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Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce and Custody in California

Posted on: June 9, 2016 by in Divorce
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Q: Are grounds for divorce required in California?

A: In California, there are two grounds for divorce, which is legally called the “dissolution of marriage” in this state. Most people divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” If someone simply checks that box on a California divorce petition, no further explanation is required, and eventually, the dissolution will be granted.


You may also still divorce on the grounds of “incurable insanity” although that’s extremely rare in California these days, and it requires medical verification. Additionally, there’s a residency requirement for divorce in California. One spouse must be a California resident for at least six months and a resident of the county where the divorce will be filed for at least three months before the divorce petition may be filed.

Q: What rules must be followed during the California divorce process?

A: When the divorce process begins in California, temporary restraining orders go into effect that prohibit both spouses from taking specified actions. Neither spouse, for instance, is permitted to take minor children out of California without the other spouse’s written consent or a court order. Also, in most cases, neither spouse can transfer property or change the beneficiary on a life insurance policy while the temporary restraining orders are in effect.

Q: What are my options regarding legal counsel?

A: The law does not require you to have an attorney’s help in a California divorce proceeding. You can represent yourself, but frankly, it’s never a good idea. Your other alternatives include full representation – letting one attorney handle every aspect of your divorce – or partial representation, where an attorney assists you in a limited capacity with certain parts of the process.

Divorcing couples should also consider arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce. Especially when a divorce is uncontested, these options can save both spouses time, money, and considerable emotional grief. In southern California, couples divorcing or considering dissolution would be wise to consult an experienced Orange County divorce attorney who can help them to determine precisely which option is best in their particular circumstances.

Q: Is divorce the only option for ending a marriage in California?

A: No. You can obtain a legal separation, or your marriage may qualify for an annulment. Some couples opt for a legal separation for religious convictions or for reasons linked to insurance or tax benefits. You remain legally married during a legal separation, but the court may divide and distribute marital property and issue determinations regarding spousal support and child custody, visitation privileges, and child support. If you are granted an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never happened. However, only certain marriages qualify for an annulment. Among the reasons that a California judge might grant an annulment request are:


  • The marriage is incestuous or bigamous.
  • The spouse seeking annulment was not yet age eighteen at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse perpetrated a fraud to obtain the other’s agreement to marry or forced or intimidated the other into the marriage.
  • One spouse was “of unsound mind” at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse suffers an “incurable physical incapacity.”

Q: Is there a genuinely simple way to divorce in California?

A: Yes. In California, an uncontested divorce is called a “summary dissolution,” although not every divorcing couple will qualify. If a marriage is eligible for a summary dissolution, the divorcing spouses will have substantially less paperwork, and they will not have to make a court appearance. Both divorcing partners must agree in writing to all of the terms of a summary dissolution, and the marriage must meet these additional conditions:


  • There are no minor children, neither spouse is pregnant, and no one seeks spousal support.
  • The marriage has lasted less than five years, and the grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences.
  • Apart from car notes, there are no outstanding debts above $6,000, and neither spouse owns any real property apart from a lease under one year.
  • Total marital assets are valued below $38,000, including retirement and deferred compensation (but not including vehicles), and neither party owns individual assets valued above $38,000.

Q: I’m ready. How do I file for divorce in California?

A: The smartest first move is meeting with an experienced local divorce lawyer – in Southern California, for example, you would contact an Orange County divorce attorney. You can download the necessary forms or purchase blank copies, but you really should have a divorce attorney prepare a Petition and a Summons on your behalf. You begin the process by filing your Petition and Summons with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where you or your spouse reside.

The Summons is a document which informs your spouse that you are filing for a divorce and that he or she will have thirty days to file the Response. In the Response, your spouse will indicate what particular issues are in dispute and will need to be resolved by the court. For example, he or she might object to your request for spousal support or your request for the sole custody of your children. California divorces can be lengthy, and as a rule of thumb, the more there is to dispute, the more likely it is that a divorce will be long and costly. Wherever you can make a compromise agreement with your spouse, do it.

Q: How is marital property divided in California?

A: All property that you and your spouse acquired through labor or skill during the marriage is, in almost all cases, marital property. You may have more marital property than you realize. You may have an interest in pension and profit-sharing benefits, for example, or in other retirement benefits or a business owned by one or both of you. Each partner legally possesses half of the marital property even if only one spouse worked outside of the home and even if the property is in one partner’s name.


