Facebook = Service?

April 20th, 2015

In New York, a judge recently ruled that you can serve your spouse with divorce papers via Facebook.  The ruling is here.  (Please note that this ruling applies to one New York case, and it is not a binding rule regarding service in California.)

What is service?

Filing your dissolution (divorce) Summons and Petition only starts your case.  The other party must be served with the papers.

“Service” is getting your legal papers properly delivered to your spouse.  The other party needs to have appropriate notice so that his/her due process rights are protected.  The rules governing service are set forth in Code of Civil Procedure Sections 415.10-415.95.  These rules are set forth in simpler language at the Court’s Self-Help website.  Service can range from hand delivery to a notice posted on the courthouse wall.  What service is deemed appropriate depends on the case.

Personal service is preferred, but not always possible.  Service via Facebook (allowed in the referenced New York case) is a form of substituted service in that it “[n]ot only is it reasonably calculated to provide defendant with notice that he is being sued for divorce, but every indication is that it will achieve what should be the goal of every method of service: actually delivering the summons to him.”

If you are thinking of initiating a divorce proceedings, be sure to talk to an experienced family law attorney who can help determine how best to serve the initial pleadings.

 

So Long to Spousal Support?

April 7th, 2015

A California resident is attempting to place a ballot initiative on the November 2016 ballot that would significantly alter (eliminate?) spousal support in California.  The proposed ballot initiative can be found here.

Spousal support is governed by Family Code Section 4300 (et. seq.) and case law.  In short, “a person shall support the person’s spouse.”  Fam. Code § 4300.  Section 4320 sets forth the factors the court is to review when determining post-dissolution spousal support.  The proposed revision would have 4300 read:  “No party shall be unfairly burdened because the other party is unwilling to become self-supporting.”    The “new” 4320 would eliminate the spousal support factors as there would be no need for them without any legally authorized spousal support.

The ballot initiative, if passed, would a) immediately eliminate current spousal support orders less than 10 years in length and b) reduce by 20% per year for 5 years orders with a duration for greater than 10 years.   Spousal support is currently modifiable based on a change in circumstances, court order, or agreement by the parties.  The proposal appears to eliminate spousal support completely by 2021.

To become an official ballot initiative, certain steps must be followed.  Click here to learn more about that process.  If it obtains the necessary signatures, it still must win a vote at the polls.

 

Child Support

March 2nd, 2015

A child support order is just that – an order.  Once ordered, it is not optional.  However, $14.3 billion in child support remained unpaid in the United States in 2011.

Child support in California is determined by a mathematical formula which is set forth at Family Code Section 4055 (the “guideline” amount”).  In short, the Court looks at both parties’ incomes, the number of children, the amount of time the child(ren) spend with each parent, as well as the tax filing status and relevant and allowable deductible expenses.*

California parents can “run” the child support calculations here.

In addition:

  • The Court shall also order the following additional items:  childcare costs related to employment and reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children.  Fam. Code § 4062(a).
  • The Court may also order costs related to educational/special needs of the children and travel expenses for visitation.  Fam. Code § 4062(b).

*Non-guideline child support awards are governed by Family Code Section 4057 (subject of a later blog post).

If the other parent is not paying the court-ordered support, or if you are a parent who cannot afford to pay the court-ordered support, an experienced family law attorney can answer your questions and help identify potential solutions to your family law needs.

The Petition – Parts 7 (d), (e), (f)/(g), and (h); Part 8

January 20th, 2015

The Petition breakdown wraps up today.  The Judicial Council updated the Petition and Response as of January 1, 2015.  The information contained in the pre- and post-updated forms are (for the most part) the same.   However, in seeking to complete the task at hand (a walk-through of the Petition), the final components are briefly discussed below.

Part 7(d) (Parentage)

If a child is born after marriage, the child is considered of the marriage and the child of the two parents.  Fam. Code § 7541.  If a child is born prior to the marriage (to the parents), the Petitioner (or Respondent) can request that the court find the pre-marriage child a child of both parties.  This is in lieu of a separate parentage action.

Part 7(e) (attorney’s fees)

Payment of attorney’s fees in conjunction with a family law matter is governed by Family Code Sections 2030-2034.  The Court looks at a number of factors including the requesting party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay.  These are not the only factors, and the Court is also required to review the level of difficulty of the case as well as the spousal support factors (discussed below) as they relate to the payment of fees.

Parts 7(f), (g) (spousal support)

Temporary and long-term (or permanent) spousal support will be discussed in a separate blog post.  The Court is required to review a number of factors in determining post-judgment support.

Part 7(h) (property)

Previous blog posts described the difference between community property and separate property.  The Petitioner and Respondent can ask the Court to award community property to him/her and confirm his/her separate property to him/her.

 Part 8 (child support)

Child support will be addressed in a separate blog post.

Continue to check back to this blog for further information on support (child and spousal) as well as other news and updates as they relate to family law in California.

Staying Married?

January 8th, 2015

One might find it odd for a family law (aka divorce) blog to post a link to a study that highlights the positives of staying married.  But family law attorneys are not there to make someone get divorced; they are there to help guide a party through the process and advocate for a party only after the party has decided to proceed with the dissolution (divorce).

According to the New York Times article, the study concludes “that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises.”

If you can work out any potential “irreconcilable differences”, we encourage that.  If you don’t think you can, the family law courts and family law attorneys are available to assist.

Prenuptial Agreements

December 31st, 2014

Prenuptial Agreements are back in the news.

What is a prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short)?

