yourself for your day in court is half the battle.

Mental Preparation

Whether or not you are being represented by an attorney, it is important that you come to court well-rested and ready to participate in the proceedings with a clear mind. Family Court hearings can be quite stressful and emotional draining so getting the proper amount of rest will surely help your mental well-being.

If you have not been to the courthouse before, be sure to get proper directions, figure out how long it will take you to get there and look into the parking facilities. Knowing where you are going and giving yourself enough time to get there will help alleviate some of the stress that you will inevitably be feeling. Also, it is important to make sure that you have any necessary paperwork ready to go the night before so that you don't have to worry about rushing on the morning of your court date.

What to Bring and What Not to Bring With You

Courts require payment by the parties for the Court Reporter on certain days and for certain hearings. Be sure to have your checkbook with you when you come to court so that you are prepared if a payment needs to be made for your share of the Court Reporter's charges.

On the other hand, be sure to leave anything that might be considered a weapon at home as most courthouses have metal detectors at the front door.

What to Do When You Arrive

If you are represented by legal counsel make arrangements with your attorney where to meet once you get to court. Typically, attorneys will meet their clients in the hallway outside of the courtroom where your hearing is taking place. If you are not currently represented by legal counsel then go directly to the courtroom designated for your hearing. A calendar will be posted right outside of the courtroom which will list the cases scheduled for that day. Confirm that your case is listed on the calendar to make sure that you are indeed at the right courtroom.

Once you are inside the courtroom you might be interested in orienting yourself with the court personnel and order of events. For detailed information, please read "How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part II", which will be posted March 18, 2014.

Continue reading "How to Prepare for Your Day in Family Law Court: Part I" »

New York Dad Loses Custody Battle Over Fast Food Dispute

March 13, 2014

dad-mcdonalds-custody-battle-1.jpgIn the midst of a New York divorce case, father David Schorr gave his son a common ultimatum when his son demanded McDonald's for dinner - "you can have dinner from anywhere besides McDonald's or have no dinner at all". In response, the stubborn five-year-old decided to have no dinner at all and threw a tantrum. Schorr immediately regretted the harsh position he had taken with his son but felt it was inappropriate to back down in response to his child's outburst. While trying to convince his son to change his mind, Schorr took his son back to his mother's house early and waited for her to return home.

In the Schorr divorce, the court appointed a neutral psychologist to evaluate the parenting abilities of both parents in the context of the best interest of the child. The psychologist recommended that, considering the "McDonald's incident," the Court should eliminate or limit Schorr's weekend visits with his son. During the pendency of the divorce, Schorr has alternating weekend visits with his son and dinner with him each Tuesday. In response to the psychologist's statements, Schorr has filed a lawsuit against her for defamation. As the suit was filed in early November, there is little information available regarding its progress.

During the pendency of a divorce action where child custody and visitation is a disputed issue, each party's parenting is under strict scrutiny. In the Schorr case, one father's attempt to teach his son discipline cost him time with his child. It is hard to imagine that legal parenting tactics such as spanking (within reason) and other various forms of discipline can result in a parent losing custody of his or her child. Outside of the parameters of a divorce case, if a problem is reported to authorities, such parenting decisions would be evaluated by Child Protective Services ("CPS") rather than a court-appointed psychologist. It is not likely CPS would have removed a child from his father's care based on the McDonald's event described above. This is a cautionary tale for all parents involved in a custody dispute, even one "mistake" could cost you valuable time with your children.

In a California custody case, the court, the parties, or the attorneys have the ability to request a neutral evaluation be conducted by a mental health professional (like in the Schorr case). If both sides agree a neutral is needed, they can stipulate (agree) to appoint an evaluator without Court intervention. Generally, once the evaluation is complete, the evaluator will prepare a report outlining his or her findings. The expert's report may be read by both parties and the judge in the case.

Continue reading "New York Dad Loses Custody Battle Over Fast Food Dispute" »

Coping with Divorce: Is it Harder for Men?

March 11, 2014

mens-health-Coping-with-Divorce.jpgDespite their typical tough exterior, recent studies indicate that men actually seem to have a more difficult time coping with divorce than women. Unfortunately, studies also show that divorced men are more likely to have heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and commit suicide.


