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.

Help, my spouse is missing!

Help, my spouse is missing!

You may be wondering how to file for a divorce or other family law action when you don’t know where the respondent is. Sometimes the court allows litigants to serve documents other than by personal service (e.g. service by posting or publication).

However, before the court will allow this, you will have to prove that you have tried your hardest to find him/her. Also, sometimes it will be helpful to the action to actually find your ex-partner so that you can enforce court orders such as child or spousal support.

Tips for Finding a Missing Spouse/Partner in Order to Serve Him/Her:
• Search social networking sites: I can’t tell you how many times we have done a Facebook search and found a former partner. Sometimes locations are listed or you can email/ message a missing person. Sometimes there are photo’s of places s/he frequents that you (or a registered process server) can track down.
• Send a letter to your spouse’s last address: Ensure to write “return service requested, do not forward. If they filed a change of address form with the USPS, you will get the letter back with a new address.

Sign up for a free Hello divorce membership to read more tips on finding your missing partner in order to serve them.

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…

Why mediate your legal matter?

Why mediate your legal matter?

Benefits of Mediation Privacy If you reach an agreement in mediation, you do not have to appear in front of a judge or walk into a public courtroom. Cost Even if you confer with an independent lawyer during the process, the cost of Mediation is less than courtroom litigation. Control Decisions are made by the parties – not mandated by a Judge, evaluator or arbitrator. The parties determine the process, schedule and dates of appointments. Reduce Animosity Who wants more conflict? Especially when emotions are high. A working relationship can feel empowering and reduce anger. Granted, you generally will not get your best case scenario in Mediation, but at least you can work cooperatively towards a result you can live…

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.

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.

A Quickie Divorce?

A Quickie Divorce?

We have all heard the horror stories: “my divorce lasted longer than my marriage” or “it dragged out for years.” Thankfully, if you have minimal assets and are searching for ways to streamline your divorce process you have a few options. One way to expedite the process is to proceed by summary dissolution. Summary dissolution has the same effect as a divorce, but has several benefits that a “regular” divorce does not. Notably, it’s a quick(er) and eas(ier)y process. Oftentimes, you do not even need to appear before a Judge.

If you meet the following 9 criteria, you and your soon to be ex-spouse, should consider filing for summary dissolution.

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Mediation works when it is done right. It can be a fabulous way of reducing animosity, finalizing a divorce quickly and efficiently, keeping your personal life and private details more confidential, saving money and resolving conflict. Mediation is not right everyone – it only works when there is no power imbalance, both parties agree to be transparent with finances, each spouse has a serious desire for settlement and neither party has denied access to the children. Benefits of mediation include greater post-divorce stability and shielding your kids from conflict. So what can you do to increase your chances of successfully mediating a family law dispute? We’ve included some tips below to keep in mind when you embark on this process.

1. Commit to being a good listener: Ugh, really? Yes. When spouses in mediation have good listening skills (and refrain from interrupting and attacking), settlement discussions stay on track. Bonus points for empathizing with your ex as you may find that s/he becomes more cooperative when feeling like they’ve been ‘heard.’

2. Choose your consulting lawyer wisely: A lawyer who is not skilled at mediation or who is not supportive of the mediation process can kill your chances of settlement. Most divorce lawyers try to take over and control the entire case. This just sends you into litigation mode. But why do I need a consulting lawyer? A consulting lawyer can give you answers that are specifically tailored to your case. An experienced consulting lawyer can act as a law coach on an as-needed basis. Between sessions, she can clarify your questions and prepare your for negotiations by evaluating your best/worst case scenarios, help you identify legal claims you may not have known you are entitled to (e.g reimbursements for joint expenses you paid after separation or for a portion of the fair rental/use value for the property your spouse has had exclusive use of since separation) and coach you in negotiating techniques. Former clients have asked us to predict the range of possible legal outcomes if they were to go to court, the cost of litigation, and review agreements (make sure that what the mediator prepared says what you want it to say!) Another great perk of having a consulting lawyer is that s/he can be ready to jump in should negotiations fail.

Mediation might be the answer to many of your concerns going into a divorce, but you need to be prepared. Sign up for a free subscription to read more tips for a successful mediation.

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.

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.

What is Financial Discovery?