A prenup is an agreement  between prospective spouses that sets forth the parties’ property rights and financial responsibilities at marriage.  A prenup can address any number of issues including, but not limited to, how property is acquired (community or separate) and how the parties will control or otherwise manage their property.  Fam. Code § 1612(a).  Parties may not exclude the payment any potential child support.  Fam. Code § 1612(b).

But – isn’t that unromantic to discuss such things before we marry?  Having an honest discussion about finances before the wedding day may save parties from problems down the road.  In fact, if you don’t have a prenup, the state of California provides you one with its community property system.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Give yourself, your potential spouse, and your attorneys time to draft, review, and revise a prenup.  At a minimum – 7 days are required if a party is not represented.
  • It is encouraged to have both parties represented by independent counsel.

If you want to learn more about prenuptial agreements and terms to include, be sure to speak to an experienced family law attorney.

 

Haircuts?

December 4th, 2014

The actress Halle Berry took her ex husband to court for straightening their daughter’s hair without her consent.  The news article is located here.

Leaving aside any racial component, a child’s appearance falls under “legal custody”.  As noted previously, certain decisions require joint agreement, and if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the Court may be called in to make a decision.  The Court (or the parties) can also craft “joint legal custody” orders to specify what actions require joint agreement and which do not.

For example, a joint legal custody order may require that parents agree to all non-emergency decisions about a child.  The parties may also agree that one party may be “in charge” of educational decisions while the other party is “in charge” of selecting the child’s doctor.  The Courts provide a template for different types of joint legal custody orders.  Parents are free to divide the responsibilities as they wish assuming the child’s best interest is basis for that division.

If you have questions about joint legal custody provisions, be sure to speak to an experienced family law attorney.

The Petition – Part 7 (a), (b), and (c) – Custody & Visitation

November 20th, 2014

In a dissolution proceeding, the Court has jurisdiction (or power) to make custody and visitation orders.

Joint legal custody means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Fam. Code § 3003.

Joint physical custody means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of physical custody. Joint physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, subject to Sections 3011 and 3020. Fam. Code § 3004.

Sole legal custody means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Fam. Code § 3006.

Sole physical custody means that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation. Fam. Code § 3007.

Does “joint legal custody” require agreement on every single parenting decision?  In short (and as was likely true in the marriage), no.  The parent with the current physical custody of the child (in other words, the child the parent is with) can make the every day decisions for the child.  Emergency care?  Yes.  Switching schools?  No.  Pierced ears?  No.  The latter decisions require joint agreement, and if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the Court may be called in to make a decision.  The Court (or the parties) can also craft “joint legal custody” orders to specify what actions require joint agreement and which do not.

Visitation can also be described as the timeshare, or the time the child spends with each parent.  The timeshare could be a week-on/week-off, alternating weekends, 2/2/3, or 2/2/5 schedule.  The timeshare depends on the parties and what is in the best interest of the children.  Different schedules may be appropriate depending on the age of the children.  Sample calendars of difference timeshare schedules are located here.

Most Courts will advise parties that it is best for parties, and the children, to have the parents reach an agreement on the custody and visitation schedule.  If the parties cannot do so between themselves or with the help of mediation, the Court will make a decision focusing on frequent and continuing contact with both parents and the best interests of the children.

If you have questions about custody and/or visitation, talk to an experienced family law attorney.

Property Division – 1 Billion Dollars?!

November 12th, 2014

In Oklahoma this week, a court ordered a husband to pay approximately $1,000,000,000 in “property division alimony” to his former wife.  Click here or here for the complete story.  While California does not have “property division alimony,” the case provides a good starting point with regard to property division and the valuation of party’s services to a community property business.

In an earlier post, the blog discussed community property and how it is divided equally at dissolution. Before dividing the asset, the court needs to how to value it.  In the Oklahoma case, one of the questions was how to value the community interest in an energy business started by Husband.  Husband’s argument was that the business took off because of the inherent nature of the business.  Wife countered that he made his millions because of his business skill and acumen.

In California, Husband’s tact would be known as the Van Camp approach; Wife would argue for a Pereira approach.  In general, a party argues for the Van Camp approach when it is the initial investment and not the personal efforts that grew the asset while the Pereira approach would focus on the personal efforts of a party driving the growth of a particular asset or property.  Pereira tends to favors the community while Van Camp favors the initial separate property interest (attributing the growth to that party’s separate property).

The Oklahoma case appears to have rewarded the community and based the company’s growth on the husband’s “skills and efforts” and less on luck and the increase in oil prices.  If you are facing a dissolution and either you or your spouse run a small (or extremely large!) business, be sure to talk to an experienced family law attorney to determine the best and most favorable approach to valuing that business prior to the division of community property.

Beware Social Media!

November 3rd, 2014

A recent Doonesbury cartoon should remind all family law parties to watch what they post to their Facebook page.

While the comic focuses on potential adultery (not a specific ground for dissolution in California), Facebook and other social media posts can potentially impact support and custody/visitation decisions.  For example:

  • Support:  If a party claiming the need for support simultaneously posts photos and status updates about their expensive vacation to Europe, you can expect the opposing party to raise this issue as an argument against support.
  • Custody/Visitation:  If a party claims that he is the best (and only) person to care for the parties’ child, and photos surface of the child holding a Solo red cup; the other parent may use this information to let the court know about the parent’s “relaxed” parenting style.

In short, if one does not want information before the Court, don’t post it to social media.  Don’t rely on your privacy and security settings.  Keep your dissolution and opinions about the other party to yourself and share only with your attorney.