Category Archives: California Divorce

Full Financial Disclosure - California Divorce Laws Require It

Full Financial Disclosure – California Divorce Laws Require It

Emma wanted to divorce her husband, Chaz, for many reasons. He was unfaithful, emotionally abusive, and just an all-around jerk. But Emma was particularly happy as she filed her divorce petition because she would finally know Chaz’s complete financial picture. For many years, Emma had been held hostage when it came to money because of Chaz’s secretive ways. Now, both she and Chaz each would have to file a full financial disclosure under California law. But if he hid his money, would Emma and her divorce lawyer have any options?

What does “full financial disclosure” really mean?

During a divorce, the couple’s marital assets and debts are divided. But you cannot come up with a realistic property division unless you know what property and debts are involved.

“Full financial disclosure” means just what it says. Both parties to the marriage have to provide a complete picture of what they own and what they owe. Since California is a community property state, most income, assets, and debts acquired during a marriage belong to both parties – but there are exceptions. In fact, property division is complicated and should not be attempted without help from an experienced divorce attorney.

What does the disclosure of financial information work?

First, you serve your preliminary declaration of disclosure on your spouse. You do not have to file your financial disclosures with your divorce petition. However, you must serve them no later than 60 days afterward. The disclosures are not filed with the court, but you will file a Declaration of Disclosure and some other documents with the court that prove you took this step.

Your spouse will serve his or her preliminary disclosures on you.

As your divorce case proceeds, you might need to file a final disclosure.

The information submitted in your disclosures will be used for several reasons, including calculating property division. Child support and spousal support might also be affected.

How will I find money and assets omitted from my spouse’s financial disclosures?

If you and your lawyer feel information is missing, you might have to hire a forensic accountant to investigate. Also, watch for any documents, social media posts, or other signs that your spouse has hidden assets from you.

Are there any consequences for withholding information?

Absolutely! The judge can set aside your property settlement or even cancel it. If your divorce has already ended before you learn of the withheld information, the judge might reopen your case to review the new information.

People who lie on their disclosures may be unpleasantly surprised when the judge orders them to hand over the withheld assets. Finally, the withholder of information might be forced to pay the innocent spouse’s attorney’s fees.

Both Parties Need to Make Full Financial Disclosure in a 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.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Jan and Mike married when they were young and too in love to think about complicated things like finances and assets. After a few years, they started considering asking their attorneys to draft a document that addressed their new-found concerns. As they reviewed drafts of the document, Jan had some unwelcome thoughts about whether postnuptial agreements would hold up in a California divorce. She needed to learn more.

What are postnuptial agreements?

Unlike premarital agreements, these contracts are made by an already-married couple. Such agreements typically address property issues and the division of assets. 

Typically, postnuptial agreements must meet requirements set out by California contract law. For example, the agreement:

  • Must be in writing, and
  • Must be signed voluntarily by both spouses before a notary public.

Also, both parties must be honest and fully disclose their property interests when drafting the agreement.

Why would a couple want to sign this type of agreement?

There are several reasons, including:

  • One spouse has more assets than the other.
  • Either husband or wife expects to inherit or otherwise come into a lot of money.
  • One or both parties want to protect their assets from the other.
  • The couple cannot agree on how to handle their assets, including savings, investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

However, child custody and support issues cannot be addressed in such agreements.

Do courts recognize postnuptial agreements in California divorces?

Premarital agreements are recognized by the court as soon as they are signed. This does not mean every provision will hold up in court, but at least the agreement is acknowledged. On the other hand, postnuptial agreements are not valid until they have been presented to a family court and accepted by a judge.

California law does not directly address postnuptial agreements. However, California Family Code Section 1500 states:

“The property rights of spouses prescribed by statute may be altered by a premarital agreement or other marital property agreement.” [emphasis added]

So, provisions regarding property in postnuptial agreements might be upheld in court. The exception will be if the provisions violate the law in some other way.

Call to learn more about postnuptial agreements.

Postnuptial agreements could either complicate a California divorce or make it easier. Have you and your spouse signed one? If so, and you now want to dissolve your marriage, contact an experienced California divorce lawyer for advice.