Also, and with few exceptions, debts incurred in the course of the marriage are considered marital debts. This includes credit card bills, even if the card is in one partner’s name only. Student loans, however, are an exception and are considered personal debts. Marital possessions and debts are equally divided in a California divorce unless you and your spouse make a different mutual agreement.

The division of properties and debts can become quite complicated in many California divorces, so when you seek a divorce attorney, make certain that your attorney is substantially experienced in the division and distribution of marital properties and debts. The goal in a divorce is to make sure that you are treated properly and fairly, and the right divorce attorney can often make all the difference.

Frequently Asked Questions About Same-Sex Marriage In California

Posted on: May 11, 2016 by in Divorce
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Q: May same-sex couples legally marry anywhere in California?

A: Yes. The Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision applies everywhere in California and every jurisdiction of every state, territory, and possession of the United States. No public official may deny a same-sex couple the right to marry.


Q: What is required for a same-sex couple to marry in California?

A: To marry in this state, partners must obtain a marriage license from the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of any county in California, and then a ceremony must be performed by someone authorized to perform weddings in this state (someone like a judge or clergy member) within ninety days of obtaining the marriage license.

Both partners must appear together at the county office, complete the marriage license application, and present a government-issued picture ID and proof that they are both over 18 years old. (If either or both partners are under 18, it’s slightly more complicated.) Some California counties post wedding license applications online so that couples can complete the form in advance. The license fees vary by county, but in California, a marriage license is usually under a hundred dollars. No blood tests or health certificates are needed.

California marriage license is valid for ninety days, and the wedding may be performed anywhere in the state. The person who conducts the ceremony must be authorized to solemnize marriages in California,State and must complete and sign the marriage license after the ceremony. At least one witness age 18 or above must also sign the marriage license. The license then becomes a marriage certificate, which must be returned to the same county office where it was obtained within the first ten days after the ceremony.

Q: Who can solemnize marriages in California?

A: The persons who are legally authorized to solemnize marriage ceremonies in California include: clergy members; active and retired state court judges, court commissioners, and assistant commissioners; commissioners of civil marriages or retired commissioners of civil marriage; justices or retired justices of the U.S. Supreme Court or judges, magistrate judges, retired judges, or retired magistrate judges of other federal courts; state legislators or constitutional officers of the state; and members of Congress who represent a district within this state.

Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of Civil Marriages perform civil marriage ceremonies by appointment at designated county offices. There is a fee, although in most California counties it is under fifty dollars. A couple may also have a friend “deputized” to perform their marriage ceremony through a county “Deputy Commissioner for a Day” program. The specific requirements vary by county.


Q: Is there any reason a same-sex couple should not get married?

A: Marriage is a solemn legal and personal commitment. Before a wedding ceremony, couples should learn all that they can about the legal consequences of marriage. Everyone considering marriage needs to deliberate cautiously and thoughtfully about the decision. People receiving particular government benefits – especially SSI disability payments, TANF, or Medicaid – should learn how those benefits will be affected by marriage. Before saying “I do” in southern California, it’s wise to consult with an experienced Orange County family law attorney about the impact a marriage will have on your life.

Q: Is a marriage license a public record?

A: Marriage licenses are public records, but in California,State, couples – if they are both age 18 or older – may also request a “confidential” marriage license. Persons other than the spouses may acquire a copy of a confidential marriage license only by obtaining a court order. A confidential marriage license may be an ideal option for couples who have reasons to keep their private and personal business private and personal.

Q: What happens if a same-sex couple marries in California and they later wish to divorce?

A: Before filing a divorce petition in California,State, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state of California for at least six months and a resident of the county in which the divorce is filed for at least three months. A divorce in Southern California should be handled by an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

Q: If a same-sex couple in California married before Proposition Eight went into effect, is the marriage valid or does the couple need to get married again?

If a same-sex couple married in California between June 16, 2008, and November 5, 2008, the marriage is still valid and recognized by the state of California. In 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition Eight would have no impact on same-sex marriages conducted prior to Proposition Eight’s passage. No one needs to get re-married.

Q: If a same-sex couple has married legally in another state or nation, does California recognize the marriage, or should the couple remarry in California?

A: All couples who legally marry in another jurisdiction are recognized as married in California as well. There is no need for any couple to remarry in California.


Q: Are couples registered as domestic partners in California automatically married?

