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Divorce Depositions In Orange County: What Can I Expect?

Posted on: February 22, 2017 by in Divorce
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Under California law, “discovery” is the process of gathering and organizing the testimony and exhibits in a case prior to a trial. A “deposition” is one of several tools that attorneys may use during the discovery process. A deposition is the under-oath testimony of a principal or a witness in a civil or a criminal proceeding, conducted prior to a trial, and usually at the office of one of the attorneys in the case.

However, a deposition is not always required in a California divorce proceeding. When the case is not complicated, and when the divorcing spouses can settle most of their disputes amicably, a deposition usually will not be needed. Depositions can be helpful, however, when matters in a California divorce are in dispute and the attorney conducting the deposition is fully trained, experienced, and prepared. This is a general informational discussion about depositions in California divorce proceedings, but for personalized legal advice regarding any actual divorce in this state, a divorcing spouse should consult an experienced Orange County divorce attorney.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEPOSITIONS?

First, let’s define some terms. The two types of depositions are called “party” depositions and “witness” depositions. A “party” in this context is typically one of the principals – that is, one of the divorcing spouses. Other persons may be deposed in “witness” depositions. Party divorce depositions in California are “noticed” – that is, requested – through written requests from one spouse’s attorney to the other. Witnesses are usually served a subpoena to appear for a deposition. A divorce deposition notice or a witness subpoena in California may also ask for particular documents to be produced.

If you are divorcing and your divorce attorney is taking a deposition on your behalf, try to be there. You can assist your attorney in both preparing for the deposition and during the deposition. If you are the person being deposed, try to relax. You will be responding to a number of questions. Depositions usually are conducted in a lawyer’s conference room or office with a court reporter present to record everything that’s said “on the record.”

HOW LONG CAN A DEPOSITION TAKE IN A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE?

The California Code of Civil Procedure says: “…a deposition examination of the witness by all counsel, other than the witness’ counsel of record, shall be limited to seven hours of total testimony. The court shall allow additional time, beyond any limits imposed by this section, if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination.…” In other words, seven hours is the goal, but there can be a number of exceptions. Some important tips to remember about being deposed in a California divorce include:

  • When you are being deposed, you must tell the truth. If you fail to do so, your spouse’s lawyer may find out, or a judge could find you in contempt of court. If there is anything that will negatively impact your deposition, discuss it with your divorce attorney prior to the deposition.
  • Wait until your spouse’s attorney completely asks a full question before you begin your answer.
  • Before you answer a question, wait another moment to see if your lawyer objects to the question.
  • If you do not understand the attorney’s question, simply say, “I don’t understand the question” or ask the attorney to re-phrase the question a bit more simply.
  • Never guess at an answer. If you are not sure of an answer, say, “I’m not sure.”
  • Changes can be made in the deposition’s transcript, but if you make too many changes, your credibility may be doubted.

IF YOU’RE DIVORCING, WHAT ELSE MUST YOU KNOW ABOUT DEPOSITIONS?

Divorce lawyers prepare extensively for depositions. They may even conduct a “practice” deposition with a client prior to any actual deposition. The practice session can help you to remember pertinent details so that those details will remain fresh in your mind when the real deposition takes place. Do not bring any notes with you to a deposition; conceivably, your notes could become evidence that your spouse’s attorney may be allowed to examine.

As Orange County divorce attorney Brian Bayati explains, “A deposition is utilized by litigants in divorce proceedings to discovery various facts and obtain various documents from an opposing party. A deposition is an interrogation style proceeding during which the deponent is obligated to answer questions, under oath, posed by opposing counsel. It is not recommended that a party appear at a deposition without counsel, as deposition testimony may be used at trial to establish various critical facts.”

Divorce attorneys have to determine the right questions to ask during a deposition, obtain and produce the appropriate documents and other exhibits, see to it that the deposition transcript is accurate, and protect the legal rights of their clients while working for the best possible divorce terms. But the person who is seeking the divorce also has some preparation and work to do prior to a deposition. Here are some important recommendations regarding depositions for those who are divorcing in the state of California:

  • Consult your attorney in advance of the deposition to help with the preparation. The more complicated a divorce is, the more preparation will be required.
  • You should be present at all depositions during your divorce unless your presence will cause an unneeded distraction.
  • Concentrate on the process, not the emotions. Divorce depositions are about gathering the facts in the case – and nothing else.
  • Answer the questions that are asked – honestly and accurately – and say nothing more. Do not let yourself be drawn into an argument with your spouse’s divorce lawyer. Good preparation helps.
  • When you are deposed, consider your answers and take your time. Make certain that you fully understand each question before answering. Do not rush to answer anything.

Depositions allow someone who is seeking a divorce to have the spouse and other key witnesses answer questions under oath. Another tool lawyers use in the discovery process, the “interrogatory,” has the same goal. An interrogatory is a set of written questions – often the same questions that would be asked in a deposition – that must be answered fully and honestly. A good divorce lawyer will fully prepare you for an interrogatory or for a deposition.

A divorce is never pleasant under any circumstances. Even when there’s nothing to dispute, divorce is difficult and painful. Anyone who is divorcing in the state of California will need a divorce lawyer who understands your anxieties and needs – someone who’s handled similar cases and offers aggressive representation, experience, and reassurance. The right divorce lawyer can help you approach the divorce process without fear, anxieties, or unnecessary reservations.

What Happens During Divorce Court In The State Of California?

Posted on: January 26, 2017 by in Divorce
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If you don’t know what you should expect, divorce court in California can be complicated, confusing, and even a little frightening. Orange County divorce attorney Brian Bayati says, “Every divorce proceeding is unique. Generally speaking, a couple decides, with the help of attorneys or by order of a judge, how to separate their disputed property and custody of their children.”

If you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce, knowing what to expect can eliminate most of the fright and confusion and allow you to focus entirely on the issues in the divorce. Sure, you can rely entirely on your divorce attorney to handle everything on your behalf. But if you can learn something in advance about California divorce law and about what to expect in divorce court, you’ll feel more confident, and you’ll be able to give your divorce lawyer more help.

Before you walk into a courtroom for a divorce proceeding, you’ll want to be as well-prepared as possible. You should read as much of the paperwork associated with the case as you can. If you are familiar with all of the legal documents and records, it’s unlikely that you’ll be surprised or taken off-guard by anything that emerges in the courtroom proceeding. If you’re doing nothing but “showing up” for court, you’ll be missing out on an opportunity to help yourself and your divorce attorney.

