Category Archives: California Divorce

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

In a previous blog, we talked about finances for women going through a divorce. Now, it’s the men’s turn. The divorce experience is as different for men and women as, well, men and women. Nowhere is that more apparent than in family finances. Even though men tend to fare better financially than women post-divorce, it is still important to consider some financial tips for men who are going through a divorce.

Learn Everything You Can About Your Finances

It may be difficult to negotiate a reasonable divorce settlement if you don’t know what’s involved. What bank accounts do you and your spouse have? How much debt do you have? Did you or your wife take the leading role in financial decisions. Make sure you know where you stand.

Make an Inventory of All Property

At this point, don’t worry about whether it is community property or separate property. Account for cash, bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and other assets. Prepare a list that is as complete as possible. Then put it in a safe place.

Explore Spousal Support Options

Some men resist paying spousal support. The reasons vary. Sometimes the husband took a greater role in financially supporting the family while the wife focused on home and children. Others may be worried they won’t have enough money to live on.

Some men resist receiving spousal support. In divorce cases where the wife makes more money than the husband, or where the husband takes an increased child custody role, the wife may pay spousal support to the husband.

Prepare for Child Support

Whether you will pay and how much depends on a number of factors. The judge hearing your divorce case will enter an order for one or both parents to provide a certain amount to cover a child’s living expenses.

Make sure you provide complete and accurate financial disclosures. The court will consider both parents’ net disposable income when deciding on child support.

Hold Off on Impulse Buying

Depression or even a sense of freedom sends some men over the financial deep end. This may not be the best time to buy a boat, go to Vegas, or move cross country. If possible, wait until after the divorce is final before making any big decisions.

Divorce is Hard

An experienced California divorce attorney can help you achieve the best outcome 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.
Financial Tips for Women Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Women Going Through a Divorce

Marcia’s career skyrocketed during her seven year marriage. In fact, she had become the couple’s primary source of income and handled all financial matters. Brittany had decided to provide 24/7 care for the two children she and her husband had during their five year marriage. And Sandra worried that her divorce from Rick after 22 years of marriage would leave her destitute. She had never worked outside the home and trusted her husband to make financial decisions. Though their lives are very different, each of these women would benefit from learning some financial tips for women going through a divorce.

Assess Your Combined Financial Situation

As soon as possible, start looking over your financial accounts and property owned. You can do this before you file the divorce petition or if you even suspect your spouse is considering divorce.

  • Gather all documents related to your finances. Review them carefully. Look for any hidden expenses or evidence of hidden assets.
  • Know what you and/or your spouse own. Prepare a list of assets and store in a safe location. List everything, even property you think might be your spouse’s separate property.
  • Prepare post-divorce budget. This step will help you make informed decisions about your divorce settlement and prepare for your new life.

For women who did not participate in their family’s financial decisions, this step may be difficult. They must learn how to handle finances on their own sooner rather than later.

Build Your Own Credit History

Most women find their credit is intertwined with their husband’s. Some may find it difficult to get a credit card or sign a lease within their husband’s backing. You can take the following steps as you prepare to be single again:

  • Get a copy of your credit report.
  • Open at least one bank account in just your name.
  • Start opening credit cards and applying for credit.

Building your credit history takes time. It may be particularly tough for spouses who have given up a career to care for children.

Think Carefully About Child Support, Spousal Support, and Retirement

In addition to their own concerns, some women may have to worry about providing for their children, supporting themselves after years of being out of the workforce, or having a short window of time to rebuild retirement accounts.

  • Women with children need to focus on child support during negotiations. A consent order may provide temporary child support during the pendency of the divorce.
  • Some women just don’t have the training, experience, and education to find work that provides a sustaining wage. Vocational experts may be needed to assess their earnings potential. Spousal support can help, especially in long-term marriages.
  • Finally, women involved in a gray divorce may have expected to live on hubby’s retirement accounts. Or they built a nest egg that they now have to split with their spouse. Even if they have worked, refilling retirement accounts takes time they may not have.

Get the Advice You Need

Your divorce attorney can help you get through the financial maze. 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, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office will be open soon.

