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Family Law Blog

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How Much Does it Cost to Retain a Family Law Attorney?

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What to expect to pay for a divorce in California 

A family law attorney’s practice is not limited to divorce. Child and spousal support issues, custody matters, and adoption are also handled. Domestic violence often falls under the umbrella of family law as well.

In California, “family law” covers domestic issues. Specific laws vary but generally aim to protect an individual’s rights within the context of family. For example, divorce law addresses how to end a marriage and divide the property.

So, how much does it cost to retain a family law attorney?

The answer to that question isn’t just a straight dollar number…

There are a lot of factors that play into the cost. However, here is our insight on hiring a family law attorney.

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Why is Jurisdiction So Important?

By | Family Law Blog | No Comments

We should start with what is jurisdiction exactly, jurisdiction is the legal authority for the court to hear a case.  If the court does not have jurisdiction, it simply cannot hear the case and you will have to take the case to the appropriate jurisdiction.

Watch Kathy Minella Explain In Depth

How do you know if San Diego court has jurisdiction?

Sometimes it is very obvious to determine where jurisdiction is.  

For example, if your divorce was processed in San Diego and never registered anywhere else, jurisdiction will remain in San Diego.  

Another example would be if your child custody order was made in San Diego and the child still remains in San Diego, of course San Diego would be the appropriate place to litigate custody.  

There will always be times where it is not obvious but as a rule of thumb…

If the child is not in San Diego and neither party is in San Diego, it is highly likely jurisdiction resides somewhere else.  

CHILD CUSTODY JURISDICTION

Any issues concerning child custody are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act also referred to as the UCCJEA.

 The UCCJEA requires the action involving the child to be filed in its home state.

This is either where the child has lived for at least 6 consecutive months prior to the case being filed, or if the child is no longer in the state, where the child lived within the six months before commencement of the proceedings.   

If an action has already commenced and a parent is seeking modification, another state can modify the original order only if the new state has jurisdiction as the home state and the original court declines to exercise continuing jurisdiction, or the proposed state is a more convenient forum, or no one including the child lives in the original state.  

It is important to contact an attorney in the proper jurisdiction to hear your case, as if you file a case in the wrong jurisdiction you will have to start all over again in the proper jurisdiction.

CHILD SUPPORT JURISDICTION

Any issues concerning child support are governed by the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act or UIFSA.  

This gives continuing jurisdiction to one state to avoid conflicting orders. Just as with custody, the originating state will always have jurisdiction over support so long as one of the parents remains in the state.

This is important as the guidelines applied will be based on the originating state. As an example, say the child support order was created in San Diego and parent and child move to Nebraska, the child support order will remain at California guidelines so long as the payor lives in California even though parent and child have a lower cost of living in Nebraska.  

Reverse that if the originating order is in Nebraska and parent and child move to California, they will receive child support based on Nebraska standards so long as the payor remains in Nebraska despite the higher cost of living in San Diego.

If you believe San Diego court has the ability to hear your case contact our office.  If you need to find an attorney where your case should be hear you can always contact the bar association in that jurisdiction to find an attorney who specializes in family law to assist you.  

dissolution

Do I Qualify For Summary Dissolution

By | Divorce | No Comments

Dissolution is the official term for divorce in California.

There are two ways you can obtain a dissolution in California: standard, which is the most common form of divorce, and summary, which is a shortened version of the divorce process.

Not everyone can use summary dissolution to end their marriage as there are very specific requirements that must be met for the court to approve your divorce.

Watch Kathy Minella Explain More

Who Qualifies for a Summary Dissolution?

There are strict eligibility guidelines for a California summary dissolution and all of them must be met to proceed. In addition to those listed above, it is required that:

  • At least one of you has lived in California for at least 6 months, and in your county for at least 3 months before filing the petition.
  • Both of you must agree to summary dissolution and the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
  • Neither of you may own real estate or hold a lease with an option to purchase.
  • Neither of you has more than $40,000 in separate, or non-community, property.
  • Neither of you has incurred more than $6,000 in debt, excluding car loans, since the date of marriage.

Both of you must also read and sign a summary dissolution booklet that is provided by the state. The booklet explains the entire process and contains helpful worksheets for dividing assets.

How to Obtain a Summary Dissolution

There is less paperwork required for a summary dissolution than there is for a regular one, but you must file with the superior court clerk a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution that includes a property settlement agreement.

A Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment must also be prepared. Six months after filing, your divorce will be final.

You do not have to appear in court and afterwards you are free to remarry. At any time during those six months either you or your spouse can stop the summary dissolution process.

