How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

How Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Work in California?

A domestic violence restraining order is a civil order entered by the court directing an abuser to stop harassing or abusing the victim. The type of abuse that may be the basis for the entry of a restraining order includes the following:

  • causing or attempting to cause the victim physical injury;
  • making the victim fear he or she or another person is in immediate danger of being harmed;
  • threatening or harassing the victim, in person or through other means;
  • stalking the victim;
  • destroying the victim’s personal property; or
  • disturbing the peace of the victim.

For the court to enter a domestic violence restraining order, the abuser must be related to the victim in one of the following ways:

  • a spouse or former spouse;
  • a person the victim is dating or has dated;
  • a lover;
  • the other parent of your child;
  • anyone closely related to the victim by blood, marriage, or adoption; or
  • a person who regularly lives in the victim’s home.

A domestic violence restraining order may provide protection for the victim’s children as well as the victim. Such a restraining order can also include other orders besides a command to stop the abuse. For example, a domestic violence restraining order may include an order regarding spousal support, custody, child support, or parenting time; granting the victim possession of a pet; removing the abuser from a home shared with the victim; or prohibiting the abuser from possessing a firearm.

A victim seeking a domestic violence restraining order must file an application with the court. The application includes a Domestic Violence Date of Birth Verification (Form FL/E-LP-640), a Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV 109), a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100 and FL/E-LP-613), a Description of Abuse (Form DV-101), and a Temporary Restraining Order (DV-110). Additional forms must be filed if the victim is also seeking an order regarding spousal support, child support, child custody, or visitation.

If the victim is in immediate danger, the court may issue a temporary restraining order after processing the application but before holding a hearing. Regardless, the court will set a hearing, and the victim must have the abuser served with the Notice of Hearing. Service of the Notice of Hearing is usually done through the sheriff’s department of the county where the abuser lives.

The victim may bring a support person to the restraining order hearing, even if the victim also has an attorney. If evidence at the hearing shows the existence of past or present abuse of the victim by the abuser, then the court will issue a domestic violence restraining order. A domestic violence restraining order can last up to five years but lasts only three years if no termination date is stated. During the last three months of a restraining order, the victim can ask the court to extend the restraining order for another five years or permanently.

If you or a loved one has been or is a victim of abuse, consult an experienced attorney experienced in domestic violence law to help you get a domestic violence restraining order. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help you get the protection you need. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

Modification of Child Support in California

Modification of Child Support in California

Many parents are disheartened by the final child support order entered in their divorce, legal separation, or parentage case. Payers often feel that they have been ordered to pay too much, beyond their means; payees, on the other hand, frequently believe they have been shortchanged.

Most of the time, it is difficult to change the amount of support, either upward or downward. In fact, the simplest circumstance is the rare occasion on which a judge ordered less than the amount found by the guideline. In such a case, the amount can be changed without any legal showing at all.

The second simplest way to change the support amount is when the parents agree to change the amount and a judge is willing to sign an order approving the requested change. Of course, the parties rarely agree on an appropriate amount of support.

Aside from these two methods, it can be difficult to change the amount of child support. However, three methods are available: reconsideration, appeal, and modification.

Both a motion for reconsideration and an appeal have strict legal time frames within which they may be requested. Experienced California family lawyers are very familiar with the applicable time frames and mandatory procedures; if your final order is brand new or relatively so, hiring an experienced family lawyer is your best bet for changing the amount through reconsideration or appeal.

The third way the child support amount may be changed is through a motion for modification. For a modification to be granted, it must be based on a significant change in circumstances since the time the final order was entered. Again, a skilled family lawyer understands the legal standard that applies to modification requests and the type of evidence that may be used to support such a request.

Here are some examples of circumstances that may warrant a modification of a California final child support order:

  • Significant promotions or demotions;
  • Changes in jobs or loss of a job;
  • Lengthy prison or jail time;
  • Major changes in the parents’ time-share arrangement;
  • Major illness or disease of a parent or a child; and
  • Military activation or deployment.

The most important thing to remember is that unless and until a new support order is entered, the amount stays the same. In addition, it’s important that you ask for a modification right away. Most of the time, the amount will not be changed retroactively to a date before the modification request was filed.

If circumstances have changed since your child support order was entered and you want to pursue a change, consult a qualified family lawyer to discuss your best options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings, including disagreements about child support. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings?

