Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders: What You Need to Know

automatic temporary restraining ordersMost people don’t realize that when they file the paperwork for a divorce, in California, automatic temporary restraining orders (TROs) are triggered.

One of the initial forms that you must file is the Summons, otherwise known as FL-110. The second page of the Summons lays out all the TROs. They are important to note because if you choose not to comply, you could find yourself in hot water. When your spouse is served, these orders become active order preventing certain actions for both you and your spouse.

So tell me…What are these Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders?

Glad you asked. There are four of them, they include:

  1. You can’t remove any minor child from the state. Also, you cannot apply for a new passport for your child. If you want to do either of these, you need prior WRITTEN consent from your spouse or an order from the court. I just got a passport for my little guy and both parents have to be there, so…there is that.
  2. You can’t mess around with any insurance or take your spouse or child off the insurance. You can’t transfer it or change names or people insured. You can’t change beneficiaries…etc. This applies to all insurance, life, health, automobile, disability, all of it.
  3. You also cannot start to hide money and property. In fact, you can’t transfer or hide or encumber or dispose of any property, even if it is your own separate property without WRITTEN consent of your spouse or a court order. There are a couple of exceptions to this one, though. You can do any one of these things if it is either a) done in the normal course of business, or b) it is for the necessities of life.
  4. Finally, you cannot modify or create a non-probate transfer. What is that, you ask? If you don’t know, you probably don’t have one. It is basically a way to dispose of your property when you die where your property goes outside of probate and goes directly to a beneficiary.

The great thing about our mediation process is that your entire dissolution is, generally completed in 2-3 sessions. You can reach written agreements immediately about pressing issues and move on to get your entire dissolution settled. Deciding on mediation is such a good feeling. Can you imagine living under these automatic temporary restraining orders for years? Neither can I. If you are thinking about a divorce at this time. Think mediation. The hassle it saves begins at the filing.

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Divorce Spikes Twice A Year, Study Says

hand-83079_1280A new study just out confirms what those of us in the industry already knew about…..divorce spikes at certain times of the year, you can bank on it! The University of Washington asked the question, Is Divorce Seasonal?…the answer is yes, yes it is.

If divorce spikes twice a year, when?

The study was a longitudinal study where researchers looked at divorce filings between 2000 and 2015. When they compiled their data they found that divorce spikes in March and August.

The idea is that during the Christmas holiday and Summer break, folks feel like they want to stick it out and make it work. The divorce cycle is based upon, what they termed a “domestic ritual” calendar. Both Christmas and summer are hopeful times where there is anticipation and exciting family gatherings and events to look forward to. Couples often believe that their relationship may be mended by these family times. There is an idea that this may bring on a new beginning. There is hope and optimism about the future. Hence, the rate of filing for a divorce during the Christmas season or at the start of summer is lower.

The divorce spikes don’t seem to match up to that timeline? What is up with that?

The researchers suggest that the spike in August is in response to summer disappointment and an attempt to file before the new school year begins. So, it would seem to follow that filings would be high around January, or February. How can they explain March? This is how…Despite, a supposed disappointing holiday season, there is no impetus to file quickly as there is in August. Also, after the holidays, it may take folks a while to get their finances in order. Makes sense, some Christmas’s were so good financially (that is, we adults went crazy gift giving), only to have a January that was lean and mean.

My suggestion is that if you find yourself this month, or next March feeling like divorce is an option, don’t just go file, consider mediation. Divorce is real and you are not alone, obviously. Thinking through your options before reacting to gut instinct immediately will often save you in the long run.

 

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“Divorce” TV Show Highlights Mediation

I have a terrible habit I have to admit to you. I love television. I grew up in the 1980s. What can I say? That is why I get excited when I see a new show on television and especially excited when it is  in our industry. A “Divorce” TV show has me intrigued. You?

So, even if a “Divorce” TV show sounds….well depressing? This one doesn’t seem to be. I didn’t even have to read two paragraphs into the storyline and I was hooked.

Top reasons to check out the new HBO “Divorce” TV show

  1. It stars Sarah Jessica Parker: She is a sell, period….from Hocus Pocus to Footloose to Sex in the City, she is incredible. The fact that the show starred such a cool gal gave me pause for the next point.
  2. It isn’t all miserable: Yes, that needs to be said, especially with a show about divorce. The plot follows Frances and Robert, a middle aged couple with two children as they figure their way through this murky water, called divorce. A “Divorce” TV show may be drama material. Turns out, it is also a comedy.
  3. It gives a real look at a family in breakdown. SJP said she took inspiration from War of the Roses. Remember that really unbelievably nasty movie with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner? Me too, great acting…. but, some things you can never unsee.
  4. This is by far the best reason to check out HBO’s new “Divorce” TV show….They mediate. What a coup in a world full of divisiveness and discord. And…even amidst the discord ripe in this show, the characters are supposedly going to go through the entire mediation process for us to witness.