If you are looking for a fast resolution to your marriage, summary dissolutions can be the right option for you as long as you meet the necessary requirements.

To learn more about whether you may qualify, or for help in starting the process, talk to a qualified California family law attorney.

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An App For Divorce? A Divorce Attorney’s Response To The New Wave of Tech

By | Divorce | No Comments

This article has been updated for 2020

Recently, NextAvenue.Org published a blog on the new wave of technology as it relates to divorce services. As a divorce attorney in San Diego, I am always interested to understand the new trends in the divorce space. Below is my commentary on the article, as well as a reprinted version of the original blog post.

If you have any questions about family law or divorce services in San Diego, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

– Kathy Minella

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Watch Kathy Explain More About Divorce Apps

A Divorce Lawyer’s Take on The New Wave of Tech In Divorce

Technology is becoming a major player in law with a focus on automation.  I think there are good and bad aspects to this new trend, being that law is still so driven by individuals. 

If you have a simple divorce with no custody or very few assets to divide, using divorce apps can be a great way to streamline the process and minimize the expense.  However, I would never recommend it when there are custody issues or major assets to divide such as stock accounts, retirement accounts, or even real property. 

There is a lot of use for applications, however, such as co-parenting communication apps like Family Wizard or Talking Parents.  It keeps all communication in one place and is easy to present to the court in the event it becomes necessary. It also ensures there is no manipulation that can easily occur with texts or emails.

Also, if there is a way to better record keep support payments, I am all for it! It is the payor’s burden to prove payments have been made so you better ensure your record keeping is superb.

Any technology that gives users information at their fingertips can be both a good and bad thing depending on what it is being used for.  The information should be used at your own risk.

Continue reading to find the original blog post and decide for yourself: Is using an app for divorce a good thing?

Original Post: “How Technology Has Changed Divorce”

technology in divorce

Original Content Published on NextAvenue.Org and written by Stacey Freeman

Thanks to technology, we can buy groceries online. We can search online for a job, a pet, even a spouse. And if for whatever reason that spouse doesn’t work out, we can go through the divorce process online, too.

But when you’re divorcing, can a website, or a collection of them, be a substitute for face-to-face interaction? Based on the growing number of users who frequent sites specializing in divorce, the answer appears to be “Yes.”

For Divorce, It Takes a Digital Village

Divorce is disruptive — good and bad. And change, even the good kind, can send even the calmest, coolest and most collected individuals into a tailspin. Not to mention, divorce can also be expensive, stressful and isolating for those going through it.

The good news is that today, separated and divorced people can find a community online with others in similar situations without so much as leaving their home.

Divorce is complicated and emotionally charged, even with the use of these unprecedented and innovative technological improvements.

If it is information you’re after, lawyer Erin Levine’s Hello Divorce site provides a wealth of it. Specializing in California divorce law, Levine’s goal is to make divorce more accessible to those who may not have the knowledge or experience yet, and show them they have options.

Even if you are not living in California, Hello Divorce’s blog is still worth reading for its concise, straightforward articles on topics ranging from what to do if your spouse announces he or she is gay to the unique issues facing boomers who divorce.

The Major Players in Divorce Sites

Divorceify, founded by two divorce attorneys and a lawyer-turned-programmer (all women), offers customized divorce recommendations and matches you with professional help from all over the United States. From mediators and financial advisers to divorce coaches and attorneys, Divorceify can save users time and money and alleviate stress. Having confidence in the people helping to complete the divorce will make the process a little less daunting.

PartUs, created by lawyer Krista Andrews, provides divorce management software to law practices looking to streamline the divorce process in one place. FamilyDocket and dtour.life offer divorce management systems for lawyers, with the added feature of allowing them to communicate with their clients on the site and share documents.

One-stop-shops Wevorce and it’s over easy, also created by attorneys, provide platforms for families going through the divorce process from start to finish, offering monthly plans based on the services you choose from their respective menus.

A Fresh Start After Divorce

Once the divorce itself is over, divorced life comes with its own set of rules and obstacles to navigate.

Apps such as OurFamilyWizard (created by a divorced dad) and Coparently (from a techie son of a divorced couple) are useful for family management when children and teens are involved. They help parents communicate by creating calendars, discussing expenses and sharing important information about their children. Apps like these make co-parenting easier because they offer technology that fosters cooperation and communication.

SupportPay, founded by a divorced marketing exec, is an app that lets divorced parents make automated support payments online, alleviating financial and emotional stress for both spouses because of its reliability and predictability — no more missed payments or confusion.