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

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Many people consider divorce one of the most stressful life events. But not all divorces carry the same levels of stress. Some couples agree on any significant issues, which makes the resolution of their case fairly simple. Other soon-to-be-ex-spouses have a more difficult path because of one or more of the following issues that complicate divorce.

Spouse-Related Concerns Can Be Problematic

The issues you had with your husband or wife don’t stop when you file for divorce. Some may directly impact how your divorce proceeds.

  • Adultery. You do not need grounds for divorce in California. So, your final order or settlement might not be affected except for one thing: misuse of community funds. When one spouse uses marital property on a new love interest, courts might reimburse the innocent spouse in the form of a larger portion of the remaining marital funds.
  • Revenge. Some people complicate divorce by trying to take revenge because their spouse deeply hurt them. Vengeful feelings can delay settlement negotiations.
  • Pregnancy. This issue can complicate divorce because of questions about paternity. If the husband doubts the child is his, he might ask for paternity tests so the court can determine whether child support is appropriate.
  • Spousal Support. It is not easy to work out how much spousal support is due and how long it will be paid.

Married couples without children avoid some of the concerns that parents face.

Children Typically Complicate Divorce

It’s great when both parents love their children and want to care for them. But all that love can get lost in the shuffle of divorce papers.

  • Custody and Visitation. Before a judge can issue the final order, parents have to come up with a parenting plan. Custody can be contentious as couples navigate the four types of custody: sole physical, sole legal, joint physical, joint legal. They might use standard visitation schedules or personalize them to fit their child’s needs. However, working out children’s arrangements adds an extra layer of stress.
  • Child Support. Parents who do not have physical custody often pay monthly child support to the parent who does. Calculating the amount of support definitely can complicate divorce proceedings.

Fortunately, family court judges always try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children.

Finances Are Often a Contested Issue

Money matters to most people. Whether a divorce is amicable or contentious, spouses generally want to get what they deserve from the marital estate. Unfortunately, some issues complicate divorce to the point that settlement might be several years down the road.

  • Muddled Property Classification. Couples might have separate property, which they retain, or community property (which is split between the parties). However, it is not always easy to decide whether property is separate or community. For example, disagreements arise when one party brings substantial assets into the marriage but fails to keep them separate. Sometimes property is partially separate and partially community. It might take experts to untangle complications like these.
  • High-Net-Worth. Having more property means there’s more property to classify and divide. Again, the parties might need a financial expert’s careful analysis.
  • Business Assets. Some property is easier to appraise than others. Determining the value of a business is typically difficult and can quickly complicate divorce.

Divorce can be difficult, but you don’t have to go it alone.

When Issues Complicate Divorce, You Need Experienced Legal Counsel

Talk to a qualified California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings?

Children rarely, if ever, ask their parents to split up. Instead, they sometimes just become part of the collateral damage of divorce. Dealing with the court system during a divorce is stressful for everyone, including children. Even parents who try to do what’s best for their kids may wonder if courts will increase the tension by making children testify at divorce hearings. Let’s look at how this problem is handled in California.

Children, Divorce, and California Law

Each divorce is a little different. Sometimes court hearings are needed to address children’s needs related to custody and visitation.

Fortunately, California law does not require children to testify at divorce hearings. Likewise, California law does not expressly prohibit children from speaking in court. Generally, courts consider a child’s participation on a case-by-case basis. Age plays a part in the court’s decision, as set out in California Family Code Section 3042:

  • Children under 14 years of age might address the court if the court determines that it is appropriate and in the child’s best interests.
  • Children over 14 years of age will be allowed to testify unless the court decides testifying is not in the child’s best interests.

If the court decides the child cannot testify in open court, alternative methods include:

  • Allowing the child to participate in a child custody mediation,
  • Appointing a child custody evaluator,
  • Allowing people to present evidence on behalf of the child,
  • Admitting information provided by a child interview center or counselor.

The judge may also allow testimony in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.

But what happens when the court decides to allow kids to participate in hearings?