DOES A DIVORCING SPOUSE HAVE TO “PROVE” ANYTHING IN COURT?

California is a “no-fault” divorce state. Neither spouse has to prove that the other is at-fault, and either spouse may seek a divorce for irreconcilable differences. In a California divorce trial, while it is important to be prepared with the law and the facts, it may be even more important to prepare yourself emotionally. Some apprehension and anxiety are normal in almost any courtroom proceeding, but do not let it dominate your thinking. In the courtroom, you’ll advance your interests by being as logical and factual as possible. When your attorney explains legal options and choices, take your time before making any choice that’s irreversible.

Another key is telling the truth – no matter what happens and no matter what your spouse says. Any deception, exaggeration, or misrepresentation of fact will almost certainly damage your credibility in the courtroom. Prior to a California divorce trial, both spouses must complete and exchange a number of documents verifying their income, assets, properties, and expenses. Your attorney can help you go over all of the paperwork.

Even before going to divorce court, you’ll need to know what “temporary orders” are. Typically, temporary orders covering child custody, child support, spousal support are sought by one or both spouses prior to the courtroom proceeding – with the understanding that “final orders” will be issued when the divorce is finalized. Several kinds of emergency or “ex parte” temporary orders may also be issued during the course of a divorce proceeding.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DIVORCING PARENTS SEEK CUSTODY?

When one or both spouses seek a temporary child custody order, the court will want to hear evidence regarding the child’s best interests – the child’s health, safety, welfare, education, and stability. If domestic abuse or substance abuse emerge as matters in a divorce with children, the court may issue orders that ensure the child’s safety. The court may also order a child custody investigation (or CCI), a child custody evaluation by a psychologist, a drug or alcohol assessment for one or both parents, and/or appoint a neutral attorney to represent exclusively the child’s or children’s best interests.

Temporary child support orders and temporary spousal support orders are typically based on the state’s formulas for child and spousal support, so it’s often a straightforward process if the income of both spouses is undisputed. However, if a spouse is self-employed, has fluctuating income, or is suspected of hiding income or assets, temporary child support orders and temporary spousal support orders can become complicated. Evidence and testimony may be needed, and one or both spouses may need a forensic accountant’s services and testimony.

In California, a trial setting conference is usually the preliminary step before a trial. Attorneys for both sides meet with the judge. Your attorney will tell you if your presence is mandatory or expected. The judge will ask the attorneys for both sides if the case is ready for trial. If the lawyers for both sides are ready, the judge may set a trial date, or the judge may instead schedule a date for a mandatory settlement conference.

Mandatory settlement conferences provide an opportunity to reduce the disputes between spouses prior to a divorce trial, and the conferences can be handled in a number of ways. Typically, attorneys and spouses meet to settle as many issues as they can. A judge may participate or the court may appoint a settlement officer to help the two sides reach some agreements.

HOW LONG DOES A DIVORCE TAKE IN CALIFORNIA?

The rules and procedures for a divorce in California apply equally to opposite-sex and same-sex married couples. A California divorce takes at least six months from the date when the non-filing partner is served with the divorce petition. In the days leading up to a divorce trial, your Orange County divorce attorney will keep you informed regarding discussions with your spouse’s attorney, the status of their efforts to settle disputed matters out of court, and anything else that you need to know.

When divorcing, spouses can agree in advance on matters like child custody, child support, the distribution and division of marital assets, and/or spousal support, they can avoid a great deal of time, trouble, and expense, and a divorce trial can often move to a relatively quick conclusion. To obtain a divorce in California, at least one spouse must reside in this state for at least six continuous months and must be a resident of the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least three successive months.

Divorces are not decided by trial juries in the state of California. A judge is the only person who makes final decisions in a California divorce trial. Courtroom-centered divorce trials are still conducted routinely in our state, and when the issues that separate a divorcing couple cannot be informally settled out of court, a divorce trial is the inevitable final alternative. Divorce is always difficult, and emotions can run quite high, so it’s essential to stay focused on the issues and to know in advance what you should expect in divorce court.

More Millennials Want Prenuptial Agreements

Posted on: December 22, 2016 by in Family Law
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Millennials like prenuptial agreements almost as much as they like taking and posting selfies. “Prenups” are definitely “trending” among those under 35, according to a 2016 survey of family law attorneys conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). More than half of the lawyers said that millennials are more frequently requesting prenups, and only two percent said the number was declining.

Of those attorneys responding to the survey, 62 percent say they have seen rising numbers of clients seeking prenuptial agreements over the last three years. Family law attorney Arlene Dubin, a partner at Moses & Singer in New York, says the total number of prenuptial agreements has jumped 500 percent in the last two decades. Because millennials are marrying later in life than earlier generations, they typically have more property and assets to safeguard if a divorce happens.

John Slowiaczek, a Nebraska family law attorney and president of the AAML, said millennials have “been on their own, accumulated some wealth, either from a 401(k) or a stock program provided by their employer or some real estate, and they want to make sure that’s theirs if there are problems down the road.” Slowiaczek adds, “Millennials are predisposed to protect their interests.”

WHAT DO PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS COVER?

The AAML survey verifies that “predisposition” on the part of people under 35. Today, the three areas that most prenuptial agreements deal with are “protection of the increase of value in separate property,” inheritance rights, and the division of community property, according to the survey. Of course, many respective brides and grooms bring more than assets into a marriage. They also bring debt, especially student loan debt, which now totals well over a trillion dollars in the United States.

Prenuptial agreements can protect assets like retirement accounts, real estate, and investments, and prenups can also protect a bride or groom from a partner’s student loan or credit card debt. That was important for Rachel Ryan, 26, a freelance writer who is planning to marry next July. She told CNBC, “Because my fiance has a small business, it’s important for him to protect that. He also has quite a bit of student debt so I thought it could benefit both of us.”

Along with immediate financial concerns, personal life experiences may also make millennials “predisposed” to prenuptial agreements, according to attorney Slowiaczek. “Many millennials are children of divorce,” he said, so “they are predisposed to protect their interests.” A prenup gives couples the opportunity to work out issues that might emerge in a divorce in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation – and without the baggage and animosity that a divorce so often entails.