What Is Discovery and How Is It Used in Divorce Proceedings
In a divorce case, the end of your legal relationship includes the division of assets and debts and determination of issues on custody and support. Sometimes, only a spouse may have access to information on property you believe to be subject to division in the divorce, or you and your spouse may disagree on an issue regarding custody or support. To prepare an argument in support of your position, you can request information on relevant issues from your spouse or from a third party. This process of requesting and exchanging such evidence is called “discovery.”

“Discovery” is the legal term that describes a pre-trial procedure for collecting evidence and information in order to prepare a case for negotiation or trial. By obtaining and exchanging information in discovery, you can both build your own case and evaluate your spouse’s case.

There are two main types of discovery. Informal discovery is the collection of information by methods such as interviewing witnesses or asking your spouse for information or documentation without a court order. It often is less expensive and takes less time to complete than formal discovery.

Formal discovery is a legal process governed by the Code of Civil Procedure in which one party requests information from the other party, or even from a third party, and the responses are given under oath. Following are the most common types of formal discovery in a divorce:

  • interrogatories;
  • request for production of documents;
  • request for admissions; and
  • depositions.

Interrogatories are questions to be answered in writing under oath. The questions in interrogatories have a bearing on issues in your divorce. For example, you may send interrogatories asking your spouse to identify all items of property claimed to be community and separate property, to identify property owned by your spouse by held by another, or to state whether you and your spouse have agreements on any issues in the divorce. Interrogatories can be used to identify areas of agreement in a case as well as serve as a starting point for collecting information on the marital estate. Judicial Council Form FL-145 is a form of interrogatories designed and commonly used in family law cases.

Requests for production of documents are just that: a request to produce documents under oath. As with interrogatories, the documents requested to be produced should have a bearing on issues in the divorce, such as the identification or value of property owned by either spouse or financial account records. In some cases, such as where one spouse requests spousal support or maintenance, even a spouse’s medical records may be relevant and requested by the other spouse.

Requests for admissions are statements sent to the other spouse in order to ask him or her to admit or deny the truth of those statements. This discovery tool can be useful in establishing areas of agreement in the divorce. For example, where divorcing spouses agree on the identification and division of property but disagree on child custody and support, one spouse may send the other spouse a request for admissions on the property issues. Once those issues are admitted under oath in a written response by the other spouse, they do not need to litigate that issue at trial.

Finally, a deposition is an oral statement given under oath. The party who scheduled the deposition asks questions relevant to the issues in the divorce. The witness, called a deponent, responds, and the responses are recorded by a court reporter. The court reporter then creates a transcript of the question-and-answer session. A deposition is similar to trial testimony, in which one attorney examines a witness and the other attorney then cross-examines the witness. Depositions can be used to memorialize testimony as well as to gauge the demeanor of the witness while answering the questions.

You may use court forms and other resources to conduct discovery yourself, but the discovery and family law rules are complicated. If you are contemplating separation or divorce and you have children, you should consult with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will make sure you successfully navigate the discovery rules. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Help! Can I Still Get a Divorce if My Spouse Doesn’t Respond.

Help! Can I Still Get a Divorce if My Spouse Doesn't Respond?
Sometimes only one person in a marriage wants a divorce. The other spouse may threaten to put up roadblocks such as not answering the petition for divorce. Can your spouse really prevent the divorce by failing to respond? Fear not. Your spouse’s lack of participation in the proceedings will not prevent you from getting a divorce.

In California, you begin the process to end your marriage by filing in superior court a petition for divorce (form FL-100) and a summons (form FL-110), along with other documents. After you have filed these documents, you must have a copy of each served on your spouse. This is called service of process, and it is done by having someone personally deliver the documents to a spouse living in California or by mailing the documents certified mail to a spouse residing out-of-state. The person or service that delivered, or served, the documents on your spouse files proof of service in the court.

The summons informs your spouse that he or she has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce. The 30-day time period begins to run on the day your spouse is served with the petition and summons. Your spouse can respond by agreeing to the requests in your petition or by opposing your requests. But how do you move forward with the divorce if your spouse does not respond at all?

Although your spouse has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce, you are not automatically divorced once that time period has passed without a response. The earliest your divorce could be final is six months from the date the petition for divorce was served, but you may still move your case forward during the six-month waiting period. After the 30-day response period has run, and if you and your spouse do not have a written agreement, you may ask the court to enter a default judgment called a “true default.”

