Who Gets the Intellectual Property During a Divorce

Who Gets the Intellectual Property During a Divorce?

Some property is easy to split during a divorce. One spouse may get the kitchen equipment, while the other gets the books. Maybe each spouse gets a car, and so on. With some intangible property, however, the division can be less clear cut. For example, intellectual property can be a bit of a mystery, which makes it difficult to divide during a divorce. Who gets the intellectual property? That depends on several factors.

Property Division, Generally

It’s been said a million times, but that’s because it is true: California is a community property state. This means that couples generally have equal ownership of property and debt acquired during their marriage. There are some exceptions. For example, gifts and inheritance usually remain the separate property of the spouse recipient.

Types of “Intellectual Property”

By definition, intellectual property typically is a work of human intellect. In practice, intellectual property rights may attach to:
  • Patents,
  • Copyrights,
  • Industrial design rights,
  • Plant varieties,
  • Trademarks, and
  • Trade secrets.
An inventor may have exclusive rights to an invention that is patented. Someone involved in an artistic or creative field may own the copyright to their works, which also gives them exclusive rights. If the inventor or artist owns the sole right to use or benefit from their intellectual property, is it their separate property? Should it be considered community property?

Dividing Intellectual Property During a Divorce

Generally, a spouse’s effort, time, and skill are considered community assets. During a divorce, each party must disclose all assets and debts to the other party, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property. As with other property, intellectual property may be divided among the spouses, regardless of who actually created it. When it comes time to divide intellectual property, however, that property’s value can be a problem. A work of art or invention may not be profitable at the time of divorce but could generate future income. Determining whether an ex-spouse receives any future profits from intellectual property is a complicated issue. In re Marriage of Worth is one important California divorce case that involved intellectual property rights. The husband, Frederick L. Worth, had written and published several trivia books during his marriage to Susan Worth. When the couple divorced, they agreed to split the book royalties evenly. However, the husband later filed a lawsuit against the makers of the board game “Trivial Pursuit” claiming they had plagiarized his books. Though their divorce was final, Susan Worth claimed one-half of any proceeds from her husband’s lawsuit. Because the books were considered community property in the divorce, “such copyrights and related tangible benefits must be considered community property.” (See 1 Nimmer on Copyright (1987) §6.13[B], p. 6-37).

Intellectual Property – Divorce or Not – Is Complicated

If you or your spouse own interest in intellectual property, talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. 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 Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

When parents divorce, some of the most important decisions they face relate to their children. For example, Max and Becca didn’t disagree about much during the early stages of their divorce. However, both were a bit stymied when it came to the kids. They weren’t sure how to prepare a parenting plan that the judge would approve. Let’s look at four of the most important factors considered during child custody discussions.

Health & Safety of Child

Each parent generally is expected to play a role in the health and safety of the child. In fact, the judge may consider this a primary concern when reviewing a parenting plan or making custody decisions. One way to promote the health and safety of a child is to remember that children generally are more likely to thrive when parents:
  • Avoid physical violence toward each other or the child;
  • Agree on living arrangements and rules;
  • Provide a safe and appropriate environment for visiting with family and friends.
A parenting plan usually includes agreements on how to handle medical issues, including doctor visits, vaccinations, health insurance, and emergency medical treatments.

Relationship with Family

Another area of critical importance is the child’s relationship with his or her parents and extended family. A judge may scrutinize a parent’s interactions with the child before assigning joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. Judges generally like both parents to be involved in caring for a child. Signs of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence taint a child’s relationship with the abusing parent. California divorce courts put the child’s best interests before the parent’s need to be with their child.

Stability of Living Environments

While it’s important to consider how well a child and parent get along together, the living environment plays a big role in deciding custody:
  • A parent who allows unsafe or illegal activities in the home may receive limited custody and visitation.
  • Parents who move frequently and erratically may not be providing the best home environment.

Overall Best Interests of Child

California law requires a divorce court judge to make custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child. During child custody discussions, courts may look at the big picture. For example, a child may love both parents, but the court grants sole custody to one parent or requires supervised visits with the other parent. This may occur because one parent has put the child at risk or ignored the child’s basic needs of health, safety, home, and family.

Make Your Child Custody Discussions Count

Start with retaining an attorney who understands complex child custody arrangements., as does Judy Burger who is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. To discuss how to handle property and divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

We often have trouble recognizing the signs of an abusive spouse. Some people tolerate mild behavior from a spouse without realizing it has worsened over the years. Others accept threatening behavior because they are afraid or feel they have no place to go. Maybe you feel you are in a bad relationship but don’t feel it has risen to the level of abuse. Let’s look at some of the signs that may open your eyes.