No. Registered domestic partners must decide whether or not to marry. Those who wish to marry must go through the same formal steps that are required for any couple planning to marry in California,State.

Q: Will registered domestic partnerships in California continue to exist?

A: Yes. Registered domestic partnerships still exist under current California law.


Q: Does an existing domestic partnership have to be dissolved before a same-sex couple can marry in California?

A: No. The California domestic partnership law permits an individual to be in both a marriage and in a registered domestic partnership simultaneously, provided both relationships are with the same person.

Q: Can you marry someone if you are in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership with a different person?

A: Before an individual in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership can marry another person; the previous legal relationship must be terminated. If you are in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership with another person, any marriage to a second person will be considered legally invalid.

Q: May out-of-state same-sex couples marry in California?

A: Absolutely! Come and enjoy our state. There is no residency requirement to marry in California,State.

What Is A Divorce Coach And How Can They Help?

Posted on: April 15, 2016 by in Divorce
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If you are planning or anticipating a dissolution , retaining the advice and services of a good divorce lawyer is imperative; and, in southern California, you’ll want to contact an experienced Orange County divorce attorney. Hiring the right divorce attorney is the key to making certain that your dissolution is handled properly, that you are treated fairly, and that your children’s best interests come first.


While a good attorney can handle the legal aspects of your divorce, and your attorney needs to be understanding and sensitive to your concerns, other aspects of a divorce may require other kinds of help. Divorcing spouses often have anger, fear, and depression issues, barriers to communications with the ex and the kids, or difficulty with the parenting schedule or the new financial situation. When these are the kinds of challenges you face, you might consider looking into help from a “divorce coach.”


Most of us have heard about “life coaches.” They’re hired primarily by very busy people to offer advice on everything from finances to romance to exercise and health. “Divorce coaches” have only recently emerged, and they essentially function as temporary life coaches who guide you through the dissolution process. The American Bar Association actually defines “divorce coaching” on its website as “a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs and concerns.”

Your first thought may be that a dissolution coach is probably expensive – something that will drive up the cost of divorce. However, the coaches and some of their clients say that divorce coaches can actually save if money if you follow their advice. Instead of relying on an attorney or a healthcare professional for services like providing emotional support, dissolution coaches can offer non-legal services at a substantially lower cost.



Divorce coaches come from a variety of backgrounds. When you look, you’ll find social workers, psychologists, bankers, accountants, nutrition and health experts, and even pastors and priests working as dissolution coaches. Michael Boulette, who teaches family law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, says “There are people who are dissolution financial planners that want to coach you with really an eye to helping you learn financial independence. Others have a mental health background and they’re helping you navigate the complex emotional feelings that you’re going through without necessarily being in a therapy setting.”


What makes selecting a dissolution coach a challenge is that anybody can claim to be one. There’s no degree in divorce coaching and no professional association that sets standards. So, to find a qualified dissolution coach, you’ll want to scrutinize a person’s resume closely and then interview the person. Choose someone with at least a master’s degree or at least five years of successful dissolution coaching experience. Make sure that a divorce coach is recommended by his or her previous clients. You’re probably going to want someone who works as a counselor or psychologist, who practices family therapy or family psychology, or a mediator who has a background in family mediation.

You must have a divorce attorney, of course, but it’s not realistic to expect an attorney to handle every aspect of a dissolution. Your attorney will handle the legal side of your dissolution – the court dates, the filings, and negotiating the final divorce agreement on your behalf. A good attorney will fight relentlessly and tenaciously to ensure that you are treated properly in the dissolution process and that justice is served. But when you have other divorce issues, you may need to seek help elsewhere. Your attorney may be able to recommend a divorce coach or other resources in the community. Southern California has no shortage of counselors and advisors, both public and private, in every price range.


Sabrina Martin needed advice from someone who wasn’t a friend or an attorney. She sought the services of a local divorce coach who helped her even before she announced that the marriage was over. Sabrina’s coach encouraged her to look past the dissolution to the future she wanted for herself and her daughter. When she learned that her husband was having an affair, Sabrina’s coach helped her find some perspective.

Thanks to that preparation, Sabrina’s consultations with her attorney were quite productive, and a final agreement was reached in less than two months, keeping the total cost of her dissolution quite affordable. “Emotions are a huge component of divorce,” says Lynn Kaplan, a Toronto-based divorce coach with a background in mediation and family law. She adds that if the emotional side of dissolution isn’t handled properly, it can spill over – negatively – to the legal side.


