Category Archives: California Divorce

Tips for Meeting with Your California Divorce Attorney for the First Time

Tips for Meeting with Your California Divorce Attorney for the First Time

Many people have never met with a lawyer before, for any reason. So, meeting with your California divorce attorney for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. But there are ways to make things a little less stressful. That’s what we will look at in this article.

Do a little preparation before meeting with your first meeting.

If you can, take a few minutes to consider your goals. Are you definitely seeking a divorce, or are you open to other options? Do you have children to consider? Will you need support while the divorce is pending?

Then, start writing or typing. Make a list of the questions you might have for your California divorce attorney. It’s very easy to forget details – even important ones – during your consultation.

Finally, gather as much financial information as you can. Your attorney will have to file financial disclosures with your petition. If your spouse is filing the divorce, you need to provide full and complete financial disclosures when responding to the divorce petition.

Try not to be nervous about meeting with your California divorce lawyer.

Make sure you know how to get to the attorney’s office. Check routes, traffic, and parking before you leave the house. This simple advice might just help lower your stress level on the day you consult with your lawyer for the first time.

Be completely honest and upfront with your California divorce attorney

Come prepared to talk.

Divorce and marriage involve highly personal issues. You might be embarrassed or uncomfortable sharing some details with your attorney. But remember two things:

  • Your lawyer cannot give you the right advice if they don’t have all the facts, and
  • Your attorney probably has seen people in similar situations and won’t be surprised or judgmental.

The important thing is that you have taken a big step towards a new future. Your divorce lawyer can help you achieve your goals.

Understand what you need to do after you leave the meeting.

You and your lawyer will discuss many things during your first consultation. There’s a good possibility you will leave the meeting with some ‘homework’ assignments.

For example, your California divorce attorney will explain what information you need to file your divorce petition or respond to your spouse’s petition. You might need to gather more information for your attorney.

Also, you might leave the meeting with additional paperwork to fill out.

Finally, your lawyer might give you instructions on things to do or not do while your divorce is pending.

Always listen carefully and help your attorney help you.

Call to Talk to a California Divorce Attorney

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 along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Many couples own business interests. These can take the form of a business they own, operate, or hold a significant share. When couples decide to divorce, dividing business interests usually becomes a huge issue. After all, property division, which is itself very complicated, becomes even more complex when business assets are involved.

The Preliminaries of Dividing Business Interests

First, it’s essential to know what you are dealing with. Trying to divide property between spouses is impossible without certain information, including:

  • Are the business interests separate or community property? In a community property state like California, most marital property and debts split roughly 50-50. However, is your business separate property – owned by one spouse – or community property – owned by both spouses? In most cases, separate business interests remain with the spouse who owns them.  Community business interests are dealt with differently.
  • Are there any agreements that affect property division? For example, did the couple sign pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements? If so, those agreements may address any business assets. Likewise, a buy-sell agreement may address how to handle business assets in the event of a divorce.
  • How much is the business worth? Valuation of business assets is challenging and should not be attempted on your own. You and your divorce lawyer will discuss how to handle valuation, but you will probably need to hire an expert. Undervaluing your business is literally leaving money on the table.

After working through the issues mentioned above, along with any others that apply, you and your spouse can begin dividing business interests.

The Final Decision

Often, couples will use one of the following methods of dividing their business assets:

  • The Buy-Out. One party can buy the other party’s interests rather than dividing them. In some cases, one spouse might be more vested in the business. The problem here is that the purchasing spouse must be liquid enough to complete the purchase.
  • Dividing. The parties could divide the business equally. For example, if the couple owns 80% of the company’s shares, each spouse could take 40%. Alternatively, the couple could split the equipment, accounts receivable, and real property. This might work especially well for parties who own a professional services business.
  • Selling to a Third-Party. In this scenario, the couple receives the cash instead of dividing their actual ownership interests. It’s still necessary to properly value the business.
  • Continuing as Co-Owners. Some ex-spouses may remain so amicable that they simply continue owning and operating their business. This is rare and could be very risky. If the spouse’s relationship becomes rockier after the divorce, they may have to return to court to split the business for good.

Learn More About Dividing Business Interests

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, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Am I Still Financially Responsible for My Ex-Spouse’s Debts

Am I Still Financially Responsible for My Ex-Spouse’s Debts?

Getting his final divorce order was one of the best days in Jason’s life. Finally, he could move on without his ex-wife and all her baggage. He was unpleasantly surprised to start receiving late notices from creditors and angry phone calls from collection companies. They were about his ex-spouse’s debts, not his. Can Jason be held responsible for these debts?