Some Signs of Abuse Are Obvious

Physical violence may be the biggest red flag. If you have experienced any of the following from your spouse, you have been abused:
  • Hair pulling, slapping, biting, kicking, scratching, and choking;
  • Putting you in dangerous situations;
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol;
  • Using weapons or other devices to hurt you; and
  • Forcing you to perform sexual acts.
Actions related to physical violence also signal trouble. For example, your spouse or partner may be abusive if he or she prevents you from calling for help, getting medical attention, sleeping, eating, or calling the police.

More Subtle Actions May Be Abusive, Too

Some signs of an abusive spouse may not be so obvious. However, the following behaviors may be considered mistreatment:
  • Insulting remarks;
  • Undermining your self-confidence;
  • Demanding that you change your appearance or get plastic surgery;
  • Isolating you from your family and friends;
  • Destroying your personal property;
  • Ignoring your wishes and boundaries;
  • Harassing you with phone calls, emails, and texts;
  • Monitoring your every move;
  • Showing no compassion or empathy.
Remember that abuse doesn’t have to be physical and that either spouse or partner can be abusive.

What Can You Do if You Recognize the Signs of an Abusive Spouse?

Your course of action may depend on the level of abuse you face. If your spouse will not address abusive behavior, it may be time to consider divorce or at least a domestic violence restraining order. However, leave or call for help if you feel unsafe for any reason. 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, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
When Your Spouse Has Multiple Residences

When Your Spouse Has Multiple Residences

Larry and Gina married in Texas but lived in several states during their 28-year marriage. In fact, they still jointly owned houses in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The couple enjoyed the extra income from renting the properties and hoped to retire to one of the properties one day. When Larry decided to file for divorce, he was living in California while Gina still lived in Illinois. He wasn’t sure how to handle a divorce when he and his spouse have multiple residences, in multiple states. This sticky situation arises more frequently than you might imagine.

Residents of California

To file for divorce in California, you must meet the following residency requirements:
  • You must have lived in California for the last 6 months; AND
  • You also must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least the last 3 months.
Notice that only the person filing the divorce is held to these residency requirements. Problems occur when one spouse lives out of state or the couple own property in more than one state. However, filing the divorce petition is only the first step in the process. At some point, the parties will have to consider how to divide property that is not located in California.

Property Outside of California

California courts typically do not have the power to control property located in other jurisdictions. While the judge can make decisions about a divorce case filed in California, it may not have the power to divide out-of-state property. This situation is called a divisible divorce. It may be necessary to hire attorneys practicing in states where the other property is located to handle property division.

Divorce When Your Spouse Has Multiple Residences Can Get Complicated

You may have to give careful consideration about the best jurisdiction in which to file your divorce. Discuss your options with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. 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 You Keep a High-Profile Divorce Out of the Tabloids

Can You Keep a High-Profile Divorce Out of the Tabloids?

To many people, the most interesting news articles contain juicy bits about the marital woes of the rich and famous. But most divorces are highly personal and emotionally charged. Whether you are well-known in your local community or the international scene, you probably want to keep your high-profile divorce out of the tabloids. It may be possible, although difficult, to do so in California.

Accessing Typical Public Records

Often, legal documents that affect our lives become part of the public record. For example, when you pass away, your Will becomes a public document when it is filed for probate. In California, most court documents are available for viewing by the general public. This typically is true even for family law cases. However, there might be a way for you to keep your divorce out of the tabloids and away from the prying eyes of your neighbors, family, and friends.

Court-Approved Privacy

Records can be sealed by court order. A judge may order the entire file to be kept private or just portions of it. For example, the entire record in Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert’s 2015 high-profile divorce case was sealed. However, courts generally do not seal records just because that’s what the divorcing couple want. In California, the couple must file an application for an order sealing the divorce record. In addition, a memorandum and declaration stating why the records should be sealed is filed with the application. The parties may file redacted documents, with all sensitive information covered so it cannot be read. However, the parties may be required to send certain parties unredacted records. If the judge approves the application, records will be kept separate and marked to ensure limited access. In addition to sealing the records, court orders typically prohibit people associated with the divorce from disclosing information contained in the records.

You May Be Able to Keep a High-Profile Divorce Private

In limited cases, a couple may be able to file their divorce papers without putting their names on the public records. If privacy is a real issue in your impending divorce, talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. 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 Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
What Is “Property” in a Divorce?

