What Certified Family Law Specialist Means for You

What Certified Family Law Specialist Means for You

You’ve decided to file for divorce. Your next step? Hiring an attorney. As you look online or through attorney directories, you notice that some attorneys are “specialists” in areas of law like taxation, criminal law, and family law. It’s only natural to wonder what a certified family law specialist can do for you.

All attorneys practicing law in California are licensed and regulated by the State Bar of California. The Bar also encourages continued training for lawyers and provides a way for some lawyers to become certified in their area of practice. Attorneys may become certified specialists in several fields, including family law.

 That all sounds great for attorneys, but what does it mean for you?

Training

A certified family law specialist completes training in excess of what is expected of other attorneys. In addition, an attorney specialist has to pass a written test in their legal specialty.

When you hire a specialist, you hire someone who has the broad knowledge of law and the specific knowledge needed for your family law matter.

Experience

A certified family law specialist must practice law in their specialty for at least five years. During that time, at least 25 percent of their time must involve their field of specialty.

This means that the attorney you hire has more experience in family law than an attorney with a general practice. An attorney who specializes in family law understands California divorce laws and how they relate to your individual case.

Continuing Education

All attorneys must go through a certain amount of training every year. A certified family law specialist is held to higher standards when it comes to continued training.

This means the specialist you hire is more likely to have a deep understanding of recent changes to California divorce law.

Respected by Peers and Judges

To become a certified family law specialist, an attorney must be viewed favorably by their peers and by judges with whom they have worked.

The specialist you hire has demonstrated a dedication to family law to people who know the law. What better recommendation can there be?

Cares About Family Law

The rigorous application process required by the State Bar is rigorous. A certified family law specialist who goes through that process has demonstrated great interest and concern in family law matters.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, Beverly Hills, and surrounding communities.
How to Help Your Kids during Your California Divorce

How to Help Your Kids during Your California Divorce

Looking for expert advice about how to help your children cope during your divorce is a solid first step. When children learn that their parents are divorcing, it can feel like their world is spinning out of control. Fortunately, as parents, you have a great degree of influence and can help your children adjust to this new chapter in their lives.

The single most important thing that parents can do to help their children cope with divorce is to keep the kids out of the conflict. Research has shown time and again that it is not divorce itself that leads to so many of the negative consequences for kids; instead, it is how the parents handle the divorce that is the best predictor of how kids fare.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid drawing your kids into parental conflict:

  • Don’t tell your children the details of why you are divorcing or place blame on the other parent.
  • Store important documents and communications, such as letters and emails, in a place where your kids won’t see them.
  • If it is safe to do so and abuse is not an issue, encourage your kids to stay in contact with the other parent and his or her extended family through phone calls.
  • Don’t vent about or discuss adult issues when your kids are around, and counsel your friends and family not to do so.
  • Don’t ask your kids to choose with whom to spend time; follow your custody and visitation schedule.
  • Don’t ask your children to spy on the other parent or to deliver messages or payments on your behalf.

In addition to keeping your kids out of your conflict, it’s important to spend time with your children, to listen to them, to reassure them of your love for them, and to validate their feelings.

For compassionate legal counsel during this difficult time, contact the experienced family attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We will provide legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

What Happens When Bankruptcy and Divorce Occur Together?

What Happens When Bankruptcy and Divorce Occur Together?

Divorce is a stressful, life-changing event precipitated by many different causes, including financial difficulties. Indeed, the mere process of separating into two households can create irreparable financial fractures in a family’s budget. Unfortunately, separation and divorce sometimes lead one or both parties to consider filing for bankruptcy while their divorce case is pending.

Divorce proceedings are held in family court, which is a California state court. Family court judges preside over the proceedings, including matters involving spousal support, child support, and property and debt division.

Bankruptcy cases, on the other hand, are filed and heard in the federal court system. In fact, bankruptcy courts are specialized federal courts set up to deal with these issues.

If one or both spouses file for bankruptcy while their divorce proceeding is pending, it is wise to get legal advice right away. These dual proceedings present special issues and can impact the outcome of the divorce, including the property rights of both parties. Here are some examples of issues that experienced counsel can help you understand and protect:

  • whether it is best to file for bankruptcy separately or together, assuming both spouses wish to file;
  • whether it is better to file for bankruptcy before or after a final divorce decree is granted;
  • the effect of the discharge of a community debt on a spouse who does not file for bankruptcy; and
  • the effect of a final divorce decree on a spouse’s ability to discharge a debt in bankruptcy.

At a minimum, if a bankruptcy case is pending, that court will have to approve any proposed division of community property in the divorce case. Additionally, it is important to note that neither spousal support nor child support may be discharged in any type of bankruptcy.

