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Legal Separation In California—How Is It Different From Divorce?

Divorce ends a marriage no matter where you go, but legal separation is a concept that is different in every state. So what does it mean in California? Is a legal separation a step on the way to divorce? Is it a separate status? Is it easier to get a legal separation than to get a divorce in California?

Since family law attorneys handle legal separations as well as divorce, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC gets a lot of questions about legal separation in California. We can explain the benefits and drawbacks in your particular situation, but here is some helpful background information to consider.

In California, Legal Separation is a Status

Some jurisdictions treat separation as a requirement for divorce while others don’t recognize a concept of “legal separation” at all. California is different. In our state, legal separation serves an actual legal status like, married or divorced.

Because it is a legal status, to become legally separated, you need to go through most of the same formalities as you would for a divorce. Couples who go through the legal separation process have their lives separated with respect to financial matters. One partner may obtain alimony. And if there are children, the court can issue orders assigning custody and visitation time, as well as child support obligations.

The Marriage Remains

When a couple is legally separated, they are still married even though they live apart and have disentangled many aspects of their lives. This means that neither spouse may remarry unless they obtain a divorce.

Some couples choose legal separation for personal or religious beliefs. Others choose to file for legal separation because they can live apart while continuing to enjoy tax benefits and a spouse can still benefit from the other spouse’s insurance coverage. Couples who are legally separated are considered married for Social Security purposes, so some couples might elect to file for legal separation until they have been married for ten years, which would make one spouse eligible for derivative benefits based on the other spouse’s work history. However, time spent in legal separation will not generally count toward the “ten-year rule” for assessing alimony obligations in California because the law allows for the subtraction of time a couple lived apart.

Legal Separation Can Be a Stepping Stone Toward Divorce—But Doesn’t Have to Be

For various reasons, many couples choose to use legal separation as a stage on their way to a divorce, although this is not required in California like it is in some states. One reason couples file for legal separation is that they do not yet qualify for a divorce. To get a divorce in California, at least one member of the couple must have lived in the state for the past six months or more, and they must have been a resident of the county where they are filing for at least three months. There is no equivalent length of residency requirement for a legal separation and no waiting period. One spouse must live in California to file for legal separation, but there’s no minimum time requirement.

Before a legal separation is finalized, it can be changed to a divorce. For instance, the petition can be changed to divorce once the residency requirement is satisfied or if one spouse changes their mind.

You Still Need an Attorney

Even though a couple is legally still married when they obtain a legal separation, they establish legally binding arrangements that affect their lives going forward just as they would in a divorce. That means you need advice and representation from an experienced attorney to protect your interests when you are seeking a legal separation. It is important to understand your rights with respect to:

  • Which property is classified as community and which property is separate
  • A plan for the fair and reasonable division of community property and debts
  • Whether one spouse will pay domestic partner support (alimony), how much payments will be, and how long they will last
  • Whether one spouse will cover insurance or other expenses
  • How tax credits may be allocated
  • Parenting plans for custody and visitation
  • Child support obligations

Once you resolve these issues through a legal separation, your finances will be protected going forward. If you later decide to divorce, it will not be necessary to revisit all of these issues, so the process will be much less difficult than starting a divorce from scratch.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Helps Secure the Best Terms in Legal Separation and Divorce

If you are considering legal separation, divorce, or both, our team would be happy to explain the ramifications in your particular situation. With 300+ years of experience in family law, we understand the most effective ways to protect your interests. To get started, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

 

What is the Best Way to Hide Money from Your Spouse Legally?

There are many different reasons you might want to hide money from your spouse, and not all of them are negative. You might want to save up to surprise your partner with a gift. But more often, people want to hide money because they are worried. They may be concerned about having money for emergency expenses such as a medical need or car breakdown. Sometimes they want to set aside money just in case they need an exit plan.

There is no law against hiding money from your spouse while you are married. However, you can get into considerable legal trouble if you try to hide assets during divorce. So you need to take great care, and discuss plans with your attorney to make sure that your plans comply with the law. Here are some general factors to keep in mind if you want to hide money from your spouse legally.