Divorce coaching is growing and gaining support, even from divorce lawyers. One Toronto divorce attorney says that clients who work with a divorce coach are clients who are better prepared. “They come to meetings coping better and with a different attitude. They have more focused discussions, and it makes our life a lot easier to have someone able to focus on the legal issues and making good decisions as opposed to being ruled by emotions.”

For people who need assistance managing their money and understanding their new financial reality, a dissolution coach with a financial background can be quite helpful. Divorce coach Sandy Arons, an accredited financial counselor and mediator who owns Arons & Associates Divorce Financial Planning in Brentwood, Tennessee, says, “I focus on understanding the client’s financial fears and ensure the settlement addresses those fears, such as if they will they have enough money to stay in the house, if they will have to go back to work and how they will pay for private school,” she says. “I also review the parenting plan with clients, calculate the child support payment and help them create a very detailed monthly expense worksheet.”


What are the most important recommendations that a dissolution coach can offer to someone who’s in the middle of the dissolution process? Here are three important tips from dissolution coach and nationally-acclaimed author Laura Miolla:

  • Be unmistakably clear and precise about what you want: Too many divorcing spouses simply endure the dissolution process to get it over with. When you know what you want, you have a purpose and you have a goal to reach for.
  • “Silence your saboteurs”: Acknowledge your own fears and the criticisms of others, then set those fears and criticisms aside and move ahead constructively.
  • Respect yourself: Stand up for yourself, and never let yourself feel humiliated or defeated. Retaining your honor and dignity is the key to retaining your emotional health and to coming out of a divorce prepared to move forward with life.

Ms. Miolla also writes that, “Divorce challenges you to have the courage to step forward, to face your fears and move forward anyway. You have one life on this earth and it is your responsibility to live it as best you can. No excuses.” If you want to come out of a dissolution prepared to move forward positively and constructively with your life, consider the option of hiring a dissolution coach.


You’ll need an attorney as well – that’s not an option – so in southern California, make sure that if you are divorcing, considering dissolution , or if you simply need to learn more, you retain the services of an experienced Orange County dissolution attorney. The dissolution help you need is here, and an experienced dissolution attorney can recommend a good divorce coach, but you must take the first step on your own and make the call.

Are There More Divorces In Tax Season?

Posted on: March 10, 2016 by in Blog, Divorce
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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.

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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.

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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.

Divorce or Taxes: Which Should Come First?

Posted on: February 8, 2016 by in Blog, Divorce
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Our government is an extremely curious creature; it likes to know as much about us as it can. You’ve seen the news stories about surveillance and privacy. The National Security Agency (NSA), for example, monitored nearly 125 billion phone calls in just one month, according to a number of news reports in 2013, and it’s only of many federal agencies that have a great deal of interest in our private affairs. When money, property, or investments change hands, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the agency that wants to know, because your income taxes will be affected. Income tax season is here once again, along with the accompanying paperwork, headaches, anxiety, and confusion. One thing that can make taxes even more difficult and confusing – and sometimes costlier – is if you are divorcing, recently divorced, or if you are anticipating an imminent divorce.

With April 15 coming up fast, you may be concerned about whether you should file for divorce first or if you should file your tax return first. In a divorce, even if your finances are modest, your ex might take some of your assets and property, but an even bigger threat to your assets and property is the IRS. Of course, the overall impact of your divorce on your taxes will hinge on your unique personal situation, and understanding exactly what’s at risk in your own case can help you stay out of trouble with the IRS. Going into a divorce, whether your finances are modest or more affluent, you must have the insights and representation of a seasoned divorce attorney who fully understands the tax issues involved in the divorce process. In southern California, you should speak first with an experienced Orange County divorce lawyer.

Orange County divorce lawyer

However, you should also know right now that there is no need to panic about the April 15 income tax deadline. This tax season, the IRS is only interested in knowing what your marital status was at the conclusion of 2015. Filing for taxes first or filing for divorce first is your choice, although you may still want to make that choice with the help of an experienced divorce attorney. However, for this tax season, the IRS will categorize you as “divorced” only if your divorce was final on or before December 31, 2015. If you were still married when 2015 ended, the IRS will categorize you as married for tax year 2015 without regard to your marital status subsequent to December 31, 2015. If you and your spouse were legally or informally separated in 2015, you are still categorized by the IRS as married for that year if no final court judgment dissolving the marriage was issued in 2015.