What is Financial Discovery?

Not all Family Law cases require financial discovery. However, there are many cases in which a spouse must take the extra step of investigating all financial issues of a marriage or registered domestic partnership to obtain sufficient information to negotiate or litigate. In these matters, there are several methods by which you can seek much needed information and documentation to get an accurate financial picture.

When should you consider propounding discovery?
While you should be very cautious about when/if discovery is necessary in your case (it can get very expensive and increase the level of animosity between litigants), if some or all of the below questions apply to your case, you will want to consider strategizing a plan for discovery.

What if you do not have enough money to conduct discovery?
If a party doesn’t have enough funds to undertake discovery, they may want to consider seeking an order from the court for payment of lawyer fees and costs from joint funds or from the separate property of the other spouse. The Family Code authorizes awards of fees and costs necessary to permit a party to litigate properly in certain circumstances. Additionally, if you propound discovery and your spouse does not thoroughly respond, you may have a cause of action against them for sanctions (mandatory fees and costs).

Wondering where to start and what to keep in mind? Sign up for a free subscription to read more about financial discovery.

Rules of Engagement in Divorce: Play Fair or Pay Up

Rules of Engagement in Divorce: Play Fair or Pay Up

Between the time the divorce petition is filed and the final entry of judgment, parties are under the purview of the Family Court System. This allows parties to request their family law judge make certain orders. It also means that the parties are bound by certain rules of engagement.

These rules of engagement are largely designed to protect each party’s ability to fairly litigate or negotiate the custody, support, and property division issues within their case.

The first set of rules apply automatically from the very beginning of the case. In other words, these rules apply to the Petitioner as soon as he or she files for divorce and apply to the Respondent as soon as he or she is served with the divorce petition.

Read on to make sure you’re playing by the rules, or it could cost you more than you’re willing to lose.

Finalizing the Divorce that Won’t Quit

Finalizing the Divorce that Won’t Quit

Even uncontested divorces can be tricky to finalize when you are not an experienced divorce lawyer. In California, if you and your spouse have agreed on all issues (child custody, child support, spousal support, property & debt division and lawyer fees), you can proceed by a process called ‘default’ which allows you to finalize your divorce without the other party filing all of the mandatory forms and without (usually) having to appear in court.

At the end of the process, assuming you have a full agreement, you and your spouse may work together to write a legal agreement up and incorporate it into a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. [Unfortunately,] judgments for Dissolution of Marriage can be tricky to get approved by the court in your County. Sign up for a free membership to hear our advice on finalizing the divorce that won’t quit.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Do I Need an Attorney?

I am getting divorced, and I think it’s pretty simple. My spouse and I get along pretty well, all things considered. Lawyers can be so expensive – so do I really need one?

The answer to this question, as with most questions in the law is – it depends. If you and your spouse are comfortable completing the judicial forms, have a fairly small estate and agree on how to divide it, you may not need one. If you have not been married very long and acquired only personal property, or perhaps even entered into a prenuptial agreement that remains uncontested, a lawyer might not be necessary. But even if you and your spouse can agree on how to divide your property, you may still need [a] lawyer for drafting purposes.

Certain types of assets, child custody, and the conditions of your divorce can all be complicating factors. Sign up for a Hello divorce membership to read more about whether or not your divorce circumstances warrant hiring an attorney.

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.

FAQ: How Do I “Serve” My Spouse with a Divorce?

FAQ: How Do I “Serve” My Spouse with a Divorce?

“I keep hearing that I have to ‘serve’ my spouse for a divorce. What does this mean, and how can I do it?“

The law affords everyone ‘due process.’ Or in plain English, before you can sue someone, you have to first tell them what you want and why. Yes – a divorce is a lawsuit! Your spouse therefore must receive notice (via “service”) that you have filed suit, as well as notice of what exactly you are suing them for. In other words, you have to tell your spouse the legal reason for your requested divorce. If you do not get your spouse properly served, your case can be delayed.

We’ve compiled an explained list of your means to serve your spouse accessible with a free subscription to Hello Divorce.

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.

What Are My Options if I Want to End My Marriage?

What Are My Options if I Want to End My Marriage?