Community Property – and Debt

During divorce proceedings, a couple’s property and debts are split into two categories:

  • Community, which both spouses own;
  • Separate, which one spouse owns;
  • Mixed Community and Separate, which means the property or debt could be partially owned by the couple.

Property division is complex. It’s not always easy to determine whether something is community, separate, or mixed. In a community property state like California, community property and debts are usually split between the couple. As Jason unfortunately learned, there’s more to dividing debts than meets the eye.

The Nature of Debts

A community debt is generally one that the couple:

  • acquired together during the marriage,
  • one party acquired during the marriage.

Sometimes one spouse will sign for a loan or get a credit card while married but in his or her own name. Then the other spouse uses the debt or helps pay for it. This can complicate the matter further because the debt may now become part of the marital estate.

Couples may simply split their debts in their settlement agreement. In Jason’s case, he took one credit card while his ex took the other. However, when she stopped paying on the card, Jason found he might still be responsible for his ex-spouse’s debt. That’s because the divorce decree generally does not affect the agreement that caused the debt. So, if both parties sign for a loan that one party gets in the divorce settlement, the other party’s name is still on the loan as far as the lender is concerned. Basically, they just want to get paid. That’s understandable but frustrating for the party left paying for an ex-spouse’s debts. 

Talk to a California Divorce Attorney About Your Ex-Spouse’s Debts

Make sure you know where you stand financially when the ink dries on your divorce order. Suddenly learning that you have to pay your ex-spouse’s debts when you are just starting your new life is not ideal, to say the least.

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, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Revisiting California’s Date of Separation

Revisiting California’s Date of Separation

Certain dates are memorable in a person’s life. Many dates, like birthdays and anniversaries, are celebrated. But when a marriage is over, and it’s time to file for divorce, another date becomes critical – the date of separation. California law has evolved on this subject, but people thinking of filing for divorce need to understand the effect that date can have on their divorce settlement.

A Simple Term, Right?

“Date of separation” seems straightforward and easy to understand. In a divorce case, however, the date is much more than a square on your calendar.

Courts will use the date of separation as defined by California law when deciding property division issues in your divorce. Here’s what California Family Code Section 70 says:

70.(a)  “Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:

(1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.

(2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.

This means that certain aspects of your divorce depend on getting the date of separation right.

Property Division and the Date of Separation

Married couples usually acquire assets and debts during their marriage. Most of those assets and debts are considered to be community property owned by the couple. However, couples often have separate property and debts that only one spouse owns.

During your divorce, it’s necessary to decide what’s community and what’s separate. In a community property state like California, community property is usually split roughly 50-50 between the spouses. There are some exceptions, however.

The “complete and final break in the marital relationship” can be hard to determine. Some couples decide to split but continue to live together and commingle funds. Couples can continue to live together during the divorce, but at least one spouse must exhibit conduct that “is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.” Calculating the date can be difficult but is necessary.

For example, one spouse might get a large bonus from work while the divorce is pending. Did this happen before or after the date of separation? If before, then the bonus could be community property. But if it’s paid after the couple is officially separated, it might qualify as separate property.

In fact, division of financial payments, property acquisitions, and so on that occur while the divorce is pending could become complicated if the date of separation is unclear.

We Can Help Sort Out Your Date of Separation and Other Divorce Issues

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.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

It’s almost impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Just as some marriages last 30 years while others last 30 days, some divorces are fast and others – not so much. However, we can look at the minimum time it takes to get a divorce, as well as any factors that could delay your divorce proceeding.

A ‘Typical’ Timeline

After someone decides to get divorced, the next step is usually to get started on the paperwork. An experienced California divorce attorney can advise on the best course of action and do all the paperwork for you.

So, once the divorce petition is filed, how long does it take to get a divorce?

California has a six-month waiting period, so the earliest you could get a final order is six months after filing your divorce petition. However, you may encounter roadblocks along the way.

Issues That Could Prolong Your Case

You must serve your divorce petition on your spouse. When your spouse is on board with your decision to terminate the marriage, he or she might agree to accept service. However, a reluctant spouse could refuse service or dodge a process server. In some cases, your spouse may live out of state or out of the country, potentially making it difficult to serve the petition.

Your spouse has 30 days from the date served to respond to your divorce petition. If your spouse refuses to answer, you might ask the judge to consider your case a default or uncontested divorce. The judge will review your paperwork before deciding to grant the declaration of disclosure and terminate your marriage.

It can take longer to get a divorce if you and/or your spouse have a high net worth. Property division can become a contentious issue when there is a lot of money or property involved. More negotiation might be involved, and forensic accountants and investigators may be hired. A lawyer with property division experience can help wade through a high-net-worth divorce.