HOW DO MILLENNIALS DIFFER WITH TRADITIONAL VIEWS OF MARRIAGE?

Traditional views of marriage have little impact on the thinking of millennials. In a survey conducted by Avvo.com, only 42 percent of millennials believe that marriage is a “life goal.” Another difference millennials have with traditional views of marriage is reflected by their widespread practice of cohabitation. It’s a clear trend that’s easy to spot among those under 35. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, only 11 percent of the women who first married between 1965 and 1974 cohabited before marrying. By 2009, 66 percent of women cohabited prior to marriage – a 600 percent increase in a single generation.

According to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, the marriage rate among the millennial generation is reportedly at the lowest it has been in six decades, with the percent of millennials who’ve married at only 26 percent. At the same age as millennials are now (ages 18 to 29), 36 percent of “generation X-ers,” 48 percent of baby boomers, and 65 percent of “the greatest” generation were married.

What has persuaded young people to postpone marriage and in some cases avoid it entirely? Millennials have grown up in a culture with a 50 percent divorce rate. They know divorce is ugly, so they’re careful about choosing a life partner and not rushing into anything. Most millennials also feel that they are not yet financially stable enough for marriage. One could reasonably conclude that rather than rejecting marriage, the millennial generation actually takes it more seriously than most of their elders.

HOW DOES A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT WORK?

For those who take marriage seriously, signing a prenuptial agreement is simply a sensible step. A prenuptial agreement is a financial and legal contract that a couple drafts with the help of a family law attorney. It becomes effective at the moment of marriage. Before signing a prenup, both partners may seek legal advice from an attorney of their choice. In southern California, if you are considering marriage, let an experienced Orange County family law attorney help you and your spouse-to-be come up with a prenuptial agreement that protects both of you and your long-term interests.

Prenuptial agreements cover most – but not necessarily all – of the issues that frequently pop up in a divorce: life insurance benefits, property rights, spousal support, even custody of the family pets. However, the law in California prohibits prenuptial agreements from denying a minor child’s right to future financial support from both parents. Couples about to marry should also take advantage of premarital counseling. If you belong to a faith community, you may want their guidance. Counselors and counseling resources, both private and public, are plentiful in southern California, and counseling can offer practical insights for developing a strong, stable marriage.

After a wedding, a prenup (it’s legally called a “premarital agreement”) may be redrafted, amended, or even canceled entirely if both spouses agree in writing. A family lawyer can review current prenuptial agreements to ensure they are legal, just, and suitable for both partners. Partners who are already married may want to consider a postnuptial agreement, which accomplishes the same ends as a prenup.

In some marriages, when a divorce happens, one partner will challenge the prenuptial agreement. If a prenup gives one partner less than that partner would receive without the prenuptial agreement in place, the agreement can be challenged, and the court may set the agreement aside. An experienced Orange County family law attorney can help California couples draft a strong and enforceable prenuptial agreement that protects both partners if the marriage ends in divorce.

Common Questions About Child Custody in California

Posted on: November 21, 2016 by in Family Law
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Video Transcript:

Parents involved in child custody litigation commonly ask us what is the difference between joint and sole custody. By way a very brief summary, sole custody is the ability to solely make decisions whereas joint custody is a situation where neither party unilaterally can make decisions and both parties have the shared ability to make decisions about the child, as well as spend physical presence with the child. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions about a child’s welfare, education, and health; whereas physical custody refers to a child’s physical presence. Accordingly, a joint legal custodial arrangement, a pure joint legal custodial arrangement means that both parties share in the ability to make decisions about a child’s health, welfare, and education, and a pure joint physical custodial arrangement means that both parents share in the child’s physical presence.

Video Transcript:

A common question asked by family law litigants involved in child custody proceedings is how will a court determine the custody of the children. By way of generality, the standard applied by the court in determining the custody of a child is that child’s best interest. Now, how does a court determine what a child’s best interest is? There are various different factors involved in the analysis by the court of a child’s best interest. One of those factors is the child’s status quo. What does the status quo mean? Generally speaking, the court does not want to disrupt a child’s life unless there is a showing that the child’s current lifestyle or the current status quo jeopardizes a child’s general welfare, safety, or health. Absent a showing that the child’s general welfare, safety, and health are jeopardized courts generally like to maintain the status quo to which a child has grown accustomed. A second standard applied by the courts is how can a custodial arrangement, a new lifestyle for the child, ensure both parents frequent and continuing visitation with that child. Again, unless there is a showing that one of the parents will jeopardize a child’s general health, welfare, or safety, the courts want to have a custodial arrangement that allows both parents frequent and continuing visitation with the child. Again, the general standard applied by a court in determining a custody arrangement for a child is that child’s best interest. The best interest of the child however that analysis involves various different factors, the two most common of which are 1) what is the custodial arrangement to which that child has grown accustomed, and 2) what custodial arrangement will allow both parents, the custodial and the non-custodial parent, frequent and continuing visitation with the child.

New Law Expands Marriage Counseling Services For Low-Income Californians

Posted on: November 11, 2016 by in Family Law
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Currently, in the state of California, it’s difficult for low-income individuals to obtain the services of licensed marriage and family therapists. That’s because marriage and family therapists have been excluded from reimbursement by Medi-Cal, the state’s program for low-income Californians. However, California lawmakers this year passed legislation that will increase access to marriage counseling services allowing marriage and family therapists at federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and rural health centers (RHC) to be reimbursed through Medi-Cal like psychologists and licensed clinical social workers.

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Assembly Bill 1863, a bill authored by Assembly member Jim Wood of Healdsburg, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September. The legislation will provide more marriage counseling services to low-income couples by allowing federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health centers (RHCs) to hire more licensed marriage and family therapists. FQHCs and RHCs are the federally-designated clinics that are required to serve medically underserved populations throughout the state. These health clinics provided more than 10.5 million Medi-Cal visits to low-income individuals and families in California in 2013.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF AB 1863?

Assembly Bill 1863 is aimed at expanding access for low-income individuals and couples to marriage counseling services particularly in California communities and locations where individuals or couples would have to travel long distances to meet with a marriage counselor. Additionally, the bill will actually allow a Medi-Cal recipient to visit his or her primary care doctor as well as a marriage therapist on the same day. Current law allows patients to bill Medi-Cal for only one visit per day.