What Is “Property” in a Divorce?

We all own ‘stuff.’ Sometimes we get quite attached to that stuff, which makes it that much more difficult to divide it up during a divorce. Both parties may want an item and have trouble deciding whether it is considered property in a divorce. Basically, property is anything that can be bought or sold or has a value. However, the question may become more complex during the property division stage of a divorce.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Generally, courts consider most property (and debts) accumulated during a marriage to belong to both parties. However, this is not as cut and dried as it may seem. For example, an inheritance one spouse receives during the marriage may remain the separate property of that party. Sometimes separate property may become mixed with community property during the course of the marriage. Hard decisions have to be made, then approved by the court.

But Is it Really “Property”

Generally, we think of personal property and real property. Some possessions may not be thought of as property, though, especially when it comes to splitting them between spouses. That said, you might expect the following items to be personal property:
  • Furniture,
  • décor,
  • collections, like wine or art,
  • appliances,
  • clothes,
  • jewelry,
  • books, and
  • other personal effects.
However, personal property also may include:
  • bank accounts,
  • retirement accounts,
  • investment accounts,
  • vehicles, including boats, cars, and airplanes.
Real estate, or real property, may include:
  • Your home,
  • Commercial property, and
  • investment property.
We sometimes don’t think of our belongings as “property” in a divorce, property that needs to be split. For example, Margie never considered her husband’s tool collection as property  — until she filed for divorce. And Liam never thought his wife’s art collection was a big deal, but then it became property to be appraised during their property division negotiations. Whether you consider items to be property or not, be aware that they may figure into your divorce settlement.

Final Thoughts on Property in a Divorce

Determining whether a possession is community property or separate property makes a difference in property division. It’s also important to know the value of your property before dividing it up. You need an attorney who understands simple to complex property situations. To discuss how to handle property and divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
How to Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex

How to Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex

Sophia had planned a great June vacation with her son, Noah. Afterwards, he was heading off to a two-week summer camp in the Rockies. However, Noah’s father, Jack, invited him on a trip to Europe for the exact same time period. Sophia was exasperated because the invitation conflicted with her plans and, more importantly, did not comply with their parenting plan. Jack was supposed to take Noah in July and August, not June. Sophia and Jack had to find a way to coordinate summer vacations. First, they could look back over the arrangements they made during their divorce.

The Parenting Plan

A divorcing couple with kids negotiates a parenting plan as part of their settlement.  It’s sometimes called a custody and visitation agreement because a big part of the plan involves custody and visitation. In fact, parenting plans typically spell out who will have the children at certain times and for how long. Holidays and summer vacations usually are an important part of the negotiations that go into the parenting plan. After parents reach an agreement, a judge signs a custody order binding the parents to the agreement. Does this mean the custody and visitation agreements will never change?

Modifications to the Plan?

It is possible to negotiate changes to a visitation schedule. This may require the court’s approval in certain circumstances. However, the parents may agree on a new way of handling visitation without court intervention. Sophia and Jack share legal custody of Noah, but Sophia has primary physical custody. Most of the time, they have no trouble adjusting their visitation schedule. This time is different, though. Jack’s work schedule has changed, and he would like to have more time with Noah over the summer. They may want to negotiate a modification of their parenting plan and have it approved by the court. But Sophia and Jack’s most important consideration should be what is right for Noah.

What Should You Focus on When You Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex?

What course of action serves the best interests of your child? Maybe there’s no compelling reason to deny your ex’s summer vacation plans. However, if you feel your children may be in danger or harmed in some way by those plans, discuss your options with a divorce attorney immediately. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including child visitation plans and modifications. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Tips for Helping Kids Survive Divorce

Tips for Helping Kids Survive Divorce

If you are getting divorced and have children, you may question how to tell your kids about the divorce. They may need help learning to cope with all the changes in their lives. Parents, and other adults who love the children, may need tips on helping kids survive divorce. We will look at few tips in this article.

Recognize Stages Kids Go Through

After telling your children about the divorce, watch for the following emotions and behavior:

  • Denial – refusing to believe their parents are separating.
  • Anger – misbehaving and acting out because of the disruption to their lives.
  • Depression – feeling overwhelmed or helpless.
  • Bargaining – trying to get parents to reconcile.
  • Acceptance – beginning to heal and get back to normal.

At every stage, parents may have the opportunity to help their children cope.