Make Sure You’re Involved with the Finances

In most marriages, one spouse manages the money and pays the bills, and the other often has no idea about the financial picture. Make sure that’s not you. Even if your partner pays the bills, you should still know which accounts you have assets in and check the credit card bills and bank records. Know how to log-in to the accounts and review them regularly. If your spouse asks about your sudden interest, you can point out that you need to be prepared in case of an emergency or discuss the need for estate planning.

Keep Gifts and Inheritances in a Separate Account

California requires divorcing couples to divide marital assets evenly. However, assets considered to be separate property can be kept entirely by the spouse to whom they belong. Most property acquired during the course of your marriage is community marital property. However, gifts that were made solely to you, as well property inherited solely in your name, are both treated as separate property. You are allowed to hide these from your spouse while you are married. In divorce, you would need to disclose the existence of these assets, but you do not need to share them.

To maintain the character as separate property, you need to keep these assets separate from marital assets. Establishing a new bank account in your own name is the easiest way to do that. You might want to use a different bank than used for joint accounts and use work address or family member’s address so that if any documents arrive, you will not need to explain them. Keep records showing the source of funds in the separate account, and do not use those funds for marital purposes.

Strategies for Hiding Money

Remembering that you will need to disclose hidden assets in divorce and that learning you have been hiding funds can trigger an angry response from your spouse, here are some options for hiding funds temporarily in anticipation of a divorce or other emergency:

  • Ask for small amounts of cash back when paying with a check or debit card. You can then hide the cash until needed.
  • Open a safe deposit box in only your name. You can hide cash, jewelry, or other valuables and your spouse will not be able to access it or know what’s in it.
  • Pay back a fake loan from a family or friend. You can give money to someone to hold for you and tell your spouse that you are paying back money you borrowed some time ago.
  • Buy property that can be returned. You can buy items and keep them in the original packaging so that they can be returned later for a refund, or sold elsewhere if necessary.
  • Buy prepaid debit cards and gift cards—but make sure they won’t expire or get lost.
  • Buy cryptocurrency. It is becoming easier to buy cryptocurrency, but your account will still only be accessible and visible to you.

If you are concerned that your spouse will change passwords and shut you out of accounts, you might take out a credit card solely in your name and not provide information to your spouse.

These tactics can enable you to hide money legally during your marriage, but once you file for divorce, you will need to disclose all this information and be prepared to divide the value of marital assets. If you fail to disclose accounts and other assets, you will violate California law and could face serious legal consequences. Courts take a very dim view of spouses who try to hide assets in divorce, and you could be penalized in your divorce settlement on top of other legal penalties.

Let Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Protect Your Financial Interests in Divorce or Legal Separation

There is a fine line between hiding assets legally in California and hiding assets in a way that puts you in contempt of court. If you have been hiding assets from your spouse or you plan to do so to provide a safety net before your divorce, it is a good idea to discuss your options with an experienced attorney at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC. Our legal team has 300+ years of collective experience protecting clients in divorce, and we can develop the right plans to safeguard you during and after the divorce process. For a confidential consultation, contact our team today.

Marital Lifestyle and Spousal Support in California

Contrary to what many people believe, a couple’s standard of living is not the single most important factor a court considers when determining an award for spousal support (also known as alimony.) The standard of living is just one of 13 factors courts are required to consider, and judges have discretion to take other issues into account as well.

However, the marital standard of living or MSOL can have a significant impact on support decisions, so it is important to understand what courts are looking at and how this factor works in conjunction with other factors that affect spousal support decisions.

What is the Marital Standard of Living?

Among the issues courts must consider in alimony decisions, the first factor listed in Section 4320 of the California Family Code is the “extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.” The fact that this issue is listed first is why it often receives so much attention, but courts are expected to give it no more consideration than other factors listed in the statute.