There are three ways to end a marriage in California – you can get divorced, legally separated, or have an annulment. Only one party needs to want to end the marriage, and no agreement is necessary. California, like every other state in U.S., is a ‘no-fault’ state, which means that the party requesting the divorce does not have to prove any fault by the other in order to grant a divorce. In the old days, the spouse would usually have to show he or she was harmed by the other spouse committing adultery, abuse, fraud or abandonment. Thankfully, these days a party can simply cite ‘irreconcilable differences.’

Divorces in California are granted either on the grounds of ‘no fault’ or incurable insanity (which is extremely rare). Therefore, you do not need to worry about providing evidence of bad behavior in order to get a divorce granted. However, the behavior of the other party can have an effect on other matters, such as custody, or alimony, particularly if there is evidence of abuse on the part of the other spouse. If you have questions about the facts and circumstances of your divorce and how it might affect the outcome of your case, it is prudent to seek out the advice of a competent, licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction.

Sign up for a free subscription to read more about the finality of your options, as well as the differences between divorce, annulment, and separation.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

How long does it take to get a divorce? The answer – as usual – is ‘it depends.’

First, before you can even file the paperwork, you must ensure that at least one of you is a California resident for the last 6 months, and a resident of the county where you file for the last three months. If you want to divorce quickly, do not move before you do it. California is one of the few states with a fairly long waiting period. The court expects you and your spouse to use this time to arrive at any property and custody agreements, or at least to make sure you do not have a change of heart.
Ready to move forward with that divorce, or are you having a change of heart? Read more to learn about just how long it could take.

What Is a QDRO?

What Is a QDRO?

A QDRO (pronounced ‘Quad-ro’ for those in the know) stands for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This is basically an order from the court that recognizes a non-account holder’s (or an alternate payee’s) right to receive some portion (or even all) of the benefits payable to the retirement plan participant. QDROs are used if you and your divorcing spouse decide to split up certain kinds of retirement plans.

QDROs are specific to each plan, and are often highly complex. They are required to actually award the other spouse the retirement plan (or a portion), even if the parties have included the division in a decree, signed it and had it approved of by a judge. That’s because retirement accounts are very often controlled by federal ERISA law. In fact, retirement plans are not required to follow other orders concerning alternate payees UNLESS it is a QDRO. State courts are permitted to issue these kinds of orders, but they are usually drafted by experienced lawyers or even other companies which specialize in drafting QDROs, usually after preliminary approval by the plan administrator itself.

Sign up for a free subscription to read on about what a QDRO must contain under ERISA, as well as the drafting process.

How Do I File for Divorce if I’m Representing Myself?

How Do I File for Divorce if I’m Representing Myself?

In pro per, pro se party, in propria person, they all describe you – the self-represented litigant. First, you will need to figure out where you can file. If you are filing for a divorce, at least one of the parties has to have been a California resident for at least six months, and lived in the county where the case will be filed for the last three months. If your spouse is a California resident, but you are a New Yorker, you can still file in a California county provided your spouse has been there for the requisite time periods. If your family case involves children that do not live with you primarily, then the court will usually look to see where the child has lived continuously for the six months prior to filing – that will likely determine where the case should be filed (or in legal talk, the county with proper jurisdiction).

Sign up for a free Hello Divorce membership to learn about your next steps in the divorce process when representing yourself.

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…

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.

Five Reasons Your Divorce Judgment May Have Been Rejected (& What to Do about It)

Five Reasons Your Divorce Judgment May Have Been Rejected (& What to Do about It)

You have spent hours poring over all of the forms necessary to finalize your divorce. You researched online, browsed a DIY book, and maybe even had a meeting or two with a lawyer. You were finally able to get your spouse to sign and have his/her signature notarized (which was a huge feat in and of itself). You gathered your self-addressed stamped envelopes, made copies of your Judgment and took time out of your (busy) day to drive across town to the courthouse, stand in the clerk’s line and submit your paperwork. Then….. a few days, weeks or months later, you receive an envelope from the court! Inside is not you Judgment — it’s a letter from the court “rejecting your judgment.” Ughhhh! Sound familiar? You’re not alone if it does, because we see hundreds of people each year who need help getting their divorce completed.

We’ve compiled some of the top reasons why Judgments are rejected, and have advice on what to do about it! Sign up for a free membership to read on.