Assembly Bill 1863 was actively supported by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. After Governor Brown had signed the legislation, Assembly member Wood said the following in a press release: “Access to mental health care services is essential to people’s well-being. Adding marriage and family therapists as providers at these centers is just one more way to increase a patient’s ability to seek the support they need. We needed to make that possible.”

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Expanded marriage counseling was needed at a number of health centers in the state, particularly at rural health centers in isolated locations. Clinica Sierra Vista operates a number of community health centers throughout California, and Christopher Reilly, Clinica Sierra Vista’s chief of behavioral health services said about AB 1863, “I am ecstatic that this passed. It means a lot more people are going to get attention for their behavioral health needs a lot earlier.”

The new law goes into effect on January 1. Approximately 40,000 marriage and family therapists are licensed to practice in this state, compared to about 22,000 social workers and 21,000 psychologists. Under the current law, clinics are able to hire licensed clinical social workers and psychologists for their Medi-Cal patients, but they often can’t find enough certified social workers and psychologists to meet the needs. Many clinics don’t provide any counseling services at all.

WILL AB 1863 HAVE OTHER POSITIVE EFFECTS?

Christopher Reilly, himself a marriage and family therapist, believes that an unanticipated side benefit may emerge from the new legislation. He expects that those seeking marriage counseling will be able to rely less on medication. Often, Reilly notes, individuals and couples suffering anxiety or depression will rely on medications simply because there’s no one available to talk with or provide counseling, which is clearly a superior alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Historically, access to marriage counseling services has been difficult for many low-income residents in California, especially those in remote areas of this vast state. Lawmakers began to meet the needs in 2014 when they allowed millions of additional Californians to qualify for Medi-Cal and for mental health services through the Affordable Care Act. But that new access put even more stress on the state’s mental health system, which wasn’t prepared for the large numbers of people seeking services. AB 1863 seeks to relieve that stress on the system.

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The staff at OLE Health in Napa sees about 25,000 patients every year. Tanir Ami, the CEO, says it has been difficult to hire enough social workers to meet with the many patients who are frequently anxious or depressed by marital or familial strife. Assembly Bill 1863 will benefit nearly one thousand federally-funded and rural health clinics in California, according to the state’s own analysis of the bill.

These federally-funded clinics can accept patients regardless of a patient’s ability to pay because clinics like OLE Health rely to a great extent on the Medi-Cal reimbursements that allow them to treat low-income Californians. “Now we get to recruit from a whole other pool of qualified candidates,” Ami said. “I am hoping it will make it exponentially easier to find the workforce we need.”

WHY DID SIMILAR LEGISLATION FAIL LAST YEAR?

Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill last year. Assemblyman Jim Wood, who authored and introduced that legislation as well as AB 1863, said the governor had been concerned about the costs. But this year, says Wood, the proposal’s backers persuaded the governor that more counseling services could actually lower overall costs to the state because counseling is preventive. The right counseling at the right moment means fewer future incidents of drug addiction, domestic violence, and divorce. “If you get people the behavioral health they need,” Wood explained, “you potentially keep them out of emergency rooms, which is a huge savings.”

Responding to the passage of AB 1863, Orange County divorce attorney Brian Bayati said, “Marriage counseling is important for the continued success of many marriages and may save many couples from ending their marriage. At Bayati Law Group, we are thrilled that California is taking the initiative to expand medical coverages to include marriage counseling.”

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Sometimes, of course, not even the best counsel can save a marriage, and divorce becomes the only realistic alternative. There’s no reason to stay in a marriage that’s unhappy or unhealthy and isn’t going to get better. However, divorce in this state can be quite complicated, and if you are divorcing in southern California, it is imperative that you do it with the advice and services of an experienced divorce lawyer who can look out for your best interests.

In California divorces, community property is to be divided equally. It might sound simple, but when extensive assets and property have to be divided, deciding who owns what can be exceedingly difficult. When children are involved, a divorce becomes even more complicated. The courts in California will always put a child’s best interests first. When a marriage cannot be saved, an experienced Orange County divorce attorney can help, but most people do want to save their marriages. With AB 1863, California lawmakers will help more couples do that.

The Impact of Social Media on Family Law

Posted on: October 28, 2016 by in Family Law
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The world is changing rapidly these days, and the legal system in the U.S. is changing rapidly too. In just the last decade, same-sex marriage became legal in every state, and marijuana became legal in a number of states. In many respects, however, the law has not yet caught up with 21st-century technology, so lawyers and judges sometimes have no law or legal precedents to provide guidance in the new legal territory of surveillance devices, GPS devices, cell phones, and social media sites.

Generally speaking, almost all of us rely more on technology than we did even thirty years ago. In the 21st century, millions of us share ideas, pictures, videos, and personal details about our lives on social media sites including Twitter, Instagram, and of course, Facebook. The impact of social media on every aspect of our lives is undeniable. Lawmakers and courts are now confronted with social media-related questions and issues that simply did not exist in the 20th century.

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Criminal prosecutors routinely study the social media pages of crime suspects and their associates for photos and status updates that can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions. The attorneys for defendants in personal injury cases look for evidence that a plaintiff is not as disabled or injured as the plaintiff claims to be. In family law cases, depending on the nature of the dispute, evidence gathered from social media pages generally serves to discredit the opposing side’s character or honesty. Attorney Brian Bayati warns, “During family law litigation, you should not place a post on social media if you have any reservation about the opposing party or the court seeing that post!”

Dean Tong, a Diplomate with the American Board of Forensic Examiners, cautions, “As an expert witness in family law cases who is on Facebook and Twitter and has been for some time, and who has a combined Master’s Degree in Law and Psychology, I can tell you any post on social media can be introduced into evidence on a court record by an attorney and used against a litigant, negatively, in family court.”

IN FAMILY COURT, HOW CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HELP OR HURT YOU?

Family law and social media can both be embarrassingly personal, and – like letters, phone calls, and emails – social media posts can indicate that a person may be angry, vengeful, out of control, or potentially dangerous. But for some people in some family law cases, social media evidence is helpful. For example, if your updates and photos generally convey that you are a devoted and responsible parent who spends quality time with your child or children, that’s obviously helpful in a child custody dispute. A Facebook page that depicts you as a “party animal” or as a “thug” is clearly not going to help you in family law court – regardless of the precise nature of the dispute.

