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Will a Divorce Lawyer Try to Talk Me Into Divorce?

If you are concerned about the future of your marriage, your children’s future, and your finances, the last thing you want when you’re looking for professional guidance is to have a sleazy and unethical lawyer talk you into doing something that you’re not sure that you actually want to do. And so it is understandable to be concerned about speaking to a divorce attorney for the first time. It can feel like the equivalent of going to a car dealership to consider a new vehicle but knowing that you are going to be descended upon by guys in suits eager to do whatever it takes to make a sale.   The bad news is there sadly are lawyers who may place their own interest in getting a new client over your best interests in determining whether to proceed with divorce, but the good news is there are many ethical and compassionate family law attorneys out there who will take the time to listen to your story, explain your options and potential outcomes, and give you the time and emotional space to figure out what is best for you. Be Wary of Free Consultations With Family Law Attorneys Many, if not most, experienced family law attorneys do not provide free consultations, in the same way that you see free consultations advertised for personal injury attorneys and others. Is this because family law attorneys are greedy, unwilling to offer free help?   Quite the opposite. First off, personal injury cases are almost always pursued on a contingency basis, meaning the lawyer doesn’t take a legal fee unless money is recovered. Thus,... read more

Will I Lose My Green Card If I Get a Divorce?

Many married people in the U.S. are legally living here based on a green card that they obtained as a result of getting married to a U.S. citizen. There are a number of ways to obtain a green card, with marrying a U.S. citizen being only one of them, but when a marriage doesn’t work iou, a person whose green card is in fact based on the marriage may be concerned that pursuing a divorce will affect their right to continue to live in the U.S. In some cases, there is indeed reason for concern, but in many other cases a person can seek a divorce and yet still retain his or her green card.   If you are on a green card and are considering divorce, you are advised to speak with both a family law attorney and an immigration attorney before moving forward with filing for a divorce, but below are a few general points to keep in mind. Is your Green Card Conditional or Not? Although a green card is the immigration status that grants you permanent residence, the USCIS will sometimes grant green cards which are conditional and thus not literally permanent. One of the most common type of conditional green card situations arises when a married couple has been married for less than two years.   It should come as no surprise that there are many cases in which a person marries a U.S. resident specifically to obtain the great card and not because they legitimately want to be married. The reason for the conditional green card status is because the government wants to... read more

Child Support and Non-biological Children in California

It happens more often than you might think: a child raised by two parents seemingly as their own to the outside the world is actually the biological child of only one of the parents. One common scenario involves a mother having sexual relations with a man outside the marriage but her spouse raising the child as his or her own. Such situations can work out just fine, but things can get complicated when the spouses separate and the question of child support to be paid by the non-biological parent comes becomes an issue. The Connection Between Paternity and Child Support The general rule in California for child support is that a biological parent is required to financially support the child until the child reaches adulthood, unless that person’s parental rights have been terminated, such as occurs in a child emancipation or stepparent adoption.   The flip side of this is that a non-biological parent does not have the legal obligation to financially support the child, unless that parent has adopted the child (adoption survives the divorce of the parents) or the law presumes that the parent is actually the biological parent of the child. California’s Presumption of Paternity California family courts apply a legal principle called “presumption of paternity” in child support matters. What this means is that the courts will presume that a child born during a marriage (or within 300 days after the termination of the marriage) is the biological child of both parents.   In addition, when a man lists himself as the father on the birth certificate of a child, the law will also presume... read more

Choosing a Legal Separation Over a Divorce in California

California courts offer married couples the option of pursuing a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce (also called “dissolution”). A legal separation can operate in much the same way as a divorce order, and thus some married persons who do not want a divorce but want financial protections and custodial arrangements seek a legal separation. Here are a few things to keep in mind in this process. A Legal Separation is Different From an Informal Separation Separation can be a confusing word in California family law, as it can not only refer to a legal separation but also to the “date of separation,” which is the day that at least one person in a marriage decides that they no longer want to be married. The date of separation is important in a divorce in dealing with spousal support and property distribution issues.   But, to be clear, a legal separation is not simply you and your spouse living apart or deciding not to be married. Instead, it is a legally operative order that must be handed down by a California court. Legal Separation Offers the Same Features as Divorce… In a legal separation, either a judge will impose orders or you and your spouse will reach an agreement on all of the same issues that would be finalized in a divorce: How your shared marital property should be divided What, if any, spousal support should be paid and for how long Child custody determinations (including legal custody and physical custody) and schedules Child support payments and terms Visitation schedules …With One Big Difference While a legal separation... read more

