Can You Get a Default Divorce in California?

Can You Get a Default Divorce in California?

When filing for divorce in California, you may be facing a lot of unknowns. This can be especially true when you are unsure if your ex will participate in the case. In some instances, a person filing for a California divorce can get what is known as a default judgment. A default judgment occurs when the other party does not formally answer after being served with a legal case. If you have a pending California divorce case, you may be wondering: Can you get a default divorce in California? Continue reading

Is it Better to Get a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Is it Better to Get a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Deciding to end your marriage is a complex decision that can raise numerous questions. Are you ready to divorce? Would it be better to live apart? What about a trial separation? Is divorce a better option than separation? How will you divide your property and share custody of your kids? Is separation preferential to divorce in California? If you are thinking about ending your marital relationship, you will want to know: Is it better to get a divorce or legal separation in California? Continue reading

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.

New Law in California Addresses Date of Separation

New Law in California Addresses Date of Separation

When a marriage or domestic partnership fails, the parties are immediately confronted with a number of issues, not the least of which is how to separate physically. Typically, there is an initial intimate separation that then morphs into a physical separation.

Separating physically, however, is not that easy for many couples because of issues like finances and children. Couples advancing toward divorce sometimes choose to continue living under the same roof while they get their affairs in order before finally divorcing. Until recently, separated couples in California had to actually live in separate residences to have their post-separation finances considered as separate.

The rule had been handed down in 2015 by the California Supreme Court in a case called In re Marriage of Davis. In that case, the couple had been living in the marital home pending their divorce, although they were functioning as individuals. For example, their finances were handled separately, they travelled to children’s events separately, and they each did their own laundry. Notwithstanding their living separate lives, the Court ruled that an indispensible component of a married couple being separated under the eyes of the law was living in separate residences.

The legislature took umbrage with this ruling and passed Senate Bill 1255, which took effect January 1, 2017. This bill amended the California Family Code, specifying two grounds on which the date of marital separation could be established: 1) One spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage; and 2) the conduct of that spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage. The bill also provided that courts “shall take into consideration all relevant evidence” to establish the date of separation.

The new law provides more flexibility to couples who decide to end their marriages. It is a much more sensible way of respecting the decisions that those couples make as they navigate such a significant upheaval in their lives.

California Supreme Court: Can a Couple Living in the Same Home Be Considered "Living Separate and Apart"?

California Supreme Court: Can a Couple Living in the Same Home Be Considered “Living Separate and Apart”?

Couples who are separated and making their way toward divorce sometimes continue to live in the same home. It is not too hard to imagine reasons why this would happen. Finances are a key consideration.

Many couples struggle to make ends meet keeping just one household. A sudden need to maintain two (on the same amount of money) can be pretty daunting. Children are a second reason that separating couples often continue to live in the same home. Divorce is hard on children, and sometimes a more gradual approach to the physical separation of the parents can be in their best interest.

The problem with continuing to live in the same house after deciding to “separate” is that the separation date plays a huge role in the division of marital assets when a divorce actually occurs. Once a legally recognized separation takes place, the parties begin accumulating separate assets to which the other party has no legal right. This is true whether there is a legal separation granted by the court or whether the parties simply separate on their own.

Continuing to live in the same home confounds the question of whether the couple is separated. A recent case decided by the California Supreme Court answered this question, at least for the particular circumstances of that case. In Marriage of Davis, the Court concluded that the couple were not living separate and apart until the wife moved out of the house. Initially, both parties stated that they were living separate and apart even while still in the house together, but later the husband claimed the separation did not occur until his wife moved out.

Some may view the Court’s decision as establishing a bright line rule that continuing to live in the same house defeats the notion of living separate and apart. This is not the case. The Court determined that in this set of circumstances, the couple was not considered as living separate and apart while under the same roof. It left open the door for a subsequent determination that a couple could show that they “had established separate residences  . . . even though they continued to literally share one roof.”

If you are contemplating divorce, you will need advice early in the process, especially on the issue of living separate and apart. Judy L. Burger is an aggressive, knowledgeable lawyer who has extensive experience in high conflict divorces in California. Contact her today at (415) 293-8314 to discuss your case.
Legal Grounds for a California Divorce or Separation

Legal Grounds for a California Divorce or Separation

California is a “no fault” divorce state. In fact, it was the first state to enact a no fault basis for divorce in 1969. Prior to this change, California state law listed specific faults that, if committed by one of the parties, would be grounds for divorce. These included things such as adultery, extreme cruelty, habitual intemperance, and a number of others. Following enactment of California’s no fault basis, every other state eventually followed suit.

Under our no fault approach, there are only two grounds for divorce and legal separation in California: 1) irreconcilable differences, and 2) permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. Nearly every divorce is filed on grounds of irreconcilable differences. This allows a party to a marriage to pursue a divorce even if her spouse wants to stay married. According to Merriam Webster, irreconcilable means “so different that agreement is not possible.” In a marriage, then, at least one party must believe that agreement on the differences is not possible. Even if the other party states a willingness to agree on differences, they are still irreconcilable if the party of the first part maintains his position.

In the divorce proceeding, the party filing for divorce simply has to tell the court that the marriage needs to be dissolved because there are irreconcilable differences. While the differences are put into the record, no proof of their existence needs to be established. The court just needs to know that one of the parties considers there to be differences, and that they are irreconcilable. The court does have the authority to evaluate each case to reach a conclusion that reconciliation is not possible. In situations where a judge believes reconciliation is possible, he may continue the proceedings for 30 days to see if the parties will reconcile.

Before a divorce petition may be filed, there are residency requirements that must be fulfilled. At least one of the parties must have been a resident of California for six month, and a resident of the county of filing for the immediately preceding three months. If the requirements are not met, the court may refuse to accept the case or will dismiss it when the defect is discovered.

The breakup of a marriage is a difficult life event for both spouses. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in divorce matters. Call today to learn how our attorneys can help you and your family: (415) 298-8314.