Benjamin D. Moore, Esq., a family law attorney with Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, LLP in New York City, says, “Social media has shifted so much in our society, and the field of family law has been affected like everything else. Depending on the posting habits of an individual, the world can know when a marriage is strained, new “friends” arrive on the scene, and so much else that was once private. Also, adverse parties in a disputed case can find out things about their spouses, such as increases in spending or a new boyfriend/girlfriend, that can be used to their advantage in negotiation or litigation.”

If you are considering – or anticipating – a divorce in California, you might want to revise your social media pages before you take any legal steps. On either side of a divorce, posting or “tweeting” something you think is innocuous might come back to hurt you. Many divorce lawyers recommend refraining from social media entirely as soon as divorce papers are filed. You may want to discuss particular details with an experienced divorce lawyer – in Southern California, for example, an Orange County divorce attorney can address your concerns regarding your own social media accounts and their potential role in divorce proceedings.

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Quite candidly, Facebook provides a false sense of security with its privacy settings. If you are divorcing, you need to know that nothing you post online is ever really one hundred percent “for sure” private. Your spouse’s attorney may legally be able to acquire even deleted posts and use that information against you. If you read all of Facebook’s fine print closely, you’ll see that while the privacy settings protect your posts from others using Facebook, there’s no absolute legal protection if a court or opposing counsel wants access.

HOW IS SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTING CUSTODY DISPUTES?

Your children are another good reason to consider avoiding social media during a divorce or any other family law dispute. Courts in California usually order parents to refrain from speaking with their children about their divorce, so if your child or children have access to your Facebook page, the court may strongly disapprove – especially if there’s anything on your page about the divorce.

“One of the worst things you can do,” according to Chris Griffith of Split Simple, a divorce mediation firm with offices in Denver and Chicago, “is take to social media to vent your frustrations about a family court case. Comments from friends and relatives present an even bigger wildcard and will never be helpful in the process of resolving a divorce. Your spouse’s attorney can present threats or abusive comments that you make on social networks to the judge, who might take them into consideration in your case. The wrong words on social media can affect the terms of a divorce, impact visitation rights and more.”

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Provisions regarding a child’s social media activity are now common in parenting plans. Parents need to agree if their child or children should or should not be allowed to have social media accounts, and if so, how those accounts will be monitored. Parents with concerns regarding social media should make certain that those concerns are made clear to your attorney and addressed by the parenting plan.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER SIDE’S SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES?

The other party in a family law dispute may have evidence on his or her own social media pages that your attorney can use on your behalf. If the page is public and you have direct access, there’s no reason why you can’t print out the material yourself and share it with your attorney. If you don’t have legitimate access, make sure that your attorney requests copies of the other side’s social media pages during the discovery process.

At this point, a word of caution: Never attempt to “hack” into your spouse’s accounts during a divorce if those accounts are not public or if you have been blocked. Creating a false account and identity to “friend” your spouse is also a really bad idea. Your lawyer – for example, an Orange County divorce attorney – can probably obtain legally whatever information will be genuinely useful in court. Any strategy of deception is likely to backfire on you and bring the court’s disapproval.

Social media’s impact on family law and the institution of marriage cannot be underestimated. In a recent survey of two thousand married people in the United Kingdom, one in seven participants admitted to considering divorce specifically because of what their spouses were doing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And back in 2010, 81 percent of the divorce attorneys surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said divorces, where social media evidence came into play, were on the rise.

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When you seek a divorce attorney these days, he or she may ask you for complete information about your social media accounts. If you anticipate an imminent divorce or any other family law dispute – and this cannot be stressed too strongly – it’s probably best to refrain entirely from Facebook and Twitter. Be extremely cautious even with emails and texts, because in a heated divorce, these will very likely be seen and read by your spouse’s lawyer(s) and by a judge. Family law proceedings, as mentioned previously, can be uncomfortably embarrassing and personal. Don’t do anything online to make things even harder for yourself.

Video Transcript:

In these modern times, I think we can all agree that social media has become a common part of most people’s daily lives, some people utilize social media in a social setting and others use social media in a professional setting. Regardless of how you use social media you should be aware that what you post on any form of social media can be used in a family law case. For example, we have seen cases where parties have contended in court that they were in one place and then social media revealed that they are not in that place. We have seen cases where parties have contended that children are with them and then social media has shown that children were not with them. In general, if you are involved in family law litigation you should be aware of the fact that what you post on social media can be used as evidence in your family law case. Either for or against you.

Also, be aware of the fact that what the opposing party posts on social media may be used in your family law case. With that in mind, be very mindful of what you place onto social media sites. Whether pictures or information, derogatory comments about an opposing party, lawyers, or even judges. We have seen examples of all. My recommendation to parties involved in family law litigation is if you could not post something in a pleading you should not post it onto your social media.

What Family Law Attorneys Do (Now) and How They Do It

Posted on: September 29, 2016 by in Family Law
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Orange County divorce attorney

In 1969, the nation’s first “no-fault” divorce system was adopted in the state of California. For the first time in the United States, either spouse could now obtain a divorce essentially on demand without having to state grounds or prove “fault.” All fifty states today provide no-fault divorce, and that change has opened up a variety of divorce options and alternatives for the average person. Contentious courtroom divorces not really that common today. Many couples opt for arbitrated divorce, mediated divorce, or collaborative divorce rather than going to court.

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Others, however, choose to take their divorce to the courts – but without an attorney’s assistance. Now that “fault” does not have to be “proven” in a divorce proceeding, many assume that they do not need legal counsel to obtain a divorce. Before World War Two, couples with troubled marriages often did not turn to the courts, because most couples simply could not afford to divorce unless they were affluent, and the law made hiring an attorney a necessity. Some probably lived together unhappily. Others simply separated without taking legal action.

No-fault divorce opened up a popular “do-it-yourself” divorce market. Thousands of self-help divorce books were sold in the 1970s and 1980s and are still sold today. Do-it-yourself divorce seminars and workshops are offered by various organizations. With the emergence of the internet, you can watch the do-it-yourself videos and download all of the forms you need. Most states have a website with help and instructions posted for those who are representing themselves in a “pro se” divorce action. (“Pro se” is Latin – and legalese – for “on behalf of one’s self.”)

