How to Protect Yourself against Insurance Revenge during Your California Divorce

How to Protect Yourself against Insurance Revenge during Your California Divorce
Ending important personal relationships is hard for everyone involved. Unfortunately, some people take out their frustration and anger on their spouse, attempting to hurt them in various ways. Negative emotions sometimes even lead one spouse to change or cancel health or life insurance, often covertly. Fortunately, the California State Legislature has enacted laws to help prevent insurance revenge.

Imagine that while your divorce proceedings are pending, you become ill and go to the doctor. A workup is in order, so you go immediately to have blood work done, as well as a radiology test. Your health insurance denies coverage, sticking you with all the bills, because your vindictive, soon-to-be-ex removed you from his health insurance. The same thing could happen with a life insurance policy: you could be removed as a beneficiary from the policy. The California laws are intended to prevent these things from happening.

First, when a petition for divorce is filed, on the back of the summons is an automatic temporary restraining order that disallows a party from altering “life, health, automobile, or disability insurance.”

Second, California Family Code §§ 2050-2053 provide a mechanism that judges or parties to divorce proceedings may use to get insurance companies involved. The statute applies to health, life, and disability insurance coverage for spouses and children.

In essence, this second law allows a party to a proceeding or a judge to send a notice to an insurance company letting the company know that the ownership or benefits of a policy it has issued may be affected by a pending divorce proceeding. The notice advises the company that it must maintain the policy of ownership, beneficiaries, and covered dependents as they currently are until it receives an official document notifying it otherwise.

These laws provide important protections to prevent a spouse from changing or canceling insurance to the other spouse’s detriment. However, even with these laws in place, people are sometimes still successful in altering insurance. When this happens, it is critical to work with an experienced family lawyer who can schedule a quick hearing to protect or reinstate your insurance rights. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in divorce matters, including property and insurance issues. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.


Transmutation: What It Is and Why You Should Care about It

Transmutation: What It Is and Why You Should Care about It

In every divorce, both parties are concerned about the property they will get and the debt they will be assigned. The threshold issue in the division of property is how it is characterized: community or separate. To read more about community and separate property, please see our earlier blog here.

The importance of property characterization cannot be overstated. If property is truly held separately by one spouse, the other spouse has no right to part of the property. And if property is owned by both partners as community property, each has a right to his or her interest. Transmutation of property allows spouses to change the characterization of property ownership; it can therefore be a critical issue in every divorce.

Merriam-Webster defines “transmute” as “to completely change the form, appearance, or nature of . . . something.” When property is transmuted, its character is completely changed in one of the following three ways:

  • From community property to separate property;
  • From separate property to community property; or
  • From one spouse’s separate property to the other spouse’s separate property.

By law, California spouses have the authority to transmute both real and personal property in these three ways, provided the following requirements are met:

  • The agreement must be in writing; and
  • The “spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected” must expressly declare that she makes, joins in, consents to, or accepts the transmutation.

Exceptions are narrow. The first is that third parties are not bound by spousal transmutation of real property unless the third party either has notice or the transmutation is recorded at the courthouse. The second exception is that transmutation is not required for gifts between spouses of personal items as long as the gifts are “not substantial in value taking into account the circumstances of the marriage.” To illustrate, most clothing and costume jewelry would qualify as gifts and therefore the separate property of the recipient. Conversely, expensive jewelry may or may not be considered “substantial,” depending on the circumstances of the marriage.

Transmutation can be a powerful force in California divorces. If you are involved in or are contemplating a California divorce and transmutation of property is a concern, you should work with an experienced family lawyer to protect your interests. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in divorce, including property division issues such as transmutation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can fight for you: (415) 293-8314.

By When Must You Request an Annulment in California?

By When Must You Request an Annulment in California?
When many people hear of an “annulment” of marriage, their thoughts turn to religious annulments, such as those given by the Catholic Church. In family law, the term “annulment” refers to a judicial order declaring a marriage invalid; this type of annulment can only be granted by a judge in a civil court proceeding. Although an annulment makes it as if a marriage never occurred, in most cases, there are deadlines by which a request for annulment must be made. The legal term for the time period by which a lawsuit must be filed is “statute of limitations.”

