Young couple having marriage problems

The Divorce is Over, but there’s a Disagreement… now what do we do!?

The Divorce is Over, but there’s a Disagreement…now what do we do!?

By Deborah Ewing

 

In some cases, particularly where there are no children (or they are adults), there are no further legal issues once an agreement is reached and the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (divorce judgment) is signed.

However, in many cases, issues crop up after you thought your case was over.  There are many examples, including: the support payor loses his/her job or becomes disabled, and needs a temporary or long term reduction in support obligation; the supported spouse needs an increase in support for similar reasons; a parent moves away requiring modification of the parenting schedule; a child wants to significantly change the schedule, resulting in a change in both child support and the schedule; disagreements about parenting choices or activities for the children; the family residence must be sold and the parties cannot agree on terms. These are only a sampling of reasons people must ‘go back to court’.

But must you truly go to court? NO! The same cooperative process that you used for collaborative divorce, mediation or other non-litigation process can be used for any of these post-judgment conflicts as they arise. Depending on the nature of the issues, the assistance of your collaborative attorney, mediator, financial professional, coaches, child specialists, would be utilized.  Where appropriate, the agreement reached can be included in an agreement submitted to the court.

By continuing to resolve issues in a cooperative way, you reduce conflict, and save money. Even if your divorce case was a messy litigation, it is often possible to resolve future issues cooperatively without going to court, once emotions calm. It is well worth the effort.

Divorce options

Divorce Options – Workshop

Your Divorce Options – What You Need to Know!

Do you know someone who is considering divorce and wants to learn about process options?

Please recommend that they attend an informative workshop called “Divorce Options” at the Torrance Courthouse Law Library from 12:15 to 1:30 on the third Friday of each month.
Guests can attend this workshop even without preregistration. See Flyer for more details.

The program is presented by members of A Better Divorce and LACFLA– family law attorneys, mental health and financial professionals who specialize in divorce and related issues.

Download PDF: Divorce Options flyer – 83KB

 

 

woody1

Woody Mosten speaks about “A Better Divorce”

While I have been honored to offer trainings in many communities, my two days with A Better Divorce is one of the highlights of my career.

Knowing that no one is a prophet in one’s own land, I was very nervous about offering a training in my own community with colleagues whom I respect and with whom I work frequently. My anxiety was wasted as I cannot remember learning more or having a better time than with my friends of ABD and other local peacemakers.

The level of conversation was on a high level and ABD members demonstrated a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of collaborative strategies that was most impressive. Even though the group was quite advanced, they displayed the finest qualities of peacemaking: an openess for self-reflection and to examine the way that they have long successfully practiced.

Finally, I wish to commend Jane Euler, Kim Davidson, and Joe Spirito for their countless hours in tirelessly arranging the training. Every thing was planned, operational, and the food was beyond outstanding! Anyone who has ever trained knows how important this support can be.

I not only look forward to training again with ABD, but most importantly, working with ABD members on Collaborative and Mediation cases to help families resolve and heal.

 

Forrest (Woody) Mosten

www.MostenMediation.com

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorces Gain Momentum

Getting a divorce is among the most challenging and trying times of a person’s life. Divorcing couples can spend thousands of dollars and give up many years of their lives to the traditional divorce process.

By the end, the parties come out the other side drained and bound to decisions made by a third party judicial officer.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Couples looking to avoid such a public and adversarial process are increasingly utilizing collaborative divorce, which allows couples to settle the terms of their divorce confidentially and entirely out-of-court. The end result is that the parties can sign a settlement agreement with terms they actually created rather than terms determined by a judge.

Collaborative divorce is typically much less money than a contested divorce and unsurprisingly, it’s rapidly gaining momentum across the country as the preferred alternative to the traditional divorce process.

Many states, including California, have now enacted laws formally enabling and facilitating collaborative divorces.

Unlike in litigation, spouses typically utilize joint professionals, such as financial experts, child psychologists, custody evaluators and therapists. The goal of the involved parties and professionals is a cooperative resolution in the best interests of the family’s future.