Applying the Brakes with an ATROS

Applying the Brakes with an ATROS

Life moves fast sometimes. Take divorces, for example. The filing of a divorce petition may quickly set the divorcing couple in motion. The parties to the divorce react in different ways: one may become depressed, another focuses on any children involved. Unfortunately, some people immediately start closing bank accounts, taking possessions from the family home, and making drastic changes to insurance policies. An ATROS may help divorcing couples find some balance between what they want to do and what they are allowed to do.

What is an ATROS?

ATROS stands for Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders.

What exactly does this mean?

Occasionally, one party in a divorce may seek a temporary restraining order against their spouse due to domestic violence. However, ATROS is a standard order that is not based on domestic violence. It goes into effect as soon as the summons is served. In fact, the summons contains the terms of the ATROS, which should be read carefully.

What does an ATROS mean for me?

An ATROS applies to both parties. So, whether you filed the divorce or were served papers by your spouse, each of you is responsible for obeying the ATROS.

The ATROS restrains divorcing spouses from the following types of activities:

  • Children: Don’t take minor children out of state or apply for a passport without written consent from the other parent or from the court.
  • Insurance Policies: Don’t cash out, borrow against, cancel, transfer, terminate, or change any beneficiary designations for any insurance policies that benefit the parties or their children.
  • Property: This applies to any property, whether it is community, separate, quasi-community. Don’t transfer, borrow against, hide or dispose of property without a court order or consent from your spouse. The exception to this is that action can be taken regarding property if it’s being taken in the ‘normal course of business’ or to pay for necessities.
  • Nonprobate Transfers: Assets may pass to heirs through a probate proceeding. However, property also may be transferred to heirs through beneficiary designations or property titling instead of probate (nonprobate transfers). The ATROS restricts the parties from changing or adding any nonprobate transfers. This restriction may seem complicated, so let’s look at an example: Sam decides to divorce Diane. Sam is the named beneficiary of Diane’s retirement and savings accounts. As much as she wants to, Diane cannot change the beneficiary designations without Sam’s consent or a court order.
  • Extraordinary Expenditures: Do not pay any unusual or extraordinary expenses without notifying your spouse at least five days before incurring the expense. Remember that you will have to account for this type of purchase to the court.

Talk to an Attorney About Your ATROS.

Violating an ATROS can lead to fines, attorney’s fees, and criminal charges. Make sure you are in compliance by discussing your divorce and ATROS with a qualified California divorce attorney.

To make an appointment, 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) and surrounding communities. We are opening a new Beverly Hills office soon.
Vocational Experts May Make a Difference in Your Divorce Settlement

Vocational Experts May Make a Difference in Your Divorce Settlement

Sometimes it is necessary to call in experts to help finalize a divorce settlement. In addition to forensic accountants, child psychologists, and financial experts, one or both parties may call vocational experts for assistance.

Vocational experts analyze an individual’s ability to work compared to the job market. They also calculate the earning power of one or both spouses. This calculation may be particularly useful where one spouse has stayed home to care for children while the other worked. Typically, the expert will assess the abilities, interests, experience, and training of an individual before compiling a report.

Why Hire a Vocational Expert?

Sometimes one party will reduce their income in an effort to avoid child support and spousal support obligations. Income assessments performed by a vocational expert may be used by the court instead of that spouse’s actual earnings. For example, let’s say Stan quits his six-figure corporate job to flip burgers. He does not want to pay child support or spousal support. Based on a vocational expert’s report, the court may overlook what Stan is actually paid in favor of what he is capable of earning.

In some divorce proceedings, vocational experts may be needed to assess both parties. Consider the divorce of Joe and Patricia M. One spouse, Joe, has been the primary breadwinner for most of the marriage. He claims that he should pay very little spousal support because Patricia has a degree in accounting. However, Patricia’s vocational expert estimates her earning potential to be much lower than Joe’s because she was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Their divorce settlement likely will be based at least in part on the vocational expert’s lower estimate.

Vocational experts may also assess a spouse’s abilities, then compare them to the current job market. For example, Jackie trained and worked as a travel agent before she married. Unfortunately, travel agents are being replaced with online reservation sites, so Jackie’s job opportunities may be limited. A vocational expert might report that Jackie’s earning potential is low or that she needs extensive retraining to find a new career. Either way, a court may take this information into account when finalizing her divorce settlement.

Learn More About Vocational Experts

Courts are not generally required to accept a vocational experts’ report. However, such reports are often considered during the final negotiation of a divorce settlement.