You all will need to check out the show and then check back with the blog. We will have to check back in to see how close this new show mirrors reality. I can’t wait!

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What is A Parenting Coordinator? Is it right for us?

parenting coordinatorA Parenting Coordinator, like the concept of nesting discussed in a previous blog, is a tool used more often in the mediation room than the courtroom. Yet, it is one that can make all the difference if there is contention surrounding the parenting of your children.

When you divorce with children. There is always the possibility of conflict. In fact, the more moving pieces in any divorce, statistically, the more likelihood that something will be contentious. You love your child more than anything. Because you do, you have strong emotional responses to all sorts of scenarios that come up, from schooling to  sports, to clothing choices….let alone custody and support problems. A parenting coordinator is designed to keep you two out of court because they act as a neutral third party who knows the facts of your case and can guide you both in the most reasonable course of action.

How can a Parenting Coordinator Help Us

Mediation is the first positive step that will create the least conflict. Let’s face it, the least conflict there is between you and your spouse, the better it is for your child. In the mediation setting, you will formulate a parenting plan. The goal of the parenting coordinator is implement this plan in a way that assists you two in forming healthy meaningful relationships with your child.

How do you know if you need a parenting coordinator? It is often hard to tell. Obviously, there are times when the contention is ubiquitous. There is no doubt that a couple could benefit from utilizing this tool. If you and your spouse are on the fence, I would examine your general conflict level. I would examine whether or not there has already been conflict about the children. However, do not discount your gut instinct.

Finally, if all else fails and you go to mediation and don’t think a parenting coordinator is necessary and then all of a sudden you are blindsided by shenanigans you couldn’t imagine…..it is not too late. You can always agree to bring in a parenting coordinator. They reduce conflict and litigation whether employed up front or after the fact.

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Top Tips to Prepare For A Divorce – A Beginner’s Guide

tax-468440_1280Nobody goes into a marriage thinking they will get a divorce. And then,….there you are, faced with the worst. If you have never been here before, and even if you have, it may be a confusing place to be. In addition to all the emotional tumult, there are technical issues to consider…fiduciary duties….general restraining orders…etc. etc. Even without children it can be an overwhelming and daunting process. The bottom line is that if you are considering a divorce, you must prepare for a divorce. Otherwise, it will feel like a wave overtaking you and sweeping you away.

Top Tips to Prepare For A Divorce

  1. Collect your documents: This has to be #1. Why? Because it is tedious and awful and burdensome even in the easiest of circumstances. Further, in the state of California, it has to be done. No matter how you proceed in the divorce, you will need to exchange financial documents. If you are the spouse that doesn’t take care of the money, start making photocopies and uploading important documents onto thumb drives.
  2. Get informed: Do your research. A good place to start is the California Courts website. Know about costs and options going in. If you want to prepare for a divorce you must realize that knowledge is power and the more informed you get, the more you take the power out of the mysterious unknown.
  3. Start a dialogue: Once you discuss divorce with your spouse, you can discuss methods of divorce. If you can begin a dialogue, you can consider saner options than litigation…like mediation. Prepare for the conversation.
  4. Consider the children: This goes with the above. If you guys can come to the table, you have a shot at crafting a solid future for your children. If you have any doubts about the negative impact to your children, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist so your children will have a safe place to process the changes.
  5. Take care of yourself: Even if this was your idea, divorce is never fun. Take time out of this hectic process to breathe and do something nice for yourself. You need it.

With these tips in your pocket, you won’t need to worry about the tidal wave of divorce. You can pick up your surfboard and ride the wave to the shore your your new life.

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How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in California?

mediation cost in CaliforniaOur last blog focused on divorce cost in California. We touched a bit upon what is the divorce mediation cost vs. other methods of divorce, but didn’t really delve in to look at, particularly, how much does divorce mediation cost?

No matter what version of divorce mediation you opt for, you are already ahead of the game in so many areas over litigation. You should never underestimate the power of you being able to create your own future.Yet, the cost difference is nothing to be shrugged at. It is almost invariably going to be less to go through mediation than the litigious route.

So, how much does divorce mediation cost?

Mediation by the hour: There are all sorts of mediation for divorce. You can go a mediator that charges by the hour to conduct mediation on single issues that you can’t find resolution on. These mediation firms often do all sorts of alternative dispute resolution, from mediation to arbitration. They, often, will mediate many types of issues from neighbor disputes to divorce. The cost ranges around $175-300 per party, per hour.