So how does it work? Each party retains a collaborative attorney. The couple and their attorneys then sign an agreement that they will not litigate and will reach a fair settlement directly.

However, at any point either party can opt out, retain new counsel and pursue litigation.

But if the spouses do continue with the collaborative process, they must agree to communicate openly and work with one another and their attorneys to facilitate the process. All involved parties work together as a team, emphasizing cooperation and respect over animosity and confrontation.

Though this process may sound like mediation, it is not. In mediation, parties submit to a single, neutral third party. The mediator then works toward a mutually agreeable decision. However, a power imbalance between the parties often exists and yet they proceed without counsel.

In a collaborative divorce, spouses craft a settlement agreement with the benefit of their own legal advocate to help them.

Herein lies the beauty of a collaborative divorce: The spouses control their own destiny. The parties can come up with creative settlement terms and custody arrangements tailored toward their own unique circumstances that a judge or mediator may not otherwise make. So in many cases, this means a quicker and less expensive divorce with terms that are likely to be successful in the longer run because the parties invested time and effort into creating them.

Joseph Spirito Jr Family Attorney - Redondo, CaliforniaJoseph P. Spirito, Jr. Esq. of McGaughey & Spirito is a practitioner and instructor of collaborative divorces.

5-no-nos-divorce

Five “No-No’s” When Getting A Divorce

Any of these may be the kiss of death to an amicable, reasonably priced divorce:

  • Don’t date.  There’s no rush!  This is true even if the divorce was not “your” idea.  Don’t join dating services or post your Facebook status as “single.”
  • Don’t make changes to your existing life, auto, health or other insurance policies, unless you have your spouse’s written agreement.  This includes changing deductibles, carriers, insureds or beneficiaries. 
  • Don’t unilaterally tell your children you are getting a divorce.  It is usually better for parents to share this information as a team.  Your children do not want to take sides or be in the middle.  Instead, use this opportunity to reassure your children that you both still love them, and that the divorce is not their fault.
  • Don’t “trash” your spouse to family, friends, and especially your children.  Never assume your children cannot hear you or that information you share in confidence won’t get back to them or to your spouse.  This includes Facebook, folks!
  • Don’t drown your sorrows with alcohol. Allegations of excessive drinking may be used against you in a custody dispute.  Many divorcing people suffer from emotional turmoil – anger, depression and other difficult feelings.  By all means get help from family, friends and/or professionals.

When in doubt, behave toward your spouse as you want your spouse to behave toward you.  That’s the bottom line.

deb-ewingDeborah Ewing, Wendy Jones, and Elaine Thompson are all experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area, and are members  of A Better Divorce, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group.

divorce-date-separation

Date of Separation

When was it, and why does it matter?

When? 

The date on which one or both parties clearly communicate to the other their intent to end the marriage.

There are many details which may be helpful in determining the date of separation, including:

-          Are the spouses still living together?

-          Are they sharing finances?

-          Are they still “working on the marriage?”

-          Have they told anyone they are separating/divorcing?

-          Are they still acting like a married couple in public?

-          Are they still having sexual relations?

-          Has either spouse changed his/her mailing address?

Spouses may not agree on their date of separation.  They may each perceive the situation differently or have a different recollection of events.  When spouses disagree on what the date of separation is, it becomes a matter to be determined later, either by agreement or by a Judge.   

Why?

Sometimes the date of separation doesn’t really matter.  However, the date of separation can be important for a number of reasons:

-          The “length of the marriage” is determined by the date of separation, not the date the divorce becomes final.  The length of the marriage can have an impact on such things as spousal support and social security benefits.

-          After the date of separation,

o   Each spouse’s earnings belong to that spouse.

o   New debts incurred by a spouse belong to that spouse.

o   New deposits into benefit plans may belong to the participant spouse

Before your first appointment with a lawyer, it will be useful to think about your situation and the circumstances which might help determine your date of separation.

