Divorce and Pets — Who gets Fido?

Divorce and Pets — Who gets Fido?

In California, pets acquired during marriage are presumed to be community property.

What does that mean? In a divorce or domestic partnership dissolution, the family court assign the pets similar to the way they divide property such as furniture or vehicles.

one spouse gets the pet, and the other does not.
I have not had any cases where the court ordered a shared custody arrangement of the pet when the parties are in dispute.

However, despite the general rule of pets being considered as property, they have gained some important legal rights. Sign up for a free membership to learn more about the rights of your pet during a divorce, as well as advice about avoiding a property dispute in court.

Tips for Court Ordered Child Custody Mediation

Tips for Court Ordered Child Custody Mediation

What is child custody mediation?

If you and your former partner are unable to agree on child custody and/or visitation issues, you both will be required to participate in mandatory child custody mediation. The objective of mediation is to give parents an opportunity to discuss and resolve issues relating to the best interest of their children in a neutral setting. Goals of mediation include: help parents make a parenting plan that is in the best interest of their children, help parents to make a plan that lets children spend time with both of their parents and help parties to learn skills to deal with anger and resentment.

What should I DO at mediation?
DO focus on your child’s needs:
Remember: It is the goal of the court to make an order that serves the best interests of your children. Spending time rehashing upsetting events that occurred in your marriage will waste precious time and frustrate your counselor. The focus should not be on your needs — but the needs of your children. Not to say you should agree to an order that is impractical or overburdensome, but the focus should not be on your convenience or on punishing the other party.

DO go to mediation prepared:
Always go to mediation with a custody and time-share plan. I advise some clients to even bring in a calendar with days marked off for each parent and addressing school holidays, work schedules and extracurricular activities. The mediator may use your proposal as a starting place for negotiation. You will impress the counselor with preparedness. You will also feel more confident knowing you have thought through a plan that feels doable.

Few things can be more frightening than the future of your children being in another person’s hands. Sign up for a free subscription to read more tips on navigating court ordered child custody mediation.

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…

How will my bonus income affect child or spousal support?

How will my bonus income affect child or spousal support?

Many employers give an annual or quarterly bonus to their employees when certain company or individual goals are met.

A common theme throughout our practice are questions like will I have to pay support based on my gross income or will bonus income be treated differently? How can I pay support based on my income when I don’t know what (or if) I’ll receive as bonus income? Is my bonus community property or used to calculate support? I don’t want it double counted. How does the Department of Child Support Services track employment bonuses? And so many more.

Check off your questions and find out if that extra dough is going to affect child or spousal support by reading on.

Can a Special Master help in my child custody matter?

Can a Special Master help in my child custody matter?

WHAT IS A SPECIAL MASTER?
Special masters are often used in divorce and paternity actions when parents are having serious child custody issues related to custodial exchange disputes, visitation schedule changes, transportation disputes, religious training, difficulty determining schools, handling behavior problems, choosing extra curricular activities, holiday and vacation scheduling, behavior or boundary issues with one or both parents, or any number of other co-parenting issues and health care concerns.

Special masters can also make recommendations in connection with parties’ income and assets for purposes of calculating child and spousal support, determining arrearages/over payments and disposition of community of property.

Find out if a special master is your answer for relieving child custody stress points.

Recommended Books for Contested Child Custody Issues

Recommended Books for Contested Child Custody Issues

You’ve separated from your child’s other parent. Life is tough, and litigation is messy. You are looking for good resources anywhere you can find it.

• Do try a support group.
• Do consult a lawyer or a court facilitator.
• Do try mediation if your ex is a good candidate for it.
• Do think about co-parenting counseling.
• Do ask counsel about the possibility of a child custody evaluation.
• Do determine if minor’s counsel may be appropriate in your case.
• Do focus on the needs of your child instead of revenge on your ex.

And last but not least, do read books that help you focus on your child’s needs during this seriously conflicted, scary and frustrating time.