5 Ways People Sabotage Their Own Divorce Proceedings

Few people relish the thought of taking the steps necessary to convert a failed marriage into a legally finalized divorce. The emotional letdown of a relationship that didn’t work out, the fear and anxiety over what life will look like post-marriage, and the sometimes complex and confusing paperwork and procedures that go into obtaining a divorce order that protects your interests can be overwhelming on the best of days, and debilitating on the worst of days. But, millions of people have gotten through divorce to a more sunny post-marriage life, even if it wasn’t always pretty on the way there. Here are five things to avoid as you proceed on your own divorce journey. Giving in to a Desire to Get it Over With as Quickly as Possible You certainly didn’t need to read this article to know that divorce is, ahem, unpleasant, to say the least. The feeling of “I just want this to be over with” is understandable, common, and perhaps healthy.   But, remember, divorce is one of the most consequential (if not the most) financial events in your life. It is hard to undo mistakes made in the divorce process, and entering into agreements affecting all of your assets and creating financial obligations that can last years should not be entered into lightly simply as a way of ending the stress of uncertainty and conflict. Trying to Turn Children Against the Other Parent A common misguided approach in divorce involving custody issues is for one parent to believe that he or she can gain a favorable custody arrangement by feeding information to the child –... read more
How Much Can I Expect to Pay in Child Support in California?

How Much Can I Expect to Pay in Child Support in California?

If you have children, your child support payments will most likely be one of the most significant financial aspects of your divorce, along with spousal support and property distribution, especially if you have more than one child. Unlike spousal support, however, which is often reached through negotiation or through a process that can be quite discretionary on the part of the court, California courts strive for uniformity in reaching child support amounts. This is based on the idea that, because the children are obviously minors and cannot represent themselves, the courts want to take a more direct role in ensuring the children are properly supported. While courts have some freedom to work with the particular circumstances of the matter to reach a just outcome, the court will primarily rely on a mandated formula to reach the child support amount. Factors the Court Considers in Setting Child Support California state law requires the judge overseeing a child support matter (whether part of a divorce or also if the parents were never married) to look at the following factors, among others, in setting child support payments: The number of children The actual income of both parents from all sources, including salaries, businesses, and unreported income The potential income of both parents, meaning the income the parents could be earning (thus a parent cannot avoid working simply to influence the payment amount) Certain expenses of each parent that affect income, including insurance, retirement, and union expenses The custody schedule for each child with the parent (how many days of the week the child spends with each parent) Spousal support payments Costs of... read more
5 Signs You Should Get a Restraining Order Against Your Partner

5 Signs You Should Get a Restraining Order Against Your Partner

The law has not yet created a perfect mechanism to fully prevent domestic violence and other forms of destructive behavior by a partner or spouse, but one of the best ways to take legal action in California (as well as other states) is to obtain a restraining order, which is often called a protective order to reflect the fact that its primary purpose is protection of people. California law provides three types of protective/restraining orders to spouses, partners, children, and other household members of an abuser: Emergency Protective Order: This can be issued by a police officer responding to a domestic violence call who believes a victim of violence needs immediate protection. Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): A court will grant a TRO – usually good for several weeks – without the abuser having a right to a hearing (meaning you can obtain it without his or her knowledge) Permanent Restraining Order: A TRO may later be converted to Permanent Restraining Order, which can be made effective for up to five years. Obtaining this order will require that both parties go before a judge and present evidence. Here are five signs you should speak to an attorney about obtaining a protective/restraining order. The Individual Has Committed Abuse Against You or Your Children You can obtain a restraining order against a family or household member who has committed violence against you or your children, as well as those who engage in verbal abuse. The person need not have acted intentionally in committing the abuse. For example a person who is abusive while intoxicated or is unable to control themselves can have... read more
What is the Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony?