To obtain a true default judgment, you need to file the original and two copies of the following forms:

  • a Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165);
  • a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (Form FL-170);
  • a Judgment (Form FL-180); and
  • a Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190).

Additional forms may be required as well, such as the additional forms required if you are asking for custody, child support, spousal support, or partner support. Each county may require its own forms also.

Once you have filed these forms, the clerk of court will mail a copy to you and to your spouse. If your spouse does not oppose default or respond to the court in any way, the court will enter a default judgment. In the case of a true default, the court will grant the requests in your petition, but the court does not grant the divorce until at least six months have passed since you served your petition for divorce.

At a later date, your spouse may try to oppose the entry of default judgment by arguing surprise, mistake, or excusable neglect. In such a case, you may be required to appear in court for a hearing. After hearing arguments on both sides, the court will either grant default judgment or deny the same, but at least your case is proceeding.

Obtaining a “true default” defeats an opposing spouse’s attempt to stop or slow down the divorce, but it also has some downsides. In a case with a true default, you must also file a property declaration, which is a public record, and the court must divide property equally between the parties.

If your spouse is attempting to thwart your divorce by not responding to the summons, consult a qualified family law options to discuss your best options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings and what it takes to sort out complexities when your spouse fails to respond. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

How Is Temporary Child Support Calculated?

How Is Temporary Child Support Calculated?
Both parents have a duty to support their minor children. If you and your co-parent have started living separately, you may want or need child support in order to provide for your children. You may ask the court for a temporary child support order in a pending divorce, paternity, or domestic violence case with your co-parent.

A child support order requires one parent to pay to the other parent an amount for the support of the children. To obtain a temporary child support order you must have a pending family court case, but you don’t have to wait until all issues are resolved for the court to order temporary child support. The temporary child support order is a child support order in effect until the court enters a final order resolving all current matters in the case. You may ask for a temporary child support order at the beginning of your case, such as when you file the petition for divorce or your request for a domestic violence restraining order, or you may request temporary child support at a later point while the case is pending.

Under California law, a formula is used to calculate the child support guideline. The child support guideline is the minimum amount of child support recommended by law. Parents wishing to deviate from the child support guideline must state a valid reason for doing so.

In California, the “top priority” in setting child support is the “interests of children.” In fact, under California law, a parent’s “first and principal obligation” is to support his or her children. The guiding principles that California courts must use when determining child support include not only income but also parenting time-share and responsibility, the parents’ standards of living, and the children’s financial needs.

The child support guideline is calculated under California Family Code § 4055. California Family Code § 4055 sets out a mathematical formula that considers each parent’s net disposable income and the amount of visitation with the children. Net disposable income is figured by subtracting from gross income items such as federal and state income taxes, mandatory union dues, and health insurance premiums among others. The court then applies an additional factor to the child support guideline depending on the number of children.

In addition to the child support guideline, the court may also order payment of add-ons. California Family Code § 4062 lists two types of add-ons: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory add-ons include reasonable uninsured medical, dental, and visions expenses of the children and the childcare costs incurred in order for a parent to work or obtain work-related training or education. Discretionary add-ons include items such as expenses for a child’s private school or special needs or travel expenses for visitation with the other parent.

Online calculators are available for calculating temporary child support, but using the calculator requires an understanding of tax data, such as alternative minimum tax adjustments, and California Family Code provisions, such as whether you qualify for the low-income adjustment or factoring in costs for “hardship children.” Calculating temporary child support is complex. To best serve your needs and the interests of the children for whom you are seeking a temporary support order, contact an attorney experienced in family law.

If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves temporary child support, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Included in a Petition for Divorce?

What Is Included in a Petition for Divorce?

In California, the process of ending a marriage or a domestic partnership begins when you file a petition for divorce in your local superior court. The petition, Form FL-100, is a three-page document completed by checking boxes and writing in short answers to questions.

Whether you are ending a marriage or a domestic partnership, the petition for divorce requests the same information. To prepare for completing Form FL-100, gather or have ready the following information:

  • The name and contact information of you and your partner in the marriage or domestic relationship.
  • Your county of residence for the last three months and your state of residence for the last six months.
  • The names and ages of any minor children of the relationship, including the paternity of the children.

Your county and state of residence determine which court has jurisdiction to grant your divorce. For marriages, you must file the petition for divorce in the superior court of the county where you have lived for the last three months.