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.

Five Points to Consider if You or Your Spouse Has a Business

Five Points to Consider if You or Your Spouse Has a Business

1. A Business Is an Asset

Though the spouse who owns the business may feel proprietary over it, a business is an asset. And because it is an asset there must be a determination of whether it is separate or community property, or a combination of the two, and a valuation of the business. However, these determinations are not easy to make.

2. What Type of Business Is This

A community business is one that is started during the marriage.
A separate property business is generally one that is started before the marriage or a business started during the marriage with separate property funds. This may have a community interest, but is separate property.
If a spouse establishes or acquires a business with separate funds, there will need to be a tracing in order to apportion the separate property and community property interests. If the party making a separate property claim cannot perform an adequate tracing, the business investment will be presumed to be entirely community property. Note that any increase in the value of a business or profession attributable to community skills, efforts, or industry is community property.

Sign up for a free Hello Divorce membership to read more points to consider if you or your spouse have a business.

What is the Legal Status of Your Case?

What is the Legal Status of Your Case?

Wondering whether your JUDGMENT has been processed by the court? Concerned that your spouse has filed a request for child support without notifying you? In most counties you can check the status of your case by clicking on one of the links below and entering in your case number and/or name. If you have already filed for divorce, your case number (often referred to as your case ID is the number assigned by the court clerk to identify your case. It’s usually in the top right corner of a filed a document.

Sign up for a free subscription for a list of all counties in California with accompanied court links.

Spousal Support A-Z

Spousal Support A-Z

One of the key issues that arises in a divorce proceeding is spousal support, aka alimony. Spousal support comes in two varieties, temporary spousal support and long-term spousal support. Spousal support is something that has to be requested by one of the parties. If neither party requests it, jurisdiction will be reserved on the issue unless the parties agree to terminate it in the judgment paperwork. By reserved, we mean that court will continue to have the ‘ability’ to award it if one of the parties requests it at a later time (usually by filing a “Request for Order.”)

There are a lot of hypotheticals here as we talk about spousal support. In some instances it can be very formulaic, but it can also is incredibly case specific. This is one of the areas where it is always a better idea to consult a lawyer to know your rights. Ideally, you and your spouse can reach an agreement regarding the amount of support one of you will pay to the other, how long it will last, and what circumstances would allow it to be modified. But often this is not the case because we live in California and the cost of living is high.

There are two types of spousal support, temporary support and long-term support. They are different and have very different criteria.

The major pain points of spousal support revolve around (1) The determination of the amount of spousal support owed from one spouse to the other by the Court or the parties by agreement, (2) the duration of the support and how that is decided, and (3) the modification of both kinds of support and what the parties will have to show. Sign up for a free subscription to read an in-depth discussion about the key considerations regarding spousal support.

The Buck Stops Here: Options for Long-Term Spousal Support

The Buck Stops Here: Options for Long-Term Spousal Support

In a nutshell, long-term spousal support (also referred to as ‘post judgment’ support or ‘permanent’ support) usually lasts for up to half the length of the marriage (assuming your marriage is less than 10 years). If you were married for 10 years or more, support may (but not always) continue past the five-year mark and even extend for many years past that point (depending on the facts of your case). In the area of spousal support, the judicial officer on your case has a lot of discretion because it is such a case-by-case analysis. As such, you have a lot of room for negotiation.

Once it has been determined that long-term spousal support is available, there are several things to consider: Should you reserve over the issue and handle it down the road? Should you terminate it, such that one or both parties do not have the option to request it from the other? Should you make it modifiable or non-modifiable? Should you offer a buyout? Because spousal support can have such a long-lasting impact based on which of these options you chose, it is always a good idea to consult with an lawyer (and possibly a CPA) who can help you decide how to proceed (i.e. walk you through the long-term spousal support factors, analyze the specific facts of your case, and discuss possible tax implications).

Sign up for a free subscription to read an in-depth discussion about your options for resolving long term spousal support.

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.

Instructions for Restoring your Maiden Name

Instructions for Restoring your Maiden Name

Many people change their names when they get married, but when they get divorced, some individuals wish to have their former name restored. If you would like to keep your name the same, then there is nothing you need to do during the divorce process. If, however, you would like to have your former name restored, doing so is a simple process. This article will address the steps you need to take to restore your former name before or after your divorce has been finalized. If Your Divorce Has Not Yet Been Finalized If your divorce has not yet been finalized and you want to restore your former, pre-marriage name, then you need to indicate your desire to restore your…

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.