What is the Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony?

Most people are familiar with the term “alimony,” a term frequently used in television and movies, and which you may recall a family member or friend discussing in connection with a divorce. In essence, alimony is money that one spouse pays to another spouse after a divorce, and sometimes while the divorce is ongoing. Alimony is separate from any division of property. Thus, you and a spouse may split your property equally in a divorce, and you could still be required to pay the spouse alimony after the divorce for a matter of years, or even indefinitely. A lesser used phrase is “spousal support” or even “spousal maintenance.” Spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony are all referring to the same thing, again, the funds that one spouse will pay to the other spouse after a marriage. This is also separate from child support payments, and most states do not require that a spouse have a child to properly demand spousal support. Spousal Support / Alimony Laws Vary Widely By State Like most areas of family law, spousal support and alimony rules are based in state law, and so the law of the state in which you obtain your divorce (generally, the state in which at least one spouse resides at the time that spouse files for divorce) will determine whether spousal support will be paid, how much the payments will be, and how long they will last. States vary widely in all of these areas. Some states will only award spousal support where there is a financial necessity on the part of the person requesting spousal support, e.g. if... read more
Can We Create a Divorce Settlement Agreement If We’re Not Speaking to Each Other?

Can We Create a Divorce Settlement Agreement If We’re Not Speaking to Each Other?

The benefits of creating a settlement agreement in resolving a divorce over litigating those issues in court are huge. First off, both spouses can save themselves the high legal fees that come with going to court repeatedly to present issues before a judge. Second, the spouses can avoid the anxiety, embarrassment, and pressure of having to argue these things in a public courtroom and having personal issues be made public record. Finally, spouses can create particular solutions that meet both of their needs without having issues relating to custody schedules, property division and distribution, and child and spousal support thrust on them by a judge. It is often the case, though, that spouses might not even be able to talk to each other during a divorce – perhaps due to emotional issues or perhaps due to a restraining order in place – which obviously makes communication challenging. But, even in those cases, you can obtain the benefits of a settlement agreement and avoid the higher legal fees and pressures of a contested divorce. Your Attorneys Can Negotiate a Settlement Agreement On Your Behalf The reality is that you may never even have to speak to the other spouse at all during the divorce process, and you might be surprised at how common of a scenario this actually is. Your family law attorney can take over 100% of the process in speaking to either your spouse or his or her attorney in negotiating a settlement agreement. For example, your attorney can speak with you about the outcomes that your are seeking with regard to property distribution, spousal support, custody, and... read more
Why Do People Get Prenup Agreements?

Why Do People Get Prenup Agreements?

There are a number of benefits to prenuptial agreements that make them attractive to those heading towards marriage: the ability to have a level of financial certainty for both parties after a marriage; the ability to avoid having marital and financial issues being brought into the public forum of a courtroom (and ensuing court records); and the ability to create personalized, mutually beneficial solutions at a time when the two parties are willing and motivated to work together. But what are some common scenarios in which prenuptial agreements are frequently sought out? Have Children From a First Marriage A prenuptial agreement can be obtained before a first marriage or any subsequent marriage, but, traditionally they have been somewhat more common in subsequent marriages. One reason is that, where spouses have children from previous marriages, they want to take steps to help preserve wealth for their children, rather than have those assets directed elsewhere by means of state laws relating to estate distribution after a death and/or unintended divorce consequences. Have Gone Through a Bad Divorce Experience In a divorce, there are four primary parties: each spouse and each of their attorneys. Even if three of those parties are reasonable and committed to seeking mutually beneficial and positive outcomes, all it takes is one of them to see the process as a way to enrich themselves by making life miserable for the others through a prolonged, contested divorce action. When a bad divorce experience happens, it is not uncommon for a person burned by the process to not want to enter into marriage again without some assurances that he or... read more