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Making a Major Purchase Before Your Divorce is Final

November 24, 2014

divorce-asset-division.jpgAfter 23 years of marriage, Kris Jenner filed for divorce from Bruce Jenner. Sources say that Bruce "celebrated" his upcoming freedom by dropping $50,000 on a new NASCAR-approved UTV race car. Although the Jenners' divorce documents allege that their date of separation was back in 2013, a significant impulse buy before their divorce is even close to final could potentially cause some problems, when it comes to division of their property.

When couples go through a divorce, the court (or the parties via settlement) will make decisions about how to divide their assets and debts. Since California is a community property state, assets acquired during marriage are considered community property and thus subject to 50/50 split between husband and wife. Assets acquired before marriage or after the parties' date of separation, on the other hand, are considered separate property of the spouse who acquired it. However, issues can arise when a significant asset is purchased after the couples' separation but before their divorce is finalized. For instance, purchasing a new vehicle after separation may complicate a divorce as it relates to disclosure of assets and determining whether the new vehicle is indeed separate property.

divorce-calendar.jpgOne potential issue with purchasing a new car after separation is inadequate disclosure. Once a spouse files for divorce each spouse will be required to draft and exchange Preliminary Declarations of Divorce ("PDODs"). One aspect of the PDODs is the Schedule of Assets and Debts, which outlines all of the parties' assets and debts, including vehicles. If you have already exchanged your PDODs and then later purchase a new vehicle (before the divorce has been finalized), then you will need to disclose this new purchase to your spouse. You will likely need to augment your Schedule of Assets and Debts to reflect the new asset. The new vehicle will also need to be addressed in your Martial Settlement Agreement. It's important not to omit any of your assets from your final divorce paperwork, even if you are sure that the asset is your separate property.

Another potential issue with purchasing a new car after separation is determining whether it truly is separate property or not. If the date of separation is a contested issue, then determining whether the new car was purchased "during marriage" or "after separation" may be quite a problem. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a date of separation then it may need to be litigated in court. Once the date of separation is decided and it is clear that the vehicle was purchased after that date of separation, it does not mean that you are home free. You then need to look at the source of the money that was used to buy the vehicle. If you used your earnings that you acquired after separation then the source of the money was separate property. But if you used money from a joint account that you and your spouse acquired during marriage or if you traded in a community property car, then the new vehicle might not be your separate property.

It may be best to simply avoid buying any significant assets before your divorce is final. Unfortunately, divorces are often dragged out over a couple of years or more and thus it is unrealistic for parties to avoid making new purchases. Luckily for the Jenners, sources say that the couple has already reached an amicable settlement regarding the division of all of their assets, so it doesn't look like Bruce's recent vehicle purchase will pose that much of a problem.

Continue reading "Making a Major Purchase Before Your Divorce is Final" »

Iggy Azalea Has Never Been Married but Ex-Boyfriend Wants a "Divorce"

November 3, 2014

Iggy-common-law-marriage.jpg24 year old rapper, Iggy Azalea, and her former boyfriend, Maurice Williams (akak Hefe Wine) are apparently heading to family law court over an alleged marriage that Azalea apparently knew nothing about. Williams filed for divorce claiming that the couple was common-law married in the state of Texas. Williams claims that they held themselves out as man and wife and lived together beginning in September 2008, when Azalea was only 18 years old. Azalea, on the other hand, claims that they were merely dating for about six months and that Williams' is pulling this "divorce" stunt in a desperate attempt to get money from her now that she has become famous.

Common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between a couple that does not have a marriage license nor had a marriage ceremony to solemnize their union. On her twitter account Azalea even states that "Unfortunately to file common law 'divorce' all you need is three of your friends to sign a statement swearing the persons story is true." If the Texas family Court judge recognizes the common law marriage between the couple, then all of Azalea's assets (i.e. music worth millions of dollars) acquired during the marriage could potentially be split 50/50 since Texas is a community property state.

common-law-marriage.jpgOnly a handful of states even recognize common law marriage. These states include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah and Texas. In Texas, a common law marriage is only recognized when either a formal declaration of the marriage has been signed and filed with the County Clerk or the couple agreed to be married and then lived together in Texas as husband and wife and represented to others that they were married. If either party is under the age of 18 then a common law marriage will not be recognized. Azalea's rep claims that she never agreed to be married to Williams and she most certainly never held herself out as a married couple.