The law does not define “standard of living” but guidance from the California Courts suggests that it includes factors such as the home you lived in during the marriage as well as the type of  vehicle you drove, the frequency and types of vacations you enjoyed, and your use of credit. However, court opinions and the wording of the statute itself suggest that marital spending is not the only indication of a standard of living. Couples can spend more than they earn and put themselves into debt, but that does not entitle a spouse to continue those spending habits. So when determining the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, it may be important to consider income as well as spending. The standard of living acts can act as a ceiling in setting support amounts rather than establishing a minimum one spouse must have to live on.

Calculating the Marital Standard of Living in California

Courts generally review expenses of the couple during the 3-5 years before separation to estimate the standard of living. It is important to provide your attorney with accurate and detailed information to enable your legal advocate to make the best arguments supporting your desired outcome. Expenses to be considered can include costs for:

  • The family home and vacation homes
  • Vehicles owned including recreational vehicles
  • Outstanding loans and debts
  • Regular charitable contributions
  • Personal property such as jewelry and furniture
  • Social activities and memberships

Some of these expenses would remain the same regardless of the size of the household, while others vary depending on the number of people in a home. So-called “PITI” expenses are an example of the former. PITI stands for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. For many families, PITI expenses make up about 40% of household expenses

By contrast, “user” expenses, which includes everything else such as food, clothing, gasoline, insurance, entertainment, vacations, and gifts will be significantly impacted by the number of people living at the residence for the 3 to 5-year period before the date of separation. Because there are so many expenses to be considered, it can be helpful to work with a forensic accountant who can help reconstruct the standard of living as reflected by evidence of expenses.

How the Earning Capacity of Each Party Factors into the Marital Standard of Living

Remember that the statute frames the standard of living factor in accordance with the earning capacity of each party. The issue involves considering not just how a couple lived but also what standard of living they can maintain.

When looking at earning capacity, the statute orders a court to consider:

  • The marketable skills of the supported party
  • The job market for those skills
  • The time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills
  • The possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment
  • The extent to which the supported party’s earning capacity is impaired time out of the workforce to care for the home

During the 3 to 5-year period upon which the marital standard of living is calculated, there may have been one or two incomes, but even with two solid incomes, when the parties separate, it is highly likely that neither will earn sufficient amounts to be able to meet all the expenses of the previous standard of living. Therefore, during and after the divorce both spouses are likely to experience a standard of living which is lower than they enjoyed together before the date of separation. When the PITI expenses are no longer shared, the cost of maintaining living standards rises considerably.

When the spouse who receives spousal support has sufficient income to meet the standard of living expenses through a combination of earnings, spousal support, and other source of income, there would be a presumption against any increase in the amount of spousal support, because the marital standard of living is met with the current amount. So if the spouse paying support later goes on to earn considerably more money and increases their standard of living, the former spouse is not entitled to a share of the post-divorce success but only support to keep them up to the standard enjoyed during the marriage.

Skilled California Divorce Lawyers Can Help You Reach Your Goals for Spousal Support

Whether you are the spouse paying support or the spouse requesting support, you need to ensure that the court takes into consideration all the facts that weigh in your favor. The experienced divorce attorneys at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC have over 300 years of combined experience helping clients achieve the best outcomes in divorce. We understand the most effective ways to advocate to achieve your objectives for spousal support. To learn how we can assist with divorce or modification efforts, call us today at 855-426-9111 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce in California

When you can no longer live with your spouse, California law offers two legal options to settle your situation so you can move forward with your life. You can get a divorce, or you can obtain a legal separation.

It is important to understand the distinction between the two and the outcome and ramifications of each option. Many people think they understand the differences, but their knowledge is often based on assumptions that are outdated or involve the laws of other states. In some jurisdictions, legal separation is a stage on the path to divorce, but in California, the situation is quite different.

What is Legal Separation in California?

Legal separation involves much more than simply living apart. Living apart is physical separation. When a couple is legally separated in California, it means the courts have granted a judgment of legal separation, which is a court order similar to what couples receive after a divorce. The court order can:

  • Divide marital assets
  • Allocate marital debts
  • Order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other
  • Establish child custody and visitation arrangements
  • Order child support
  • Require one spouse to pay the attorney’s fees of the other

Essentially, the court order after a legal separation does almost everything that a court order does in a divorce case. However, the order specifies that the couple remains married.

