Category: Divorce

Pets & Visitation

Pets are like our children, but only with hair, fur and feathers.

At least, that is what we think from an emotional standpoint. We are emotionally invested with our pets almost as much as our children. Unfortunately, many states have laws that account for pets as property in a divorce or legal separation case.

Emotion vs. the Law

Family law has the goal of re-unifying families, or at the very least to keep stable living conditions for children. While much of divorce court is about splitting up property, children have always been considered different from property – they have been considered minor children with emotional bonds to their parents.

However, pets are largely ignored in that sense. Pets have an emotional bond to the family as well – though it may be admittedly more one-sided (humans toward pets) than the human relationships.

Laws governing divorce and family custody issues were slow in taking pets into account, but some of that has slowly been changing in several states, where pets are starting to be treated “children” rather than “property.”

The Current Reality

Divorce is more often messy than amicable, when the two people going through the process have a tendency to fight for virtually everything, including children. However, because there has been a relative lack of clarity involving pets, if there is a need for consideration of the two parties working together, it might have to be for any pets in the relationship.

Dogs have been especially featured in legal circles lately in the evolution of pet custody laws, as dogs are considered most popular and high-maintenance for their health and happiness. Courts have been open to awarding custody of dogs as well as visitation in divorces, but many states encourage the couple to actually come up with its own agreement outside of court in terms of where the dog will live, who will care for it and whether the other “parent” will have visitation or even will want it.

Is Pet Visitation a Thing?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not something that is handled by courts. Any visitation or custody agreement would have to be worked out by the couple, and very few states so far are willing to use court resources to enforce terms of any visitation agreement. Therefore, if both people in a divorce case wish to spend time with the pet, it is recommended that they work it out themselves and pinky-swear upon a very specific agreement, or make an agreement so vague that it can’t be enforceable and is only operated under “good faith.”

Use Legal Means Sparingly

Until pet-custody laws are brought forth in many states, you might assume that you won’t get any help in court in enforcing any pet visitation agreements. It would benefit the pet to have a document negotiated by the parties involving visitation and care of the pet(s) in the family, and have all expenses tracked and shared between the parties.

Contact our San Diego attorneys for a consultation about your pets and let us help you form the right kind of agreement that both parties can uphold so your pets have as much care as they normally require.

Talking To Your Kids About Divorce

It is one thing to deal with the reality of divorce. That can be painful for the couple, because no one wants to fail on a vow to live together “until death.”

Even when it’s an amicable and mutual split, divorces are often tough on people’s minds and emotions. And adults are supposed to be well-equipped for this.

So can you imagine what it might be like for children?

The time may come when you have to tell the kids about an impending separation or divorce. The news will be hard to take and will likely be a shock. So much so, that some studies have shown that this kind of life-changing announcement is one of the few that is never forgotten by children, no matter the age.

There is no way to make it easy on children that they will eventually forget about it on their own. Knowing that, how might you approach the news about divorce with your children to make it as painless a memory as possible? Here are a couple tips:

Plan Out the Talk

Before you decide to have the talk with your children, make sure to plan it out – even have a set date of the split. Do not approach it when you are “thinking” about divorce; be decisive that it will happen, then have a discussion about what to say and when to say it.

Be Available Post-mortem

Part of the key of when to have the talk is to discuss it with your children at a time when both of you can be available afterward to address questions and to be there to comfort them. The kids will need hugs and comfort to deal with conflicting emotions.  Do not tell your kids when on the way to school or work, or right before bed.

Be Unified

Have the talk with your children together. This will make it more comforting for the children to see that both parents are doing what is in the best interest of the children. This also helps you both tell the same story and give the same information to the children so there is no need to repeat information later.

Be Honest

Be prepared for a lot of questions, especially if your kids are older (7-8 years and older). You may not have to give the children details, but be open to the questions and answer them with as much candor as possible.

Start the Healing

Resolving to divorce is probably the second-most difficult talk to have, behind only the talk with children about the breakup of the life they know. It’s difficult, but necessary to be open and honest as possible, but it can be hard to know how to broach the subject of divorce. When you contact a quality divorce attorney, he or she can help you develop the right strategy to ensure that your children do not suffer any more than is needed in an otherwise painful situation.