We’ve compiled a list of worthwhile books that will instill confidence and help you through the trying times. Keep reading to find out if one of them (or all) is right for you.

Child Custody Recommending Counseling and Mediation: What’s the Difference?

Child Custody Recommending Counseling and Mediation: What’s the Difference?

In a case involving children where the parties have not agreed on a parenting plan, the Family Law Court mandates that parents “mediate” prior to a hearing on the matter. Mediators have experience in counseling or psychotherapy and must have a master’s degree in a behavioral science related to marriage and family interpersonal relationships.

Parents required to attend mediation include those who are involved in legal actions concerning parentage, divorce (with children), domestic partnership dissolution (with children) and domestic violence (when a parent is requesting child custody orders.

But what will you participate in? Recommending Counseling or Mediation? What’s the difference? We’ve got the answers you need to make the right child custody choice.

Parenting Resource for Divorcing Parents

Parenting Resource for Divorcing Parents

I stumbled upon the “Parenting Plan Handbook” today from the San Diego Superior Court. I strongly encourage separating parents to take a look, particularly parents with small children. It’s very introductory and would not be very helpful for a drawn out, acrimonious, legal battle — but it is a clear, concise resource for defining (in ‘layman’s’ terms) legal terms and offers a lot of practical options for developing a parenting plan. Click here for the handbook!

Is a donor agreement enough to protect my same-sex partner from a challenge to her parental rights?

Is a donor agreement enough to protect my same-sex partner from a challenge to her parental rights?

Is a donor agreement enough to protect your same sex partner from a challenge of parental right?

Usually not. In California, maybe. In short, we recommend a second parent adoption or a ‘Paternity’ action to terminate the parental rights of the (known) donor ‘father’ and establish the non-carrying spouse as the second parent in the eyes of the law.

But why? The law is unsettled, especially with the passage of new legislation that allows for more than two legal parents of a child.

The water gets a little murky, so put on your waders and let us walk you through the details. Keep reading to learn all you’ll need to know about same sex partner parental rights.

My kid is 18 years old, why am I still paying child support?

My kid is 18 years old, why am I still paying child support?

You’ve been paying child support for years and years. You’re child has now turned 18 and you run down to the courthouse to request a termination of support — only to find it’s not as easy as you thought it would be.

But why? There are several reasons why a parent may be on the hook to pay child support past age 18. Don’t get blindsided by the details. Read on to learn more about what it takes to terminate your child support payments after your child has turned 18.

Will child support change when I get remarried?

Will child support change when I get remarried?

While we find that many of California’s family laws are common sensical, this issue is not. Unfortunately, the legal answer often ends up causing one parent serious frustration and a feeling of injustice.

For purposes of calculating guideline child support, a new spouse’s income may not be considered by a court when establishing or modifying a child support order. An ‘extraordinary case’ is often times very difficult to prove and exists only ‘where excluding that income would lead to extreme and severe hardship to any child subject to the child support award.’

Sign up for a free subscription to read more about special cases affecting child support.

10 Facts You Should Know About CA Child Support Modification

10 Facts You Should Know About CA Child Support Modification

California child support modifications got your head all turned around? Need help wading through the intricacies to come out the other side prepared and comfortable with everything you need to know about divorce and child support?

Don’t worry, we’ve got a great jumping off point to get you started with your research. Check out these 10 facts you should know about CA child support modification.

Counting the Dollars and Cents: Keys to Child Support Add-Ons

Counting the Dollars and Cents: Keys to Child Support Add-Ons

If you are a single parent, you are probably familiar with the concept of child support. Child support is calculated using statewide guidelines, and while the court has discretion to deviate from the guideline calculation, the guideline amount is presumptively correct in all cases.

However, no family is the same. Perhaps one of your children is a preemie (or is accident prone) and has increased healthcare expenses or your child attends private school and has higher than average educational costs. Or, on the other side of the coin, maybe your ex’s close family member is being paid three times as much as the average nanny to watch your toddler.