With Legal Separation, the Marriage Continues

Although spouses have separate living situations and finances after a legal separation, they remain married. This means they cannot marry someone else.

Some couples choose to file for legal separation because they do not want a divorce on moral or ethical grounds. In some religions, for instance, divorce prevents individuals from participating fully in worship practices or holding leadership positions.

In other situations, couples choose to legally separate because it provides a safe, structured framework to address problems in their relationship. If one spouse has problems with gambling or substance abuse, for instance, a legal separation protects the other spouse from being drawn into debt or having to live with the consequences of the problem. It can signal that commitment and hope remain for the relationship.

A Divorce Ends a Marriage

Divorce is often referred to in legal terms as a dissolution of marriage. It means to dissolve or put an end to the marriage. After a divorce is finalized, the marriage is over. This is in contrast to a legal separation, where the marriage continues, although under different circumstances.

The continuation of marriage is the primary difference between a legal separation and a divorce. After either a divorce or legal separation, the couple can remain in their legal state indefinitely, or they can change their status. A legally separated couple can divorce. A divorced couple can remarry.

If one spouse fails to abide by the terms in a court order granting divorce or legal separation, the other spouse can ask the court to enforce those terms. Both processes result in terms established under a legally binding order of the court.

Legal Separation Provides an Option for Someone Who Does Not Want to Wait

To get divorce in California, one spouse must have lived in California for at least six months. In addition, they must have resided for at least three months in the county where they file divorce in court.

While one spouse must live in California to file for a legal separation, there is no minimum time of residency required. A spouse who does not want to wait to meet residency requirements can file a petition for legal separation and later amend the petition to ask for a divorce.

There is also no waiting period for a legal separation. While a divorcing couple must wait until at least six months from the time a spouse rec0eived divorce papers or responded in court to the petition for divorce, the law imposes no such requirement on legal separation. As a practical matter, however, it will take time for the legal process to unfold in a legal separation, just as it does in divorce.

Legal Assistance is Crucial for Legal Separation

In terms of the paperwork filed in court, the process of legal separation is quite similar to divorce. In fact, the courts use many of the same forms.

Moreover, the process of preparing for a legal separation also involves consideration of multiple issues. Both spouses should understand their legal rights regarding marital property, debts, spousal support, and issues related to children. In divorce and legal separation, the court will establish arrangements that affect the lives of both spouses for years to come. Therefore, it is wise for spouses to retain their own attorney who can focus on protecting their interests.

The attorneys may negotiate cooperatively to develop terms for the legal separation or divorce. This often provides both spouses with the outcomes that best suit their preferences. If the parties do not reach an agreement outside of court, the judge will have to hear evidence regarding the issues, and then issue a ruling on the specific terms.

The Process for Legal Separation and Divorce in California

In either divorce or legal separation, the legal process begins when one spouse files a petition with the court and ensures that the legal paperwork is officially served on the other spouse. That spouse should then respond.

At that point, the parties can work to develop and write out terms for the legal separation of divorce or they can decide to allow a judge to settle the issues. Attorneys will need to support each spouse’s interests either through negotiations or litigation. Because the same issues need to be resolved in a legal separation as in a divorce, the process is just as complex and just as crucial. Remember, whether the process ends in divorce or legal separation, the court will issue an order with legally binding terms that both spouses must live by.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Protects Your Interests in Legal Separation and Divorce

The Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC have the knowledge and experience to protect your interests in an array of family law proceedings, including both legal separation and divorce.

If you’d like to discuss legal separation as a quick option to avoid delays, a protective step in a challenging relationship, or as a potential long-term solution, we would be happy to discuss your options so you can make an informed decision for your future. Just schedule a confidential consultation online or call us at 855-426-9111.

Understanding ATROs in California Divorce

ATROs are such a regular component of divorce in California that attorneys often throw the term around, forgetting that many people don’t understand what ATROs are or how they operate. An ATRO is an essential protection during the divorce process, but if you do not abide by the terms and requirements, you can get into trouble.