Can I Move Out of State During Divorce?

If you’re currently going through a divorce, it can no doubt be a difficult time for you emotionally. While divorce can be incredibly stressful, depending on your circumstances, it can also be quite liberating. The transition to independence can be both scary and wonderful when a world of opportunity opens up, moving from one stage of life to another. For those seeking a fresh start post-divorce, moving out of state is a great way to start the process. However, is it possible to move out of state while your divorce is still in progress?

California divorce law states that in order to file for divorce in a particular state, the individual filing for divorce must reside in the state for 6 months or 180 days. Additionally, living in the specific county where you are looking to file the divorce for at least 3 months is essential as well. If you and your ex-spouse have lived in California for 6 months but live in different counties, however, you may file for divorce in either county. If you don’t meet the residency requirements but want to get the ball rolling on the process, you can still file for a legal separation and then file for an “Amended Petition” once the residency requirement is met.

If you and your ex-spouse are childless, there is not much after the residency requirement keeping you from staying within the state, besides making it the paperwork process more convenient. The situation becomes much more complicated, however, when there are children involved.

In order to move out of state with your child, you will need to file a petition to the courts for permission to take your children with you across state lines. The guidelines and steps for doing so depend on the custody conditions between the both of you and your child. If you are the parent with sole custody, taking your child out of state should be legally uncomplicated unless the other parent attempts to prove the move would harm the child in any way. In the case of joint custody, the parent that wishes to move must prove the move is in the best interest for the children if the other parent doesn’t want them to move.

Whether you are thinking about moving away with your kids, or you suspect your ex-spouse may wish to move away with your kids soon, discussing this with your attorney will ensure that your parenting plan will protect your rights and intentions. Ultimately, given the complicated nature of child custody laws, divorce laws, and their intersections, it’s imperative that you consult with an experienced attorney who will give you the best possible advice. Contact our team of divorce attorneys today!

Divorce During The Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time for family and friends.

If there is a divorce hanging over heads, the holiday dinner tends to taste a little bit different.

No matter how amicable and “friendly” a divorce may be, divorce is a traumatic, stressful and unhappy situation. The eggnog and hot cocoa taste bitter when such a cloud hangs over the family get-togethers.

When divorce is on the menu for the holidays, this can lead to some awkward conversations over the mashed potatoes. To get through the awkwardness, here are a few tips to handle family gatherings surrounding a divorce.

  1. Have patience.

If this is the first time you are by yourself either separated or divorced during the holidays, you need to quit assuming that the holidays are going to be the same as every other holiday season. You will have a different emotional state, and your family and friends will have a different take with you – they will likely want to be more sympathetic. Be patient with yourself and others, and be OK with not being emotionally in tune with the joyful season.

  1. Have flexibility.

We have holidays written out on our calendars, but are they etched in stone? If you have mutual friends with your ex-spouse and you don’t want the awkwardness of having to attend the same holiday get-togethers, arrange to meet with your friends or family on different days (like Christmas Eve instead of Christmas, or the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of Thanksgiving Day).

  1. Reach out.

It can be easy to internalize when you are upset or depressed. But this is actually the time of year to show some outreach and be available for others to make sure that their holidays are joyous. This may mean being social, calling friends and family to visit with them, or paying attention to those less fortunate – visiting homeless shelters, women’s shelters, etc. The key here is, don’t be alone and look out for others over yourself.

  1. Show gratitude.

One of the great sustainers of overall happiness is expressing gratitude. Being grateful for your health, your children, your friends, your family, and sharing those blessings and gratitude can help many people overcome trauma and depression. This is the perfect time of year to count blessings and think much about the positive that is in your life.

Joy to the World

The holidays are supposed to be a time for joy and fellowship with friends and family. In the wake of divorce, those times could be clouded by feelings of anger, depression, betrayal or sadness. You can work with one of our divorce attorneys to help navigate you through the divorce process and get through the holidays with gratitude and blessings.

Is Divorce Good For The Economy?

