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Divorce

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What Is Spousal Support?

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Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a legal obligation on a person to provide financial support to their spouse. Spousal support is generally issued in connection with legal separation or divorce cases. One spouse pays the other ex-spouse – whether the husband or wife – a certain sum of money. Courts may require this if one party earns much more than the other, and the other one needs assistance in maintaining their lifestyle close to the marital standard. It is generally awarded to a spouse who makes a lower income or has been out of work during the marriage. The purpose of spousal support in California is to preserve a person’s financial status to the greatest extent possible.

Spousal support is broken down into two types: temporary (pendente lite) or permanent (post-divorce judgment). Temporary spousal support is awarded during divorce proceedings and meant to maintain the living condition of both parties before divorce is finalized. Permanent spousal support is awarded after divorce is finalized and it is to provide the lower-earning spouse with adequate income to ensure that their needs are met and they’re able to maintain their standard of living.

Check Out Our Alimony & Spousal Support Resources Page >> 

Spousal support payments can be made on a monthly basis for a predetermined period of time, but can also consist of a single lump-sum payment. In some cases, spouses can have an agreement on the amount and conditions of support. And if the agreement meets legal requirements, it will be upheld by the court, even if it means that the lower-earning spouse will not receive any support.

Eligibility for Spousal Support in California

Spousal support is issued on a case-by-case basis, but in most cases, only persons who have been married for a longer duration (usually over 5 years) are eligible for support. Other factors that the court will take into consideration when making the support determination include:

  • The assets and property owned by each spouse
  • The earning capacity of each person
  • Whether the parties shared a business
  • Whether one party has significant debt
  • Each party’s contribution to the relationship
  • Physical and mental health conditions
  • Whether the parties had a prenuptial agreement that set forth spousal support provisions

Length of Spousal Support

The length of spousal support is usually tied to the length of the marriage. As a general rule, the court will not order support for more than half the length of a marriage that lasted less than 10 years. However, the court will not set definite spousal support duration if a marriage lasted 10 years or longer. The party who pays will bear the burden of proof to show that spousal support is not needed at some point in time. 

While post-divorce spousal support is often referred to as “permanent,” it is increasingly rare for true permanent support to be awarded, even for longer marriages. California courts require the spouse being supported to make efforts to become self-sustaining. A spouse who claims an inability to become fully employed or inability to work will have to support the claim with evidence. True permanent spousal support generally applies to spouses who cannot become self-supporting due to age or disability.

Spousal Support Modification

Once the court issues a spousal support order, it becomes final and enforceable by the law. The orders can, however, be modified due to unique or special circumstances that occur later on. For example, if one spouse loses their job and cannot pay or the other spouse gets a job or a significant rise in income, spousal support can be altered or terminated.

Hiring an Attorney for Spousal Support Issues

Filing for spousal support in California can require many statements, documents and other items needed to support a party’s arguments. You’ll also need a thorough understanding of the law to avoid hurting your case. A qualified family lawyer can help review the terms and negotiate with the other party to ensure that your needs are covered.

If you’re considering filing for alimony in California, or simply have questions, contact us for a free consultation today!

how do you officially change your name after a divorce

How Do You Officially Change Your Name After A Divorce?

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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

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. 

how will divorce affect my children

How Will My Divorce Affect My Children?

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Making the decision to end your marriage isn’t easy. There are many people who will be affected – including your family, spouse, and friends. However, your children are among the most sensitive (and will be most affected) by separation. Multiple studies show that kids are more likely to experience stress, lower academic performance, and behavioral disorders after their parents undergo divorce. 

Children typically view their parents as superheroes. In your child’s eyes, you and your spouse should be able to solve even the most complex problems. This is why kids are often confused and distressed when their parents choose to end the marriage and go their separate ways.

It can be challenging to balance between ending your marriage and minimizing the impact on your children. To make this decision and process easier, you should understand how kids are typically affected by divorce, what family law says with regards to ending a marriage, and how you can minimize the impact of separation on children. 

Effects of Divorce On Kids

Children are affected by divorce in many different ways. Because most consequences are emotional, behavioral, and psychological, being aware of (and dealing with) these challenges early will prevent your kids from being affected over the long term. 

Some of the most common effects include:

1. Increased Stress And Depression Levels 

Divorce often comes with lots of instability and uncertainty. Your daily family routine will change, and you may not necessarily have a solid plan for what lies ahead. This uncertainty is what affects kids the most. Your child may need to move to a new location, switch schools, or get used to a new parent (for those looking to remarry). These sudden changes are what increase stress and depression levels in affected children. 

2. It May Affect Economic Stability 

In most divorce cases, the separating spouses experience a noticeable (if not significant) reduction in income. In fact, most divorcees need a 30% increase in income just to maintain their previous lifestyles. Even more concerning is that women are disproportionally affected (economically) during divorce than men. 

The impact of significant economic change is often felt most heavily by children from the marriage. This is because the instability in domestic living and expenses will directly influence your child’s ability to live a life similar to what they had before. 