Requesting That Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Sometimes, people close to a child may learn that he or she wants to testify. According to the 2020 California Rules of Court, the following people must let the court know if this happens:

  • The minor child’s counsel
  • Evaluators
  • Investigators
  • Child custody recommending counselors.

Any party to the divorce or any party’s attorney may also let the court know that a child wants to testify. Also, judicial officers may ask whether children want to testify.

How the Courts Handle Children’s Testimony

Just because a court decides to let children testify at divorce hearings does not mean they stop protecting those children. Judges might appoint an attorney to represent the child during the testimony. Courts decide where the testimony will happen – in open court or in the judge’s chambers – and who will be present. In some cases, it is not in the child’s best interests to allow parents to attend. Finally, judges will protect children who testify at divorce hearings from harassment and inappropriate questioning.

You Need Experienced Advice When Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. 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 Southern California Coast.

Property Division in a California Divorce Is it Always a 50-50 Split

Property Division in a California Divorce: Is it Always a 50-50 Split?

When Grant and Amy divorce, Grant assumed their community property would be a straight 50-50 split. He was unpleasantly surprised to learn that this did not apply in his divorce. Property division in a California divorce can get extremely complicated. It’s critical to hire an experienced divorce attorney and to have a basic understanding of how property division works.

California, a Community Property State

Some states, like California, consider property in a divorce to be:

  • community property,
  • separate property, or
  • quasi-community property.

Most of the property and debts that a couple accumulates during their marriage is considered community property. During the divorce proceeding, community property usually is split between the parties.

However, it is not always easy to determine which category applies. Property might be separate property (owned by one party) going into the marriage, but then community funds are used to maintain it. This can muddy the waters if a couple decides to divorce.

Factors That Affect the 50-50 Split

When splitting property, couples can agree to divide everything in a roughly 50-50 split. Rather than selling property and physically dividing bank accounts, the parties might add up the value and then come up with an agreement that works.

In fact, sometimes spouses will agree to an agreement that is not an even split. Courts generally review agreements before signing a final order ending the marriage.

Adultery, by itself, generally does not affect property division. However, the situation can change if one spouse use community funds to support a new relationship. If proven, the judge might award the innocent spouse more than half of the marital assets as compensation for the cheating spouse’s misuse of marital funds.

Finally, sometimes what appears to be a 50-50 split to the naked eye turns out to be something entirely different. For example, appraisals of real property or collectibles could be wrong or have other issues. Title issues on real property could make it difficult or impossible to sell, leaving you with a piece of worthless real estate. That’s why it is so critical to consult with an attorney who has a deep understanding of property division.

Call to Learn More About Property Division in a California Divorce

Had Grant understood more about property division, perhaps his outcome would have been different. As with all divorce issues, it’s best to talk to a qualified California divorce attorney before getting started.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Women Are Happier Following a Divorce and Other Interesting Divorce Statistics

Women Are Happier Following a Divorce and Other Interesting Divorce Statistics

Everyone knows that divorce is stressful. But being married can be worse. Freeing yourself from a spouse surprisingly can put a smile on the faces of one gender more than the other. Studies show that women are often happier following a divorce. Happier than men or just happier in general? Probably a little of both. Women often find freedom for self-discovery and just being themselves in a post-divorce world. Roughly 61% of women claim to be happier even though they are not looking for a new love interest. Let’s look at some other interesting divorce statistics.

Divorce rates are decreasing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In 2000, there were about 4.0 divorces per 1,000 people. In 2018, the rate had dropped to 2.9 divorces per 1,000 people. Some speculate this rate may rise in the next year or so due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

The over-50 crowd divorce statistics are surprising.

Gray divorce is on the rise. Baby boomers are hitting the divorce courts at record rates. In fact, the divorce rate for adults age 50+ has doubled over the past 25 years.

This increase may be caused, in part, because many baby boomers divorced as young adults. Second and higher marriages typically have a greater likelihood of divorce.

However, a surprising number of gray divorces involve people who have been married for at least 30 years. The reasons for divorce vary, but some people find they have drifted apart around retirement age or when the kids become independent.