If your divorce is now pending but has not yet been finalized, you and your spouse may file a joint return for tax year 2015 if both of you agree to file jointly. First, however, you should seek advice from your divorce attorney and from your tax advisor regarding the pros and cons of filing your income tax return jointly. In most cases – although not all, and it depends on a number of factors – your final tax amount will be lower if you can arrange to file jointly. The disadvantage of joint filing is joint liability, although a tax indemnification agreement may offer you some protection. An indemnification agreement places liability on the spouse who prepares the joint return and protects the spouse who didn’t. If you choose to file jointly, ask your divorce attorney if you need to obtain a tax indemnification agreement.

What is imperative when you are filing jointly is knowing for certain how the two of you will handle any federal tax refund or liability. If a refund check is coming in the mail, be sure that the check is payable to both of you, or have a written document signed by both of you stipulating that both spouses will receive their fair share of the refund. If the tax refund is in the form of a direct deposit, have it placed in a joint account – or obtain a written agreement that protects your share.

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If you do not want your spouse to prepare a joint income tax return, either have the joint return done professionally or just file your own federal income tax return separately. You certainly cannot be forced – by a judge or anyone else – to file a joint tax return if you prefer not to. If you choose to file separately but your divorce was not final on or before December 31, 2015, and the IRS thus categorizes you as married for tax year 2015, you should file as either “head of household” or as “married filing separately,” depending on your personal circumstances.

Filing as a “head of household” allows you to claim the dependent care credit and the earned income credit as well as the standard deduction, and it may also reduce your overall tax burden. You may file as head of household if your spouse did not live with you for at least the last six months of 2015, if you were responsible for more than half of your household’s expenses in 2015, and if your home was the primary residence of your child or children for more than half of the year.

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If your divorce was final on or before December 31, 2015, the IRS will categorize you as divorced for that tax year, and you cannot file jointly. Your filing status will be “single” or “head of household.” If you can claim exemptions for your child or children after the divorce is finalized, it can make a huge difference in the final tax amount you will owe. Child support and property distribution payments are not considered income for the receiving ex-spouse and are not deductible for the paying ex-spouse. However, alimony payments – now called “spousal support” in most states – are a different matter entirely, and during a divorce, you must consider not only how much spousal support you will pay or receive, but you also must consider the tax impact of spousal support payments. If you receive payments, nothing will be withheld or deducted, and that could mean a big tax hit unless you take some kind of action. You can reduce the tax impact of receiving alimony by arranging with the IRS to pay your income taxes quarterly or by having your employer withhold more from each of your paychecks.

As mentioned above, child support and property distribution payments are not tax deductible, but if you make alimony payments, because those payments are tax deductible, the IRS may decide to investigate your finances. The agency scrutinizes alimony payments in the initial three years subsequent to a divorce to ensure that you are not deceptively making nondeductible payments – distributions of assets and property or obligations like legal fees – as alimony payments to make them deductible.

Orange County divorce lawyer


Let a good divorce lawyer advise you and help you to keep your finances in order as you divorce and transition into the next part of your life. You will need a divorce lawyer who will help you answer the IRS if it has questions regarding the spousal support you pay or receive or about any other divorce-related tax matter. Do not hesitate or be embarrassed to ask your divorce lawyer about the financial and tax issues related to your divorce – these are routine matters for attorneys who focus exclusively on divorce and family law. If it’s necessary, your divorce attorney can work with or refer you to financial advisors, tax specialists, professional financial counselors, and other helpful resources in your community. Taxes, of course, are not your only financial concern in a divorce. Take these important steps as early as possible in the divorce process to safeguard yourself, your children, and your financial future:

  • Cancel all joint expenses.
  • Establish a budget and adhere to it.
  • If necessary, change the beneficiary’s name on your policies and accounts.
  • Examine your life insurance policy to determine if it needs to be altered.
  • Review your financial, retirement, and estate plans.

Divorce never goes smoothly, it is never easy, and for most people a divorce is deeply stressful, profoundly exhausting, and emotionally painful. You have to deal with major life changes and tough financial questions at precisely the same time you are emotionally vulnerable. If a divorce means a significant change to your finances and your income, thoughtful financial preparation and careful planning will be required. Financial details are a big part of any divorce, and the more you and your spouse own, the more complicated your divorce will become. Don’t make it worse by failing to confront aggressively the tax issues raised by your divorce. Arrange instead to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer who knows how divorce impacts your taxes – someone who can help you fully understand your own tax and financial situation. If you are divorcing in southern California, take your case to an experienced and trustworthy Orange County divorce lawyer who will fight for your best long-term financial interests. If you are divorcing or considering divorce right now, make the call as quickly as possible.