3. Lower Academic Performance 

Your school-aged child may also experience lower academic performance after your divorce. This is because kids tend to undergo behavioral challenges during this time and it ultimately affects their grades. In more serious cases, the child may be unable to graduate from high school and may even end up falling into drugs/crime (if they don’t receive the support they need).

Reducing the Negative Effects of Divorce On Children 

In an ideal world, parents wouldn’t have to separate. However, there are always cases where a divorce is the best option for the parties involved. You can reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children by taking a proactive approach to the separation process. This involves planning ahead, seeking help and resources for your children, and collaborating with your former spouse to make the divorce proceed smoothly. 

1. Develop A Co-Parenting Plan

Under California family law, co-parenting is the preferred approach to raising kids from separated parents. Former spouses are encouraged to come up with a legally binding co-parenting plan that can be reviewed and approved by a judge.

This plan should be developed with the best interests of the children and not just the parents. In this way, conflict is reduced and your kids will be less likely to experience behavioral disorders. 

2. Avoid Putting Pressure On Your Kids 

Many separating parents tend to put their kids on the spot. For example, asking your kids to choose which parent they prefer can lead to anxiety and depression. You should avoid putting your kids in the middle of any conflict with your spouse. Instead, look for ways of handling such conflict away from your children. 

3. Maintain A Positive Relationship

The stress and uncertainty of divorce may cause you to pull away from your children. You may be pre-occupied with settling financial disputes, custody disagreements, and other legal matters such that you end up ignoring your kids. Strive to maintain a positive relationship with our children throughout the process. Remind them that you still care, and encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling. 

4. Know The Law And How It Can Help With Your Separation Process

California’s family law is constantly evolving to make divorce as smooth as possible. If you’re thinking about separation, consult a family lawyer to explore your options. There are provisions in the law that protect children’s rights, domestic abuse victims, and economically-disadvantaged spouses. 

technology in divorce

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

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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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child-school

Can I Change My Child’s School During a Divorce? (even if the other parent does not agree)

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One issue that often comes up during a divorce is the dispute over where the children will attend school after the parents have moved in their separate directions. Sometimes, one parent wants to change the school their child attends, even if the other parent opposes the idea

Whether you can move your child to another school without your former spouse’s approval depends on the custody order issued by the judge:

  • If you were given sole legal custody, then you have the right to choose which school your child will attend without the other parent’s approval.
  • If you share joint legal custody, you and your former spouse must agree on which school to send your child to.

This post addresses issues that come up when parents share joint legal custody.

Parental Consent on School Issues

If your joint custody/parenting plan doesn’t already spell out which school your child will attend, then you and your former spouse must either come to a mutual agreement, agree in mediation, or file a motion asking the court to make the decision for you. If you ask the court to decide, it will base its ruling on what it things is in the best interests of your child. Factors the court considers include:

  • The desires and educational needs of your child.
  • The desires of both parents.
  • Where your child previously attended school.
  • The commuting time from each parent’s home.
  • The associated costs to each parent.

Should You Change Your Child’s School?

School choice issues are complicated. Even if your parenting plan allows for your child to go to school anywhere within a certain district or mile radius, is it the right thing to do? Of course, there are at times very good reason for switching schools: it’s a better environment for your child, economic circumstances have changed, or you have had to move to another district after the divorce. Some experts urge parents – who may not be aware of how stressful it is – to not change their child’s school after a divorce. Attending the same school often offers your child the stable support of friends and teachers he or she knows and loves.

If after careful consideration you feel it’s in your child’s best interests to move to another school, it’s always preferable to come to an agreement with the other parent.

If you’re worried that no matter what the reason, your former spouse will simply not agree to a change, it’s best to talk with your family law attorney who can advise you of your options and help facilitate an arrangement that everyone can agree on.

low-cost-divorce

I Can’t Afford a Legal Retainer, Can I Still Get Divorced?

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Many people going through a divorce feel helpless, their first instinct is to reach out to an attorney. Family Law attorneys however, can be expensive and not everyone can afford to hire a divorce attorney.

San Diego has plenty of resources at everyone’s disposal to help in these instances.

Low or No Cost Divorce Options

All of the courthouses in San Diego have Family Law Facilitators. They cannot give you legal advice, but they will walk you through filing all of the paperwork you need, based on your situation. They provide assistance on a first come, first served basis, so it’s always beneficial to get there early.  

If you are looking for an attorney but cannot afford the sometimes $5,000+ for a retainer, there are attorneys who work on a volunteer basis. You can find those individuals here.

There are also pro bono attorneys, who work for no cost, in addition to legal aid. Both of these resources will have attorneys who can assist you, if you cannot afford one.

The Modest Means Program is designed to assist clients who are having a family law dispute and are able to pay for legal services but have limited financial resources available.

If none of these programs interest you or are the right fit, the San Diego court website has a full list of resources to assist in your Family Law matter.

 

social-media

Can Social Media Prove an Unfit Parent?