When two people get married, they do not expect their relationship to end in a divorce. Unfortunately, a large portion of marriages end in divorce, but that number is dropping. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research reported that in 2015, 16.9 of every 1,000 married women received a divorce. According to the report, this number is down from 17.6 in 2014  and has decreased 25% since 1980. The locations in the United States with the highest divorce rate are Washington D.C., Wyoming, and Nevada; in that order. The states with the lowest rate of divorce are Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Hawaii; in that order. Fun fact, Hawaii is the only state that fell under the 12 per 1,000 married women mark.

How Does Divorce and the Economy Relate?

A big debate about divorce is if it positively or negatively affects the economy.

  • Divorce slows economic growth
    • A common trend in economics is if there is an increase in households, there is a decrease in the economic growth rate. Naturally, an increase in divorce causes an increase in the number of households, an increase in the amount of power being used, an increase in the number of resources being used, etc. Therefore, an increase in the divorce rate leads to a decrease in the economic growth rate.
  • Changing family formula driving down divorce rates
    • The average divorce rate for first-time marriages is 41%. There are a number of factors that weigh into the divorce rate and how it fluctuates including age, first-time marriage, location, finances and other factors.
    • A change in the family formula means that the traditional roles of the family members are changing. An example of this is, for many households, the woman or mother is now the financial supporter. This has led to an increase in the number of dual-income families, which bring down the divorce rate. Another factor is that couples are getting married at a later age. It is believed that couples who wait to marry, are less likely to get a divorce.

What Factors Into Divorce Rates?

There are a wide variety of reason that people become unhappy in their marriage and decide to get a divorce. The following factors all play a part in any divorce:

  • Age
    • There is a direct correlation between the average age couples are getting married and the rate of divorce. According to CNBC, in 1950, the average age of men getting married was 23 years old; the average age of a woman getting married was 20 years old. Over the next 59 years, the average age of marriage has increased to 28 years old for men and 26 years old for women. The sweet spot for marriage is about 28-32 years of age.
  • Education Level
    • Education Level plays a factor in divorce. Couples who have a college degree are about 10% less likely to get a divorce. Women who completed college have a divorce rate of 14.2:1,000. The divorce rate rises to 23:1,000 when women do not finish college.
  • Location
    • Where you live when you get married has a factor in divorce rates. Nevada and Maine have the highest divorce rate, 14%. New York, New Jersey, Utah, California and North Dakota all have considerably lower rates.
  • Race
    • According to the 2014 Community Survey, the ranking of race and divorce race is as follows: Asian women, Hispanic women, white women, then black women.
  • Sexuality
    • A report came out that same-sex marriages in New Hampshire and Vermont had a lower rate of divorce than heterosexual couples. Shortly after, the Washington Post came out with an article that stated this is not true. The article also stated that the rates are the same.
  • Children
    • Usually, having children decrease the likelihood of a divorce, but having children often decreases the parents’ rate of happiness and their life satisfaction.
  • Religion
    • Religion tends to be a marriage give marriages some stability. The highest rate of divorce over all religions is Christianity which comes in at 74%. The next highest is atheist at 20%.
  • Mental Health
    • Depression and substance use disorders are both factors in increasing the divorce rate.
  • Parents’ Marital Status:
    • Basically, if your parents were divorced, you are more likely to have a marriage end in divorce. This is due to the fact that you are brought receiving messages that convey the thought that marriages and relationships are not long-term.

All of these factors can weigh into why you a couple’s relationships may end in divorce, but they are not end all be alls. There are exceptions to every rule.

A common misconception is that a higher divorce rate will lead to a stronger economy. This is simply not true. Divorce rates have an inverse relationship with the economy, as they go begin to decrease, the economy will begin to rise. If you are going to get a divorce, hopefully, it is mutual and you and your partner can have a collaborative divorce. In the event that you and your soon to be ex-spouse are not parting ways amicably, then feel free to contact one of our divorce lawyers for assistance so you can ensure that you will live and be comfortable for the rest of your life.

I’m Going Through A Divorce: How Can I Keep My Pet?

Sad Dog. Owers in Battle for Pet CustodyIf you are a pet owner you know they are not just an animal, they are a member of the family. If you are a married couple without kids, you might consider your pet as your child. If you are a married couple with kids, you might consider your pet your son/daughter’s brother or sister. Even if none of the aforementioned statements apply to you, your pet is still one of your best friends and no one wants to lose a best friend, especially when going through a difficult time like a divorce.