ATRO stands for Automatic Temporary Restraining Order, and the California Family Code requires courts to include one in every divorce action, as well as in cases for legal separation and parentage. It is vitally important to understand how they work and what you need to do to comply with the terms. Your divorce attorney can review the specific requirements in your case, but here are some overall guidelines.

Freezing the Status Quo

As soon as one spouse signs the petition asking the court to end the marriage or establish legal separation, the law requires a temporary restraining order to be contained in the summons. Because this order is included in every case, it is referred to as “automatic” by divorce professionals. Unlike some court orders, this automatic temporary restraining order or ATRO imposes restrictions on both parties in the case.

The order essentially freezes the status quo during the course of the divorce proceedings in an effort to limit the ways one spouse can act to injure the interests of the other spouse. Restrictions involve three main areas: community property, children, and insurance coverage. There are exceptions to the provisions, and spouses sometimes abuse these exceptions, so it is wise to work closely with your attorney to develop other protective means if necessary.

Preserving Financial Assets

Once the ATRO is in place, neither spouse is supposed to sell, hide, or dispose of any property unless they get written consent from the other spouse or an order from the court. This is designed to keep spouses from damaging each other’s interests in property. However, it not possible for spouses to avoid spending any money during the divorce proceedings, so the law makes some exceptions:

  • You are allowed to spend resources for “the necessities of life,”
  • You are allowed to use resources in “the usual course of business”
  • You are allowed to pay “reasonable attorney’s fees”

In the case of the first two exceptions, a spouse is supposed to provide notice to the other party at least five business days before making “extraordinary expenditures” and to account to the court for those expenditures.

Keeping Children in the State

Another provision in the ATRO prohibits either parent from taking a minor child out of the state unless they have prior written consent from the other parent or they have obtained a court order allowing them to take the child out of state. In addition, a parent cannot apply for a new or replacement passport for a child without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

If a child is already out of the state when the ATRO is issued, the order does not require the child to be returned. Additionally, the ATRO does not restrict movement within the state.

Protecting Insurance Coverage

To preserve the status quo with regard to insurance coverage, the ATRO forbids spouses from making changes to any insurance policies that affect either the other party or the children of the couple. This includes:

  • Life insurance
  • Auto insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Disability coverage

Neither spouse can change beneficiaries, cancel a policy, remove a party of interest from a policy, or borrow against a policy.

Actions You Are Allowed to Undertake While an ATRO is in Effect

While it is important to be careful about doing something with your property or interests that could violate the ATRO, the law does specifically allow you to take certain actions. Many of these involve estate planning.

For instance, you are allowed to create, modify, or revoke your will. You are allowed to specify who you want to manage your estate and serve as guardian for your children, if necessary, and who you want to receive your property when you pass away.

You can also create any type of trust, such as a revocable trust used to bypass the probate process or an irrevocable trust to shield assets. However, you will need to wait until after the divorce is finalized to transfer property into the trust, because property is subject to classification and division during the divorce process. Finally, you can take certain actions with respect to property such as eliminating a right of survivorship or revoking a transfer, as long as you file and serve notice of the change before the change takes effect.

What Happens if You Violate the ATRO?

Many people do not pay attention to the specific terms in the ATRO, and they can end up violating the order unintentionally. Other times, a spouse may violate the order knowingly  hoping the court will not pay attention. Because courts cannot keep on top of every detail of someone’s life during the divorce process, it is possible that a minor violation might not be noticed, particularly since the exceptions in the law can allow someone to argue that they were acting within the scope of the order. If a violation causes a loss to the other spouse, that spouse could seek compensation.

If someone violates the ATRO in a serious way, such as emptying a bank account, then that person can face fines and sanctions for being in contempt of court and breach of fiduciary duty. Perhaps more importantly, they lose credibility with the court, and this can work against them when it comes to matters of property division and custody.