Mediation Only: There are other mediation firms that will conduct the mediation for you. At the end of the day, you will receive a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). You will be responsible for all the initial filings, the financial disclosures, and ancillary paperwork. You will need to file all paperwork and make sure all service of process is conducted properly. Some of these specialize in divorce, others don’t. Sometimes they have packages that cover the mediation and MSA preparation, sometimes they are completely done on an hourly basis. Even with a flat fee, this mediation is likely to run you between $2500 and $6000, depending upon the firm and the complexity of your case.

Full Service Mediation: Divorce mediation cost is at its most efficient when you come to a full service mediation firm, like Pacific Coast Mediation. These firms, will generally specialize in divorce because they are giving you the red carpet treatment. Their prices include creation, filing, and service of all your paperwork. At Pacific Coast Mediation, our flat fees include everything. You are completely taken care of. This high end service is surprisingly affordable. It runs between $2000 and $6000 per person. Most clients will pay around $3000 per person.

You know mediation is the way to go for so many reasons! Now you know why cost savings is one of them.

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What is the Cost of a California Divorce? Maybe more than you think

divorce costGetting a California divorce can be costly. You have been across from that colleague at lunch who was completely unprepared for their surging attorney fees. Who doesn’t have a friend who describes their California divorce as a pit they keep throwing money at? The divorce is the first stage. Just wait until you throw in your protracted custody battle. Your mounting costs can grow to astronomical proportions.

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty. Let me just prepare you a bit. There is a whole range of ways that your divorce can go. Some of these are your choice and some of them require some finesse with your soon-to-be ex spouse. However, what you will notice is that you have power to make many of these decisions and keep your cost at a manageable rate, especially if you can both agree up front how you want the basics handled.

What does a California Divorce cost

  1. Doing it yourself: The filing fees, alone, can appear daunting for some of us. In California, each county gets to decide for itself how much they want to charge you to file your divorce. The range is usually between $250 and $450. In San Diego County it will cost you $435 to file. However, don’t be fooled…it will cost your spouse another $435 to respond. Your total just rose to $870 and you both will still need to master the paperwork which can be overwhelming. As an attorney, most of my clients made the attempt to do it themselves. It didn’t work out so well and they found themselves in my office.
  2. Paralegal/Document preparation: I hesitantly place this second because for the full round of document prep, including the judgment, it can tie with the next option. This is when you and your spouse are in full agreement regarding every aspect of your divorce and you just want the forms filled out and your wishes memorialized, formally. This can be a great option….if you both agree. The cost usually ranges anywhere between $500 to $1500 and usually does not include that pesky $870 in filing fees. Also, you will most likely have to file all paperwork and serve necessary documents yourself.
  3. Mediation: Hello friends! This is your best option, by far. First, it is available to you whether you are in agreement or not. Mediators are trained to assist you in creating a future that you both feel good about. If you find a great firm, like Pacific Coast Mediation, they will be full service. That is, for the cost of the mediation, you will also have all documents necessary for a California divorce prepared, served, and filed for a flat fee. Mediation can run you around $3000+, per person, depending upon the complexity of your case. However, that cost usually includes the filing fee. The best part is that because you and your spouse reached the agreement together, people, generally, follow the dictates of it, as opposed to a judgment thrust upon them by a judge.
  4. Attorney fun: I say that tongue in cheek because up front, your attorney is likely to ask for a $5,000 retainer, maybe more. Then, they are going to ask for you to pay your own filing fees on top of that. That is when things get crazy. Attorneys make money on how litigious you are. That is, the more conflict and chaos in a divorce, the more they get paid. To be sure, most family law attorneys don’t want chaos for you. However, they are going to advocate for you in court. That costs money. And….you never know what the outcome will be. You will be forced to accept the ruling of a third party, the judge. The only power you have, in this scenario, is your pocketbook. Pick the best attorney and keep funneling money at them because you, likely, will blow through that retainer with the first court visit. Even then, you never know. I have seen the best family law attorney lose cases to the young guys, despite how many facts you have that support your position.

In the end, my advice is to mediate your case. It is cost effective and works. Even if you think you and your spouse will never agree, you will be surprised. Make choosing the option of mediation, the first and most important agreement you reach, thus far.

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Grandparents’ Rights in California: What you need to know

grandparents rightsIn the recent California Court of Appeal ruling  Jeffrey D. Stuard, et al. v. Matthew Stuard the current schema to determine grandparents’ rights in California was reaffirmed. The crux of the case is that father’s parents have been given visitation. The court awarded them a 20% time share of their granddaughter, Riley. Father appealed the ruling on Constitutional grounds. He said that, 1. it discriminated against married and unmarried but cohabiting parents, 2. This order would have never happened if he just stayed married to Riley’s mother, Rebekah, and 3. his rights were violated when he was deprived the right to parent his child without finding him and Rebekah unfit.