One reason why men may have a more difficult time coping with divorce is because oftentimes men don't let themselves properly grieve during the divorce process. Unlike most women, men tend to bottle up their feelings and oppose therapy or other means of getting their emotions out. As a result, they are less likely to lean on others for support and to release their built up emotions and stress stemming from the divorce.


Women, on the other hand, are much more apt to seek assistance from friends, family, a therapist or even a support group regarding their emotions. Doing so helps women to be more emotionally prepared to tackle the challenges and stressors that come with a divorce. Without the ability to properly grieve and reach out to others for support, men are more likely to experience feelings of depression. If men want to properly grieve and allow themselves to heal during and after a divorce, it's necessary to put aside the "Men don't cry" and "I can do this alone" attitude and instead reach out to those who can help with the grieving process. Addressing emotions early on can help the grieving process later on down the road.


Another reason men may have a harder time coping with divorce is because they tend to lose their sense of identity as a result of the divorce. This is especially true when the man's role in the marriage is the "breadwinner" and "protector" and then they become disconnected from their children during or after the divorce. Many men have a paternal instinct to be a provider so when the family dynamic changes because of a divorce, men are often times forced to re-identify their role. Those men who remain very connected and involved in their children's lives, however, tend to have an easier time re-instilling any lost sense of identity and belonging.

Continue reading "Coping with Divorce: Is it Harder for Men?" »

How Much Will My California Divorce Cost?

March 10, 2014

One of the most common questions asked in an initial divorce consultation is "how much will this divorce cost me?" Many prospective clients are surprised when divorce attorneys answer "I have no idea". The only concrete information a family law attorney can provide clients regarding the cost of their divorce matter is the filing fees imposed by the courts ($435 in 2013). Other than basic hard costs and billing methods, divorce attorneys can provide clients with little information regarding the cost of their divorce at the initial consultation because the overall cost is based on a combination of the following factors.

California-divorce-cost.jpgThe Client: A family law client has the ability to greatly influence the cost of his or her divorce. If the client needs a lot of counseling or "hand holding" his or her bills will generally be much higher because the clients repeated phone calls and e-mails substantially increase the time an attorney devotes to the case. Considering the fact that a vast majority of family law attorneys charge an hourly billing rate, daily e-mails and phone calls could potentially add up to thousands of dollars per month.

The Opposing Party: Generally the attitude of the opposing party falls into one of a few categories: (1) emotionally stable and ready to move on with his or her life, (2) angry, vindictive, and willing to do anything to "get back at" his or her spouse, (3) hopeful that the parties can reconcile and therefore doing everything possible to delay the divorce process or (4) self-proclaimed victim who is busy feeling sorry for him/herself. If the opposing party wishes to drag out the divorce process, for whatever reason, there are endless methods of doing this. Delay is particularly easy for a non-represented party who does not incur attorney fees by filing countless motions, propounding burdensome discovery, or litigating every small issue.

The Opposing Counsel: Just like repeated communication with the client can increase attorney fees, onerous correspondence from the opposing attorney can greatly increase the cost of a divorce. This is because attorneys generally have a duty to read and respond to all pleadings and correspondence from the other side. Further, family law attorneys generally have a reputation for either working amicably with the other side to reach a mutually beneficial agreement whenever possible or for using their client's vulnerable state to fuel litigation for their own financial gain. Therefore, the general practice of the opposing attorney will likely minimize or increase the overall cost of divorce.

Judge-divorce-court.jpgThe Judge/Court: Every family law judge in San Diego is different. As such, every judge has a different calendar, schedule, and view of each case. Many of the court calendars are impacted and family law motions go months before being heard.

Number/Complexity of Contested Issues: The number and complexity of the contested issues in a divorce case is a major factor in the overall cost. For example, if the parties were married for 15 years but have no children, no real property, no retirement accounts/savings, and both earn similar incomes there will be few issues to litigate. However, if the parties were married for three years but have two minor children, retirement accounts, own a home and only one spouse works, the parties will have to address property division, custody and visitation, and support issues. The more contested issues that exist, the longer and more expensive the divorce will be. However, if the contested issues are not complex, a simple hearing will generally resolve the disputes and keep costs low.