Remain Aware of Your Obligations and the Actions of Your Spouse

During the midst of your divorce, it is wise to comply with the terms of the ATRO so that you cannot be accused of wrongdoing. It is also wise to keep a close eye on accounts and policies to ensure that your rights are respected. If your spouse violates the order, bring the issue to your attorney’s attention so you can discuss the most advantageous response.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our attorneys have over 300 years of collective experience protecting the rights of clients in divorce, so we can help you comply with the ATRO and stay on top of any wrongdoing by your soon-to-be former spouse. For a confidential consultation to learn more about the ways we can protect you in divorce, call us at 855-426-9111 or contact us online.

What Does A Family Lawyer Do In California?

If you’re struggling with a family problem, someone may have recommended that you talk to a family lawyer. Or you may have a legal problem and wonder whether a family law attorney is best suited to meet your needs.

When you find yourself grappling with family issues that would benefit from legal guidance, a family lawyer in California can be your trusted partner. The Certified Family Law Specialists at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC offer a range of services to provide solutions and smooth transitions during turbulent times. Here we explore some of the many issues a family lawyer can help with in California.

Guidance and Protection During Divorce Procedures

A significant part of a family lawyer’s role involves guiding individuals through all stages of the divorce process. We assist in divorce preparation, filing divorce petitions, helping you understand your rights, and the most strategic way to approach asset division.

Beyond this, we aid in resolving disputes amicably and can help negotiate terms that favor you, creating a pathway to a smoother life going forward. The goal is to protect your interests and to ensure that the proceedings are fair and equitable, with a focus on establishing an advantageous foundation for your future.

Child Custody and Support in California

A central concern for parents who are separating or who never married is safeguarding the well-being of their children while establishing beneficial arrangements for custody and support. We negotiate and draft agreements for child custody and support designed to further your objectives while still prioritizing the best interests of your child.

We aim to develop arrangements that foster stability and nurturing environments for children with support obligations that fairly reflect financial needs and resources. Offering guidance through this emotionally charged process, we strive to achieve resolutions that stand the test of time and support your child's growth and development.

Spousal Support Negotiations in California

For many divorcing couples, a lesser-earning spouse needs support payments, at least on a temporary basis. We assist in evaluating the financial circumstances of both parties to establish fair spousal support agreements.

Whether you are seeking support or responding to a request to pay support, we focus on securing your financial stability. Additionally, we help with requests to modify existing support orders to reflect current financial circumstances, ensuring a fair and just arrangement that recognizes the economic realities of both parties.

Handling Pre and Postnuptial Agreements in California

Prior to getting married, couples can benefit from the exploration of the financial aspects of their union that is part of the process of creating a prenuptial agreement. This process requires couples to address financial issues they might avoid and which can lead to significant conflict later. We guide couples through the discussion of their financial situation and develop agreements to protect their family and business arrangements.

We also create postnuptial agreements after marriage to address changing circumstances or to clarify existing agreements. Our experienced team ensures that agreements are comprehensive and that they comply with California laws to avoid any future disputes.

Managing Complex Asset Division

Divorce entails a meticulous classification and division of assets, and this can prove challenging when holdings include executive compensation packages, unusual retirement benefits, closely-held businesses, commercial real estate, and other complex assets.

We understand the intricate issues involved in complex asset division, with a keen eye for details that might be overlooked. Aiming to secure a favorable outcome that respects your contributions and rights within the marriage, we strategize to reach a settlement that safeguards your financial future.

Assisting with Domestic Violence Cases in California

Our knowledgeable and empathetic attorneys assist victims of domestic violence, helping them secure the necessary legal protections through restraining orders and other legal avenues.

However, we know that statements and situations can be taken out of context, and we staunchly defend individuals wrongly accused of domestic violence, defending their rights and working to reach a positive outcome for the future.

California Family Law Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Many couples enjoy the benefits that follow when they resolve their disputes cooperatively through mediation or collaborative divorce rather than traditional litigation. We facilitate this process, helping parties find common ground and arrive at mutually agreeable solutions that usually meet their needs much better than a decision handed down by a judge.

Contact Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC

Navigating the intricacies of family law in California requires a steady hand and experienced guidance. Whether you are preparing for marriage, going through a divorce, battling for custody, or venturing into the adoption process, we are ready to assist.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC offers comprehensive family law services tailored to your needs. Call us today at (844) 237-5791 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation with a dedicated family lawyer in Southern California.

