The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “To everything there is a season.” That ancient wisdom can still be seen everywhere today. More school supplies are sold in August, more candy is sold in October, and more turkeys are purchased in November. Bookkeepers are busier at the end of the fiscal year, and wedding planners and caterers do more work in June. But what about family lawyers and dissolution attorneys? Their busy season actually coincides with the tax season – January through April 15 – because so many people who are seeking divorce use their tax return dollars to retain a divorce attorney. (The actual tax deadline date in 2016 will be April 18).

For many of us, a new year can bring with it a strengthened new resolve to live a happier, healthier, more satisfying life. Some may choose to stick with an unhappy marriage through the holiday season for the sake of the kids and relatives. The holidays are stressful, expensive, and busy for almost everyone. Frankly, November and December may not be the best months to break the news of an impending dissolution to friends and relatives. However, with the arrival of the new year and the prospect of some extra cash coming in the form of an income tax refund, tax season is when the largest number of people file for dissolution . The momentum and energy that a new year brings motivates many of us to take steps to improve our lives. If a marriage is broken and it cannot be fixed, there’s no time like the new year to do something positive about it. If you are seeking a divorce or even merely considering a divorce, this is the time to speak with a good divorce lawyer, and in southern California, with an experienced Orange County divorce attorney.

Orange County divorce attorney


Typically, as a marriage slowly deteriorates over time and it eventually becomes clear to both spouses that a dissolution is their only realistic option, they will begin shifting their attention away from saving the marriage and toward surviving the divorce without personal financial damage. This is the time when many spouses will begin hiding some of their assets to protect those assets from being divided in a divorce settlement. Hiding assets is unethical, illegal, and quite frankly, it happens far too frequently. If you file for a dissolution late in the year, for example, your spouse might arrange to hide that year-end bonus check or to have an employer hold it – until it doesn’t have to be shared.

If you are filing for divorce this tax season or any time of the year, you must be fully prepared for the financial impact of that dissolution . A dissolution that isn’t handled properly can lead directly to unanticipated financial trouble, and all of the motivation, energy, and resolve in the world cannot change the hard realities of money. One sad example of those hard realities is the Tampa police officer whose own tax refund apparently wasn’t sufficient to finance her divorce, so she prepared for divorce the wrong way. She stole checks from the Tampa Police Department’s evidence locker to fund her divorce from an unhappy marriage to another police officer. In January, former Tampa police detective Jeanette Hevel was sentenced by a federal judge to five years of probation with eight months of home detention. Hevel faced a federal charge of theft of government property for stealing and cashing about $88,000 worth of fraudulent tax refund checks, $10,000 in money orders, and a $3,000 refund anticipation loan check, all of which were in her custody at the Tampa Police Department. She could have been sentenced to ten years in a federal prison.

Orange County divorce attorney


Hevel took the checks in 2011 and 2012, when tax refund fraud was exploding in Tampa and police were struggling to deal with the crime. Hevel learned that there were dozens of IRS refund checks in the Tampa Police Department evidence room. According to a sentencing memorandum filed by Hevel’s lawyer, Hevel “was in a difficult position. Her goal was to escape a failed marriage but she had no financial means in which to accomplish this goal.” Hevel talked to a “street criminal,” who cashed bogus refund checks for ten to twenty cents on the dollar, the memo says. Hevel is the first of three Tampa police officers, along with one former civilian employee, accused of committing crimes in connection with the city’s epidemic of tax refund fraud, but she’s apparently the only one who needed money for a divorce. In order to prepare properly for the financial aspects of divorce, take these three steps:

  1. Review all of your finances, financial paperwork, and your credit.
  2. Open new bank accounts in your name only.
  3. Consult a good divorce attorney regarding the cost of a dissolution.

Although the cost of a dissolution will differ from state to state – and from case to case, depending on the complexity of the divorce and the level of cooperation between the parties – with most family law attorneys, a reasonable payment plan can usually be arranged. In this state, the California Family Code is designed so that one spouse cannot gain an unfair advantage over the other in the divorce process simply because of an income differential. If you are divorcing in southern California, ask an experienced Orange County divorce attorney more about how attorney’s fees might be included as part of your divorce settlement. The California Family Code specifies that if one spouse in a divorce rejects divorce agreements and thus drives up litigation expenses, that spouse can be ordered by the court to pay for the other spouse’s attorney. Additionally, California’s Code of Civil Procedure lets a spouse pursue attorney’s fees against the other spouse’s attorney when that lawyer files a motion or document that is utterly without merit.

Orange County divorce attorney


The fees that a divorce attorney will charge also depend on the level of legal service that the attorney provides. Obviously, full legal representation will cost more than partial representation (handling only alimony, for example, or only child custody), and representation will cost more than consultation only. The more issues that go to trial, the more a dissolution will cost. For example, if you and your spouse can settle between one another any or all of the following matters without dispute, you can further reduce the cost of your divorce. Those issues are:

  1. division of property
  2. division of debts
  3. child custody
  4. child support
  5. alimony or spousal support
  6. attorney’s fees
  7. claims for reimbursement
  8. claims for breach of fiduciary duty

If you are counting on your income tax refund to finance your dissolution, you should know that some tax refunds may be briefly delayed this year because of a brief glitch in the IRS electronic filing system in February. You should also be aware that criminals are working harder than ever this year to steal your tax refund. “The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry,” one New York tax attorney told CBS News. The IRS says that it has implemented new identity theft screening filters to spot false returns that use stolen Social Security numbers, but the IRS also suggests that you never carry your Social Security number with you and that you protect any documents that have your Social Security number on them.

Orange County divorce attorney


In the state of California, if you are using your income tax refund to launch your dissolution during this tax season, here is a brief overview of the rules and steps in the California divorce process. The rules apply equally to opposite-sex and to same-sex married couples. Divorce in California is “no-fault” dissolution . Neither spouse needs to prove that the other spouse is “at-fault.” Either spouse may file for the divorce. At least one partner must reside in California for six months before he or she can file, and that spouse must also reside at least three months in the county where the divorce petition is filed. A California divorce will take at least six months. Unless the spouses can reach their own property division agreement, property acquired during the marriage is community property that will be divided by the court. One partner may also be ordered by the court to provide alimony – “spousal support” – to the other. When children are involved in a divorce, one parent normally provides child support to the custodial parent until the child or children reach age 18. Judges in California utilize precise guidelines when they decide on child support, and the state vigorously enforces child support orders.

For the individualized, detailed advice and representation you’ll need in a California dissolution , speak with an experienced Orange County divorce lawyer. The best time of year to file for a dissolution – for you – is the time when you’re genuinely and fully prepared to emerge from the dissolution in the best possible financial condition. When you seek a divorce lawyer, you must have someone who is sensitive to both your emotional and your financial concerns. An experienced Orange County divorce attorney can help. If you are divorcing in southern California, don’t wait to make the call.

By: Bayati Brian

Brian A. Bayati has been named three times as a top Orange County divorce attorney by OC Metro Magazine. He graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he was a judicial extern to the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) and a public service mediator. Prior to founding Bayati Law Group, he was part of a civil litigation firm with offices across the nation. Bayati Law Group focuses exclusively on the practice of family law.