For divorcées not sure what to do with their diamond ring, Worthy offers a secure online auction platform to sell it to a pre-screened community of buyers. The diamonds are valued before every auction by Worthy’s in-house gemologist and the Gemological Institute of America. Sellers can have a check in their hands in as little as three days.

Has Technology Taken the Emotion Out of Divorce?

With so much knowledge at our fingertips, it is easy to forget that less than three decades ago it wasn’t possible to connect with people from around the world, access information and assemble the best team of people to help us, all within seconds.

Divorce is complicated and emotionally charged, even with the use of these unprecedented and innovative technological improvements. Although technology has automated the divorce process and arguably removed some of the emotion from it for the better, there is still plenty of emotion to go around, which can be positive as well.

 

pet custody law dog sleeping

How The New Pet Custody Law Works In California

By | Family Law Blog | No Comments

This article has been updated for 2020

Most people consider their pet a part of the family, so it’s no surprise there are often disputes about who gets the pet when a couple splits up.

In January 2019, a new California law changed the way pet custody is handled in divorce cases. This new law gives judges the power to consider the care and the best interest of the pet (or companion animal) when making decisions in separation or divorce matters. 

Watch Kathy Explain More About It

Pets Are No Longer Just Physical Property

Up until the new law was enacted, California courts treated pets like other physical, inanimate property such as furniture, cars, and other belongings. The family dog, cat, or another pet would be considered a part of the property to be divided when the marriage ended. Often judges would base their decision on which party purchased or adopted the animal. Judges had wide discretion in determining where the pet would be best placed or in arranging visitation schedules. The legal system, however, offered no official guidance.

Up until this year, only Alaska and Illinois had similar legislation. With the signing of AB2274, California courts must now view pet ownership differently from other possessions.

Putting a Pet First

Courts now have a much clearer direction and will award custody of a pet based on what is deemed best for the animal. They’re also able to create shared custody agreements and may enter orders that require one party to care for a pet prior to final ownership determination.

Pets are still technically classified as personal property, but the new law was crafted to reflect how most people view their pets. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, was inspired to introduce the bill based in part on his experience rescuing a dog.

The original bill had stronger language, for example, “requiring” rather than “authorizing” courts to act in the pet’s best interests. 

Changes notwithstanding, California’s law is groundbreaking in that it provides courts with much-needed guidance in distinguishing pets from other forms of property. 

Treating Animals Fairly

Family pet custody battles have been on the rise. While they reflect a pet’s important role in the family, they’ve also added conflict to an often already stressful situation. If you’re involved in a custody case involving a family pet, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which ranked California #3 in the nation for its animal protection laws, may provide an amicus brief

Before getting into a lengthy, expensive battle over the family pet, remember that California’s law does not require a judge to make a conclusion, it merely gives guidance on what can be used to determine such situations.

Final Thoughts

Before this law was enacted, pets were simply treated as any other inanimate piece of property such as a TV or a dining room table. Now, there are much clearer guidelines as to how custody of a pet will be handled and is based upon what the court deems as best for the animal.

For those who have a family pet, this new law may help bring some peace-of-mind as they navigate the already-stressful divorce process.

If you’re concerned about what may happen to your pet during a legal separation or divorce, consulting with an experienced family law attorney who understands the issue and new ruling can help alleviate your worries.

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How Do You Officially Change Your Name After A Divorce?

By | Divorce | No Comments

People choose to change their name after or during a divorce for different reasons. For some, it’s a way to restore a sense of independence and help them move on. For others, it’s a matter of practicality. In California, the process is fairly straightforward, depending on whether or not you’re still going through your divorce or you were divorced in another state. Your divorce attorney can advise you on the best course of action and assist you with the legal processes including:

  • Your divorce was granted and finalized in California
  • Your divorce is not final
  • Your divorce was not finalized in California

Watch Kathy Minella Explain

If Your Divorce Has Been Finalized in California

If your divorce has been finalized in a California court, you must complete an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order asking the divorce court judge to restore your former name. You can find the form online or visit your county clerk’s office to fill out the form in person. Include a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment for your divorce if possible. Your divorce attorney can assist you in gathering all the information you need to change your name. It typically takes the court two to four weeks to process this type of request. 

If Your Divorce is Not Yet Final

If you’re in the process of divorce, you can still ask the court to restore your former name. When you submit your proposed Judgment for Divorce, ask your family law attorney to include a request to restore your former last name. When your divorce is finalized, the decree should include an official order that restores your former name. 