In the past, pets used to be considered personal property in divorce cases, but over the last 15 years, that model has been changing. It is now more common than ever that custody over pets is being treated similarly to the custody of children.

Pet Custody Case Statistics

According to the American Pet Products Association, 144.2 million of American households own a pet. Dogs and cats are the most popular pets among pet-owning households. 60.2 million American households own an average amount of 1.49 dogs per household. 47.1 million American households own an average of 2.00 cats.

In 2014 the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers took a survey of its members and the statistics were revealing. 88% of pet custody battle were couples fighting over who gets the dog, and 5% of cases were couples fighting over who gets the cat. The results of the study illustrated that attorneys are noticing an increasing number of pet custody cases.

What Happens in Divorce Court?

When a married couple is planning on getting a divorces it has the potential to get messy for every party involved. Thing such as child support, child custody, child visitation and the division of assets all need to be sorted out if the couple can’t reach an agreement. A point of contention that also needs to be addressed is who gets custody of the beloved pet.

Some of the factors that weigh into the judge’s decision about pet custody include:

  • Did the pet belong to one party pre-marriage?
    • If the pet belonged to one party pre-marriage, technically the pet is that party’s “personal property”, therefore, the judge is likely to rule in the favor of the respective party.
  • Is there a prenuptial agreement? If so, is the pet included in that agreement?
    • Although we love them like family, pets are still considered personal property, therefore one party can claim the pet in their prenuptial agreement.
  • Where are the children going?
    • Often times in a pet custody case, the judge will award the family pet to the party that has physical custody of the children.
  • Who has the better living situation for the pet?
    • Another factor the judge will consider in a pet custody case is the living situations of the parties. If one living situation is better suited for a pet than the other, then the judge will most likely award that party the pet.
  • Who provides for the pet?
    • In some cases, the judge will rule in favor of the party that can prove they are the financial supporter of the pet. In other words, if one party is responsible for purchasing pet supplies (food, treats, toys, beds, etc.), pay for veterinarian visits, and take on any other cost that a pet owner may incur.

Contact Our Divorce Attorneys

We have the experience of negotiating pet agreements for our clients, even if you were not the owner of the pet pre-marriage. We will help you get the documents you need to help prove that you are financially responsible for the pet or help prove that the pet will be safe in your living conditions.

At the end of the day, a pet is a man’s best friends. Pet owners build strong emotional bonds to their dogs, cats, or any other animal they own. If you are going through the process of divorce and are worried that you might lose your pet, contact one of our divorce lawyers today.

6 Ways To Make Your Divorce Easier on Your Child

Divorce is quite common and it’s estimated that 50% of American children will experience the separation of their parents, according to The Spruce. If you are currently going through a divorce, this can be a difficult event for your child to navigate. It’s going to be a confusing and frustrating time for your child, no matter how amicable the separation may be. The truth is, a divorce can have long-term effects on a child’s emotional and behavioral development, but there are ways you can facilitate the experience of adjusting to a new family dynamic.

  1.  Tell your child about the divorce together and be honest.

You might be tempted to let them figure it out on their own, or let your ex-spouse be the one to break the news, but it’s important for your child to get clear and honest information from both parents. From your child’s perspective, it will reinforce the idea that they can trust their parents to be honest during this time and not rely on overheard information or rumors to understand what’s happened. Obviously you’ll want to spare the more personal or explicit details of the uncoupling, but for the most part, you should be honest about what your child should expect moving forward. Details such as living situations, visitations, and communication between both parents should be clearly defined to the child once the arrangements have been worked out during the divorce process.

  1. Make sure parental roles and responsibilities are divided and reinforced.

One of the things that will be determined in the divorce process is who will have primary custody of the child. There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about a child’s life including but not limited to healthcare, safety, overall welfare, religion, and education. In most instances, both parents share joint legal custody of the child. However, only one parent will have physical custody. 

If you don’t have physical custody, take the initiative to find a way play a key role in your child’s life such as being the one to teach them how to drive or always attending their after-school sporting events. If you have physical custody, be aware that your ex-spouse will need you to support them as they try to find new roles in your children’s life. It’s also important to note even the parent with physical custody should still create a role in your child’s life beyond primary guardian. 

