10 Tips for the Self Represented in Family Court

10 Tips for the Self Represented in Family Court

For the uninitiated, the idea of representing yourself in family court seems outrageous. Why wouldn’t you hire a professional? Well, there are a number of reasons self-representation might be right for your subjective situation. Whether you’ve made the decision to represent yourself or you’re still on the fence, it’s important to be prepared.

Read through our 10 tips or the self-represented in family court, and make sure you’re ready for anything.

What is a Legal Coach and should I get one?

What is a Legal Coach and should I get one?

Depending on the complexity of your case and your financial circumstances, a legal coach (aka consulting lawyer) may be a great way to obtain assistance with your Divorce or other Family Law Matter. At Hello Divorce, we structure agreements that clearly outline the parameters of our role in your case so cost is clearly defined and you are well versed on what we can and will help you with. Some of our most positive reviews have come from clients who have utilized the ‘divorce coach’ option to: Negotiate a legal strategy and implement it; Draft documents to present in court; Review and ‘sign off’ on an Agreement; Provide advice and guidance through a Mediation process and/or Learn about the law…

7 Tips for Collecting Your Family Law Money Judgment

7 Tips for Collecting Your Family Law Money Judgment

So, you have spent months (or maybe even years) reaching a resolution in your matter, but the process is not over yet. If you received a money judgment against your ex-spouse as part of your Judgment, you still need to collect these funds and you probably want to do it quickly and cheaply!

Here are some simple, and some not so simple, but effective tips for collecting money owed to you.

How Much Will a Divorce Cost?

How Much Will a Divorce Cost?

I want to get my divorce resolved with as little expense possible, and have decided to represent myself to avoid lawyer’s fees. How much will it cost me to get this done?

To initiate your divorce, you will need to pay a basic filing fee to open and move along your case. It is good practice to call your county district clerk or check your local county’s Superior Court’s website to confirm the filing fees. Most of the time additional filings do not cost anything else, but there are exceptions. Court fees fund courthouse operation costs, pay the clerks and bailiffs, and provide equipment for trials and hearings.

Think that’s it? Find out just how much a divorce will cost you once everything’s said and done by reading more.

Complete List of CA Divorce Forms, with Links

Complete List of CA Divorce Forms, with Links

Petition (FL-100): This is the document that initializes your divorce with the Court. It is the first thing you file and requires a $435 filing fee. Download Petition for Divorce now. Template: Petition for Divorce Summons (FL-110): This is the document that accompanies your Petition. It is a notice to the other party that a case has been opened with the County Superior Court and requires a response within 30 days of service. Download Summons now. Template: Petition for Divorce & Summons UCCJEA (FL-105) : This is the document that, if you have minor children, tells the Court when there children have lived for the past five years and helps the Court to determine whether they have the jurisdiction to…

Small Ways to Save Big on Your Divorce Costs

Small Ways to Save Big on Your Divorce Costs

Divorce can be stressful enough without the additional burden of being expensive too, but divorces don’t have to break the bank. There are a few small things you could do to keep costs down which may also relieve some stress in the process.

1. Limit Emails:
Multiple emails are hard to keep track of and keep up with. When sending emails I recommend consolidating all of your thoughts and questions into one email. This is not to discourage you from sending emails altogether, but when sending an email include as much information into one email as you possibly can. If you know that you may have a lot of questions, thoughts, or ideas it may be helpful to create a section in the notes app on your phone to jot down things as they come up and at the end of the day, email everything that you have written in your notes. One email per day to your lawyer or divorce coach should be sufficient. While I know, you can get antsy waiting on a response or waiting on an endorsed copy of a document from court, try to avoid sending emails to “check-in” or check on the status of something, your lawyer will notify you if anything comes up.

2. Limit Calls:
Much like emails, multiple calls are hard to keep up with and should be limited when they can be. Calls are very useful especially when trying to explain or better understand something that is complex or complicated. With calls it is best to have a list of questions or thoughts you would like to share that you can reference during your call with your lawyer or lawyer, this will also help you to stay on track.

Sign up for a free subscription to find more ways to save on costs during the process.