It should be noted that people frequently claim that they are “legally separated.” Usually they are mistaken.  The concept of legal separation has nothing to do with the date of separation.  It is a separate and unusual legal concept, and a true “legal separation” requires an order signed by a judge.

deb-ewingDeborah Ewing, Wendy Jones, and Elaine Thompson are all experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area, and are members  of A Better Divorce, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group.

contract-documents

Documents are King: The Importance of Documents When Considering Divorce

Divorce can be overwhelming.  One of the things people may overlook is the importance of documents.  Verifying the nature and extent of income, assets and debts, reimbursements and credits, and other details of divorce requires documents.  Getting copies of the documents you will need now, will streamline the divorce process and may reduce the cost of divorce later.

What documents?

Key documents include:

  • Income tax returns for the last three to five years, particularly if income varies, or businesses or self-employment are involved.  Include all attachments, W-2s, and 1099s.
  • Paystubs for you and your spouse for at least three months, showing all deductions from pay.
  • Most recent statements for all financial accounts (checking and savings, certificates of deposit, money market and other investment accounts).
  • Most recent statements for all retirement plans for both of you, including pensions, 401(k) and similar retirement savings plans, stock savings plans, IRAs, and annuities.
  • All life insurance policies. 
  • Most recent statements for all mortgages and equity lines.
  • Most recent statements for all credit cards and other outstanding debts, including auto loans.
  • Any documents stored in a safety deposit box.
  • Any documents relating to assets which you acquired prior to marriage or as a result of an inheritance or a gift of substantial value. 
  • Any premarital/prenuptial agreement and any other written agreement between you and your spouse.

Make copies! 

Rather than taking the originals, make copies of the important documents, and leave the originals in place.  Nothing would be worse than your spouse opening the file cabinet only to find it empty!  Whether your divorce proceeds as a collaborative or mediated case, or as a full-blown litigation case, acting in good faith will always serve you well.

Don’t keep the copies in your car trunk.  If the documents disappear, all your efforts would be wasted.  Put your copies in a safe place until you obtain counsel.

Remember, Documents Are King!

deb-ewingDeborah Ewing, Wendy Jones, and Elaine Thompson are all experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area, and are members  of A Better Divorce, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group.

divorce-rings-contagious

Is Divorce Contagious?

-          Sometimes it seems as though when someone in your neighborhood, family, or social circle gets a divorce, others tend to head down the same path.  Is the grass really greener on the other side?  If divorce is sounding like a tempting option, here are some things you may wish to consider:

o   No two divorces are the same – just as no two couples and no two families are the same.  In a divorce, the differences matter a lot. 

o   “My friend receives/pays $7,500/month in spousal support!”  Maybe so, but that is no indication of what will happen in your case.  Yours and your spouse’s age, financial situation, work history, education, length of marriage, health, and a host of other factors, will influence how spousal support is determined, whether by settlement or in a Court setting.  The details of the amount, duration, and whether support will even be ordered are complicated and will vary widely.  It is impossible to know at the beginning what the outcome will be.

o   “My friends tell me 50/50 custody is the law.”  The phrase “50/50” is often heard in conversation; however, the reality is much more involved. There is no cookie-cutter approach to custody.  The schedule that works for another family may be totally different than what would work for your family.  Such factors as the ages of your children, geographical distance between households, work schedules, special needs, sports and other activities, and the relationships you have with one another will all play a part in determining the best plan.

o   “I heard I get half of everything…right?”  Well, maybe.  The division of your assets and debts is directly affected by the details.  The law on property division is fact-driven and the smallest differences can matter greatly.  Inheritances, separate property before marriage, changes in title, property loans, student loans, when property was acquired and debts arose, gifts to or between spouses, business interests, and many other factors must be considered before the final division is made.

-          Your life after divorce may not be what you’ve envisioned.  Careful consideration of a decision as big as this one is critical.  Just because your friend or relative got a result that looks tempting to you is no guarantee that the same thing outcome happen for you.  

deb-ewingDeborah Ewing, Wendy Jones, and Elaine Thompson are all experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area, and are members  of A Better Divorce, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group.