Social Media and Child Custody

Social media is present in most of our lives today. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other social media outlet, most people freely post their comments and pictures without much thought about how the posts may affect them later.

Can social media affect your child custody case?

Many couples include their significant others on their friends list. Mutual friends may also have access to your social media page(s). Social media posts provide a mountain of evidence that can be used against you in court to prove that it is not in the best interest of the children to place them in your care, should issues relating to child custody and visitation arise later. Even an “innocent” re-post of a picture or comment you just believe is funny can be used to show your state of mind.

Social Media Posts and Your Character

For instance, e-cards and pictures relating to alcohol use are often used to prove that a parent has a drinking problem and/or is not stable enough to care for minor children. Additionally, posted statements or pictures relating to your case that are unflattering or places the other parent in a bad light may indicate that you are not the parent who will foster the parent-child(ren) relationship, thus causing you to have a reduced time-share with the children. This is especially true when your children are members of your social media pages.

While there are several other ways that social media can reflect poorly on a parent’s character and therefore their ability to parent, the important thing to keep in mind is to always be mindful of what you are posting on social media especially when you enter legal battles that involve child custody and visitation. Or you can simply turn off your Twitters and Facebooks until your divorce is finalized.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Court?

by Chandra Moss

The issue of domestic violence has been at the forefront of headlines over the past few months, especially in the celebrity world. California law provides that a court may issue a protective order prohibiting an individual from "molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning . . .contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise . . . disturbing the peace of the other party." California Family Code §6320 (part of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act [DVPA]). As a result, abuse under the DVPA includes physical abuse or injury, as well as acts that "destroy the mental or emotional calm of the other party." In re Marriage of Nadkarni (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1497.

Attacking, striking and other forms of personal contact and battery are clearly acts of domestic violence under the DVPA, including Johnny Depp’s alleged throwing of a cell phone into Amber Heard’s face. What becomes a little more fuzzy are claims of mental and emotional abuse, in tandem with “controlling behavior”. California Courts, have, however, noted in In re Marriage of Nadkarni, cited above, that mental abuse is relevant in a DVPA proceeding. California Courts have ruled the following may constitute domestic violence:

  • Accessing and threatening disclosure of private emails. (Nadkarni)
  • Repeatedly contacting an ex-partner electronically after being told to stop. (Burquet v. Brumbaugh (2014) 223 Cal. App.4th 1140)
  • Downloading and disseminating text messages. (In re Marriage of Evilsizor and Sweeney (2015) 237 Cal. App.4th 1416)
  • Forcing a partner to keep a telephone line open so her activities could be monitored, threats to beat a partner, practicing marital arts in close proximity. (Rodriguez v. Menjivar (2016) 243 Cal. App.4th 816)
  • Threatening over social media. (Rodriguez v. Menjivar)

Other instances of domestic violence include financial abuse/control, punching holes in walls, throwing objects (without necessarily hitting an individual), threats of violence and the like. If you are unsure whether you are the victim of domestic violence, or if you know you are, please call our offices. We can help.

How to Make a Prenuptial Agreement in California

Premarital agreements – sometimes called prenuptial agreements – are supposed to help married couples avoid unnecessary conflict if they ever decide to divorce. Planning out what will happen with marital assets and responsibilities ahead of time should, in theory, save time and money. However, just bringing up the idea of premarital agreements can spark heated debates and arguments that lead to serious family law disputes.

In order to try to prevent these preemptive conflicts, California adopted its own set of prenuptial agreement laws and rules based on the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. This legal act paints a clear picture of what is and what is not allowed for a premarital agreement to be acceptable in court.