Modifying Child Custody In Orange County, California

Posted on: January 13, 2016 by in Blog, Family Law
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Orange County family law attorney

Even in the 21st century, a divorce is still always difficult in every circumstance, and when minor children are also involved in a divorce, those difficulties are multiplied. If you are going through a divorce in southern California and you are a parent, if you and the other parent can resolve between the two of you any potential dispute regarding the custody of your child or children, it will save you both a considerable amount of time and money and a great deal of aggravation. It’s actually best for the two of you to decide on a child tutelage arrangement before even going to a divorce court if you can.

Of course, developing a parenting plan is not always easy for parents or even possible during the process of divorce, especially if your divorce is contentious, but if you go to court before you resolve the matter of youngster tutelage, you can be certain that the tutelage decision will be made for you by a complete stranger – a California judge. Obviously, nothing is more important than your children, so if you are a parent and you are divorcing in southern California, your first step should be to consult with an experienced Orange County family law attorney. A good family lawyer can answer your questions, explain how the law impacts your own youngster custody dispute, and guide you through the often-confusing California family legal system.


What will happen, however, if your circumstances change after your divorce is final and you need to have an existing child tutelage agreement modified? For example, if the educational needs of your child change, if your child’s medical needs change, if one parent wants or needs to move away, becomes seriously injured, ill, or unemployed, or if one parent remarries or becomes the parent of a new child, the court order regarding child tutelage may need to be changed. Either parent can ask the court to modify the youngster tutelage order if that parent’s changing life circumstances dictate a modification.

To ask a California court to modify a youngster custody order, your family law attorney can help you fill out the forms and documents you’ll need to complete and submit to get the process started. You and the child’s other parent will be required to schedule and participate in a mediation procedure where an experienced professional mediator will help the two of you reach an agreement regarding child tutelage and visitation arrangements – if you haven’t already reached that agreement. Then a hearing will be scheduled where a judge will assess any tentative agreement that you’ve reached, consider the new circumstances in your life, and make a final decision regarding your request for a child custody modification. If your divorce took place in another county or another state, you may be able to have the case moved to Orange County, but you will need to discuss the specifics of moving the case with your family law attorney.

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After conducting a divorce hearing – and sometimes after conducting a youngster custody evaluation as well – and then issuing a child tutelage order, California courts will not modify that order for any trivial reasons. The changed circumstances that generate the request for a child tutelage modification must be substantial life changes. The courts will consider a youngster custody modification when either parent’s income has changed, when the child’s educational or medical needs have changed, when either parent has lost a job or been injured or incarcerated, when another child has been born to either parent, or when a modification is clearly in the best interests of the child. In all child tutelage matters, California judges are required by law to make the best interests of the child the absolute highest priority.

In deciding precisely what is in a child’s best interests, the law in California states that the safety, health, and welfare of the youngster must be a court’s top concern, and that – as a rule of thumb – regular, consistent contact with both parents benefits most children in most circumstances. Based on that initial presumption, the judges who handle California youngster custody disputes may consider literally anything that may impact a child’s best interests. A recent arrest or a recent criminal conviction, illegal drug use, and even excessive consumption of alcohol can genuinely hurt your chances if you are a parent and you have to fight for the custody of your child.

In California, child custody includes both legal tutelage – the right to make decisions regarding a child’s health care, education, religious training, and other concerns – and physical custody, meaning the actual day-to-day obligations of child-raising. Thus, there are actually four “types” of child custody: sole physical custody; joint physical custody; sole legal custody; and joint legal custody. Legal custody and physical custody are typically the central issues in any custody dispute; their resolution more or less determines how the other matters regarding your youngster will be resolved. Sole custody is ordered only when the court is convinced that it is truly in the child’s best interests. When sole custody is ordered, the other parent loses any legal right to have a say about concerns such as the child’s medical care, religious upbringing, or education. Still, when a court does not order joint custody, the court must offer a written explanation for its decision.