If Your Divorce was Finalized in a Different State

If you were not divorced in California, you should first contact the court that finalized your divorce and ask if there is a simple process to change your name in that state. If not, file a regular Petition for Change of Name with your local superior court clerk in California. 

A Family Law Attorney Can Help

Having an experienced family law attorney help you navigate your divorce and the process of changing your name can help you save time, money and cut down on stress.

Minella Law Group is a full-service family law firm. We can assist you in handling all aspects of family law issues, including divorce, custody, child and spousal support, and more. At Minella Law Group, our motto is service first. Divorce is hard enough; you should not have to struggle with your representation as well. We ensure you are always up to date with your case, presented with all the options available to you, and aim to keep the cost to you reasonable.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

Legal Separation vs Divorce

By | Divorce, Family Law Blog, Legal Separation

Legal Separation and Divorce: What’s the Difference?

 

When you and your spouse file for a divorce, you are essential asking for a judge to end your marriage, allowing you to legally separate and divide your finances and assets between yourself and your spouse. In contrast, when you apply for a legal separation, you draft a settlement agreement with your spouse that will explain the responsibilities and rights each spouse maintains despite living apart. During this time, you will still remain legally married, however, you will be choosing to live separately.

Watch Kathy Minella Explain

What is a Legal Separation Agreement?

Many financial professionals suggest that if a spouse is looking to spend time apart from their husband or wife for a period of time that extends beyond a typical trial period, they should probably obtain a legal separation agreement, which will help to resolve issues such as alimony and spousal support, division of assets and debt, and child support and visitation rights.

In some cases, a legal separation agreement can help you to reduce some financial risk. Since if you decide to live separately from your spouse without one, you could still remain liable for any debts and legal issues your spouse is involved with, despite the fact that you may not be living together. A written agreement regarding your separation would limit your liability for debts incurred by your spouse during the time in which you are separated.

Will California Recognize your Legal Separation?

The laws on divorce and separation can vary from one state to another, but each state will typically fall into one of three categories, including:

  • Those which require a legal separation before partners can file for a divorce.
  • Those which neither recognize nor require a legal separation.
  • Those which recognize a legal separation, but do not require one.

Here in California, the state will not only recognize your legal separation but it also does not require one.  It is a choice that you and your spouse will have to make depending on what is best for your situation. Some parties choose to have their marital status remain intact for insurance reasons, others for financial.  It is best to weigh the pros and cons of both before making a decision that can impact your estate.

The Impact of Legal Separation on a Divorce

It is essential to remember that once you have decided to legally separate from your spouse, the decision must be taken seriously. It is a binding, legal contract which some states do recognize to be just as important as divorce. In California, the terms which you may agree to within a legal separation agreement could set a precedence that is difficult to get out of at a later stage. For example, if you agree to your wife living in the home the two of you bought while you were married as part of your legal separation, and continue to make the mortgage payments for that house or home, a judge may demand that you continue doing so after you file for divorce.

This is why many professionals suggest that you should never agree to anything within your legal separation agreement that you would not consider in the process of negotiating for your divorce settlement since you may regret it later. It is also a magnificent and salient idea to speak to a lawyer before you attempt to come to terms with your partner alone. You certainly do not want to sign anything without an attorney’s approval. If you can work things out amicably with your spouse with getting other people involved that is wonderful but you have to be very careful about what you sign and agree to.  It is always best to consult an attorney to make sure that you are fully aware of your rights and the consequences to any provision that you sign.

Minella Law Group Can Help

Our experienced San Diego legal separation attorneys are here to advise and protect your best interests throughout the legal separation process, both in court and through negotiations. If you’ve decided to legally separate, we can advise you and file the necessary legal papers with the court. Contact us today to schedule your no-cost consultation at Minella Law Group.

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California Move-Aways: Can “Virtual Visitation” Be Part of a Divorce Solution?

By | Child Custody & Visitation

[this article has been updated since 2009 when it was originally published] 

New jobs and remarriage are two common reasons why divorced parents move out of San Diego or California. This may be on the rise with the increase of remote work due to the pandemic, but did you know virtual visitation has been around for years when it comes to move away scenarios.

Relocating or Move Aways

If you’re seeking to relocate with your kids, you’ll need the court’s permission first, or else you’ll be in violation of your court order.  Not that long ago a parent with sole custody had an almost unrestrained ability to relocate with the child, but California child custody law in move-away cases has gone through many changes in the past several years.  To decide whether to allow the move, the family court now looks at many factors, including whether the move would harm the child and how the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent will likely be affected.

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