  1.  Encourage your child to talk about the divorce, but don’t pressure them to open up.

Most children find it difficult to talk about their parents’ divorce, and that may turn into a larger problem if they can’t effectively talk about their feelings. Children feel uncomfortable discussing the divorce with their parents because neither parent can give an unbiased perspective on the situation. Give them gentle encouragement to open up to you about their feelings. In the event that they do open up, do your best to be there for your child without showing bias or encouraging them to take sides. If you’re finding it difficult or notice that your child has a change in behavior, perhaps a third party perspective like a family friend or a therapist would be a good resource for your child. Many schools have programs for childrens whose parents are going through a divorce. 

  1. Don’t fight around them.

If your marriage is on the verge of collapsing, then this might seem difficult, but having daily arguments echoing through your home can be traumatizing for your child’s emotional development. Try if possible to move disputes down the block, in a car, or generally away from anywhere a child may eavesdrop upon the exchange of some scathing words. If it’s impossible to completely step away, come to an agreement to de-escalate arguments in the presence of your child.

  1. Don’t make your child a mediator between you and your ex-spouse.

This is something that’s quite small and seemingly innocuous but has big implications for how your child sees themselves in the middle of the divorce. Using your child as the point of contact between you and your ex (ie, “Tell your father to…” or “Let your mother know…”) can feel like an unwanted responsibility and can sometimes let them in on some information they shouldn’t be privy to. Moreover, this may be an unconscious way for parents to unload their feelings onto their child, making them carry the weight of your emotional issues with your soon to be ex-spouse. Your child should not be used as a resource when there are other third-party resources available to you and your ex-spouse.

  1. Take care of yourselves, and make sure there are safe spaces to visit each parent.

Older children will notice when hard times drive their parents to unhealthy behavior. This can cause children to become distant, or reinforce the idea that the divorce might have been their fault. It’s important to reassure your child that you, and them, will be okay. Younger children will have a harder time adjusting to a new familial structure if their surroundings are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. If you feel your new living space isn’t ideal for visitation, opt for familiar public spaces like a neighborhood park or their favorite diner. Over time, it’ll get easier for both you and your child to navigate this new lifestyle and will find peace of mind knowing you’ve made good decisions for yourself and your child.

Going through a divorce is a very difficult thing to do not only for you but also for your children. These six tips can hopefully make the process easier for your children but also for you. If you need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our divorce lawyers. We are here for you to help you through this trying time in your life.

What Is Divorce Mediation Process

Mediation is a frequently used method of negotiating and settling the terms of a divorce. A neutral third party is hired to act as a mediator between two spouses in an effort to resolve issues and come to an arrangement that is acceptable to both parties and that is best for any children involved. The only thing that is needed for a successful divorce mediation is for both parties to be willing to negotiate with each other in an open and honest way and be prepared to make some compromises. Even if there are major issues that seem impossible to resolve, mediation has proven to be a powerful process that can resolve seemingly insurmountable differences if both parties are willing to commit to the process.

Divorce mediation is about you and your spouse deciding the terms of your own divorce and what will be best for both, and most importantly, your children if there are any. Mediation is voluntary and continues only for as long as you want it to, and you and your spouse make all the decisions during the mediation process. During mediation, you are encouraged to work through issues in an amicable way so that the marriage can be ended in an acceptable and cost-effective way. Some topics covered during mediation may include:

– Property distribution (assets and liabilities)
– Child support and maintenance
– Custody and Parenting time
– Retirement plans
– Taxes

Divorce Mediation Benefits

Anyone involved in a divorce should consider mediation as it works for most couples and has several benefits.

– It saves thousands of dollars in court trials and hearings.
– It is confidential with no public record of mediation sessions.
– It allows you to resolve issues based on what each party considers to be fair, instead of having impersonal and rigid legal principles imposed as the court does not control the process.
– In many cases, the mediation process improves communication between couples which helps to alleviate future conflicts.
– You are entitled to have a lawyer to assist you with legal advice if you so wish.
– Most divorce mediations are successful at resolving all issues and coming to an amicable agreement.