Continue reading "How Much Will My California Divorce Cost?" »

New Spousal Support Laws not as Impactful as Reformers Hoped

March 5, 2014

spousal-support-and-divorce-001.jpgAs we have previously blogged, states along the East Coast have begun a movement to reform spousal support (what their laws refer to as "alimony"). The reformers argue that in many cases spousal support awards persist too long or at too high of a level after divorce. In order to reduce this problem, the reformers propose laws which focus on rebuilding the parties' lives after divorce and encourage supported spouses to learn to take care of themselves. We discussed the potential impact of these new laws and what effect they might have on California legislation. In particular, Massachusetts enacted a new spousal support law last year that was praised as a model for future reform. Although the new law has been in place for a reasonable period of time, reformers are not very satisfied with the results.

In order to accomplish the goal of encouraging spouses to become self-supporting post-divorce, the new "alimony laws" set time limits on spousal support for marriages of 20 years or less and generally stop spousal support payments when the supporting spouse reaches retirement age. By contrast, in California, there is generally no time limit placed on spousal support awards made pursuant to a long term marriage (defined as any marriage lasting approximately 10 years or more).

In addition, the new laws place strict restrictions on cohabitation. Under the reformed laws, spousal support will end if the supported spouse cohabitates with a new partner for at least three months. One of the issues which has arisen regarding the cohabitation clause is whether it applies to supported spouses who moved in with a new partner before the new law took effect. Currently in California, cohabitation is a factor that might be considered a "material change of circumstances" in a post-judgment support modification motion; but it is not grounds for automatic termination of support. California and Massachusetts do seem to share the general public policy disfavoring continued spousal support when the supported spouse moves in with his or her new partner.

Change can be difficult to effectuate in any area of law where the decision makers are comfortable in their "old ways". Some complain that Massachusetts judges are to blame for stifling the progress of new legislation. These judges are accused of misinterpreting or even ignoring the law which encourages spouses to become self-supporting after divorce. Family law is notorious for giving judicial officers wide discretion. Appeals are not generally successful unless the appellate can prove abuse of discretion.

Continue reading "New Spousal Support Laws not as Impactful as Reformers Hoped" »

Four Common Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce.

March 4, 2014

In October of 2013, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr announced that they will be ending their marriage. However, TMZ reports that despite their impending divorce, they still intend to remain a family and hold no hard feelings against one another. Although this attitude could change as the divorce progresses, perhaps Bloom and Kerr will instead be an example of how divorce doesn't always have to be a nuclear experience. However, this will likely only be achieved if they avoid some of the common mistakes described below.


1. Avoid Responding to the Divorce with Anger
The divorce process can be an extremely emotional time and it's very typical for people to say things they do not mean or to act in uncharacteristic manners. Responding to the divorce with anger will simply create an escalating war between you and your spouse and will lead you nowhere but backwards. Instead, let a little time pass and try to blow off some steam before reacting so that you can move the divorce forward in a reasonable manner.

2. Avoid Bringing a Significant Other Into the Mix
While you might have the urge to announce your new lover as a form of revenge to prove to your spouse that someone else finds you attractive and that you can be happy without your spouse, the divorce process is already potentially volatile so just mentioning that you have a new lover has the potential to absolutely infuriate your spouse. The more infuriated your spouse is with you, the less chance you have of a quick and painless divorce. Thus, it might just be best to wait until the divorce is over before you think about engaging in a new relationship.


3. Avoid Concealing Information
Many people going through a divorce find it quite tempting to omit or conceal pertinent information in their divorce case, typically surrounding finances. If you think that nobody will ever find out, think again. The majority of times someone like a forensic accountant or a private investigator for instance, does find out. And when this happens, you immediately lose credibility and cause increased litigation costs. All in all, hiding information is just not worth it.

4. Avoid Reducing the Time Spent With Your Kids
family-time-and-divorce.jpgDuring the divorce one spouse typically moves out of the family home at some point. When this happens, that spouse tends to get preoccupied with the divorce process, or gets busy with work trying to make more money to be able to afford living away from the family home. As a result, time spent with the kids is often much less than what it used to be. This is one mistake to surely avoid. During your divorce, spending time with your children should be one of your top priorities. It might also be a good idea to keep a journal logging hours spent with your kids and what you did during those times. When it comes to child custody determination this might be helpful. More importantly, spending time with your children will probably help make you feel whole, despite the destruction that divorce is causing.

Continue reading "Four Common Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce." »

How Will Divorce Affect My Social Security?

March 3, 2014

Divorce 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.


social-security-and-divorce.jpgThe first factor to consider in any social security analysis in the context of divorce is the length of the marriage. Neither spouse will be entitled to the other'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.

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