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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.

Divide, Buyout or Cash-out Retirement Accounts?

Divide, Buyout or Cash-out Retirement Accounts?

There are several types of retirement benefits that you or your spouse may have. The IRS provides descriptions of the different plans here. The most common plans we see are defined benefit plans (similar to pensions), profit sharing plans, 401k’s, IRA’s and other deferred compensations benefits.

Your first inquiry is determining whether all or any of the retirement asset is community property. The asset is all or partially community property to the extent employee or employer contributions were made during the marriage and before separation. The amount of the contributions during marriage plus any gains or losses since date of separation is the community portion. Community property is ordinarily divided 50/50.

Confused? Keep reading, and we’ll help you understand what portion of your retirement accounts are on table during a divorce settlement.

Property and Debt Division Cheat Sheet

Property and Debt Division Cheat Sheet

When and Why When: When you and your spouse are ready to dive into the ‘nitty-gritty’ and divide you assets and debts. You can use this spreadsheet for everything from weighing your options, negotiating with your spouse (and/or his or her lawyer), to attaching it to your final agreement. Why: You can’t split every asset or debt (nor would you want to) equally. This spreadsheet allows you to enter in all of your property and/or debt (separate and joint!) and assign it to the spouse who wants it. Once you’ve accounted for everything you both own, you will know who is receiving more $$ and then determine if either party owes the other a sum to equalize the division. How to Use…

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.

Emails & Divorce: Five Things You Need to Know

Emails & Divorce: Five Things You Need to Know

For many of us, email is a primary method of communication for everything from connecting with family members and friends to running our businesses and talking to our children’s teachers. Email can be super helpful to show evidence of certain types of behavior, but it can also be damaging in your divorce action if you are not careful. We’ve compiled a few tips to keep you on the right track – a path toward a divorce that minimizes exposure and maximizes the probability of a successful outcome. Sign up to read on.

Should I File a Response?

Should I File a Response?

If you have been served with the Summons (FL-110) and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (FL-100), you are the Respondent. Once you’ve been served, you have to file a Response (FL-120) within 30 days unless (a) you do not object to the requests articulated in your spouse’s Petition; (b) your spouse has granted you an extension (in writing) to hold off on filing a response while the two of you mediate or negotiate the issues involved in your divorce (assets, debts, kids, financial support, attorney fees); or (c) you are filing another document to try and dismiss or move the divorce to another county or state.*

If you are considering not filing a response, proceed with caution and only after obtaining the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer.

In the event that you and your spouse are working towards a mediated agreement, it may benefit you not to file a response. Sign up for a free Hello Divorce subscription to learn more about your options after being served.

Which Type of Mediation Will Work Best for You? The Three Types – Explained

Which Type of Mediation Will Work Best for You? The Three Types – Explained

Wondering what type of Mediator is right for you? Michael Lubofsky shares an informative resource explaining the three general types of mediation services. If one or more of these techniques peeks your interest, make sure to ask your prospective mediator what style of mediation they use when helping parties come to resolution on all issues involved in divorce.

Sign up for an in-depth discussion of facilitative, evaluative, and transformative mediation.

What County and Courthouse Do I File for Divorce in?

What County and Courthouse Do I File for Divorce in?

So you’ve made the decision to file for divorce. You need to know what county to file your paperwork in and what address should be used on your court forms (or risk the possibility of them being rejected (returned to you unfiled)). To file for divorce in the county you live in, you must have resided there for at least three months prior. If you have not been there that long, you may want to either File for divorce in your spouse’s county (assuming s/he has lived there for at least three months; or File for ‘legal separation’ in the county you currently reside in and later amend your Petition to state that you actually want a divorce. This resource…

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.

Oh No! I Missed the Deadline to Respond to My Spouse’s Petition for Divorce. What Do I Do Now?

Oh No! I Missed the Deadline to Respond to My Spouse’s Petition for Divorce. What Do I Do Now?