Before Williams and Azalea can even get a "divorce" Williams will need to prove to the court that they actually had a common law marriage. He will need to prove to the Court that he and Azalea agreed to be married, lived together as husband and wife and held themselves out to others as a married couple. One way to prove this is to have a recorded declaration of marriage, which is a form that is filed with the Couty Clerk's Offices and says that you are married. Since Azalea apparently had no clue about their alleged common law marriage, it is doubtful that they have a declaration of marriage. Other ways of proving their common law marriage is with an insurance policy, lease or other agreements signed as a "married couple. You could also bring people to court who will confirm that you held yourself out to be married.

If Williams and Azalea's situation had occurred in California, then Williams would not be able to file for "divorce" because California does not recognize common law marriage. In certain situations, partners in California who are not married might be able to bring what's known as a "Marvin Claim", but that is not the same as a common law marriage.

Continue reading "Iggy Azalea Has Never Been Married but Ex-Boyfriend Wants a "Divorce"" »

Agreements Regarding Payment of College Expenses in Divorce Judgments

July 9, 2014

college-expenses.jpgIn a divorce where the parties are fortunate enough to have the funds to pay for their children's college expenses, paying for college can be a major issue of discussion throughout the case. One parent may even give in on other issues to secure an agreement from the other side to pay for tuition for college for the parties' children. However, San Diego family law attorneys have struggled with the enforceability of provisions in Divorce Judgments reached by agreement of the parties. In a recent California Court of Appeal case, the Court clarified the limits of agreements for one or both parties to pay for college expenses.

In Drescher v. Gross, the parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement ("MSA") in which they agreed to equally share their three children's future college expenses. The college provision contained limitations on what schools the parties would pay for and which expenses were covered by the agreement. At the time the parties executed the MSA they were both employed as attorneys and earning six-figure incomes. Ten years later, the parties both requested modification of various support provisions, including the college expenses provision. At the time of the post-judgment requests, Husband earned more than $400,000 per year and Wife had become permanently disabled and was unable to work.

college-expenses-dollars.jpgAt the trial court level, the judge enforced the college expense provision of the parties' agreement and agreed with Husband that the parties should share equally the college expenses regardless of their current respective incomes. The trial court determined that it did not have jurisdiction to modify a contractual obligation entered into freely by both parties. On appeal, the Court of Appeal disagreed. The Court of Appeal granted Wife's request to modify the college expense provision based on a material change in the parties' financial circumstances. The Court of Appeal analogized the college expense provision to general support provisions which are modifiable unless the parties state otherwise.

Based on the outcome of this recent case, moving forward in divorce cases, the parties' MSA must specifically state that a college expenses provision is non-modifiable if they intend to restrict the court's ability to modify such a provision. Although family law attorneys dispute the wisdom of this decision, everyone can agree that clarity is always a plus when it comes to drafting and enforcing agreements in the family law arena.

Continue reading "Agreements Regarding Payment of College Expenses in Divorce Judgments" »

To Settle or Litigate...That is the Question

June 2, 2014

litigate-win-win.jpgWhen going through a divorce, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made. Who will get the house? Who will the kids spend the holidays with? Who keeps the beloved family pet? These and many more questions will come up throughout the divorce process and will require either you and your spouse or the Judge to make a decision. One decision, however, that will be up to just you (and hopefully with the cooperation of your spouse) is whether to litigate or mediate some or all aspects of your divorce.

It's common to want to take everything to trial when there are a lot of fuming emotions between you and your spouse. Many spouses feel that if they litigate their case, it will act as a type of revenge against their spouse. However, before you shut your eyes to the option of mediation or otherwise settling outside of court, here are a few things you might want to consider:

Money, Money, Money! Can you really afford the expense of a trial? If you have sufficient funds in your back pocket to fight your case and you aren't in a hurry to get the divorce over with then ligation might be the avenue you want to take. However, keep in mind that it is very likely that the cost of going to trial will be greater than the amount of money you would lose by agreeing to your spouse's settlement offer. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to agree to an unfair offer just to avoid trial on the issue. Such a decision really requires a cost-benefit analysis. If you are on the fence, your divorce attorney can walk you through the pros and cons of settling an issue outside of court or taking it to trial. It's important to look at the big picture and decide if a $1,000 issue is worth possibly spending $10,000 in court to fight over or not.

