Social Media and Your Divorce

Social Media and Your Divorce

Chris loved posting to all her social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – she had them all. It seemed like innocent fun and a great way to stay connected. The day she posted about her trip to Las Vegas, however, she learned the perils of social media. Her estranged husband learned she was on vacation and not helping her grandmother recover from hip surgery as she stated when she dropped the kids off at his house. At least a few of her 2,372 Facebook friends wondered how she could afford to stay at the Bellagio Las Vegas while claiming she needed more spousal support and child support. Chris found out the hard way that social media and your divorce are not good partners.

Let’s look at several reasons that people in the middle of a divorce should avoid social media.

Hidden Gold

Boasting about buying a new boat while claiming you’re too poor to pay child support is not a smart thing to do – but people do it. Social media posts may be a veritable treasure trove of financial information. Be aware that the parties to a California divorce are required to submit accurate financial disclosures or face penalties. Lying on divorce disclosures violates California law.

Not All “Friends” Are Friends

This may not be the best time to post a picture of you with your new boyfriend or write nasty things about your ex. If your estranged spouse is on the same social media sites, there’s a strong possibility you may have friends in common. Even if you have unfollowed or unfriended your spouse, he or she may still be able to see your posts.

And, of course, there’s always deliberate sabotage. Some friends may be friendlier with your spouse than with you. In addition, people may carelessly share your posts and photos so your ex-spouse will see them.

Posts = Evidence

Most of the messages and photos you posted on social media accounts may be used as evidence in your divorce case. If you are concerned about social media and your divorce, you may be tempted to delete everything. Talk to your attorney before doing anything with your social media accounts. Deactivating your accounts during your divorce may be the best course of action.

Social Media and Your Divorce? Maybe Not a Match Made in Heaven.

If you’re feeling nervous about past posts, you might consider deactivating your account. However, do not delete pics, posts, snaps, tweets, and another other social media stuff without talking to your divorce lawyer first.

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 Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
How to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

How to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

Parents may be able to mutually agree upon a parenting plan for their children. Sometimes, though, a judge has to decide how child custody will be handled before a divorce is finalized. No matter how or when the decisions were made, there may come a time that parents have to modify child custody arrangements.

Making the Decision

Parenting Plans and child custody arrangements typically are made keeping the best interests of the child in mind. But people and circumstances change. Some of the common reasons for altering a child custody arrangement include:

  • Refusing to allow the non-custodial parent to contact or visit the children;
  • Putting the children in an unsafe or dangerous environment;
  • Relocation of the non-custodial parent.

In addition, children may ask for a change in custody. Children over the age of 12 may be permitted to tell the judge who they want to live with.

Once one or both parents decide that changes should be made, the court becomes involved.

Filing the Paperwork

The parent requesting the change will file a Request for Order with the court. An additional form – the child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment is optional but may be helpful. Remember that you need to show a significant change in circumstances or some compelling reason to modify child custody arrangements.

After filing the Request for Order, you will be given a date to appear in court or to meet with a mediator. Court proceedings can be complicated, especially if the parents are unable to reach their own agreement.

Attending a Hearing

If parents are unable to arrive at a revised custody plan through mediation, they may have to appear in court. The judge may take limited testimony but may rely heavily on the documents filed with the clerk. After making a decision, the judge signs an order altering the terms of the custody arrangement.

It’s Possible to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

However, the court must see significant reasons to change custody before doing so. As always, California courts consider the best interests of the child in making any decisions.

To discuss how to modify child custody arrangements, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Negotiating Your Marital Settlement Agreement

Negotiating Your Marital Settlement Agreement

A divorcing couple may end their divorce by going to trial or by negotiating a marital settlement agreement. California courts tend to prefer the latter. If the decisions are left up to a judge, assets and debt will be split as close to 50-50 as possible. Parties who negotiate a settlement have a little more freedom, as long as they can reach an agreement.

It may be in your best interests to negotiate rather than going to trial. Here are a few tips that may give you a better chance of negotiating your marital settlement agreement.

Be Open and Honest with Your Attorney

Your lawyer represents your interests in the negotiation process. It may be easier for your attorney to reach agreements that work for you if he or she knows all the facts.

For example, Lila and Jake began discussing their settlement agreement. During the negotiations, Lila’s attorney learned that she had misrepresented her income, her education, and her employment status. These surprises put Lila’s attorney in an awkward position, one that hindered the negotiation process.