Musings from a Law Office Intake Specialist

Musings from a Law Office Intake Specialist

I am often the first person that people talk to when setting up meetings with their lawyer or when they have a quick non-legal question that I can assist with. While they are always very pleased with their service and credit our lawyers with making a very difficult time easier and bearable, they often still feel overwhelmed, stressed, and drained emotionally.

Divorce can be stressful, emotional, and even tricky at times. Your lawyer is certainly there to make the process as stress-free as possible, but primarily from a legal standpoint. Divorce is a big change and an even bigger transition, which can be difficult to cope with. Finding ways to relieve stress and anxiety can improve this process from an emotional standpoint.

Read six musings from a law office intake specialist we think you’ll find beneficial.

How to Prepare for Your Meeting with Your Lawyer or Divorce Coach

How to Prepare for Your Meeting with Your Lawyer or Divorce Coach

You have decided to take the next step towards your divorce, have scheduled a meeting with a lawyer or legal coach, and are wondering what to do ahead of your meeting. I think that doing a bit of research can help you to better understand the divorce process and give you some valuable insight about what to expect.

Once you have done some preliminary research you should begin to gather a list of questions that you would like answers to or that you would like to know more about. Your lawyer or divorce coach will likely be able to provide you with answers that pertain to you personally, which can alleviate anxiety.

Keeping reading to make sure you’re fully prepared when meeting with a lawyer or divorce coach.

Ten Important Laws You Need to Know About (if You’re Getting a Divorce)

Ten Important Laws You Need to Know About (if You’re Getting a Divorce)

1. Spousal Support (Family Code Section 4320): While pre judgment spousal support is generally calculated using a formula, long term spousal support is determined by review of various factors. Some of the factors the court considers include:
– Age and health of the parties
– Marital standard of living
– Debts and assets of each party
– Duration of marriage
– The ability of one spouse to pay spousal support
– Possible need for retraining or education to the supported spouse
– Periods of unemployment for one party who stayed home to tend to domestic duties.

2. Domestic Partners (Family Code Section 143): This law clarified that “spouse” includes “registered domestic partner.” All references to “husband” and “wife” in the family code now apply to domestic partners as well.

3. Temporary Spousal Support (pre divorce) (Marriage of Samson, Marriage of Stanton (2010) 190 CA4th 547): A change of circumstances is required to modify a temporary spousal support order. An example would be one spouse losing their job or the other receiving a raise at their employment.

4. Calculating Child Support (Family Code Section 4055(a)):While it’s a lot easier to calculated child support using the Department of Child Support services calculator, we get a lot of people asking us about the actual formula. FC 4055(a) specifies it.

Sign up for a free subscription to continue reading about laws that you need to be familiar with before proceeding into your divorce.

Child Support Calculator

Child Support Calculator

Calculate an estimate of California child support by entering in all of the requested information below. The results will help inform your position for mediation and/or negotiation with your spouse. We recommend however, that prior to litigating this issue in court, you have a formal calculation prepared. Disclaimer Hello Divorce’s child support calculator has not been approved by the State of California and therefore not admissible in court. It is for estimation purposes only so that you can generally get an idea for what child support may look like in your case. We do not advise you to rely solely on this calculator for negotiating, mediating or litigating support. The use of this calculation alone does not constitute legal advice…

10 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Family Law Declaration (to Attach to Your Request for Orders)

10 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Family Law Declaration (to Attach to Your Request for Orders)

A declaration is a written statement made under the penalty of perjury. If you are filing a “Request for Order” (or responding to a “Request for Order”) asking that the Judge enter orders providing you some type of temporary “relief”, you will need to attach a declaration explaining the basis for your request and the facts that support it.

Your declaration will be read by your judge and possibly even your court mediator if child custody is at issue. Your spouse will also read your declaration and if you establish strong enough facts, it might give you the leverage you need to settle issues before they end up in the courtroom.

Read our 10 tips for ensuring your declaration is on point!

Your Hello Divorce “Cheat Sheet” to Self Representation

Your Hello Divorce “Cheat Sheet” to Self Representation

If you’re navigating divorce without legal representation, we’ve got your back! Review this outline to understand what will happen throughout the divorce and what you need to do. Don’t forget to utilize Hello Divorce’s (other) free legal resources along with our instructional templates and DIY instructional videos.