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), and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office is opening soon!
I’m Afraid My Spouse Will Take Our Children Out of State. What Can I Do?

I’m Afraid My Spouse Will Take Our Children Out of State. What Can I Do?

Child custody is complicated. Between physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, sole custody – it’s easy to get confused. However, doing what’s best for the children should be at the forefront of every discussion about child custody. It’s typically best for children to live near both parents, whenever practical, to maintain and foster their relationships. But what happens when it becomes necessary to relocate? Many parents struggle to decide where their children will live and whether the other parent can move the children out of state.

Before the Parenting Plan … and After

Address relocation issues in your parenting plan, if possible. Disagreements about where the children can live may be worked out with a mediator. As always, if parents are unable to agree, the court will decide where the children will live and with whom.

After a parenting plan is put in place, however, things may change. One parent may want to move children to another city or even out of state. Sometimes it is necessary to put the issue before a judge.

Courts try to make all decisions keeping the best interests of the children in mind, and relocation issues are no different. The judge may consider some of the following issues when deciding whether children can be moved out of state:

  • Will the move alter visitation?
  • Will the move hurt the relationship between the child and the parent who is not moving?
  • What type of custody arrangements are already in place?

The parenting plan can be changed by agreement or by court order. The form of custody granted to the parent seeking to move may influence a judge’s decisions about relocation.

The Type of Custody May Matter

Child custody generally falls into these categories:

  • Joint legal custody,
  • Sole legal custody,
  • Joint physical custody, and
  • Sole legal custody.

A parent with sole physical custody may move the children unless the other parent proves that the move will harm the children in some way. For example, Hannah wants to move her children from California to Connecticut to be closer to her family. Jonah, the children’s father, has a very close relationship with his children, and he filed a motion to stop the move. Because of that relationship and the children’s ties to the community, the judge ruled in Jonah’s favor. Hannah was free to move out of state but was not allowed to take the children.

When the parents have joint physical custody, the parent seeking to relocate must prove that the move is beneficial to the children. Let’s say Hannah and Jonah have joint legal custody. Hannah wants to move, but Jonah objects. The burden is on Hannah to prove that the move is good for the kids.

It’s Complicated. We Can Help.

Moving children out of state can be difficult. You need an advocate to help you understand your options.

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.

How to Get Temporary Spousal Support or Child Support

How to Get Temporary Spousal Support or Child Support

Often a party to a divorce may be eligible for temporary spousal support, temporary child support, or both. Calculating the amounts due can be a complicated process. Though this is not a comprehensive list, courts may consider some of these factors when calculating support:

  • Earning capacity, including employability and ability to work without harming dependent children;
  • Future earning capacity of a party who chose caring for family over pursuing a career,
  • Contributions made by one spouse toward the education or training of the other,
  • Ability to pay spousal support while maintaining a standard of living,
  • Community and separate obligations and assets,
  • Length of marriage,
  • Age and health of each spouse,
  • Domestic violence claims,
  • Tax consequences to the parties,
  • Criminal convictions, and
  • Any other factors the court considers to be important.

One thing to remember is that temporary spousal support and child support are not granted automatically. You have to ask for them.

Applying for Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support can be requested if you have an open case for divorce, legal separation, or a domestic violence restraining order. Your attorney can help you complete and file the following forms to request temporary spousal support or child support:

  • Request for Order, and
  • Income and Expense Declaration.

After filing your papers, you will have someone else serve a copy on your spouse, along with two other documents:

  • Responsive Declaration to Request for Order, and
  • Income and Expense Declaration.

Then you and your attorney will file a document stating that your spouse was served. At the hearing, the judge will sign an order stating whether you get temporary spousal support and how much.

Applying for Temporary Child Support

You must have opened one of the following cases to request temporary child support:

  • If married or a registered domestic partner – a divorce, legal separation, annulment, domestic violence restraining order, petition for custody, or local child support agency case.
  • If not married or a domestic partner –a parentage (paternity) case, domestic violence restraining order, petition for custody and support of minor children, local child support agency case.

This process is similar to requesting temporary spousal support. However, make sure you serve copies with the local child support agency if they are involved.