The reason millennials have a low divorce rate.

This particular age has seen a 24% decline in marriage rates since 1981. Reasons for this low divorce rate include:

  • Fear of marriage because their parents divorced when they were young.
  • Deciding to delay marriage to pursue other interests.
  • Desire to be financially stable before tying the knot.

Obviously, they can’t get divorced if they aren’t getting married.

Who’s more likely to remarry – men or women?

According to most studies, men are more likely to remarry than women. About 65 percent of divorced men compared to roughly 50% of women. Perhaps this statistic is based on our first statistics – that women tend to be happier following a divorce

Divorce Statistics Don’t Tell the Whole Story if You Are the One Getting Divorced.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. 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 in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce

What Is a “No-Fault” Divorce?

After years of dealing with her petty jealousy and drinking problems, Paul decided his marriage to Nancy was over. But Nancy still clung to the possibility they might reconcile. Paul wasn’t sure how he could go about extricating himself from their legal ties. He thought he needed a good reason to divorce Nancy, but she had never assaulted him or committed adultery. Then a friend told him that California allows no-fault divorce. After discussing the situation with his family law attorney, Paul was able to see a path to freedom.

California Divorce Fundamentals

If you want to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership, you have three choices:

  • Divorce,
  • Legal separation, or

Some divorces are fairly collaborative. In fact, the process can be fairly simple. One party files the paperwork. The other party responds. Then you hammer out a marital settlement, and if you have children, a parenting plan. A family court judge reviews your paperwork and approves or denies your divorce petition.

Sometimes only one person wants out of the marriage. In this situation, that person files the paperwork for the divorce. If the other party responds to the petition, they go through the same process of working out the marital settlement and parenting plan, if necessary. If the other party does not respond to the divorce petition, the filing party usually is allowed to go through with the divorce anyway.

One common divorce myth is that you have to have a ‘reason’ to end your marriage.

“Grounds” for Divorce

California divorce law does not require the person filing for divorce to prove that the other partner has done anything wrong.

That’s right – you do not have to prove adultery, domestic violence, or any other reason to end your marriage or registered domestic partnership.

At least one spouse or partner just has to claim that “the couple cannot get along.” This situation is also known as “irreconcilable differences.”

Otherwise, the process for getting your divorce is just as we described it above. As simple as it sounds, however, divorces can become complicated very quickly. That’s why it is best to discuss your situation with an experienced California divorce lawyer before moving forward.

Do You Need to Say Yes to a No-Fault Divorce?

Sometimes a divorce is not really anyone’s fault. People drift apart and just no longer want to continue with their marriage. That’s precisely why we have options like no-fault divorce.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Talking About Your Ex-Spouse on Social Media Understanding the Shak vs. Shak Decision Regarding Non-Disparagement Clauses

Talking About Your Ex-Spouse on Social Media: Understanding the Shak vs. Shak Decision Regarding Non-Disparagement Clauses

Social media platforms offer unprecedented views into other people’s lives. We can share everything from pictures of what we had for lunch to our child’s latest soccer success to our favorite motivational messages. But there are times when it’s not a good idea to communicate through social media. Consider people who are divorced or planning to divorce. Social media can provide them with a multitude of ways to talk badly about a co-parent or former spouse. At times, court orders and divorce agreements have included non-disparagement language that prohibits this kind of language. A court case in Massachusetts may have altered how we deal with parents who write negative information about each other online.

Shak vs. Shak

Ronnie and Masha Shak had only been married about fifteen months when Masha filed for divorce. The child they had together was only a year old at the time. A judge issued a temporary order giving sole custody of the child to Masha. Shortly after that, Masha filed a motion asking for additional temporary orders. Among other things, she asked the judge to “prohibit the father from posting disparaging remarks about her and the ongoing litigation on social media.”

The judge did order both parties to refrain from disparaging each other, especially in the presence of their child. The order also stated that neither of them could post anything regarding the divorce on social media.

Ronnie allegedly made additional negative social media posts. Masha filed a complaint for civil contempt against Ronnie for violating the judge’s temporary order. However, another judge decided that Ronnie was not in contempt because the prior order was unlawful prior restraint of speech.