In addition to the information above, the form petition for divorce also asks the following questions:

  • whether you are seeking a divorce due to irreconcilable differences or, instead, due to the permanent legal incapacity of your spouse or domestic partner to make decisions;
  • whether you are seeking spousal or domestic partner support;
  • whether you or your spouse or domestic partner has separate property, community property, or quasi-community property;
  • whether you are ending a marriage, a domestic partnership established in California, or a domestic partnership established outside of California;
  • whether you want your former name restored; and
  • whether you are asking the court to order your spouse or domestic partner to pay your attorney’s fees.

You should consult with and have an attorney complete the petition for divorce. Form FL-100 may look simple enough to fill out, consisting only of boxes to check and short answers to fill in, but how it is completed impacts you divorce. Along with the petition for divorce, you must file a summons, which is Form FL-110. Yet another form is required if there are minor children. You must also pay a filing fee.

Additionally, the form does not tell whether other law may affect your particular circumstances. For example, if you or your spouse or domestic partner is in the military, your divorce may be subject to the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act as well. The filing of a petition for divorce may also affect your immigration status. There are some differences in the divorce process depending on other factors such as whether there are children of the relationship or whether the relationship is a marriage or a domestic partnership.

If you have questions about how to complete the petition for divorce, about divorce in general, or about how your circumstances may affect the divorce process, contact an experienced California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Can I Get Child Support While My Divorce Proceedings Are Pending?

Can I Get Child Support While My Divorce Proceedings Are Pending?

One of the golden rules in California divorces that involve children is called “the best interest of the child.” It is therefore no surprise that child support may be awarded during the pendency of a divorce proceeding.

Perhaps the toughest period of time for couples who are divorcing is between separation and the entry of a final divorce decree. Typically, one spouse informs the other of an intent to end the marriage, and then thing start to fall apart. There are many details to address, such as living arrangements and finances. And when children are involved, these issues can be even more difficult.

California Family Code § 3600 authorizes a presiding court to order “either or both parents to pay any amount necessary for the support of the child . . ..” Such an order may be made during the pendency of a divorce or legal separation proceeding. The order continues in force until terminated by the court or until another provision of state law renders the child ineligible for support (e.g. emancipation). In addition, the award would not be enforceable if the couple began living together again.

The decision of whether temporary child support should be ordered depends on the same issues as when a permanent child support award is made. Custody and the incomes of the parties are the primary areas of focus while keeping the best interest of the child in mind.

Many times, the couple mutually agrees to where the child will live during separation and how their finances will be handled. In those cases, no intervention by a court is needed, or the mutually agreed to terms may be submitted for approval by the court. Family Code § 3604 provides, however, that any order for support during the pendency of proceedings does not “prejudice the rights of the parties or the child with respect to any subsequent order which may be made.”

If you are contemplating separation or divorce and you have children, you should consult with a knowledgeable California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger  will help you make sure your children receive their necessary support. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

What Duties Do Spouses Owe to Each Other?

What Duties Do Spouses Owe to Each Other?

You have probably heard the term “fiduciary” used in the context of business relationships. In a nutshell, married people have a fiduciary duty to one another in all matters involving marital property. Marital property is anything of value that is obtained or accumulated while a couple is married.

California Family Code § 721 provides that “in transactions between themselves, spouses are subject to the general rules governing fiduciary relationships . . ..” What exactly does that mean? It means a duty of “good faith and fair dealing” with one another. This code section also states that the duty is the same as between business partners who are not married.

In practical terms, each spouse is obligated to ensure that in any action that adds to or diminishes marital property, the interests of the other spouse are protected. Section 721 authorizes spouses to enter into transactions with third persons. This can range from very basic things like buying a television to more complex things like investing retirement funds. The fiduciary duty imposed by the law protects the spouse who is not involved in the transaction.

The general idea of a fiduciary relationship is that one party trusts another to act on her behalf in financial matters. This is true in various business relationships, such as banking and investments, as well as in matters of marital property. The person being trusted has a fiduciary duty to ensure to the greatest extent possible that the trusting person’s financial interests are not harmed.

In many marriages, one of the spouses manages the household finances without much involvement from the other. The managing spouse functions as a trustee of the other spouse’s interest in the marital assets. If the managing spouse harms the other’s interest by error or fraud, then the trusting spouse has a cause of action just as she would against a business partner.