As with spousal support, the judge enters a court order. After the hearing, the process is slightly different. You’ll need to prepare a Notice of Rights and Responsibilities – Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures. Each parent will also complete a Child Support Case Registry Form

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone.

Navigating divorce court can be distressing. We’re here to help. 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, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office is opening soon.

FAQs About Parenting Plans

FAQs About Parenting Plans

California courts are strongly “pro-child.” Typically, decisions are based on the best interests of any children involved in a divorce or legal separation. Let’s look at a few questions frequently asked about parenting plans.

What is a parenting plan?

When a divorcing couple have children, they need to agree on how to care for them. Also called a custody and visitation agreement, the parenting plan sets out how physical and legal custody will be handled.

To avoid misunderstandings, a parenting plan should include specific provisions about each parent’s responsibilities and obligations. For example, a plan might state who will handle:

  • Health care and medical treatments,
  • School, educational, and extracurricular activities,
  • Exchanging the children after a visit,
  • Parenting styles,
  • Child care; and
  • Travel and relocation.

Courts look for a plan that provides the best possible solution for the children.

What if parents can’t agree on a parenting plan?

The first step is mediation. Both parents work on sample plans with their attorneys, then present their proposed parenting plans to the mediator. Although mediation is not legally binding, mediators often facilitate agreements between disputing parents.

However, sometimes mediation fails. If so, the couple schedule a hearing where their parenting plans can be presented for the judge’s consideration. The court renders a decision, sometimes with the help of independent counselors or the mediator.

What happens after we sign the parenting plan?

When parents are able to agree, then they simply submit their parenting plan to the court. Unless the judge sees something wrong with the plan – something that is not in the best interests of the children – the plan usually is approved.

Our parenting plan was approved. What now?

Follow the parenting plan. If you find that sections are not working, talk to your attorney about adjustments.

Any of the following behaviors may violate the terms of your parenting plan:

  • Trying to turn your child against his or her other parent,
  • Being late when it is time to return your child after visitation,
  • Refusing to allow visitation at all, or
  • Refusing to handle educational or healthcare decisions as agreed.

When you violate your parenting plan, you are violating a court order. A judge may hold you in contempt of court. The consequences could be as simple as attending a parenting class or as severe as jail time.

Final Thoughts

The driving principle behind a parent plan is to act in the best interests of the child. Make sure your parenting plan is right for your children.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call us at 415-293-8314 to talk about your divorce. 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), and surrounding communities. We are opening a Beverly Hills office soon.

Hitting the Books: Handling Finances When Students Divorce

Hitting the Books: Handling Finances When Students Divorce

Jordan and Hailey met and married while both were freshmen at Sacramento State. Unfortunately, the marriage ended after two years. Both were still in college. As their divorce progressed, they ran into some issues regarding their student loans. They learned that debt is handled differently when students divorce or when student loans are involved in a divorce.

Splitting Debt in a Divorce

Typically, most debt incurred during a marriage is community debt that is split between the spouses. There are exceptions, and other factors to consider, but this is the general rule of thumb.

For example, Jordan uses the couple’s credit card more than Hailey does. When they divorce, however, it is possible that Hailey will be forced to pay half of Jordan’s credit card debt.

But that’s credit card debt. What about debt related to education?

Student Loans in a Divorce

Debt incurred for education or training is handled differently that other debt. Student debt acquired before or during a marriage is the separate debt of the spouse that incurred it.

Our star-crossed couple, Jordan and Hailey, both took out student loans. Some of the loans were taken out before the marriage and some during the marriage. Jordan most likely will pay his loans only. The same is true for Hailey.

Even so, there may be exceptions to the ‘student-debt-is-separate-debt’ issue when it affects the community estate.

Community Reimbursement

According to California law, community contributions for one spouse’s education or training may be reimbursed if the training enhanced his or her earning capacity. The same may hold true for repayment of loans for education or training.

However, reimbursement may be limited or eliminated if:

  • The community benefited from the party’s education, training, or student loan.
  • Both parties received community contributions for education, training, or student loans.
  • Education paid for with community funds reduces that party’s need for support.

The parties may agree to different settlement amount.

Learn More About Student Loans and Divorce

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), and surrounding communities. Also, we are opening a Beverly Hills office soon.
Regaining Custody of Your Children

Regaining Custody of Your Children

Child custody may be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce proceeding. Judges may be called upon to make unpopular decisions. Sometimes, children are removed from a parent. If this has happened to you, read on to learn more about regaining custody of your children.