Spousal support can also be a hot issue. Deciding whether one spouse deserves support from the other can be difficult. Calculating the amount of support and length of time it will be paid is often challenging.

Finally, divorces can take longer when children are involved. Both parents must negotiate a parenting plan. If they cannot reach an agreement, they might participate in mediation or attend a court hearing. Any additional meetings or hearings could delay your final decree.

You Need Experienced Legal Advice If You Decide to Get a Divorce

We can’t tell you that your divorce will be final 6 months, 3 days, and 2 hours after filing your petition. We can tell you that we understand the urgency behind many divorce petitions and that we understand all the issues that you will be facing.

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.

Do These 5 Things Immediately After Divorce

Do These 5 Things Immediately After Divorce

Divorce seems to come in several stages:  First, you try to decide whether to end your marriage or not. That’s sometimes a huge decision. Then you contact an attorney and start the paperwork. After negotiating a settlement, and a parenting plan if you have children, you get your final divorce order. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, and planning your next party, take some time to do these things immediately after your divorce is final.

#1.  Make Sure You Understand the Terms of Your Settlement or Decree.

Even if you actively participated in the entire divorce process, give your divorce settlement a final, thorough review. Take note of anything you are required to do or not do. It’s also important to know your ex-spouse’s obligations, particularly those related to your children. Contact your California divorce attorney if you have any questions.

#2.  Change Beneficiaries on Financial Accounts.

Naming beneficiaries for your financial, insurance and investment accounts is always a best practice. But it’s easy to forget that your beneficiary designations probably include your ex and maybe even some of your former in-laws.

Contact each institution to learn how to change your beneficiary designations. It’s usually a relatively easy step that people often overlook.

#3.  Change All Usernames and Passwords.

Most people have several online accounts that require usernames and passwords. If you have not already done so, change all your logins immediately after your divorce. Make sure that you don’t use passwords that your ex-spouse could easily guess.

#4.  Let Your Employer Know About Your New Status.

It’s important that you tell your boss that your marital status has changed. However, you do not have to tell your employer every detail of your divorce. Only share what is necessary and what you feel comfortable revealing.

#5.  Change Your Estate Planning.

Estate plans typically include a Will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and an advance health care directive. Other common documents are the living will and the revocable living trust.

These documents reflect your last wishes and how you want your financial and medical decisions to be handled if you become incapacitated. Not many people would want their ex-spouse to be in charge of their bank accounts or deciding when to pull the plug.

It’s usually best to contact your estate planning attorney during your divorce. Immediately after your divorce, though, make sure you change these important documents.

Help with Your Divorce Is Available

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.

Should I Avoid Social Media During My Divorce

Should I Avoid Social Media During My Divorce?

Social media is fun – until it isn’t. The news is filled every day with people who have been harmed because someone shared too much online. If you plan to file for divorce or have already done so, this is not the time to air your dirty laundry on social media platforms. In fact, we encourage you to consider the following as you decide whether to avoid social media altogether.

Is Just Needing to Vent a Reason to Avoid Social Media?

Possibly. ‘Think before you post’ is a good practice during your divorce. If you are angry or upset,  you might post something that could backfire on you. Also, what you say about your spouse could get back to them.

Another reason to avoid social media if you feel like venting is because of how the courts might view your post. This is especially true if you have children. Courts generally take a dim view of disparagement because it could hurt your children’s relationship with their other parent.

Maybe just meet a close friend or family member for coffee or lunch if you need to vent about your spouse’s latest escapade.

How Friendly Are Your Friends?

If you have been married a while, you and your soon-to-be-ex probably have mutual friends. At some point, you might have added your spouse’s friends and family members to your friends list. Their loyalty might be divided after you announce your pending divorce. At the very least, an angry social media post could make them uncomfortable. However, the worst-case scenario is that they might forward your post to others and tell your spouse what you are saying.

And angry words are not the only thing you should avoid posting on social media. Talking about a new love interest or an expensive vacation could spell trouble during settlement negotiations.

Will Your Posts Negatively Affect Your Divorce?

We’ve already mentioned a few. For example, disparagement could influence how a family court judge views you. So, avoid social media posts that harm your spouse’s reputation. They could actually hurt your reputation more.

Child custody, visitation, and support could be affected if your social media accounts are full of inappropriate pictures and stories. This could be especially hurtful if your children are in any of the pictures.

Also, most if not all of your online activities are discoverable. This means that you might have to give information from your accounts to your spouse’s attorney. If you avoid social media posts that are too revealing, your spouse won’t have anything to work with.