Look at the Big Picture

The term “choose your battles” comes to mind. Only push for the things that really matter – arguing over small, relatively insignificant details wastes everyone’s time and energy.

The next tip may help:

Check Your Emotions at the Door (if possible)

Acknowledge that divorce is usually an emotional time, even if you want the divorce. Life is changing in a big way, and you still have to get through the final steps of negotiating  your marital settlement agreement and getting the final divorce decree.

However, negotiating is difficult when emotions are high. Try to stay calm and focused.

Be Realistic

This not the time to exact revenge on your spouse. This is a time to review disclosures and discovery materials, determine community property and debt, then come up with an agreement that fits.

Our divorcing couple, Lila and Jack, had a difficult time in negotiations. Lila would not decrease her spousal support and child support demands, although she knew Jack was on disability. Jack insisted on full custody, although he was living in a one bedroom apartment. Lila and Jack need to review their circumstances and come up with reasonable, workable solutions.

You Need a Lawyer Who Knows How to Negotiate.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office opens soon.
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.
Settlement vs. Litigation: Which Is Right for Your Divorce?

Settlement vs. Litigation: Which Is Right for Your Divorce?

There are many reasons to file a divorce. Take Henry and Martha. After raising four children during their 31-year marriage, they decided to join the “gray divorce” crowd. Jake and Lucy, married four years ago, had one child together before Jake’s infidelity and substance abuse drove them apart. Both of these couples had some heavy decisions ahead. As their cases progressed, they had to decide whether settlement or litigation was best for their divorce.

Two Pathways.

The parties in most divorce cases are able to reach a divorce settlement agreement. The couple and their attorneys may negotiate privately or go to mediation. Though it is similar to a trial in that both parties present their side, mediations proceed very differently. 

For one thing, agreements reached in a mediation are confidential. Court proceedings are not, although courts can restrict who can view divorce court records. In Jake and Lucy’s case, privacy was a big concern. Lucy did not want Jake’s infidelity and drug addiction publicly aired.

Unfortunately, trial became a necessity for Henry and Martha. A lifelong homemaker, Martha had never worked outside the home. She expected spousal support to continue for some time. Henry, however, felt she deserved nothing because he had been the family’s breadwinner for their entire marriage. Both stubbornly stuck to their positions and refused to compromise.

When Is Settlement Right?

Some couples are in a position to settle their differences quickly. For them, settlement through negotiations or mediation typically is faster than going through the court system. They don’t have to wait for space to clear on a court docket to schedule hearings.

Divorce strains family relationships. Mediation may be less destructive on those relationships because they are typically less combative than trials.

Couples going through a divorce may have financial problems. Mediations and settlement negotiations are usually less expensive than going to trial.

When a settlement agreement is presented to the court, the judge will make sure the document complies with California law. However, many of the agreements contained in the settlement agreement do not require a judge’s scrutiny. Couples may hammer out agreements that suit them, but that most judges would not arrive at.

 

If negotiations and mediation fail, divorce proceedings go to the next level.

When Is Litigation the Best Option?

Some parties may be unable to resolve their issues without court intervention. So, they settle in for the long haul. They may be expected to attend several hearings or even participate in a trial that lasts for days.

Going to trial sounds terrible! So why do some couples end up battling it out in a courtroom?

Divorces with more complex issues are more likely to go to trial. What makes a divorce more complex? Among other things, disputes over property division that can’t be overcome. Inability to agree on hot issues like child custody or spousal support could end up in a courtroom.

Trial may be necessary if domestic violence or child abuse is involved. A judge has the authority issue orders that protect the abused spouse or child, something neither an attorney nor a mediator can do.

Some spouses make unreasonable demands or have unreasonable expectations. In cases where this is an issue, unfortunately, a trial usually becomes necessary.

Final Thoughts.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help, whether your case is settled or goes to trial. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Dual Citizenship’s Effect on Divorce

Dual Citizenship’s Effect on Divorce

Nancy knew when she married Mark that he was both a United States Citizen and a citizen of Nigeria. He had been born in the U.S., but his parents raised him in their home country. She did not know how Mark’s dual citizenship would affect their divorce a few years later.

Does it matter where the divorce proceeding takes place?

Anyone who considers divorcing a spouse with dual citizenship owes it to themselves to do a little research. Choosing to file in the country with the most favorable divorce laws could make a huge difference, especially when spousal support and child custody are involved.