Address the Problems That Caused You to Lose Custody

Termination of custody and visitation sometimes occurs because of alleged abuse or neglect. Typically, parents are allowed some time to fix whatever conditions brought about the potential termination of their rights. Children usually are returned to parents who are successful at addressing their problems.

Under most circumstances, children will be removed from a home where someone living in the home is a registered sex offender. A parent in this situation must prove to the court that the children are not in danger. This can be difficult to do because California courts are serious about protecting children.

Carefully review all custody orders. The court probably spelled out any requirements that you must meet to regain custody. Complying with the court orders means you are more likely to get your children back.

Request Custody and Visitation

There are steps you can take if you have lost custody and visitation.

  • File a motion with the court clerk.
  • Request a hearing on your motion.
  • Serve a copy of motion to the other parent involved that includes a copy of the notice of hearing.
  • Attend your hearing and present the reasons you should regain custody. Present evidence showing you have complied with court orders or addressed the problems that caused you to lose custody.

Sometimes a court will allow visitation, possibly supervised. Using your visitation rights to rebuild and maintain your relationship with your child may convince the court to reinstate your child custody arrangements. Most importantly, consult with an attorney who has experience with child custody cases.

Learn More About How to Regain Custody of Your Children

It’s not easy, but it can be done. Remember, though, that the judge will only return custody to you if it appears to be in the best interests of the child.

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.
Before You File: Issues to Tackle Before Filing Your Divorce Petition

Before You File: Issues to Tackle Before Filing Your Divorce Petition

What you do before you file for divorce really depends on the type of marriage you had. How well do you and your current spouse communicate? Does your spouse seem secretive, like they’re hiding something? Despite the many factors that go into marriage and divorce, there are some basic issues you should tackle before filing your divorce petition.

Make Sure Divorce Is the Right Option

Divorcing your spouse is a huge decision. Is it right for you? For your children? How will you handle the divorce emotionally and financially? Can your marriage be saved? Consider all your options before starting a divorce proceeding.

Figure Out What Property is Yours and What Is Not

Make an inventory of your separate property and community property before announcing you want a divorce. Keep the inventory in safe place.

Gather Documents

Find all your important papers. Some original documents, like your Will, should be placed in a secure place, like with a trusted friend or your attorney. Make copies of all other documents and store those in a safe place also. Most people hope their divorce will be amicable, but, of course, that’s not always the case. You don’t want your soon-to-be-ex walking off with your proof of property ownership, financial statements, and so on.

Make Financial Plans a Priority

Determine how much money is available now and in the future. Preparing a budget may help you cover your bills before and after the divorce is final. By looking carefully at your finances now, you may be able to head off problems down the road.

Begin to Establish Credit in Your Own Name

It’s entirely possible that your credit is closely linked to your spouse’s. Consider applying for small credit card or other types of credit in only your name.

Address Joint Accounts

It’s also possible you have joint accounts with your spouse, including bank accounts and credit cards. Take steps to avoid having your spouse run up large credit card bills that may be considered community debt. Since debt acquired during a marriage is usually considered to be the debt of both partners, you may have to pay half of the bill for your spouse’s spending spree.

As for bank accounts, make sure your spouse cannot close the account without your approval. 

Check Out Your Estate Planning.

Hopefully, you have a Will and durable power of attorney. Talk to your estate planning attorney about changes that will be necessary. Some attorneys recommend changing your estate plans during and after a divorce.

Communication is Key

To make sure you are getting all your mail or that your mail remains private, you may want to open a post office box.

Stay in communication with friends and family. Not only will this provide some much-needed support for you, they can rest easier knowing you are okay.

Keep Your Own Actions Clean – and Private

Don’t engage in behavior that could get you in trouble during your divorce. Also, be very careful what you post on social media. In fact, you may want to swear off Facebook and Instagram until your divorce is final.

Consult with a Divorce Attorney

This is the most important advice on this list. Divorces can be messy. A California divorce attorney knows California divorce law. Many divorcing couples make mistakes that could be prevented by talking to an attorney before taking action.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone

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, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Our Beverly Hills office is opening soon.