If you missed the deadline to file your Response to the Petition (30 days after the date of personal service), you will first need to confirm whether or not your spouse has filed a Request to Enter Default. A Default effectively takes away your leverage and your voice. Your spouse is free to proceed without you. Since most of us have at least some assets, money, personal property, gifts, vehicles, debts etc. and some exposure to pay financial support, or right to receive it, it is usually recommended that you file a Response so that you can protect your interests.

Is that too many Requests, Defaults and Responses to quickly? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading, and we’ll help you decode the deadline dos and don’ts so you’re comfortable with everything.

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.

Your Spouse Did Not Respond to Your Petition for Divorce. What Happens Next?

Your Spouse Did Not Respond to Your Petition for Divorce. What Happens Next?

After you have served the Petition, your spouse has 30 calendar days to “respond”. By respond, we mean filing a “Response” (FL-12).If the thirtieth day falls on a weekend or a holiday, your spouse has until the next business day to file.

If after the statutory time has lapsed and no Response has been filed, you can prepare a Request to Enter Default ([b]Judicial Counsel Form FL-165[/b]). Defaults, and the required accompanying documents, do take a bit of time to prepare and if your spouse comes back a few days later and wants the default set aside, most Judges will usually grant that request, regardless of the reasoning for failing to file their Response. To potentially avoid having to prepare additional documents, and delay your action, unnecessarily, you may want to alert your spouse that you will file a default by a set date if they do not file their Response.

Caution
If you take your spouse’s default, they will not be required to prepare their disclosures so if you need their financial information to obtain orders for support or division of debts, the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get it is by them completing and serving their required disclosures.

Wondering whether or not to take the default? Sign up for a free subscription to read on.

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.

Pre-Leaving Checklist

Pre-Leaving Checklist

If you have one foot out the door, you may be tempted to run and as fast as you can. But before you do, it’s important to do a few things to be as prepared as possible and have access to originals or copies of the necessary documents you’ll need for your dissolution.

I’ve broken it down into two categories—To-Do’s and Documents—and you owe it to yourself to slow down and walk through the checklist.

Mandatory Financial Disclosures: In a Nutshell

Mandatory Financial Disclosures: In a Nutshell

In California, each party to a divorce is required to complete a set of mandatory documents entitled “Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures” prior to any Judge or Commissioner granting their divorce. These documents include an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150), Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142), Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140), and a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure and Income and Expense Declaration (FL-141).

Our 12-year veteran divorce paralegal, Shelley VanRenselaar, gives a brief ‘how to’ on completing, filing and serving these documents so that you can move on toward finalizing your divorce.

FAQ: What is a divorce by default?

FAQ: What is a divorce by default?

As if “divorce by default” isn’t a foreign enough term on its own, we get the wonderful opportunity to inform you that there are actually two types. Both types refer to a divorce where one party files a petition and the other does not file a response. Sign up for a free Hello divorce membership to learn the difference between a “true default” and “uncontested” divorce.

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.

How to Get a New Judge to Hear Your Case

How to Get a New Judge to Hear Your Case

Help! My judge clearly has different religious or ethical views than I do. How can I get a new judge to ensure my hearing is unbiased? This can be a tricky one. There are some ways to work around this, but you’ve got to act with prudence, because you only get two (realistic) chances to get this right.

Do your homework before the petition is filed. In California, you must file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse have lived for the preceding three months. If you’ve moved out of the marital home and now find yourself living in a conservative county, whereas your spouse lives in a progressive county, that can help you decide where to file. Filing where the politics are more in your favor could help you get a judge more sensitive to your case.

And that’s just the beginning. Keep reading to find out how to get a new judge if you think your current one isn’t going to be unbiased.

6 Steps to Take Before You Begin Divorce Mediation

6 Steps to Take Before You Begin Divorce Mediation

Thinking about divorce mediation? Excellent idea if you and your spouse have the shared goal of uncoupling amicably or dissolving your marriage in a fair and cooperative way but have too many issues to resolve on your own.

Working with a good mediator has its perks — most notably you can cut down on attorney fees and costs, go at your own pace, keep the intimate details of your life a lot more private, and work toward an agreement that meets both of your needs (instead of relying on the court model, which is more of a zero-sum game).

Follow these six steps to feel comfortable beginning your divorce mediation.

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