In some cases, when only one spouse files for bankruptcy, it is in the other spouse’s best interest to file a special type of complaint in the bankruptcy case.

If you need assistance in a family law proceeding, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer, especially if bankruptcy is or may become an issue for you or your spouse. 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.

Does How Property Is Titled Matter When You Get a Divorce?

Does How Property Is Titled Matter When You Get a Divorce?

Married couples may not always think about how their property is titled until the time comes to divorce. Then, questions inevitably arise about who owns what. This is a critical question because each person will want to ensure he or she is able to live comfortably after the proceedings have concluded.

Property division is one of the core functions of divorce proceedings. It is important to learn about how the law will affect your property, debt, and income so that you can meet your needs, and those of your children, after your divorce is final.

California is a community property state. To read more about the basics of property division in California, please see our earlier blog here.

California law has many provisions designed to protect spousal property rights. Two of the most important are (1) the presumption of community property during marriage and (2) requirements for spousal consent for certain ownership and transfer rights of property.

First, there is a presumption in California that property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property subject to equitable division in the event of a divorce. This is a powerful presumption. It acts to bring an asset into the marital estate even when one spouse attempts to title it in his or her name alone.

Second, California law often requires the consent of one spouse for the other spouse to own property in certain ways or to transfer certain property interests. California offers many different ways that people can own property, each with different requirements for ownership or transfer of rights. However, married couples are limited in how they may own property acquired during their marriage. For example, a husband may buy a house as his sole and separate property, but only if the wife consents for him to do so. This consent often takes the form of a quitclaim deed.

If you want to learn more about property ownership in California and how state law affects your marital assets, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Call us today to make an appointment: (415) 293-8314.

Study: Working Together as Parents Can Prevent Mental Health Issues in Kids of Divorce

Study: Working Together as Parents Can Prevent Mental Health Issues in Kids of Divorce

A recent paper brings positive news for kids of parents whose marriage is on the fritz: Parents can play a meaningful role in preventing their kids from suffering from mental health issues post-divorce. Research has long shown that kids suffer mentally from a divorce, however, the new research review shows that this result may be preventable.

A pair of authors from Portugal reviewed 11 studies published over a 14-year period before drawing their conclusions. They considered only peer-reviewed empirical papers “that aimed to assess the association between coparenting and psychological development or function in children with divorced parents.”

Their findings are not surprising. The authors report that the fact of divorce is not what tends to lead to negative consequences, such as anxiety and depression. Rather, the way joint parenting is approached after a divorce “has a significant impact on children’s mental health.”

Three findings were particularly telling:

  • When children were exposed to conflict in co-parenting, they “were more likely to have issues with problems such as attention deficit.”
  • “Children’s perception of their parents’ coparenting predicted anxiety and depression” in those children.
  • Lower levels of child self-esteem were associated with “coparental hostility and conflict.”

This review suggests that parents can positively impact their children’s mental health reactions to divorce by presenting a positive coparent relationship. In the study review, a positive relationship was associated with better “academic performance and psychosocial wellbeing of children.”

If you want to minimize the effects of your divorce or separation on your kids, it is important to separate the problems in your personal relationship with the other parent from your respective roles as coparents moving forward. From this standpoint, the recent study confirms what many people likely suspected.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters and can advise you about many of the consequences of divorce. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

Is There a Season for Divorce?

Is There a Season for Divorce?

If you suspect that divorce filings might be more likely at certain times of the year, you are right. A recent University of Washington analysis showed that filings spiked not once, but twice, each year, leading some in the media to proclaim that there is a “season” for divorce.

The researchers reviewed 15 years of divorce filings in nearly all counties in Washington state, then compared what they found with filings in four other U.S. states.

The results were consistent across all locations examined: filings jumped in March and August.

The researchers noted that those filing for divorce seemed to avoid three times of year:

  • Valentine’s Day;
  • summer vacations; and
  • the winter holidays.

They speculated a few potential reasons for the timing of the filings:

  • a concern that”[w]inter and summer holidays are culturally sacred times for families,” when it might be “taboo” to announce intentions to divorce;
  • the stress created by winter and summer holidays, which might lead people to “decide their differences are irreconcilable right after a big trip”; and
  • dashed expectations for family time or positive expectations during the holidays.

The authors also thought that the beginning of the school year might press unhappy spouses into action.

Interestingly, the biannual pattern held true even when the researchers controlled for “other seasonal factors such as unemployment and the housing market.”

If you need help in a California family law matter, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We will provide the compassionate, competent legal support you need. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: How Does the IRS Treat Spousal Support?

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: How Does the IRS Treat Spousal Support?