Read on, and let us help you make sense of the dollars and cents associated with child support add-ons!

Vacation Planning With Your Ex Driving You Crazy? Co Parenting Tips That Get The Job Done

Vacation Planning With Your Ex Driving You Crazy? Co Parenting Tips That Get The Job Done

Scheduling vacations, holidays and special days are time-consuming and exhausting. Who’s hosting Thanksgiving? Do you need to make travel arrangements? Do you really have to invite that pesky Uncle who falls asleep during dinner? Do you need to exchange your vacation plans or negotiate any revisions to your custody agreement with your former spouse or partner? Add to this a difficult ex and you may as well just give up now. But there’s hope. Here are some helpful tips to negotiating/finalizing your vacation plans with that difficult ex.

1. Suggest using online tools.
There are various co-parenting websites that help facilitate scheduling. One popular online resource is “Our Family Wizard.” This website offers various tools to schedule and track parenting time, family information, and manage expenses. Nowadays, it can be difficult to follow a parade of texts/emails. At a minimum, this tool can help expedite the process and at least keep the communications in one useful location.
2. Start negotiations early.
If you know that your ex is going to be difficult, make your proposal for the holidays early on. While you may have a court-ordered holiday schedule, oftentimes things come up and the earlier on they are addressed, the more time you have to negotiate a resolution, and if necessary, file a motion.

Co-parenting can be a test of patience to say the least. Sign up for a free subscription to read out full list of tips to get through vacation planning with an ex.

Are Three Parents a Crowd? Understanding California’s 3rd Parent Law

Are Three Parents a Crowd? Understanding California’s 3rd Parent Law

Most children have two parents, a mother and a father, two moms or two dads. But what about a child that has three (or more!) parents?

A three – or more – parent family might seem wildly out there, but it’s a situation many families are facing. For example, a lesbian couple could have a child with a sperm donation from a close friend. The three adults may decide they’d all like to be involved in raising the child. How can the law protect this type of family structure?

We’re here to help you learn how to navigate the intricacies of California’s 3rd parent law.

Nesting: It’s Not Just for Birds

Nesting: It’s Not Just for Birds

What is nesting? “Nesting” is a non-traditional custody arrangement where the children stay in the family home and the parents trade off living in the house with the children, much like birds taking turns in the nest. Also called “bird’s nest custody,” a nesting arrangement flips the typical custody arrangement backwards: instead of the children traveling between two houses the parents live in, the children stay put and the parents switch off between the family house and another location.

Nesting arrangements can be used as a transition step to maintain the children’s familiar surroundings and routines through a stressful time or can be used as a more permanent custody arrangement. However, nesting is rarely ordered by a court, as it requires the parents involved to be in full agreement, active communication, and on good terms.

Does nesting sound like the right solution for you and your family? Read on to make sure.

You, Your Spouse, and…. (3rd Parties Joined to Divorce Actions)

You, Your Spouse, and…. (3rd Parties Joined to Divorce Actions)

Most people are aware that in Divorce or Domestic Partnership Dissolution, certain employee benefit plans can be joined to the action to ensure that retirement accounts are divided prior to the completion of the case. However, there are additional ‘joinder provisions’ in the Family Code that provide for ‘interested parties’ to be joined to a case in certain situations. While not commonly utilized, joinder provisions can be crucial to protecting rights and/or limiting a spouse’s exposure in divorce. Once joined, the third person effectively becomes a party to the case.

When might a party have a recognizable interest in a marital action?

Interest claimed in marital property: If third persons hold title to or otherwise claim an interest in real or personal property that is subject to disposition in the proceeding, the court may join such persons to the action. The court may also join a third party if they are necessary to the enforcement of an issue. Examples? (1) Say Husband has an affair during the marriage and lavishes his girlfriend with gifts paid for with Wife (or Husband’s) earnings during the marriage. Wife might seek to join girlfriend to the action. (2) Wife and her business partner own 30% of a corporation. That 30% is community property and the corporation may need to be joined to the action to ensure its interests are protected and/or Husband receives his equity share in the asset.

