Change These Documents After Your Divorce

Change These Documents After Your Divorce

Many things change during a divorce: residence, last name, marital status (of course). With all these adjustments, it may be natural to miss a few. Certain documents, though, may have a long-lasting effect on you and your heirs.

Your Estate Planning Documents.

Any time you experience a life event – like divorce, marriage, or an addition to the family – it’s extremely important to review and update your estate planning documents.


Your Will tells everyone where you want your possession to go when you die. People who are married often give most, if not all, of their estate to their spouses. Sometimes the executor named is also the spouse of the person signing the Will. Obviously, if your marriage is at a point where you want out, you’ll want to remove all references to your spouse.

A durable power of attorney grants an agent the authority to act on your behalf. Married couples often name each other as agents. You can revoke your power of attorney at any time.

The Advanced Healthcare Directive is another common estate planning document. This document also grants an agent power to act on your behalf. Unless you really want your ex-partner making end-of-life decisions for you, you should change this document immediately.

Your Beneficiary Designations.

Companies like financial institutions and insurance companies give accountholders the ability to designate beneficiaries on their accounts. These designations should be changed as soon as possible. However, unlike estate planning documents, these designations usually cannot be changed during a divorce proceeding. As soon as you are legally allowed, name new beneficiaries on all your accounts.

Also, remember that changing your Will does not affect how accounts with beneficiary designations pass to your heirs. So, disowning your spouse in a new Will does not mean he won’t have a claim against a life insurance policy where he’s named the beneficiary.

Divorce Is Hard. We Can Help.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger specialize in family law matters. Feel free to give us a call at 415-293-8314 to set up a confidential appointment.

Our offices are conveniently located in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacrament), and Roseville.
Keeping Property Separate During a Marriage

Keeping Property Separate During a Marriage

Marriage is the ultimate partnership. But it’s more than just two people in love forming a union of two souls. Each person usually brings along property, money, and personal possessions. At least some of that property is considered ‘separate property.’ As a marriage progresses, couples also acquire property, some of which might be intended to be the property of only one member of the couple. It’s important to understand about keeping property separate during a marriage.

Community Property.

California is a community property state, meaning that property acquired by a couple is considered the property of both partners. The same principle applies to debt, with each partner usually being held accountable for debt owed by either partner.

Separate Property?

Sometimes parties will bring separate property into a marriage or domestic partnership. During the marriage, gifts or inheritance to one partner are also considered separate property, meaning it’s the property of the person who received the gift or inheritance.

Property and debts acquired after the date you and your partner enter into a separation is also considered separate property.

Commingling of Property

As you might imagine, determining whether something is separate property or community property can be difficult. For example, perhaps one spouse uses their own money to buy a house before marrying. However, during the marriage, mortgage payments were made using money earned by both spouses. Equity built up during the marriage is community property, but the down payment on the house is still separate property.

Keeping it Separate.

Fortunately, there are ways to maintain separate property during a marriage:

  • Be careful titling financial accounts and real property. For example, don’t automatically add your new spouse’s name to property you obtained before your marriage.
  • Income and dividends from separate property should be kept separate.
  • Use separate income to maintain separate property.
  • Don’t commingle inherited property and gifts.
  • Maintain accurate records of what property was acquired before and during the marriage.

Final Thoughts.

When spouses own property in more than one state, or have lived and worked in a state other than California during their marriage, the separate property/ community property debate becomes more complex.

To discuss how to handle separate and community property issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Can I Keepy My Divorce Records Private?

Can I Keep My Divorce Records Private?

Divorce is a highly personal experience. Most people would prefer to keep details about their divorce within their circle of friends and family. In California, though, most court proceedings are maintained as a matter of public record. Divorce is no exception, but there may be things you can do to keep at least some of your divorce records private.

Sealed Cover

Documents filed under what’s called a ‘sealed cover’ are not accessible to the public. Family law documents that include the following information may be filed under a sealed cover:

  • Paternity;
  • Healthcare records;
  • Financial records;
  • Identifying information about minors; and
  • Information about the identity of a victim of domestic or sexual violence.

If your divorce papers include this type of information, consult with your attorney about ensuring the information is filed under sealed cover.

Motion or Application to Seal

Some documents containing embarrassing or highly personal information are not automatically filed under a sealed cover.

To have these records kept confidential, your attorney may file a motion to seal the record. The motion will be served on all parties. The court then may enter an order granting or denying the request. If granted, not only will the records be hidden from the public, but other parties generally will be prohibited from disclosing information they learn from sealed records.


The term ‘redaction’ means marking out sensitive information in a document. Information may be redacted from documents that are public record. Protected data includes social security numbers and financial account information. So, if you must provide information to the court or opposing counsel that includes your bank account numbers, for example, the account numbers can be redacted.