Parents Can Make Transitions Easier – Or Far More Difficult

The parents’ behavior goes a long way toward helping kids learn to survive and thrive during a divorce. With that in mind:

  • Don’t use your children as pawns or messengers.
  • Do talk positively as much as possible.
  • Don’t talk bad about your children’s other parent.
  • Do encourage your children to talk about how they feel.
  • Don’t fight with each other in front of the kids.
  • Do communicate cordially and coordinate visitation.
  • Don’t forget to pick up and return the kids at the scheduled dates and times.
  • Do show your children that you love them.

In addition, negotiate your marital settlement and parenting plan in good faith. Try to come up with a plan that helps your kids survive divorce.

Courts Pay Attention to Children’s Needs

Laws, statutes, and regulations cannot eliminate feelings of rage, revenge, unworthiness, and grief. It may be difficult to control your emotions and actions. However, judges will assess how parents relate to their children when deciding child custody arrangements. Courts are required to keep the children’s best interests in mind, even when the parents struggle with addressing their kids’ feelings along with their own.

Helping Kids Survive Divorce Is a Top Priority

It’s not always easy, though. Having an attorney help with a divorce may ease some of your tension.

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.
No Fault Divorce Do I Need Grounds for Divorce in California

No Fault Divorce: Do I Need Grounds for Divorce in California

Sarah felt it was time to end her marriage to Albert. They’d been together seven years. After the honeymoon, their relationship shifted, work tugged them apart, and they rarely spent time together any more. However, Sarah wondered if she needed grounds for divorce in California? She couldn’t just ‘dissolve’ their marriage without some big problem like infidelity or domestic violence, right? Let’s address this question and others you may have about no-fault divorce.

Should I have a reason for filing for divorce?

The fact that you want to dissolve your marriage is a reason. It’s not necessary to make allegations of adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Instead, you simply file the papers to dissolve your marital bonds citing something like irreconcilable differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

California was actually the first state to pass a no-fault divorce law in 1969. All other states now allow no-fault divorce.

What does “irreconcilable differences” mean?

Well, it’s not just a 1984 movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Drew Barrymore. You’ve probably heard the term mentioned in the news, though.

A strict legal definition of irreconcilable differences means that the two parties face obstacles to continuing their marriage. Basically, their situation has become too bad to fix.

Before no-fault divorce, the party filing for dissolution had to prove to the court that the marriage should be terminated.

Is a no-fault divorce easier to get?

Divorces take at least six months to finalize. However, the length of time it takes to resolve all issues varies greatly depending on those issues. For example, a marriage with children or extensive financial holdings may take longer than a less complex situation.

Generally, though, a no-fault divorce is less complicated than a ‘fault’ divorce. It’s not necessary to gather evidence to present to the judge who would then decide whether or not your marriage could end.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone

It’s not necessary to prove wrongdoing to get a divorce in California. However, a spouse’s bad behavior or misconduct may affect property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support. Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney to learn more about your options.

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 Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.
Military Divorces March to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Military Divorces March to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Divorce is hard enough for most people. However, when one – or both – of the parties serve in the military, the process may feel more like a 20-mile hike with full pack than a court proceeding. While military divorces do require a few extra steps, it’s usually possible to get over any obstacles that arise.

Residency Requirements and Military Divorces

In a California divorce, at least one party must meet the following conditions regarding residency:

  • Must have lived in California for the last six months, AND
  • Must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least the past three months.

A military divorce can be filed in California if:

  • The service member’s legal residence is California; or
  • The spouse’s legal residence is California; or
  • The military member is stationed in California.

As with any divorce, the person who wants the divorce can file for legal separation if he or she does not meet the residency requirements.

Basic Issues in a Military Divorces

Branches of the military handle certain issues differently for servicemembers than civilians. For example, a divorced spouse may be able to use base housing in some circumstances. Benefits, including health care, may still be offered to some divorced spouses. Other benefits like commissary and exchange privileges may be appropriate depending on the length of the marriage and other factors.

Divorce is a civil matter handled by civil courts. However, active duty service members may be able to stop or delay an action taken in a divorce.

A Combination of State, Federal, and Military Law

California divorce laws govern much of the divorce proceeding. However, other laws relate to military divorces:

  • Service Member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law protects active-duty military personnel and their families from certain legal actions. For example, permanent custody orders may not be entered against service members who are deployed or otherwise unavailable because of military service.
  • Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act. This law relates to the division of military retired pay. Child support and spousal support are also addressed.

All Divorces Are Not Created Equal

To get through your military divorce, find an attorney with a deep understanding of California divorce law and military divorce procedures.

To discuss how to handle military divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.