If you want an experienced lawyer to prepare or review your documents before you submit them to the court or help you plan your position or give you pointers for negotiation – we help with that too. We offer ongoing flat-fee help throughout your divorce. If you decide to go the Mediation route, we will guide you through each step and form so sit back and relax.

Sign up for a free subscription to gain access to our cheat sheet to Self Mediation.

When are Attorney Fees Awarded in a Divorce Action?

When are Attorney Fees Awarded in a Divorce Action?

It’s no secret that hiring an attorney is expensive. Even if you are using a lawyer on a ‘limited scope’ basis to help you only with strategy or to review and revise your forms, it is still a cost that you probably didn’t plan for. So when can you request that your spouse pay your fees? Conversely, will you be on the hook to pay some or all of your ex’s lawyer costs? While there are many ways fee requests come in to play in a divorce action, we’ve limited this article to the two most widely used methods for requesting fees.

“Need Based” Fees
The issues that need to be resolved in your divorce are property and debt, child custody, child support and spousal support. Additionally, attorney fees need to be considered and resolved in a way that makes sense for you and your spouse. The Family Code allows the court to award fees in the amount that are “reasonably necessary” to properly litigate and/or negotiate a divorce. “Need based” fees can be requested at any point during your divorce. So, for example, if you have been in mediation and have been unable to come to an agreement, you or your spouse can request fees from the court to be able to hire a lawyer. To request fees during a divorce, one spouse must file a Request for Order with the court. The Court will schedule a court hearing for you and your spouse to argue your respective positions and then the judge will make a decision. If you can come to an agreement before the hearing, there is no need to attend the court date. If your spouse has filed a Request for Order, you will need to file a response or the court may not consider your objection.

Sign up for a free subscription to read on about fees as “sanctions,” as well as factors determining which spouse is responsible.

How to Keep Your Divorce Conversations Productive

How to Keep Your Divorce Conversations Productive

First things first. If you want to negotiate an agreement with your spouse, you have to remember (and accept) the following principles:

• Be mindful that your purpose is to avoid arguing and to be as persuasive as possible.
• The communication issues you had during your marriage will not go away in separation.

What does that mean? It means you need to manage your expectations and negotiation style or risk one or more of the following: constant arguing, bickering, flat out fighting, delay, defensiveness, lack of progress, and disappointment.

You have to remember, especially if you have young children with your spouse, that you are going to have to communicate with this person for a very long period of time. Let us help you ensure the ongoing conversation will always be productive.

Presenting Evidence in Family Court

Presenting Evidence in Family Court

Most people (even some lawyers) don’t expect the Evidence Code to apply in family law in the same way that we see it used in Criminal or Civil Law. The fact is that it most often does. Even when we are in front of a judge who has a more informal approach (allows evidence to be considered without meeting all of the legal criteria), general knowledge of the rules of evidence can really help you to gain a legal advantage in your divorce or other family law action.

Why? Well, many judges will review evidence (such as out-of-court statements, school records, agreements, police reports, financial records, title to property, proof of payment, social media postings, photographs etc.) without a proper foundation unless the opposing litigant or lawyer makes a objection.

Keep reading to make sure you don’t get blindsided as far as a judge reviewing evidence is concerned.

Tips for Getting Your Spouse On Board with Mediation

Tips for Getting Your Spouse On Board with Mediation

Mediation, whether through Hello Divorce, with a trained mediation counselor or a divorce financial planner, can be a great option for resolving the issues pertaining to your divorce. At Hello Divorce, we not only guide you through the negotiation process, we prepare your divorce judgment and all the mandatory documents that go with it. Learn more about Hello Divorce Mediation.

Mediation works best for separating couples who share the common goals of reaching a resolution that feels fair, and saves time and money. Most important, both spouses must be able to act in good faith and be transparent with finances. If you have made up your mind that mediation is the best option for you, consider sharing the information below with your spouse in an attempt to get her or him to “see the light” and get past their reservations.

Some of the feedback we’ve heard about why one spouse is hesitant about mediation include: it’s a waste of money/time (“we can do this on our own”); it’s too much time to be in the same room; “I can get a better result if I go in front of a judge” (usually a bluff); too far apart in positions; it’s too hard to coordinate schedules; or “I need financial support now and can’t wait to see if mediation works.”