If you are newly divorced or going through a divorce, you may be unsure how the Internal Revenue Service treats spousal support for tax purposes. Many people do not think about taxes until tax time rolls around. Of course, it is wise to be prepared on this issue, as receiving (or paying) spousal support will affect your tax bill and potentially lead to an underpayment that you will need to make up by April 15.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) treat spousal support, also called “alimony,” as income for federal tax purposes. The most important issue is what qualifies as alimony under federal tax law.

Alimony payments must meet all of the following qualifications:

  • The parties do not file a joint return.
  • The payments are made in cash, by check, or by money order.
  • The payment is received either by the ex-spouse or on that person’s behalf.
  • Neither the parties’ separation agreement nor a court decree says that the payment is not spousal support.
  • The responsibility to make the payments stops when the ex-spouse dies or remarries.
  • The payment is neither child support nor part of the parties’ property settlement.

The IRS specifically provides that the following do not qualify as alimony:

  • child support;
  • property settlements that are not made in cash;
  • payments that are intended to be a spouse’s share of community property income; and
  • payments made either to keep up or for the use of the paying spouse’s property.

The former spouse who receives the payments is required to report alimony as income for federal tax purposes. Likewise, the former spouse who makes alimony payments is entitled to a deduction for payments made.

Those who receive payments are required by law to cooperate by providing their Social Security number to the paying party. If receiving spouses do not do this, they may receive a $50 penalty. A party making the payments could not only receive a $50 penalty for failing to include the recipient’s Social Security number but also could see his or her income tax deduction disallowed.

Here are a few trickier situations that require competent financial or legal advice:

  • payments made to a third-party under a separation agreement, a divorce decree, or at the written request of the receiving party;
  • payments for life insurance premiums for the benefit of the receiving spouse, if they are required by court order or a written separation agreement; and
  • certain mortgage, real estate tax, or house insurance payments.
If you are not sure whether to claim alimony as income or a deduction, you should consult with an experienced California 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.
The Basics of Domestic Partnerships in California

The Basics of Domestic Partnerships in California

California’s legal option for domestic partnerships remains intact for eligible partners who wish to “share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” Domestic partnerships provide a viable alternative to marriage for those who meet the legal requirements.

A couple who wishes to register their domestic partnership must meet certain requirements under California law:

In addition, the people must either be of the same sex or at least one of the individuals must be older than 62. If either of the partners is less than 18 years old, either parental or judicial consent is required.

Domestic partnerships are registered with the California Secretary of State. After the necessary paperwork is filed, each partner has the “same rights, protections, and benefits,” as well as “the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties” as do married spouses. California law also provides domestic partners with protection against discrimination by state agencies.

California also offers registration of confidential domestic partnerships. While most domestic partnerships are a matter of public record, a confidential domestic partnership “is a permanent record that is not open to the public.” The members of a confidential domestic partnership may obtain a copy of their filing documents. However, no one else may obtain a copy unless they can produce a certified copy of a court order.

The United States Supreme Court’s opinion that required states to license same-sex marriages did not change California’s domestic partnership law. Couples may still take advantage of domestic partnerships to formalize their relationship if they so choose.

If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today if you have questions about California family law: (415) 293-8314.

Protect Yourself: Update These Documents after a Divorce

If you are recently divorced, you need to make sure you update key documents. Many people remember to change the name on their driver’s license, credit cards, and so on. While that is important, there are other documents that are arguably more so; the failure to change certain documents could result in a different distribution of your property than you might intend.

Whether or not you initiated the divorce proceedings, you probably have strong feelings about whether you want your ex to have your property or insurance benefits if something happens to you. Unfortunately, too often, people overlook or postpone dealing with this issue, with potentially disastrous results.

Here is a list of some of the types of documents you will want to update:

  • employment documents, such as payroll data and withholdings;
  • financial documents, such as bank and brokerage accounts, as well as credit cards;
  • government and identification documents, such as your Social Security card and driver’s license; and
  • documents that relate to the ownership of property, such as car titles.

Beneficiary designations should be at the top of your list. You will need to identify all of these, which typically include insurance policies, retirement plans, financial brokerage accounts, and bank accounts that are payable on death (POD).

Other critical documents that need immediate attention are your will, any trusts, and any powers of attorney or advance directives. California Probate Code § 6122 provides that a divorce automatically revokes certain aspects of a will. However, that automatic revocation may cause other unintended consequences where property is concerned.

Even if you are relatively healthy, life is unpredictable. To ensure that your wishes are carried out, it is best to update your key documents and to consult with an experienced California lawyer who can help you identify important issues that may result from your divorce.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters and can advise you about many of the consequences of divorce. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.