WHI IS REPRESENTING THEMSELVES IN DIVORCE CASES?

In 1994, the American Bar Association reported “a steady and significant increase in pro se divorce cases from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s.” Those representing themselves in divorce proceedings tended to be young and well-educated but without children or substantial real estate or other significant properties or assets – mostly people married for less than a decade. Half of the cases in Florida’s family courts now, for example, are pro se on both sides, and in more than 80 percent of the cases at least one spouse is pro se. Recent surveys indicate a similar trend in family courts throughout the nation.

Spouses are more apt to act as their own divorce attorneys if there is not much at stake and if there are few resources to work with. Courts, bar associations, and legal aid groups routinely conduct clinics and educational programs, operate self-help centers, and sponsor alternative resolution programs. Self-help desks at most courthouses offer legal forms and educational materials. Alternative divorce resolution programs put divorcing spouses in touch with neutral professionals to help the couples resolve issues outside of the court system.

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Honestly, pro se representation is a workable option for some couples – a very few. If both parties can split everything down the middle easily, or if they don’t own much, they can save some money that perhaps they do not have anyway. But if you have children, or if there are disagreements regarding alimony or property distribution, you are going to need a divorce attorney. In these cases, there is simply too much at stake to do-it-yourself. In southern California, you’ll need the help of an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

WHAT CAN DIVORCE ATTORNEYS OFFER?

In some cases, a spouse may very much want to represent himself or herself but nevertheless ends up needing a lawyer’s help with a specific aspect of the divorce. By offering limited and specific services (known as “unbundling”), divorce lawyers often help divorcing spouses find a midpoint between pro se representation and hiring a lawyer to handle all of the aspects of the divorce. These are among the limited or discrete services that most divorce attorneys will offer:

  • providing legal advice in person or by phone, fax, mail, or e-mail
  • providing advice regarding mediated and arbitrated divorce
  • explaining and helping you conduct the discovery process
  • providing guidance about filing and serving legal documents
  • drafting motions, pleadings, and other legal documents
  • reviewing any legal forms you have completed or documents you have prepared
  • conducting public record searches
  • contacting and questioning witnesses
  • suggesting expert witnesses or even other attorneys who might be helpful
  • helping you evaluate settlement options
  • assisting you with an appeal

A 2010 American Bar Association survey told us that 54 percent of solo legal practitioners and 45 percent of the attorneys in firms with two to nine lawyers provide individual “unbundled” legal services. A comparable survey by the California Administrative Office of the Courts reports that half of the lawyers who responded prepare documents or review documents for divorce clients and only 25 percent do not offer any individual services.

WILL THE “PRO SE” TREND CONTINUE?

Lawyers, of course, have always provided “unbundled” services, but it is only in recent years – with the adoption of no-fault divorce and the emergence of do-it-yourself divorce – that this approach has been marketed and given a name. While no-fault divorce seems to make representing yourself in a divorce easier, the legal issues since the 1970s have become increasingly complex. Thus, combining pro se divorce representation with limited legal services is a trend that will probably grow in the years ahead.

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Changes in society are always eventually reflected by changes in the law, and changes in the law have substantially changed the nature of the services provided by divorce and family law attorneys. Family lawyers in the 21st century solve a wide range of legal problems for their clients, work with divorce arbitrators and mediators, and often assist or belong to family-oriented agencies and community groups. Anyone who is considering a divorce in southern California – and anyone whose spouse is filing for divorce – should speak right away with a good divorce lawyer.

“Family law attorneys,” according to Orange County family law attorney Brian Bayati, “represent litigants in the legal arena while simultaneously counseling clients as to the practical implications involved in dissolving a marriage and determining custody of minor children.” In the future, family courts and lawyers will face new and difficult challenges. Many families – and courts – will have to accomplish more with fewer resources. By offering unbundled individual services, family law attorneys are now making it possible for more people to accomplish their legal goals, including divorce.

Video Transcript:

I would classify my top two priorities in handling a case as, one, to inform a client or perspective client about laws applicable to their family law situation. And I would say my second equally important objective is to spend time knowing the facts of their case, the underlying emotions, objectives, and to walk them through the family law litigation process, which can sometimes be very emotionally challenging.

Staying in touch with clients long after a family law case has successfully been completed and asking them how they reflect upon it, they commonly say that it is and was the most challenging chapter of their life, and I believe a good family law attorney is not only responsible for navigating a client through the legal aspects of a family law case, but also work with the client. If necessary, bring in experts or other professionals that have knowledge on how to navigate a client through their emotional challenges, what may be their socioeconomic challenges, tax challenges, as well as grieving challenges that they may face, depending on the facts of their case and the dynamic of their family.

How To Change A Child Support Order in California

Posted on: August 28, 2016 by in Child Support
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Orange County family law attorney

If you are a parent who is divorcing or about to divorce, nothing is more important than your children, their futures, and their well-being. After a divorce is final in the state of California, both parents still have an equal obligation to support their minor child or children. Divorcing spouses often agree voluntarily upon how much the non-custodial parent should pay the custodial parent for child support, and California family court judges will usually go along with a voluntary arrangement.

But when child support becomes a matter of dispute between the divorcing spouses, a judge will make the child support decision according to what the court deems is in “the best interests” of the child. California has established formal guidelines to help judges determine the proper amount of child support that should be given to a custodial parent by a non-custodial parent subsequent to a divorce. A California judge will use those guidelines to impose a child support order based on each parent’s assets, income, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The best interests of the child will always be a California court’s highest priority.

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But even when both parents or their attorneys are able to resolve the child support issue – or after the court renders a ruling – a change in circumstances at a later date may require a modification of the child support agreement or court order. Child support disputes in California are not always concluded simply because a divorce has been finalized and the child support amount has been initially determined.

FOR WHAT REASONS CAN A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE MODIFIED?

Whether a child support arrangement was voluntary or imposed, sometimes the support arrangement must be changed. Relocations, new jobs, new spouses, injuries, and illnesses are some of the reasons why a child support order may need to be modified. Almost everyone’s life changes at some point, so modifications of child support orders are actually quite common in California.