Can you handle the heat?! Can you and your family withstand the immense amount of stress that comes with a trial? Litigation can be not only financially draining but also emotionally draining. You aren't only putting an immense amount of stress on yourself, but also those who are standing by you throughout the process (your children, your family, your friends). However, some issues are simply worth the stress. For instance, if you are fighting for custody of your child, the stress of a trial is minor compared to the stress that you could potentially endure in the future if not awarded custody.

litigate-gavel.jpgRisk Taker or Risk Averse? How much are you willing to hand over control to a Judge? When going before a Judge there is no guarantee as to whether or not he/she will see things your way. So even if you think the Judge's decision is unfair, it will be final (unless there are grounds for appeal). If you are willing to take that risk then go for it. But if you are more risk averse you may want to consider the benefits of settling with your spouse outside of court.

Continue reading "To Settle or Litigate...That is the Question" »

Is There a Place for Fault in Modern Divorce After All?

April 25, 2014

no-fault-divorce.jpgKansas is considering a bill which would arguably eliminate "no-fault" divorce throughout the state. Currently in Kansas, "incompatibility" is a ground for divorce similar to California's "irreconcilable differences". "Incompatibility" and "irreconcilable differences" are both general catch-all no-fault grounds for divorce. The new Kansas bill would replace "incompatibility" with eight reasons the couple is seeking a divorce.

Keith Esau, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the new "fault divorce" bill. He supports the intent behind the bill (which was authored by an anonymous legislator) because he says "No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it." Other members of the Judiciary have spoken out about the bill noting that the government may be overreaching by limiting a couple's decision to end their relationship. In response, the bill's supporters argue that married couples receive significant benefits from the state and therefore the state should be able to limit people from entering into marriages temporarily, reaping the benefits from the state, and then getting out.

Kansas divorce attorneys argue that the new bill will only complicate and prolong the divorce process. Such an adversarial requirement - choosing from a list of fault-based grounds as a reason for the divorce - can make a family matter extremely contentious. Divorce attorneys in Kansas question whether the new bill would deter many couples from petitioning for divorce. Whether the divorce process is "easy" or "difficult" for the parties will likely not be the deciding factor when determining whether to file for divorce. Further, many couples are unfamiliar with divorce laws and the process and therefore do not take them into consideration before filing for divorce.

At the Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC, we strive to make the divorce process as smooth as possible for all of our clients. This includes a strong effort to resolve all issues without court intervention. If California were to consider a bill eliminating "no-fault" divorce, our firm would be concerned about the effect such a law would have on children caught up in the divorce process. Our attorneys encourage clients to resolve all custody and visitation disputes amicably outside of court. By eliminating "no-fault" divorce thereby increasing the tension and conflict in divorce cases, litigants may be less likely to resolve custody disputes quickly and cooperatively. Court intervention and contentious custody battles are rarely in the best interest of the children and will likely make the divorce transition more difficult for them.

Continue reading "Is There a Place for Fault in Modern Divorce After All?" »

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" »

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?" »

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.

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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" »

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?" »

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

September 20, 2013

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

Read more about the divorce from TMZ.com

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

Resolution of All Issues

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

The California Divorce 6 Month Waiting Period

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

Final Divorce Judgment

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

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

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

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Maria Shriver Still Not Divorced?

June 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Update - Ashton Kutcher Finally Files for Divorce

January 8, 2013


As we have previously blogged, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore separated nearly a year ago. However, neither party had filed for divorce, until now. Early on the parties claimed to be working out all of the details of their marital settlement before involving the court system in their divorce. Despite their year-long attempt at an amicable resolution, Kutcher filed for divorce shortly before Christmas. Media outlets speculate that Kutcher's new girlfriend, Mila Kunis, may have pressured him to file. This is based on the theory that Kutcher intended to give Moore time to heal from the couple's traumatic split and that Kunis could no longer handle letting Moore still have that much control. Besides the emotional implications involved, there are a few legal ramifications of filing for divorce that might have appealed to Kutcher and prompted him to finally take this step.

In California there is a mandatory six-month waiting period between when a spouse files for divorce and when the court has the ability to terminate his or her marital status. This means that if Kutcher intends to re-marry within the next year or so, filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage six months prior to that date would be necessary. Even if Kutcher and Moore agreed upon a final settlement of their estate and submitted their agreement to the court, they would still remain legally married until the six month waiting period had passed.

Learn more about filing for divorce in San Diego

Filing for divorce also has many financial implications. The timing of Kutcher's petition, shortly before Christmas, may not have been an attempt to hurt Moore around the holidays but instead, may have been done in the interest of financial security. Legally married couples can file "married filing separately". If Kutcher files "married filing separately" he will only report his own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits. Normally, there are significant disadvantages to filing "married filing separately", however it may be prudent to file separately if you are concerned about the potential liability for tax, penalties, and interest of your spouse.