There are several other cases when a party might have recognizable interest in a marital action. Sign up for a free subscription to read on.

Will Spousal Support Increase When Child Support Terminates?

Will Spousal Support Increase When Child Support Terminates?

Child support ordinarily terminates when a child turns 18 years old unless the child remains a full time high student, in which case, support continues until the child graduates or turns 19 (whichever comes first). If you are the spouse paying alimony and child support you may be looking forward to some financial relief once child support is over. (although I think we all realize that kids who turn 18 are generally not self supporting and still require the financial assistance of one or both parents). So let’s just say, you may feel some financial relief over compelled payments to your former spouse. But just how certain is this relief? Well, it depends.

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Divorce Court 101

Divorce Court 101

Most people who end up in a family law courtroom have never been to court before. Perhaps they’ve served on a jury or appeared for a traffic infraction – but rarely has a divorce litigant actually been in front of a judge — fighting for what is most important to them: family, financial stability and emotional security. To prepare you to face the unknown and demystify the divorce process, we offer a rundown on the basics of what to expect. Sign up for a free membership to read on.

How Social Media Can Undermine your Divorce Action

How Social Media Can Undermine your Divorce Action

More than ever, litigants and lawyers are using social media to collect information that they can use as ‘evidence’ in a Family Law Case. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and various dating websites are all popular places to look when in the midst of a messy divorce.

Why are social media posts important to a Divorce or other Family Law action? Most of us with a smartphone spend a lot of time tapped into some form of social media. Popular posts include sharing a fun photo of a family outing, a ‘check in’ at an out of town event or vacation spot, a statement a rant about an unfaithful spouse or a request for advice on a specified topic. In divorce cases, all these posts can end up in a court of law — used as evidence against a party, thereby affecting spousal support, child support, child custody and/or property division.

Keeping reading, and let us help you make sure you’ve got your social media accounts under control before your divorce.

How Can I Enforce a Court Order?

How Can I Enforce a Court Order?

If your spouse isn’t complying with visitation schedules and child support rulings, you might just be pulling your hair out in desperate need of some stability, wondering where to go next.

First, try speaking to your ex directly. Make sure he/she understands that you do not wish to go back to court to address this bad behavior, but if it does not stop that you will do what is needed in the best interest of your children. If this fails to work, then you will need to seek court intervention.

Sign up for a free Hello Divorce membership to learn more about your legal options to enforce a court order.

What’s the Difference between “Legal” and “Physical” Custody?

What’s the Difference between “Legal” and “Physical” Custody?

Legal custody is the right to make the major decisions concerning a child’s health, welfare and education, like where a child goes to school, and whether a child should receive medical care (or even who the doctor should be). Angelina petitioned for joint legal custody, meaning that she wants both parents to share in these rights. This does not necessarily mean that the parents have to agree – the parents have the independent rights to make decisions for the children. However, to avoid further litigation, it is best for parents to communicate and work towards decisions together, especially on things like where the child will go to school. Joint legal custody is common in California. In fact, it is usually awarded unless the parents cannot make any decisions concerning their children together, a parent is deemed ‘unfit’ due to abuse, neglect, or other incapacitaties (such as substance use), or if it would be in the child’s best interests for a sole parent to retain legal custody. It is important to note that throughout any custody case, a court will always keep the child’s best interest as the paramount concern before making any determinations. If a parent has sole legal custody, the parent can make all decisions about the child’s health, welfare and education without seeking any input from the other parent.