Guess what the court said about these grandparents’ rights?

They got to keep their timeshare. After a lengthy and interesting discussion, they affirmed this part of the ruling. So are you wondering what they affirmed? Me too. So, here it is ~ the basic state of grandparents’ rights in California.

California Family Code Section 3100 – 3104 governs grandparents’ rights in California, the applicable statute is 3104. To paraphrase, it says that a grandparent can ask for visitation. If the court wants to give them visitation, they have to:

  1. Find that there is a pre-existing bond between the grandparents and children and that it is in the child’s best interest to continue that relationship.
  2. Balance this benefit to the child against the wishes of the parent and their right to make decisions about their kid.

In most cases, the grandparents cannot file for custody if the parents are still married. There are named exceptions in the code. They include that the parents aren’t living together, the whereabouts of the parent is unknown for a month or more, either mom or dad joins in with the grandparent’s request, the child doesn’t live with parents, or there was a stepparent adoption.

Plus, there is a rebuttable presumption that the best interest of the child is to be with the parent.

Well, that is a lot. The best advice is to mediate this. If you are involved in a custody dispute, this is where you can craft a visitation schedule that works for you and honors what is best for your child.

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Be an Advocate in Divorce for Your Child

advocate in divorceIf you are involved in a divorce involving children and you have a desire to be an advocate in divorce for your child you need to read forward because the direct, straightforward route is not the way you may think. When you get in the arena of divorce and emotions and court, your advocacy may be taken wrong. The more you love, the more you can get the short end of the stick for you and your child.

If I want to be an advocate in divorce for my child, how could things go wrong?

  1. Coaching: It wouldn’t be the first time that a precocious child got accused of being coached by one person or the other in a dissolution. The worst part of the entire thing is that the better educated your child is and the better able they are to express their emotions, the more likely they are to be accused of the dreaded coaching. The best advise to tell your child, male or female…young or old is to tell the truth.
  2. The Boob: Yes, your child could be playing the both of you. A divorce creates a situation where trying to be an advocate in divorce can put you in direct cross hairs for getting played. Your little guy is more savvy than you may realize. He or she may be playing you and your ex against each other. Don’t discount this possibility.
  3. Myopia: You may not be seeing the forest for the trees. No matter how much you think you are right and you know what is going on, your child may be acting for reasons you can’t even begin to comprehend. Seek, at every place to gain perspective. You may think your child is just being difficult when they are desperately seeking to protect another parent. Make sure you have the total story.

If you want to be an advocate in divorce for your child, the best advice is to try to see things without you being the main character. It seems like you are the main character, you are getting the divorce. Yet, if you want to see things the way your child sees them, place them as the main character for a little bit so that you can feel the feelings, even  if they are odd and strange, that they may be feeling. Then, once you get the feeling of seeing through that new perspective, discuss your child’s reality with them. Honor their perspective and their feelings even if it is not what you want to hear. That sort of open perspective leads to compromises that can be hashed out in mediation sessions. Despite seeming harsh obstacles, mediation can bring about outcomes that work for the best of your family, no matter how unique.

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Pet Custody in California: The Insider’s Guide

pet custody in californiaI get it. I have a pet…not a dog or a cat but I love my bunny, Reggie, nonetheless. I would be sick if I lost him in some protracted divorce battle. Now, you are getting a divorce and you need to know about pet custody in California. What is going to happen to my pooch? Well, there are some very upsetting points and some points that will give you comfort regarding pet custody in California. Let’s start with the distasteful reality.

Pet Custody in California is not looked at as custody, at all.

“Why not?” you ask….well, because pets are considered chattel, or property. Courts are going to view your pet as any other non-dividable piece of property. That is, they will view the monetary value of your pet as an asset to be given to one party or the other. You don’t have custody rights to a piece of china or a diamond ring, and you don’t have them with your pet either. This also means that the same rules governing separate and community property apply. That is, if one of you owned the pet prior to marriage, he or she will likely be considered the separate property of that party.

Is there any hope of arranging pet custody in California?

I am glad you asked, because through mediation, pet custody can be your reality. That is, within the boundaries of your personally crafted Marital Settlement Agreement, you can arrange a custody and visitation schedule for your pet. When the document is agreed upon and notarized it becomes contractually binding. Even though the courts will rarely enforce pet custody in California, the negotiation process is often enough to bind the parties to their agreement. In the mediation context, there are likely to be many negotiated points on both sides. After a lengthy mediation process, both parties are generally loath to unwind the document they both worked hard to create. There is power in this hard work and that can only benefit you when you reach a firm decision about pet custody.

So…if you have a pet, and are considering divorce, the better option for a chance of pet custody in California is to mediate. That way, you know you will have the future you create…including your beloved pet.

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