When a marriage is dissolved, disputes often arise regarding management of the marital assets by one spouse or the other. If a spouse is found to have harmed the other’s interest in the marital assets, California Family Code § 1101 permits the court to award an offset to restore the harmed spouse’s share of the marital assets she lost as a result of a transaction. This is true whether or not the managing spouse intended to cause harm. If a spouse is found to have fraudulently harmed the other’s interest, a court is required to grant 100 percent of the value of the fraudulent transaction to the harmed spouse.

In an ideal world, a spouse would never act in a way that is detrimental to the other. But that is not always the case. If you are contemplating divorce or need advice regarding matters of marital property, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings and what it takes to sort out complexities in the marital estate. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.


 

Who “Owns” Money Damages Recovered by One Spouse During the Marriage?

Who “Owns” Money Damages Recovered by One Spouse During the Marriage?

Money damages received by a spouse as compensation for a personal injury that occurred during the marriage are owned by both parties. The money is marital property. As with most things that come up in the dissolution of a marriage, however, there are additional details to be considered.

While California Family Code § 780 provides that damages received for an injury that occurred during marriage are marital property, Section 781 states that if the injury occurred after entry of a final divorce decree or after separation of the parties, the money damages  are the separate property of the injured party. It is important to recognize, however, that whether a couple is considered legally separated can be complicated. If there is a formal separation approved by the court, there is no question. If not, the court considers various factors, including living arrangements, comingling of funds, and other indications of whether the couple otherwise functioned as if they were married.

If a couple dissolves a marriage during which one of the parties received money damages, California Family Code § 2603 provides for the allocation of those funds to the spouse who received them. But that is assuming the funds can be distinguished from other marital funds and have not been comingled. If, for example, the money was set aside in an investment account in the injured party’s name, that money, although marital property during the marriage, would be allocated to the injured spouse at the time of dissolution.

If the money damages were comingled with other marital funds, then they may be considered marital property at the time of dissolution. Where comingling is concerned, money damages are treated essentially the same as property owned by a spouse before the marriage. If the owning spouse allows the money or property to be comingled with other marital property, it is treated as part of the marital estate at the time of dissolution.

Once again, though, there are more details. Section 2603 also authorizes the court to allocate some of those funds to the non-injured spouse “after taking into account the economic condition and needs of each party, the time that has elapsed since the recovery[,] . . . and all other facts of the case.” If the court makes such an allocation, however, no more than one-half of the funds may be so allocated.

Division of the marital estate at the time a marriage is dissolved can be highly contentious and complicated. While state law provides the framework for issues such as money damages for personal injury, it also gives the courts broad discretion to achieve a fair outcome for both parties. If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves a complicated estate, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

The assets a couple accumulates during marriage, for the most part, are marital property. This includes money and things of value such as automobiles, furnishings, and real property like the marital home. Each spouse is a 50 percent owner of the assets. There are circumstances under which property owned by one of the parties before marriage may become marital property, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Marital property may be controlled by either or both parties to a marriage. Both own half of the property, and both have the authority to manage or dispose of the property but with this limitation: the controlling spouse cannot act in a way that diminishes the other spouse’s 50 percent share of the asset’s value.

The underlying concept of control of marital property is that marriage is a contract that imposes a “fiduciary duty” on each party. In the context of this discussion, the duty requires the spouse who exercises control over a particular asset to do so without damaging the other’s 50 percent interest in the property.

A good example of both the power to control an asset and the fiduciary duty is a car owned by a couple. Most married people officially title a car as belonging to John or Jane Doe. This means that in the eyes of the State of California, either John or Jane can assign the title of the car to a third person.

According to California Family Code § 1100, however, the party disposing of the car may not do so for less than “fair and reasonable” value without getting the consent of the other spouse. In the case of the car, the spouse could legally sell it according to state motor vehicle law, but if he did so for $10,000 less than its value without his spouse’s consent, the non-consenting spouse would have a claim against him.

In this example, the spouse selling the car has a fiduciary duty to the other spouse to maintain the value of her 50 percent interest in the fair and reasonable value of the car at the time of its disposition. A failure to do so results in the selling spouse being liable for that loss.

In the case of real property, it is little different. California Family Code § 1102 requires that any sale or encumbrance of real property, or its lease for more than one year, requires execution by both spouses. There is much less room for a spouse to take unilateral action without the other spouse’s agreement. A spouse is, however, authorized to encumber her half of real property for the purpose of engaging counsel once a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage has been commenced.

If you have concerns about your spouse’s management of marital assets, you should consult with an experienced California divorce lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.