Physical custody means where the child will live after the divorce – the parent with this kind of custody has the right to have the child physically present in the house. If the child lives primarily with one parent, then that parent will be the custodial parent. The parent without physical custody typically has visitation rights – which is what Angelina requested in her petition for Brad. If Angelina had requested joint physical custody, instead of sole, she would be wanting Brad to have a shared right to provide physical care for the children. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 schedule so much as a right for both parents to provide physical care. Parents can have joint physical custody and have a timeshare that is 20/80, 30/70 or 40/60. However, an example of a 50/50 timeshare would be week-to-week custody, where the children live in one parent’s home one week and switch to the other the next. Physical custody will be determined based on the best interest of the child (which is very case specific to each family), and courts will usually not reward joint physical custody if there is evidence of abuse or neglect on the part of the parent against the child.

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Can I Compel Payment of Child Support if Years Have Passed? FAQ

Can I Compel Payment of Child Support if Years Have Passed? FAQ

My ex stopped paying me the court-ordered child support years ago, but I never really went after him/her. Our son is now in college and I am having trouble helping him make ends meet. Can my ex still be ordered to pay what is owed even though our son is now an adult?

Can you compel payment of child support even if years have passed? The answer might surprise you. Read our FAQ and learn everything you need to know.

How Can I Get Parentage Rights if We’re Not Married?

How Can I Get Parentage Rights if We’re Not Married?

“My ex-girlfriend is pregnant with our child, but she refuses to speak to me right now, and I’m worried I won’t be able to see our child when he’s born. What can I do?”

In cases where the parents are unmarried, it is important to seek out the advice and potential representation of an lawyer, as these cases can be fairly adversarial, complex, and require at least one court appearance. These cases are called parentage or paternity cases, and require the court to make a determination of the child’s legal parents., This can be more difficult in a case where the parents are not married when the child is born. In those cases, the child does not have a legal father until the parentage is established by a court. Even if the father can prove that he is the biological parent to the child, he will not have any rights or duties to the child – including visitation or child support – unless his parentage is established legally, which will require court intervention.

Sign up for a free Hello Divorce membership to read on.

Who Gets Custody of the Children?

Who Gets Custody of the Children?

How do courts decide who gets physical and legal custody of the children? What if my child has already told me who she wants to live it?

“Best interest of the child”—the phrase that pays. As you may know at this point, reasonable minds may disagree. What mom, dad and the judge thinks is best for the child may all be different. This overarching principle is the controlling factor in each and every child custody case that comes before a judge. So, what then exactly does ‘best interest of a child’ mean? Basically, it can involve all aspects of the child’s life, from past issues of any abuse or neglect suffered by the child, to health, safety, education and general welfare. Courts will also look to see what the status quo is, and determine whether it should be modified (although this is usually less of a factor for divorcing parents who have yet to physically separate and need an initial custody determination).

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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…

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.

Calculating Timeshare Kids Spend with Each Parent

Calculating Timeshare Kids Spend with Each Parent

You’ve determined the schedule your kids will spend with each parent. Now, you want to calculate child support but can’t do so without determining the percentage timeshare your children spend with you and your ex.

When calculating child support, the amount is largely dependent on how much time your kids spend with each parent. In other words, support payments decrease as timeshare increases. Before filing a Request for Order for Child Support Orders and/or negotiating with your spouse (or domestic partner), you must determine the percentage of time the kids spend with noncustodial parent (or the parent who has less time with the children).

Take advantage of our timeshare chart which gives you quick percentages of popular time share arrangements.

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…

Best Practices for Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in a Split Household

Best Practices for Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in a Split Household

Even ‘happily’ married couples have difficulty effectively supporting their children. In some cases, especially when the parents have a child or children with a disability, the parents need to be even more united and consistent with their parenting to ensure that their kids can enjoy their childhood and get the best possible chance at life.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important tips for separating/separated parents who have a disabled child.

Changing a Child’s Last Name

Changing a Child’s Last Name

What’s in a name? Well, for some people, a lot. At divorce, one parent may want to change their child’s last name. Usually this involves creating a hyphenated last name, so that the child’s surname contains both parents’ surnames.

If the parties agree to the change, this is easy. If the parties do not agree, the parent who wishes to change the name must file a motion and the court will decide.