Every child custody situation, every family, and every youngster is distinctive and unique. Even when a California court grants a child’s tutelage to only one parent, the other parent will usually be allowed to have visitation privileges. In some cases, however, a judge may order that the visitations must be supervised by a state agency or by another authorized third party. A judge may also order a child custody evaluation (sometimes called a “730” evaluation) to provide help with making the child tutelage decision. California judges ask for youngster custody evaluations in order to have an outside professional’s insights regarding the family, the parenting skills of each parent, and the child’s needs, feelings, wishes, and long-term best interests.

Court-authorized mental health professionals conduct these child custody evaluations, which conclude by recommending a specific child tutelage and parenting plan that a judge may accept, modify, or reject. Originally, child custody evaluations were conducted only in the most contentious child custody disputes, but California judges in recent years have come to lean heavily on the child custody evaluations for guidance regarding what is in the best interests of the child or children. A child tutelage professional’s advice gives a judge more confidence that he or she is making the proper decision. In fact, in most cases, judges accept and implement the recommended child custody and parenting plans without any changes. The professional in charge of the child custody evaluation may conduct psychological testing, interview family members separately or together, and may also interview third parties who can provide pertinent insights or information. A youngster custody evaluation can last up to six months. You’ll be heavily scrutinized throughout the period of the evaluation, and you’ll be expected to adhere to high standards of good parenting.

If a California judge makes a youngster tutelage determination for you and your youngster, that determination will ultimately be based on what that judge has concluded is the child’s best interests. In any child custody matter, it’s imperative that you do not go to court with an accusative, vindictive, or argumentative attitude. Judges also view very unfavorably any parent who interferes with the child’s relationship with the other parent by making defamatory or fictitious claims. A much better strategy is to work with a good family law attorney to demonstrate to the court why it really is in your child’s best interests to have you as the custodial parent.

Orange County family law attorney


Sometimes divorcing parents can resolve their child custody issues with the help of family law attorneys in arbitration or mediation proceedings and without the need for a contentious trial in front of a judge. However, in southern California, if you have to fight for the custody of your child during or at any time subsequent to a divorce, you will need to retain the advice and services of an experienced Orange County family law attorney who routinely handles child custody disputes. Child custody squabbles are always tough on everyone who’s involved, but nothing is of more importance than your relationship and your future with your child or children.

Moves, career changes, and remarriages are among the many reasons a child custody order may need to be modified; it’s not at all unusual for child custody orders to be occasionally changed after a period of time. Everyone’s life changes eventually, and the courts understand that. However, if you need to seek a child custody modification because circumstances have substantially changed in your life, you will require an attorney’s advice and services. Interested in learning more about divorce in California, child custody orders or about child custody modifications? Comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels, we’d love to hear from you. If you need legal help regarding a divorce California, contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney today.

A Child’s Absolute Right

Posted on: November 16, 2015 by in Blog, Family Law
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By law and tradition, both parents have a responsibility to support their minor children. In California, both before and subsequent to a divorce, both parents are required to asssist their children. Child support must be arranged during a divorce, and that arrangement must be enforced. All children in California – whether they are born in or outside of a marriage or adopted – have the absolute legal right to parental asssist. In Orange County, if a child support dispute emerges between you and your child’s other parent, immediately seek the counsel of an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

When a California court orders a child support arrangement, it considers a number of items including the financial situation of both parents, the number of children, and the best interests of those children. After most California divorces, a non-custodial parent will be expected to pay child support to the custodial parent to help cover a child’s basic expenses such as food, housing, clothing, schooling, and healthcare. Typically and with rare exceptions, child support payments continue until a child’s 18th birthday.

Nothing is more important than your children and their future. When you are divorcing or dealing with a child support dispute in Orange County, it’s imperative to have an attorney you trust – someone who can put you at ease and address your legal concerns regarding your youngster or children. If you are a custodial parent and you need to receive child assist– or modify a current child support order – get legal help immediately. If you are involved in – or expect to be involved in – any dispute over the custody, support, or visitation of your child or children, contact at once an attorney who will fight aggressively on your behalf. Call an experienced Orange County family law attorney regarding any family law concern, question, or dispute. Help is here. If you need it, make the call now.

California Divorce – The Basics

Posted on: November 13, 2015 by in Blog, Divorce
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Divorce in California can be quite complicated, and if you are divorcing in Orange County, it’s absolutely imperative to have the advice and services of an experienced Orange County divorce lawyer. The rules and procedures for a California dissolution apply equally to opposite-sex and same-sex married couples and to registered domestic partners. Here’s a brief overview.