Nancy may be able to file for divorce in the United States if she meets applicable residency requirements. For example, California law requires the filing party to live in California for the 6 months prior to filing. The filing party is also required to live for at least 3 months in the county in which they plan to file.

What if one spouse moves their children to their home country without permission?

In this situation, a parent who is also a U.S. citizen could reach out to the United States Department of State. However, it may also be necessary to start working through the courts of the country to which the children have been moved.

How can court orders be enforced?

The court handling the divorce proceeding has the authority to hand down orders. The problem may be enforcing orders in another country. The U.S. State Department may be able to help. However, it’s likely that a person based in the U.S., for example, will have to retain counsel in their ex-spouse’s country.

Plan Ahead for Dual Citizenship Issues.

Dealing with this type of issue can take divorce to a whole new level. This is hard to say, but the best time to plan for this type of issue is before the marriage takes place. Actions that seem harmless with the Wedding March still ringing in your ears may have serious consequences if it becomes time to divorce.

Contact a California attorney to learn your options. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

The Rise of Gray Divorce

The Rise of Gray Divorce

Jack and Susan B. had just celebrated their 32nd anniversary when they hit their children with a bombshell. They planned to divorce as soon as possible. No one really saw it coming. However, after much reflection, they joined the ranks of baby boomers heading for a gray divorce.

Divorce After a Certain Age

The term “gray divorce” typically refers to couples who divorce after age 50. According to Pew Research, the divorce rate for adults age 50+ has just about doubled in the past 25 years. Rates in other age groups have decreased, though. So, what is causing this “divorce revolution” among our older population?

Divorces are all different. Some of the reasons given for gray divorce include:

  • The couple may have grown apart over the span of their marriage. Interests, attitudes, even beliefs change over time. For some couples, these changes present insurmountable obstacles to their continued happiness.
  • Couples with children sometimes stay together until the children are out on their own. They may be unable to recover from empty nest syndrome and feels it’s best to separate.
  • Longer life expectancy may mean more time spent together after retirement. Some couples cannot imagine living without their spouse. Others cannot imagine living with their spouse through retirement.
  • People may have different beliefs about money, debt, and spending. At a certain point, especially looking toward the future, differences of opinion may grow too big to ignore.

While gray divorce is common, it is not without its perils.

Gray Divorcees Face Unique Problems

Most divorced couples experience the stress of reinventing their lives. Everything changes, from finances to living arrangements to relationships. However, people who divorce late in life have a few new wrinkles to deal with.

  • Sometimes the husband has been the breadwinner while the wife cared for home and children. This puts the wife in an awkward position after a divorce. Many older women who lack job skills and experience struggle to enter the workforce. Some may be able to rely on spousal support for years if the marriage lasted more than 10 years.
  • Often one spouse handled every aspect of the family’s finances. The spouse who was not involved in financial matters may face some unpleasant surprises during the course of the divorce. In addition, the non-financially-savvy spouse now has to take on their own financial planning.
  • The fact that gray divorcees are closer to retirement may also cause a few hitches. Spouses who expected to rely on retirement accounts in their golden years may have to adjust their expectations. Even worse, there’s not much time to rebuild before retirement. Older people may have maxed out their salaries and reached the end of their career opportunities, which could make rebuilding those retirement accounts very difficult.

As with any divorce, it’s best to consult with an attorney to make sure you get the best result.

Learn More About Filing for Divorce

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

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

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

Learn Everything You Can About Your Finances

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

Make an Inventory of All Property

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

Explore Spousal Support Options

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

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

Prepare for Child Support

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

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

Hold Off on Impulse Buying

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

Divorce is Hard

An experienced California divorce attorney can help you achieve the best outcome possible. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Applying the Brakes with an ATROS

Applying the Brakes with an ATROS

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

What is an ATROS?

ATROS stands for Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders.

What exactly does this mean?

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

What does an ATROS mean for me?

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

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

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

Talk to an Attorney About Your ATROS.

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

To make an appointment, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento) and surrounding communities. We are opening a new Beverly Hills office soon.
Vocational Experts May Make a Difference in Your Divorce Settlement

Vocational Experts May Make a Difference in Your Divorce Settlement

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

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

Why Hire a Vocational Expert?

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

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

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

Learn More About Vocational Experts

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

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