In California, there are two types of marriages that may be annulled: void and voidable. A void marriage is invalid from the very start. Only two types of marriages fall into this category, those that are incestuous and those that are bigamous. The other six grounds for an annulment are known as “voidable” because it requires some action to invalidate the marriage. Those grounds are age, a prior existing marriage or domestic partnership, unsound mind, fraud, force, or physical incapacity. You can read more about the grounds for annulment at our earlier blog here.

The statute of limitations for requesting a civil annulment depends on the reason for annulment.


The parent of a person who marries under the age of 18 years may request an annulment any time before the child’s 18th birthday. In addition, the minor who married while under age 18 may request an annulment before his or her 22nd birthday.

Earlier Marriage or Domestic Partnership

Either party to a marriage may request an annulment if one of them has a prior existing marriage or domestic partnership. Additionally, the earlier spouse or domestic partner may request that the marriage be annulled.

Unsound Mind

An annulment on the ground that one of the parties was of unsound mind must be requested before either party to the voidable marriage dies. Either the spouse who claims the other spouse was of unsound mind or a person who is legally responsible for the person of unsound mind may request the annulment.


If one of the parties to a marriage entered into the marriage because of fraud, he or she may request an annulment within four years after discovering the fraud.


A person who was forced to give his or her consent to marry may request an annulment within four years after the date of marriage.

Physical Incapacity

A spouse may have a marriage annulled on the ground that the other spouse was physically incapable of consummating their relationship. This type of annulment must be requested within four years of the date of marriage.

California laws include specific requirements that must be met for an annulment, and the person requesting the annulment must prove that one of the grounds exists. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including annulments. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can protect you and your children: (415) 293-8314.

What Does It Mean to Establish Paternity?

What Does It Mean to Establish Paternity
Most people know that establishing paternity relates to naming someone as a child’s legal parent. However, many people are less clear about why it is important to establish paternity, also known as parentage.

When a child’s mother is married at the time the child is conceived or born, the person to whom she is married is automatically presumed to be the other parent, unless the court finds otherwise based on evidence before it. This presumption also applies to certain couples in registered domestic partnerships, as well as to situations in which the second parent openly treated the child as his or her own.

However, if the mother is not married at the time the child is born, the child does not have a second legal parent. In these cases, California provides two simple ways to establish parentage: a formal declaration of paternity or a court order.

In either case, once someone is established as a child’s legal parent, he or she gains both rights and responsibilities relating to the child. Only after parentage is established may that parent exercise parental rights, such pursuing custody and visitation. Additionally, until parentage is established, a person cannot be held legally responsible to pay child support.

While custody, visitation, and child support are all important reasons to establish parentage, there are many others:

  • The child’s right to inherit from the parent;
  • The child’s right to certain benefits related to the parent, such as Social Security and veteran’s benefits;
  • The child’s ability to access family medical records and history;
  • The right to recover certain government-provided benefits on behalf of the child;
  • The presence of the person’s name as a parent on the child’s birth certificate; and
  • The child’s ability to recover as a health or life insurance beneficiary from the person.

In addition to these concrete benefits, California law recognizes that “knowing one’s father is important to a child’s development.”

Declaration of Paternity

The simplest way to establish parentage is through a declaration of paternity signed voluntarily by both parents. This is a state-created a form that has the same effect as a court order when it is filed with the California Department of Child Support Services. By law, birthing hospitals and prenatal clinics must provide a voluntary declaration of paternity to an unmarried mother. The declarations are also available for free “at all local child support agency offices, offices of local registrars of births and deaths, courts, and county welfare departments.”

A parent who signs a declaration of paternity waives several legal rights, such as the right to have a court decide the issue of paternity and the right to legal representation in paternity proceedings.

Court Order

A court order is the second way parentage may be established when a mother is unwed at conception or birth. Either parent may petition a court to establish parentage. For example, a mother may ask a court to enter an order establishing a biological father as her child’s legal father. After this is done, the mother can pursue child support from the father. Similarly, a biological father may ask a court to establish him as the father, after which he may pursue custody or visitation with the child.

Parentage is the basis for many rights and responsibilities under California law. If you are involved in a parentage dispute, you want an attorney with substantial experience in Northern California who will represent you aggressively. Please contact the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.