Learn More About Filing for Divorce

In general, you cannot keep all your divorce records private. However, your attorney may be able to get the court to seal records under certain circumstances.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Despite everyone’s best efforts, child custody issues arise. Even in cases where the court and parents have agreed on what’s in the best interests for the children, life changes. At some point after a divorce, one parent may want or need to move out of state.

What California law says about move aways.

According to California Family Code 7501:

(a) A parent entitled to the custody of a child has a right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to affirm the decision in In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, and to declare that ruling to be the public policy and law of this state.

The decision in In re Marriage of Burgess grants a parent the presumptive right to move, not an absolute right. This means the court may or may not allow you to move. The court will consider factors in addition to your custody order before granting or denying your request to move away.

How much time do you usually spend with your child?

The court may consider how much time each parent spends with the child when deciding a move away case. The parent who has physical custody of a child more than the other parent may be more likely to win a move away case. Whether the time spent together is quality time may also influence the court’s decision.

Will the move be detrimental to your child?

Is the move being made for a legitimate reason that may benefit the child? Moving closer to extended family, living in a better neighborhood, and attending a better school are good reasons to move. Moving to be closer to your boyfriend or your favorite beach are not.

However, moving can be tough on a child’s relationship with his or her non-custodial parent, but courts often don’t consider that harmful enough to deny the motion to leave. However, if any of the child’s rights will be restricted due to the move, the court may refuse to allow the parent to move away.

Do you have a plan?

If you’re thinking of moving away, you need to plan ahead. It can be months before a judge grants or denies your request to move.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are highly experienced with child custody issues. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

After 28 years, Olivia and Simon’s loveless marriage sputtered to an end. Before they could finalize their divorce, however, Simon learned he had Stage 2 prostate cancer. He and Olivia needed time – and the advice of their respective counsel – to assess the affect his serious health problems had on their divorce.

Health Insurance and Medical Bills

People in the middle of a divorce proceeding may be concerned about one of their biggest expenses – health insurance. This is especially true if one spouse has been paying the insurance premium for the other. Each divorce may be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In some situations, the insured spouse may continue paying their ex-spouse’s premiums as part of their settlement. In fact, the California Family Code states that health and medical insurance should be maintained until the divorce has become final.

Some couples may decide that the uninsured spouse should seek COBRA coverage. This option, though expensive, may be necessary if one of the spouses has a serious medical condition.

In a community property state like California, marital assets and marital debts are split between spouses. Medical bills incurred during the marriage, then, are likely to be considered the responsibility of both spouses.

Mental Health Concerns

If one spouse is mentally ill or lacks the ability to make decisions, the other spouse can usually obtain a divorce. The court may require medical examinations before granting the divorce. Also, just because one spouse suffers from mental illness does not mean the other spouse receives more of the marital property. Assets and debts still become part of the marital property.

Estate Planning

A complete estate plan typically includes a financial power of attorney, a living will, and a Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Parties to a divorce should make sure their estate planning documents are updated, especially when one partner is ill.

For example, when Olivia and Simon finalize their divorce, they need to change their estate planning documents. It’s especially important for Simon to prepare estate planning documents that relate to medical and financial decisions because his medical condition may require others to make medical decisions for him. If he named Olivia as his agent, she most likely will no longer want to serve.

Call to Learn More About Preliminary Financial Disclosures and Your Divorce.

In addition to legal decisions, Olivia faced tough moral and ethical dilemmas. People dealing with a divorce and a seriously ill spouse may decide to continue with the divorce, stop the divorce, or file for legal separation until they decide what is best. An experienced California divorce attorney can suggest options that are right for your situation.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

Can a Child Choose Who to Live With?

Can a Child Choose Who to Live With?

Couples in the middle of a divorce face many tough decisions. None may be more difficult, though, than issues involving children. The courts attempt to make custody decisions that are in the best interests of the child or children involved. However, children may want to choose where they live. How will the courts take the child’s preferences into account?

When is a child competent enough to choose where to live?

In California, that’s a bit of a gray area. The Family Code states:

3042.(a) If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.

It can be difficult to determine if children are “of sufficient age and capacity to reason.” One 12-year old might be able to make such an important decision, while another is overwhelmed.

Is there a specific age where children can choose?

The California Code specifically states:

(c)  If the child is 14 years of age or older and wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interests. In that case, the court shall state its reasons for that finding on the record.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to prevent a child who is less than 14 years of age from addressing the court regarding custody or visitation if the court determines that is appropriate pursuant to the child’s best interests.

Will a child’s choice make a difference?

Children definitely can state their preferences. At the end of the day, however, children don’t always know what’s best for them. Courts look at several factors, including the child’s expressed wish, before deciding the best arrangement for the child.

Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney.

Divorces are never easy. We’re here to help. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Cost, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.