The case moved through Massachusetts courts, eventually reaching the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

The Court’s Decision

After considering the evidence, law, and case law, the Massachusetts Supreme Court (the “Court”) made its decision. The Court vacated the lower court’s orders on future disparagement. Among other things, the Court stated:

“We recognize that the motion judge put careful thought into his orders in an effort to protect a child caught in the middle of a legal dispute who was unable to advocate for himself. However, because there was no showing of an exceptional circumstance that would justify the imposition of a prior restraint, the nondisparagement orders issued here are unconstitutional.”

One reason the Court made this decision is because the child in question was a toddler and unable to understand what his parents had posted on social media. The Court felt the non-disparagement language was not needed and was, in fact, unconstitutional since the child was not directly harmed.

Also, the Court specifically noted that its order does not affect voluntary non-disparagement agreements.

Non-Disparagement, Social Media, and Your Divorce

Court order or not, it’s still a bad idea to say nasty things about your child’s other parent. Your spouse may not get a judge to order you to stop. However, you may be sued for defamation or have other legal action taken against you. But that’s not the worst part.

When you post something nasty (even if you think it is true) on social media, ask yourself if it’s in your child’s best interests. It’s probably not.

Your social media posts could be seen by family and friends or even go viral. The judge who makes decisions about your divorce will always consider your child’s best interests, even when you do not.

Is There a Place in Your Divorce for Non-Disparagement Action?

When your spouse or co-parent uses disparaging language about you online, contact an attorney immediately. Such actions could show a disregard for a court order and for protecting your child’s best interests.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

My Husband Won’t Respond to My Divorce Petition. What Should I Do

My Husband Won’t Respond to My Divorce Petition. What Should I Do?

Maybe you and your spouse have lived apart for some time and have lost touch. Maybe your spouse does not want the marriage to end. In some cases, you filed for divorce, but your husband won’t respond to your divorce petition. Let’s look at some of the options that are available when something like this happens.

Filing for Divorce in California

First, you will start by completing and filing some or all of the following documents with the court clerk:

  • Petition – Marriage/Domestic Partnership
  • Summons (Family Law)
  • Property Declaration
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (if you have children)
  • Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment (optional)
  • Any other forms required by the clerk in your county.

Next, you must serve copies of your filed documents on your spouse, along with a blank copy of the Response—Marriage/Domestic Partnership. However, don’t do this yourself. Anyone over the age of 18 can deliver the copies, including a friend, relative, county sheriff, or process server. You can also have someone mail the copies if your spouse agrees to accept service by mail.

Then, file a Proof of Service of Summons with the court. This is important because the court cannot end the marriage at this point if your spouse has not received the documents you filed.

Failing to Respond to a Divorce Petition

Let’s assume that you were able to serve your divorce petition on your spouse. You have filed all the paperwork that is required of you. Your husband or wife now has 30 days to respond to your divorce petition.

When a spouse refuses to take any action, the courts can still end your marriage. In California, both people do not have to agree to get divorced.

After 30 days, you and your attorney can ask the court to give you a judgment of divorce and any other orders you request. You will need to file the following documents:

  • Request to Enter Default,
  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation,
  • Judgment, and
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment.

Depending on your situation,  you may need to file documents regarding:

  • child custody and visitation,
  • child support,
  • spousal support, and
  • division of community property and debt.

Remember this: Your divorce does not just disappear because your spouse refuses to respond. His or her previous control over your marriage will not stop your case from proceeding.

When Your Spouse Won’t Respond to Your Divorce Petition, You Still Have Options.

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.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

how can i terminate a domestic partnership

How Can I Terminate a Domestic Partnership?

Relationships can get messy. Alexis and Callie found this out as soon as Callie started planning their wedding ceremony four years into their registered domestic partnership. The stress triggered negative feelings, and Alexis started reconsidering their relationship. Unfortunately, the situation ended with one partner picking out a wedding cake and the other trying to figure out how to terminate a domestic partnership. Continue reading