Legally married couples can also file "married filing jointly". In this case, both spouses file one return together and report both of their income, exemptions, deductions and credits. This may be difficult in divorce proceedings where a party is non-cooperative. It is crucial to speak with a tax preparer in making this decision. By filing his divorce petition in December, Kutcher gave himself the option to use whatever method of filing works most to his advantage.

If you are contemplating divorce, please contact us. The Law Offices of Nancy J Bickford are also well versed in child custody, spousal support or alimony in San Diego, and property division. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer 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.

New Case Shakes Up San Diego Family Law

September 20, 2012

1162219_dollar_army_4.jpgRecently the California Court of Appeal handed down a decision that has settled an ongoing dispute throughout San Diego family courts. Family law attorneys agree that spouses owe each other the highest duties of good faith during marriage and undoubtedly throughout the litigation process. This duty requires parties to keep each other informed of their current financial state by exchanging Declarations of Disclosure.

In the beginning of a dissolution case, both parties complete their Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure, which consists of an Income and Expense Declaration and a Schedule of Assets and Debts. By completing these two forms and their requisite attachments the parties provide their current assets, debts, income and expenses. These figures can help the parties settle disputes regarding property division, child support or spousal support. If the court will hear a motion regarding support, the parties must also file these disclosures with the court. The judge will use the information provided to set support amounts. Because of the immense reliance on disclosure of finances, the court takes the fiduciary duties of spouses seriously.

In the recent California case, In re Marriage of Sorge, the court was faced with a slightly different scenario. The parties sought a modification of support at the trial court level; however, they were already divorced and had reached a final resolution of their case. Wife argued that Husband breached his fiduciary duties because he failed to disclose a material change in his finances. Husband argued that he was under no obligation to disclose any changes because the fiduciary duties between spouses end upon a final resolution of the case. The trial court agreed with Wife and Husband appealed the decision.

In the case of spousal support, Wife argued that spousal fiduciary duties continued until the court lost jurisdiction to order support. In the case of child support, Wife also argued that the duties continued until the court lost jurisdiction, which usually occurs when the youngest child of the marriage reaches the age of 18. The Court of Appeal overturned local Judge Longstreth's decision and relied primarily on Family Code section 3660 et. seq. Under this section of the code, former spouses have the ability to ask the other spouse for an updated status of their finances once per year. The court reasoned that this code would be superfluous if the legislature intended continuing fiduciary duties to run between former spouses.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. 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.

Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Update, the Possible Reconciliation

June 27, 2012


We have previously blogged that Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce from her basketball superstar husband, Kobe Bryant. Recently, Vanessa has refused to sign the paperwork and make her divorce final. Apparently her and Kobe are pursuing a full reconciliation of their marriage. Since Vanessa filed for divorce, the couple was caught kissing on Valentines Day. Later, they were seen estranged at a basketball game claiming to be "very good friends." Currently Kobe has not moved back in with his wife however, he already signed over to her the deeds to all three of the couple's mansions.

Vanessa filed for divorce on December 1, 2011. Under California Family Code section 2339, no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of the petition and summons on the respondent. This means that a couple cannot obtain a divorce and become legally single without waiting six months. For Vanessa and Kobe, that period has expired and Vanessa could seek to terminate her marital status as early as June 25, 2012.

The couple has already decided how to split their assets which includes a $75 million dollar pay out to Vanessa in addition to child and spousal support. However, this back and forth between the couple may have legal significance depending on their current agreement. Absent an agreement to the contrary, for the purposes of property division, any property acquired by either spouse between the date of marriage and the date of separation is community property. This property consists of both earnings and acquisitions and is divided equally upon divorce. Reconciliation has the potential to blur the lines between separation and marriage.

Married couples do have the power to determine the division of marital assets through other forms of agreements. If a couple marries without a premarital agreement, they still have the option to create a post-marital agreement. Under California Family Code section 1500, the property rights husband and wife may be altered by a marital property agreement. The statutory default rules discussed above regarding community property rights may be altered by an agreement between the parties. If no agreement exists, the court will simply apply the default rules according to the California Family Code. Many couples who find premarital agreements unromantic, or who simply did not consider the idea at the time of marriage may consider a post-marital agreement. The couple may wish to amicably divide newly acquired assets or future earnings before the animosity of divorce has the potential to cause conflict between the parties. This type of agreement can be made in contemplation of divorce or as a safety net between happily married spouses.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. 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.