According to Orange County family law attorney Brian Bayati, “Child support can be a tricky subject for many people; but, sometimes, it is necessary for one or both parties to revisit the payment amount to ensure they achieve the financial circumstance within their child’s/children’s best interest.” In court, a parent seeking a child support order modification will have to prove to the judge that there has been a change in circumstances that makes the current child support order unworkable or obsolete. There are a number of reasons why a child support order might need to be modified. Some of these reasons are:

  • One or both parents have become unemployed (or in some cases, employed).
  • One or both parents have been incarcerated.
  • The income of one or both parents has changed.
  • One parent has had a new child with another partner.
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent has substantially changed.
  • The child’s educational, medical, or child care needs may have changed.
  • The factors that are used to calculate child support have been changed.

Divorced parents should remember that they cannot simply make a new child support arrangement on their own without notifying the court. Unless and until the judge signs a new court order, the existing child support order does not change. Even if parents have a verbal agreement to change the child support amount, you need to protect yourself. Contact your family law attorney, put the agreement in writing, and have a judge sign it.

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ARE CHILD SUPPORT ORDER MODIFICATIONS RETROACTIVE?

Parents in California should know that child support order modifications are not retroactive. For example, if your ex-spouse’s income increases significantly while you are paying child support, you can probably have your support order modified to allow you to make lower monthly payments. But if you wait to act after your ex-spouse’s income increases, you cannot be reimbursed for any period prior to the actual date of the modification.

Child support payments are temporarily suspended – after the first ninety days – when the paying parent is sent to jail or prison or otherwise involuntarily institutionalized for more than ninety days. When the parent is released from jail or institutionalization, child support payments start again at the same amount. However, there are three exceptions to the rule suspending payments during a period of jail or institutionalization. Payments will not be suspended if:

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  • Even while not working, you still have the financial ability to pay child support.
  • You were jailed because of domestic violence against the ex-spouse or the child.
  • You were sent to jail because you failed to pay child support.

Some parents sometimes think they should ask the court to modify a child support order because they think the amount they pay will go down, but when they get to court, the amount they have to pay actually goes up. It happens the other way as well, when a custodial parent seeks more child support but ends up receiving less. In Southern California, before you take any legal action regarding a child support modification, it is imperative to have a discussion with an experienced Orange County family law attorney. A good family lawyer should be able to tell you in advance how your request for a child support order modification will be handled by the court.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR EX FAILS TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT?

If your former spouse isn’t making the child support payments that he or she owes, you may have to return to the courtroom. You and your attorney will have to show proof to the court that your ex has not made payments (or has not made them fully or in a timely manner). You may also have to explain to a judge how your ex-spouse’s failure to pay is causing difficulty for you and your child. If child support payments continue to be delinquent, you may have to return to the court to seek enforcement.

Parents should also understand that before a California judge will change a child support order, there must be not only a substantial change of circumstances, but there must also be irrefutable evidence that a modification is in the best interests of the child. This state’s legislators and judges understand that everyone’s situation changes and that child support orders must routinely be changed. Still, California judges will always make a child’s best long-term interests the court’s highest priority, and judges will not approve a change of an existing child support order without considerable evidence that the change is in the child’s best interests.

Pets and Divorce in California: Who Keeps The Pets?

Posted on: July 30, 2016 by in Divorce
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The statistics are still telling us that about 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will eventually end in divorce. The statistics also tell us that approximately 62 percent of the households in the United States include at least one pet. Thus, many if not most divorcing spouses are also pet owners. When a married couple chooses to divorce, what happens to their fur-covered companions?

A dispute over the “custody” of a beloved companion can be a formidable obstacle to pet-owning couples who seek to divorce, whether in California or in any other state. The best way to protect a pet in a divorce is to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that precisely spells out who keeps ownership of the pet and how costs may be handled or shared for veterinary care, boarding, and related expenses. Having the future of your family’s pets decided legally, in writing, and in advance is the surest way to avoid a pet dispute should a marriage end in divorce.

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It has always been common law in the United States that animals are deemed to be private property, so when there’s a divorce involving a pet or pets, the legal question has historically been a question of “ownership” rather than a question of “custody.” One law professor, David Favre at the Michigan State University College of Law, has proposed legal recognition of a pet’s status as a living being – a concept he calls “living property” which recognizes that pets, unlike objects, “have an inherent self-interest in their continued well-being and existence.” However, no state – so far – has put this concept into law.

HOW ARE LEGAL ATTITUDES TOWARD PETS CHANGING?

However, in recent years, there has also been a perceptibly growing trend among family law judges in a number of states to at least consider factors apart from “mere” legal ownership. In the state of California, for example, the best interests of a child will always be a family court’s highest priority, so if a child has become devoted to a pet, the child’s emotional attachment will be considered.

California has also approved and now and enforces laws that specifically protect domestic animals if there is a reason to believe that a domestic abuser may harm an animal – California Family Code Section 6320, for example. Pets may be included in the protection provided by domestic violence restraining orders, and law enforcement officers may remove pets from domestic violence situations.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported in 2014 that 27 percent of the family law attorneys they surveyed confirmed that the number of pet-related divorce disputes is on the rise. Most of those disputes involve a dog. In most cases, if someone legally owns a companion prior to getting married, that person will probably keep the pet in a divorce. However, every case is different, so pet owners who are divorcing in southern California will need an experienced Orange County family law attorney with experience handling a variety of divorce-related legal disputes.

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Here are several of the questions that a judge might ask in a pet dispute:

Q: Who cares for the pet?

A judge may ask who buys the pet food, who feeds and bathes the animal, and who takes it to the veterinarian. If you are the spouse who does that, gather the evidence to prove it. Get a statement from your veterinarian verifying that you are the person who brings the pet in for treatments and check-ups. If the pet is a dog, ask a neighbor to confirm that you are the one who walks the dog. Save pet food receipts with your signature. If you are the pet’s primary or exclusive caretaker, be sure that you can prove it if you need to.

Q: What about the children?

A: If the divorcing spouses are parents, and if a pet is truly a family pet, then it may be in everyone’s best interests for the animal to live with the child or children. If the custody of the child or children is shared, there is usually no reason why the custody of the pet or pets cannot also be shared.

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Q: Whose lifestyle best accommodates the obligations of pet ownership?

A: If one divorcing partner works long hours or travels often, and the other partner works from home or has a daily routine schedule, obviously the spouse with the more predictable lifestyle is better suited to providing a good home for a pet. Most pets need consistency and plenty of positive interaction with their humans, so the spouse who can routinely provide consistency and interaction is in the better position to be awarded “custody” of a pet by a California judge.