The Mediation Process

Some mediators prefer to gather information regarding your marriage, your family circumstances, and any marital issues you would like to have resolved on the phone before meeting. Others prefer you to provide information at the first meeting in the presence of your spouse. During the first meeting, the mediator will explain what can be expected from the process such as meeting in the same room for the entire process, or having separate sessions in order to present your own views and position on matters concerning the divorce.

Certain documents will have to be signed such as an agreement of confidentiality and non-disclosure that precludes the mediator from disclosing any information in future court proceedings. A good mediator will endeavor to establish rapport with both parties and try to make you feel comfortable with the procedure. Sometimes agreements are reached easily but sometimes it can take a lot of time and work. When agreements are not easy to reach, the mediator will intervene, mainly to keep the lines of communication clear and open. The mediator assists in brainstorming sessions to help reach agreements, teach empathy for each other, and assist in the decision-making process. They help keep the focus when things go off track and away from the stated issues. Things like arguments, name calling and bad memories that do not serve the mediation process are avoided while the mediator remains impartial and neutral.

Divorce mediation is flexible and gives each spouse a means to settle conflicts and work together for the best result. This is extremely important if there are children involved as you will have to have contact with each other after the divorce. Lack of communication is the most common reason for divorce and mediation can help a couple learn to communicate better, if only for the sake of the children.

Please watch the video below to learn some steps to take when preparing for divorce mediation.

What Is A Collaborative Divorce?

If you’re curious to learn more about what a collaborative divorce truly is and how it works in practice, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at collaborative divorce and everything that it entails, so let’s get straight to it.

First of all, a collaborative divorce is a term that simply means the divorce process is redefined from a combative frame into a problem resolution frame, with an emphasis on finding solutions that work for both parties, rather than one party winning and beating the other.

As you would expect, this form of divorce can be highly beneficial for both parties involved, particularly when it comes to issues such as child custody, property division, and more. Additionally, collaborative divorce often means that the case doesn’t need to go to court to settle key issues, as they can simply be worked out using mediation and negotiation tactics that can be arbitrated by the attorneys of either party.

There are numerous benefits associated with using collaborative divorce rather than conventional law, and many people greatly appreciate the informal setting that it provides, along with the easier exchange of information that allows both parties to settle any disputes in an open and informal manner. What’s more, many people prefer this form of divorce law due to the fact that it saves quite a bit of money in attorney fees as well.

However, despite the more informal process, it’s still worth noting that collaborative divorce is still fully confidential and legal, although it tends to be far more convenient for every party, as it allows you to structure meetings around your own schedules rather than that of the courts. Of course, it also means that subpoenas will not be involved either.

Now that you understand the basics of what collaborative divorce is, let’s take a closer look at how the process tends to unfold.

To begin with, both parties will hire an attorney, and each attorney will represent their client’s wishes during the mediation process. In general, you will meet with the attorney to discuss your primary needs and concerns, and they will do their best to represent you during the negotiation process.

At some point in the process, there will be a four-way meeting that allows all parties involved to develop solutions to the problems that can occur during the negotiation process, and if things become particularly difficult to resolve, then a licence mediator can also be hired to help the proceedings move along.

Another key aspect to understand about collaborative divorce is that there will usually be a ‘no court’ agreement signed by your attorneys, and this agreement dictates that your attorney will withdraw from the case if it does happen to continue on to litigation, although this is usually a rare occurrence if both parties agreed to a collaborative divorce from the start.

At the end of the day, it’s clear to see that using collaborative law can be a much better alternative for many people going through the difficult experience of a divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

Uncontested divorce is when both parties completely agree on all issues involved in a divorce. While many divorces end amicably, an amicable divorce is far different than an uncontested divorce.

For example, there are many issues that arise in divorce proceedings that the parties may disagree on, from parental responsibilities to property division, and all the way to child support payments.

If there are any disagreements in any of the proposals made during the divorce, then the divorce is not truly uncontested. In our experience, many divorces begin amicably, and both parties assume they will have an uncontested divorce, but one issue tends to send the divorce proceedings down a different path. For example, both parties might agree on everything except for the amount of child support one party should receive on a monthly basis. Even if they agree on how much time they should spend with children, and who gets what real estate property, the divorce proceedings are still contested because of the one issue. Uncontested divorces have none of these issues.

If you have any questions about uncontested divorce, please check out the video below.