The law in California is “no-fault” divorce. Neither partner must prove that the other is “at-fault.” Either partner may obtain a divorce for irreconcilable differences. At least one partner must reside in this state for six months before he or she can file for dissolution, and that partner must live for at least three months in the county where the filing takes place. A divorce in California will take at least six months from the date when the non-filing partner is served with the petition for divorce. Property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and will be divided equitably by the court unless the divorcing partners can reach their own agreement. One partner may also be required to provide spousal support – “alimony” – to the other after a divorce.

When the divorcing partners are parents, the non-custodial parent is typically expected to provide child support payments until a child reaches his or her 18th birthday. California judges adhere to specific guidelines when determining child support amounts, and California aggressively enforces child support orders. Child custody is determined by what a court considers the best interests of the child. To have a child custody order modified after a divorce, you must show the court that a circumstance has significantly changed and that a modification will be in the child’s best interests. What you’ve read here is the most basic description of what happens in a dissolution in California. For the detailed advice and legal representation you’ll need in a California dissolution proceeding, speak right away with an experienced Orange County divorce lawyer.

About “Dear Texas”

Posted on: November 2, 2015 by in Blog, Family Law
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“Few things are as devastating as a parent losing contact with her children,” playwright Jane Eisner told The Advocate while discussing her groundbreaking one-act play, Dear Texas. The story portrays the case of a transgender parent who loses legal custody of her son after transitioning to be a woman. The play includes powerful courtroom scenes where the parent, who chooses the name Virginia, must persuade a Texas family court that hostility toward an individual’s gender identity should never be used to foster legal discrimination. In California, if you are involved in any child custody dispute, retain at once the advice and services of an experienced Orange County family law attorney. Nothing is a higher priority than your children.

Eisner says that in the play, Virginia enters a Texas courtroom to fight for her child but soon realizes that she is fighting discrimination instead. Separating the courtroom scenes, a transgender woman named Nan provides comic relief by explaining her transition from drag queen to complete womanhood with wisecracks and lightheartedness. The play is based on interviews with real-life transgender persons and on the experiences of transgender activist Jessica Lynn, who lost custody of her youngest son after she transitioned. Dear Texas premiered in October at the California Polytechnic State University’s Chumash Auditorium in San Luis Obispo.

Nothing can cause you more concern or anxiety than a child custody dispute. You might be worried about who will raise your child or children, when and if you’ll be able to see them, how California family law courts determine child custody, and what the future holds for you and your offspring. In any California child custody dispute, you need the trustworthy advice and services an experienced child custody lawyer who understands your concerns and anxieties. If you are involved in or anticipate a child custody dispute, contact an experienced Orange County family law attorney as quickly as possible.

The Unwritten Rules of Family Law

Posted on: September 18, 2015 by in Blog, Family Law
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Divorce for some people is almost unbearably painful. Others are stirred to anger and sometimes even to violence. Before you initiate a divorce, a custody dispute, or any other legal action involving your household, discuss your rights and options with an experienced Orange County family law attorney, and learn these “unwritten” rules of conduct for anyone involved in a family legislation dispute.

  • Don’t focus on the trivial. Fighting over who owns the microwave or who gets the kids for a holiday is a waste of your emotional energies. Compromise when possible. Focus on the final settlement and your long-term best interests.
  • Likewise, inflammatory language and unsubstantiated charges during negotiations and hearings are useless and actually work against you. Stick to the facts, state them soberly and dispassionately, and heed your family law attorney’s advice.
  • Restrain any impulse to be rude, mean, or inappropriate. Every text, tweet, Facebook post, and email “can be used against you in a court of law.” Opposing attorneys and a judge will see every word. If you express a lack of control or maturity, it cannot help your case.
  • Don’t let the kids decide on the parenting plan. You may not realize it, but giving children those decisions in effect forces a child to choose between parents. Of course you should consider the feelings and wishes of your children, but the decisions must be the responsibility of the adults.

The failure to adhere to these “unwritten” rules can only hurt you in a family legislation dispute, and while every family law case is both difficult and unique, following these recommendations can make a family law case quicker, less complicated, and less contentious. If you need to file for divorce or initiate any other household law action – or if you need legal representation because of a legal action someone else has initiated – arrange at once to speak with an experienced Orange County family law attorney.