HOW DO FAMILY COURT JUDGES MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING PETS?

Of course, if a divorcing couple has previously signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that is legally valid in California, a family law judge will enforce that agreement. And even without a formal prenuptial or postnuptial document, if divorcing spouses can nevertheless reach their own agreement regarding the family’s pet or pets, a California family law judge will almost always sign off on that agreement.

Divorcing partners will typically have plenty of disagreements – in fact, that’s why they divorce. But in the state of California, whenever divorcing spouses can reach agreements regarding matters like the distribution and division of marital assets, spousal support, child custody, and the ownership of the pet or pets, they can save time and money and avoid a great deal of aggravation.

When domestic violence is a factor in a marriage or in a divorce, abusers often try to intimidate victims by threatening harm to the pet or pets. The ASPCA says that more than 70 percent of the pet owners they surveyed in domestic violence shelters report that a pet was threatened, harmed, or killed by an abusive spouse or partner. In California, a conviction for injuring or killing a pet is punishable in some cases by three years in prison.

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Divorce is always unpleasant, but no one should have to worry about a beloved pet’s safety or future. If you are a pet owner who is divorcing in Southern California, you’ll probably need an experienced Orange County family law attorney who thoroughly understands your love for your pet. After all, spouses may divorce, but a good pet’s love is forever.

Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce and Custody in California

Posted on: June 9, 2016 by in Divorce
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Orange County divorce attorney

Q: Are grounds for divorce required in California?

A: In California, there are two grounds for divorce, which is legally called the “dissolution of marriage” in this state. Most people divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” If someone simply checks that box on a California divorce petition, no further explanation is required, and eventually, the dissolution will be granted.

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You may also still divorce on the grounds of “incurable insanity” although that’s extremely rare in California these days, and it requires medical verification. Additionally, there’s a residency requirement for divorce in California. One spouse must be a California resident for at least six months and a resident of the county where the divorce will be filed for at least three months before the divorce petition may be filed.

Q: What rules must be followed during the California divorce process?

A: When the divorce process begins in California, temporary restraining orders go into effect that prohibit both spouses from taking specified actions. Neither spouse, for instance, is permitted to take minor children out of California without the other spouse’s written consent or a court order. Also, in most cases, neither spouse can transfer property or change the beneficiary on a life insurance policy while the temporary restraining orders are in effect.

Q: What are my options regarding legal counsel?

A: The law does not require you to have an attorney’s help in a California divorce proceeding. You can represent yourself, but frankly, it’s never a good idea. Your other alternatives include full representation – letting one attorney handle every aspect of your divorce – or partial representation, where an attorney assists you in a limited capacity with certain parts of the process.

Divorcing couples should also consider arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce. Especially when a divorce is uncontested, these options can save both spouses time, money, and considerable emotional grief. In southern California, couples divorcing or considering dissolution would be wise to consult an experienced Orange County divorce attorney who can help them to determine precisely which option is best in their particular circumstances.

Q: Is divorce the only option for ending a marriage in California?

A: No. You can obtain a legal separation, or your marriage may qualify for an annulment. Some couples opt for a legal separation for religious convictions or for reasons linked to insurance or tax benefits. You remain legally married during a legal separation, but the court may divide and distribute marital property and issue determinations regarding spousal support and child custody, visitation privileges, and child support. If you are granted an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never happened. However, only certain marriages qualify for an annulment. Among the reasons that a California judge might grant an annulment request are:

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  • The marriage is incestuous or bigamous.
  • The spouse seeking annulment was not yet age eighteen at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse perpetrated a fraud to obtain the other’s agreement to marry or forced or intimidated the other into the marriage.
  • One spouse was “of unsound mind” at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse suffers an “incurable physical incapacity.”

Q: Is there a genuinely simple way to divorce in California?

A: Yes. In California, an uncontested divorce is called a “summary dissolution,” although not every divorcing couple will qualify. If a marriage is eligible for a summary dissolution, the divorcing spouses will have substantially less paperwork, and they will not have to make a court appearance. Both divorcing partners must agree in writing to all of the terms of a summary dissolution, and the marriage must meet these additional conditions:

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  • There are no minor children, neither spouse is pregnant, and no one seeks spousal support.
  • The marriage has lasted less than five years, and the grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences.
  • Apart from car notes, there are no outstanding debts above $6,000, and neither spouse owns any real property apart from a lease under one year.
  • Total marital assets are valued below $38,000, including retirement and deferred compensation (but not including vehicles), and neither party owns individual assets valued above $38,000.

Q: I’m ready. How do I file for divorce in California?

A: The smartest first move is meeting with an experienced local divorce lawyer – in Southern California, for example, you would contact an Orange County divorce attorney. You can download the necessary forms or purchase blank copies, but you really should have a divorce attorney prepare a Petition and a Summons on your behalf. You begin the process by filing your Petition and Summons with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where you or your spouse reside.

The Summons is a document which informs your spouse that you are filing for a divorce and that he or she will have thirty days to file the Response. In the Response, your spouse will indicate what particular issues are in dispute and will need to be resolved by the court. For example, he or she might object to your request for spousal support or your request for the sole custody of your children. California divorces can be lengthy, and as a rule of thumb, the more there is to dispute, the more likely it is that a divorce will be long and costly. Wherever you can make a compromise agreement with your spouse, do it.

Q: How is marital property divided in California?

A: All property that you and your spouse acquired through labor or skill during the marriage is, in almost all cases, marital property. You may have more marital property than you realize. You may have an interest in pension and profit-sharing benefits, for example, or in other retirement benefits or a business owned by one or both of you. Each partner legally possesses half of the marital property even if only one spouse worked outside of the home and even if the property is in one partner’s name.

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Also, and with few exceptions, debts incurred in the course of the marriage are considered marital debts. This includes credit card bills, even if the card is in one partner’s name only. Student loans, however, are an exception and are considered personal debts. Marital possessions and debts are equally divided in a California divorce unless you and your spouse make a different mutual agreement.

The division of properties and debts can become quite complicated in many California divorces, so when you seek a divorce attorney, make certain that your attorney is substantially experienced in the division and distribution of marital properties and debts. The goal in a divorce is to make sure that you are treated properly and fairly, and the right divorce attorney can often make all the difference.