In making that determination, the court will be guided by the best interests of the child. This means that the focus is on the child and the ways that a name change would either benefit the child, or not.

Read more about what’s involved in changing your child’s last name at/after divorce.

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!

10+ (non legal) Essential Apps to Rely on While Uncoupling

10+ (non legal) Essential Apps to Rely on While Uncoupling

Getting unmarried can sometimes be as expensive, insanely time consuming and detail driven as planning your wedding. When we tie the knot in the first place, we use wedding planners, online worksheets, and various other ‘systems’ to keep us organized and on budget. So, why wouldn’t we do the same for divorce?

Keep reading to discover our top recommendations for apps that may make your divorce or domestic partnership dissolution a lot less stressful.

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.

About Child Custody Evaluations

About Child Custody Evaluations

As Explained by an Experienced Evaluator:
When parents cannot come to agreements about their children and/or a parenting schedule, one or both may file a “Request for Order” in family court. Unless they have agreed to use a private recommending counselor, their first stop is with a court mediator or recommending counselor. Meetings with the mediator last for approximately 45–60 minutes. Parents express their positions and concerns and negotiate on an agreement on issues concerning their children. The intention is for the parents to agree on timeshare, schools, holiday schedule and other topics that involve the children.

Child custody evaluations can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you feel more comfortable.

Family Court & Child Custody 101

Family Court & Child Custody 101

Family court is not as depicted in movies or on TV. Family court is not like civil, or traffic or criminal court where there is an issue, both sides argue the matter and present evidence to support their position in court, the judge decides and it’s done. Family court is a completely different animal.

The minute parents are in the family court, decisions about their children are no longer in their hands. Parents do not realize this, however, until quite some time has passed. When in family court, parents are often court ordered to meet with endless “professionals” who will make recommendations and decisions for where the children will be, with whom and when.

No one understands [what] being caught up in family court means until they find themselves in the court system themselves. Experienced co-parenting therapist Alison Urdan offers her professional insight into the ordeal, accessible with a free Hello Divorce membership.

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.

My spouse can earn more but refuses to. How is this handled for purposes of Child Support?

My spouse can earn more but refuses to. How is this handled for purposes of Child Support?

When we calculate child support, we generally use the actual incomes of both spouses. But what happens when your spouse is under earning? That is, s/he is working less than full time and/or is not earning as much as s/he is capable of? You may have some leverage in negotiations and/or a court hearing to seek a modification to the child support number based on your spouse’s refusal to seek employment commensurate with his or her experience and education level.

If you are able to successfully prove that your spouse is underemployed, “imputing” higher wages to her/him can change the child support calculation dramatically. If your spouse is the “payor”, child support will increase. If s/he is the recipient of support, support will decrease.

But it’s not that simple. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of child support payment in light of an under earning spouse.

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

Family Court Custody Mediation vs. Private Mediation: Which Should I Choose?

Family Court Custody Mediation vs. Private Mediation: Which Should I Choose?

The goal of mediation is to help you and your spouse come to agreements regarding your children. Assuming you and your spouse are in agreement, you can choose to opt out of working with a family court mediator and instead retain a private mediator. Your other route is to file a Request For Order (RFO) for child visitation with Family Court and attend mediation or child custody recommending counseling (CCRC).

Sign up for a free Hello divorce membership to learn more about which type of mediation is better suited for your divorce with advice from experienced co-parenting therapist Alison Urdan.

Special Considerations for Your Same Sex Divorce

Special Considerations for Your Same Sex Divorce

We have all heard the good news. California no longer recognizes a distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. Any couple can now obtain a marriage license and wed, regardless of that couple’s sexual orientation. In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality across the United States.

Even with these wins, our work is not done. There are issues that affect your marriage and divorce that are generally not applicable to heterosexual marriages. As if divorce weren’t complicated enough, the end of your same sex marriage can bring even more considerations to the table. Sign up for a free subscription to learn more about your considerations during same sex divorce.

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