Will Social Media Posts Upset Anyone?

You and your spouse might be at each other’s throats, figuratively, but remember that more than two people are involved in most divorces. If you have children, they could definitely be embarrassed and upset by your social media. Your parents, extended family, and family friends might be exposed to information that would be deeply upsetting. It’s probably just safer to avoid social media use as much as possible from the time you decide to file for divorce until you receive your final order.

Avoid Social Media and Contact Us if You Want to File for Divorce

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.

My Spouse Left Me. Can I Claim Desertion as Grounds for Divorce

My Spouse Left Me. Can I Claim Desertion as Grounds for Divorce?

TV shows and movies often talk about people having ‘grounds for divorce.’ Sometimes, you might even see a distressed spouse hiring a private investigator to get photos of their spouse’s wrongdoing to firm up their plan to end their marriage. In some states, couples might have to choose one of several reasons they want a divorce, including cruelty or adultery. But if your spouse has left you, and you live in California, can you claim desertion as the grounds for your divorce?

California is a No-Fault Divorce State

But does ‘no-fault’ means you don’t have to have grounds for divorce when you file your petition?

No-fault means that neither party has to prove that the other party did anything wrong. For example, you don’t have to prove that your spouse committed adultery. You also don’t have to provide evidence that your husband or wife has deserted you.

Under California law, you can state two basic reasons for your divorce:

  • Irreconcilable differences. This means that your marital bond is completely broken as you and your spouse can no longer live together.
  • Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. You are divorcing your spouse due to mental illness or insanity.

Limiting divorce to the two reasons listed above can make the process easier for the spouse who wants the divorce. Also, keep this in mind:  It is not necessary for both spouses to want to terminate the marriage. Only one spouse has to file the divorce petition. The other party cannot stop the divorce by simply refusing to participate in the process.

Other Issues Related to Desertion and Abandonment Issues

While you do not have to claim desertion to get your divorce, it can affect your divorce proceedings.

For example, California law requires that you serve your divorce papers on your spouse. You don’t have to prove desertion as grounds for divorce, but you do need to know where your spouse is living if at all possible. If you cannot locate your spouse, you and your family law attorney can explore other options to finalize your divorce.

When one spouse abandons the other, financial support might become an immediate problem. If you have been left with no financial support because of desertion, talk to your attorney to see if temporary orders will help.

Likewise, you might need temporary orders to clarify child custody and visitation. Again, tell your attorney everything so he or she can give you the right advice.

Talk to Us About Your Grounds for Divorce

California family law attorneys understand how the law will apply to your situation. At least you can end your marriage without having to prove that your spouse did anything wrong, like desertion.

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.

Can You Legally Snoop on Your Spouse

Can You Legally Snoop on Your Spouse?

Simon felt his wife, Terry, was behaving suspiciously. He felt the strong urge to find out what she was up to, but he wasn’t sure what to do. Simon wondered if you can legally snoop on your spouse. Hopefully, he will check with an attorney before doing anything.

Wiretapping, Eavesdropping, and Surveillance – Oh, My!

Some of the ways you might use to snoop on your spouse include:

  • Installing hidden cameras,
  • Putting a tracking device on their car,
  • Adding keylogging software to electronic devices,
  • Accessing private email and bank accounts, and
  • Hacking into password-protected devices.

All of these are a terrible idea and could violate a number of laws.

For example, in California, you can put up security cameras around and even in your home. However, audio recordings are prohibited unless all parties give their consent.

More importantly, recording devices cannot be installed where your spouse or other parties have the right to expect privacy.

Right to Privacy in a Marriage

You and your spouse share a home, a bed, and probably at least one bank account. However, you each have the right to keep certain information private. Your spouse is bound by the same surveillance or snooping laws that keep your neighbor from wiretapping your phone.

Grounds Not Required – So Why Snoop on Your Spouse?

You might be tempted to legally snoop on your spouse.

But why?

What you find might firm up your decision to file for divorce – while causing a lot more heartbreak. However, not only will the information probably be inadmissible in court, but you don’t even need it. California is a no-fault divorce state, which means you do not need grounds for divorce.

Breaking the Law Hurts You

Depending on what you find, your spouse might not be held accountable for his or her actions. However, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. When you snoop on your spouse, you could be breaking laws regarding illegal surveillance and the right to privacy.

Anyone else you happen to surveil could be angry enough to press charges if you broke the law. It’s simply better all-around to talk to an experienced California divorce attorney before doing anything. There might be ways to legally investigate your spouse’s activities.

Talk to Us Before Trying to Legally Snoop on Your Spouse

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 with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
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.