Not Doing It Will Cost More
For the spouse who says it’s a waste of time and money, point them to national statistics that estimate the average cost of divorce (per person) is approximately $15,000 (with California likely averaging much more). If your divorce proceeds to court, expect fees to go up dramatically with costs for experts and court reporters added to that. Mediation with an experienced mediator usually totals around $3,000 – $4,000 per person and includes everything from the actual negotiating piece to the preparation, filing and service of all required (and optional) pleadings (documents).

Mediators can save both of you lots of time and money since you don’t have to learn how to navigate the complicated divorce process and sessions are focused on issues that matter since ground rules are instituted to keep your eyes on the prize. Sign up for a free subscription to read more tips for getting your spouse on board with mediation.

What to Wear to Court

What to Wear to Court

As a general rule, you should think of the courtroom as a formal environment. Dress as you would when going for an important job interview or to church. You can be barred from the courtroom if you violate the Court’s dress code.

Suggested Guidelines
Men: wear shoes with socks; long pants (on pants with belt loops, wear a belt); collared shirt (tucked in) with a tie, with or without a jacket. Pants must be worn at waist level.
Women: wear shoes; a knee length or longer dress or skirt; or long pants; a blouse, sweater or casual dress shirt.

You will NOT be allowed to enter the courtroom wearing the following inappropriate clothing (being asked to leave to change, can affect the outcome of your matter):

Shorts
Hats (men) or hair curlers (women)
Halter or tube top
T-shirt or muscle shirt
See-through top
Flip flops
Clothing that exposes your midriff or underwear
Ripped or torn jeans
Baggy pants that fall below your waist
Clothing with an emblem or wording that promotes illegal or inappropriate activity
Clothing that depicts or promotes violence, sex acts, illegal drug use or profanity

It may not be the runway, but if you’re still in wardrobe malfunction more, we have more fashion tips for your court appearance available with a free subscription.

What Are the Different Types of Court Hearings I Might Have to Attend?

What Are the Different Types of Court Hearings I Might Have to Attend?

The most common type of hearings in Family Court are related to child support, spousal support and/or child custody. These hearings are scheduled after one spouse files a “Request for Order.” Depending on the complexity (or contention) of your case, the jurisdiction you live in and/or the speed your case is progressing, there are several other court appearances you may have to participate in. Review this resource to understand what types of hearings you may need to attend.

Case Resolution Conference or Status Conference
If your case doesn’t seem to be progressing, the Judge assigned to the case may require you and your spouse to come to court and explain ‘where you are at’ with efforts to finalize your divorce. Prior to court, you must prepare and file a form. No orders for support, custody, visitation and/or property division are made at these hearing, nor will the Judge usually hearing any arguments or testimony regarding these issues. These conferences are only used to discuss the status of the case and whether or not the matter needs to proceed to a settlement conference, evidentiary hearing or if an agreement is in the works. The court appearance usually only lasts 5-15 minutes.

Quick Tip: Usually the court sends you notice indicating what form you need to complete if the Court appearance is called a “Status Conference” or “Case Resolution Conference.” If not, check the county court website to see if there is a ‘local’ form to complete before you go to court. For example, Alameda, San Mateo, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties all have local forms.

Sign up for a free subscription to read on about temporary orders, settlement conferences, and evidentiary hearings.

What is Contempt?

What is Contempt?

In the course of your divorce, the family court may issue a range of orders, including visitation and custody determinations, orders to pay attorney’s fees, and divisions of property. When an ex-spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse) is not following the court’s orders, it’s natural to want a means to force him or her to comply and, in certain cases, contempt may be the answer. However, before turning to this solution, there are two important things to note:

1. This area of law is highly procedural. We do not recommend filing a contempt action, or responding to one, without legal assistance.

2. Family law is not a punitive system. This is a good thing — we want judges to be more focused on individual and familial well-being then on punishment. However, it also means that family law judges often disfavor contempt orders.

Yet, there are times when contempt is appropriate. Sign up for a free subscription to read on about the basics if you or your spouse is considering filing for contempt

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