Main components of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act are:

  1. Full disclosure: Marital assets and separate property cannot be properly divided or protected if they are not fully understood. Each spouse needs to make full disclosure of their finances, property, debt, and any other piece of property that could be pertinent in the divorce process. Hidden assets will inevitably be discovered, and the spouse that tries to hide them may lose credibility for doing so.
  2. Financial advisors: Although not necessary, in some cases involving significant amounts of finances or assets, each spouse will be advised to consult a financial advisor while drafting their prenuptial agreement. This will act as an additional safeguard against unfair or unbalanced divisions, as well as reducing the risk of inadvertently hiding an asset.
  3. No duress: Any evidence of emotional or mental duress, or even physical intimidation, cannot be present when a premarital agreement is signed. People who are under stress to may not be able to make sound decisions, even if explanations and evidence are laid out clearly in front of them. If such duress exists, the signing must be postponed pending further review.
  4. Premarital: It may seem self-explanatory but a prenuptial agreement needs to occur before the marriage becomes official. This clause is meant to clearly differentiate premarital agreements from postnuptial ones.

Retain Separate Counsel to Protect Your Best Interests

California’s own draft of The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act requires that both spouses use separate counsel when creating a prenuptial in order for many of the common provisions to be considered enforceable. With a family attorney of your own guiding you through the process of drafting the agreement, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t be making any major oversights or mistakes. As with any legal process, having a friend in the court or conference room can be a boon.

You can contact Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC and our divorce attorneys in Southern California if you need to make a premarital agreement. We will bring more than 300 years of combined family law experience to your case, working diligently to always protect your best interests.

Finding Yourself - Life after Divorce

Moving on with your life after your divorce is a challenge. It forces life event changes – whether you like it or not. You have gone through a major loss and the healing process may take some time. However, there IS life after divorce. Life after divorce is a process of moving on and finding yourself. It could be filled with the unknown but it could also have excitement. At this very moment, you may think your world is coming to an end – you are lonely, depressed, angry and just about ready to give up. You may even feel overwhelmed with issues and other arrangements set by the judge such as money, children, downsizing your family home, and who you are ‘in the now’. Hold on. Things will turn around and you, one day, will feel great – even– better than great. Once you get through the divorce process – the legal, financial and emotional aspects involved – things will get better.

Below are some helpful hints to help you feel encouraged – not discouraged:

  • Find a friend to talk to – share your feelings about what is happening
  • Write your feelings on paper – talk about your day
  • Hit the delete button on revenge – there is no place for revenge, especially when you need to concentrate on the future
  • Focus on your job – it’ll take your mind off divorce
  • Do stuff you wouldn’t do before – broaden your horizons – take a dance class or vacation
  • Be social – don’t stare at the four walls or the television screen

Even though you are no longer part of a couple, you are still a complete person. Take the time to find that new person and make yourself your number one priority.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

Life after a divorce is separation is going to be different. Different can be good, different can be bad… but either way it’s change and it can be hard to deal with. Lee Sears at DivorcedMoms recently wrote a post of the most surprising things post-divorce that she wasn’t expecting. We thought this information could be helpful so you’re not caught off guard by some of the life-altering changes:

  • You can do more than you think. You might feel like your ex handled finances, house repairs, cooking, etc. and that you’re helpless, but you’re anything but that. You can learn if you try, and when push comes to shove you’ll make yourself do it. There are always YouTube tutorials!
  • Friends aren’t forever. As much as we all wish they were, you’ll lose friends during the divorce process. Some for good reason, and many for not… it will happen. Don’t let it get you down. Think of it as an easy way to weed out the people who aren’t friends you want anyway.
  • Good men have boundaries. Men worth your time will tell you right away if they’re married. They do this as a sign of respect to their wives and because they know you’re single. If they don’t say, they may be a cheater… or they’re single and good luck.

If you are dealing with a divorce case or want another look to a finalized divorce case consider the law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke, we offer the experience and understanding needed with such sensitive matters. Because this is a life changing experience we know the last thing you want is to be stressed, we have the resources you need to help you and your family cope and be able to live happily under the new circumstances. We will fight to protect you’re interest we know that the outcome is very important and it will reflect years to come in your life.

We are proud of our reputation for providing personalized service to every client. Our attorneys treat you like a person, not a case number. We understand that you are facing serious legal issues and it is our job to help you resolve them in the most efficient and beneficial manner possible.

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