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Beware of what you post on social media during divorce and child custody proceedings. That may sound like a dire warning, but as reported by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 75% of family law attorneys are using social media evidence in divorce and child custody cases. That means if one or both parents fail to exercise restraint when posting on their Facebook page, Twitter feed, or any other online social media platforms, it could be used against them in a child custody matter. Just one wrong post can cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Social Media is Not the Problem

It’s not uncommon for a parent’s fitness to raise a child to be called into question during a custody dispute. Social media has added fuel to the fire for proving unfitness, but social media itself is not the problem.

It’s the behaviors and comments of the poster that can influence the court. Even seemingly innocent posts can be misinterpreted or misrepresented to paint a parent in an unflattering light. Long gone are the days of charts, letters, and documents being the sole source of evidence. Today’s courts also accept text messages, emails, and screen shots of social media content in child support and custody dispute hearings.

Family Court and Social Media

In many cases, the information obtained from social media accounts is not as inflammatory as one parent may think. But posts about spending habits, irresponsible behavior, and personal relationships can be used to call into question a parent’s character. California family law courts focus on what is best for a child. They look to establish whether the child is safe, and if a parent’s lifestyle is in any way negatively affecting the child’s well-being. Posts about excessive partying or illegal activity (such as drug use) will most certainly be taken seriously by the court. Even what friends post about the other parent could be used as evidence.

What Can I Use Against My Spouse?

It’s a good idea to check your spouse’s profiles during a child custody dispute. If you believe your spouse is posting things that could have a negative effect on – or be downright harmful to – your child, take a screen shot of the content and share it with your family law attorney. Don’t stalk your former partner on social media; monitor him or her without obsessing.

Things that might be considered by the court include:

  • Tweets or Facebook posts about a wild night out on the town when the parent is supposed to be home caring for your child.
  • Posts that cast you and/or your parenting skills in a negative light.
  • Posts that could be construed as harassment or threats.
  • Posts about any litigation, the custody proceedings, or the judge.

Be Social Media Savvy Yourself

Many people have a false sense of anonymity when they’re surfing and posting on the net. But rest assured, if you’re checking out your former spouse on social media, they’re also looking at your accounts and printing out posts for their attorney. Be careful about what you post and take the time to think about whether it could come back to haunt or harm you. When in doubt, don’t post at all. It will help you avoid additional emotional turmoil during your child custody dispute.

social-media

FAQ: How Does Social Media Affect My Divorce

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social media accounts offer others a fun and interesting window into your world. But if you’re going through a divorce, social media posts can have serious implications and consequences, doing more harm than good. They can adversely affect a wide range of issues: custody disputes, division of property, and spousal or child support decisions. Suddenly, what was once an enjoyable way to pass the time becomes a challenge to be overcome in court.

Social Media’s Impact on Divorce Issues

Keeping secrets in the information age is no easy task. California law allows for the discovery of information that is “not privileged” and is “reasonably calculated” to lead to discoverable evidence. What that means is that, even if you have restricted the privacy settings on your social media accounts, the court may still allow certain posts to be used for or against you. Here’s how you can be affected:

  • Child Custody and Support Proceedings. If your divorce involves issues of child custody and support, you should take extreme care in what you post. Even if they are otherwise innocent, posts referencing alcohol or drug use, brand new cars or homes, trips, dating stories, and new relationships can all affect custodial and support awards. Think twice or thrice before you post to a social media site. If there’s a chance a post could have a negative impact, it’s probably best to not post.
  • Divorce Proceedings. More than 80% of divorce attorneys nationwide have used social media as a valuable tool for collecting evidence to present to the court. And as long as requests can be argued to appear reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, courts have allowed them. What can you do? Act as if every social media post – or any other electronic communication like email – can and will be used against you in court. And keep in mind that friends you and your former spouse shared during the marriage may be alerting him or her to posts (or even private messages) you make or send.
  • Restraining and Protective Orders. If you have a restraining or protective order in place, commenting on, liking, or tagging your former spouse may be enough to violate the order. Courts are more frequently viewing social media speech the same way they do “live” conversations. Be incredibly careful in what you post.

Visitation Rights.

Social media and technology is not all bad news for your divorce. For divorced parents living a distance from each other, it can allow children to engage in ordered visitation schedules. Webcams and video chats allow for virtual visits and some states have passed specific laws that allow electronic communication to supplement face-to-face visitations.

Learn More

Many spouses going through a divorce freely text, email and update their status without considering the strategic risks and dangers that come along with these types of electronic communications. Before you post your next social media update or hit that send button, stop and think about the effect it might have on your divorce proceedings. An experienced California family law attorney can explain more about the implications of using social media during your divorce. While it may be an important part of your life, you may ultimately decide it’s best to stay off social media while your case is pending.

alimony

FAQ: Are There Ways To Reduce Alimony?

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California family law courts order spousal support to ensure that the standard of living experienced during the marriage is maintained to a reasonable extent after the divorce. Regardless of what you may have heard, that doesn’t mean that spousal support is fixed for life. In fact, California law does not favor indefinite spousal support, or alimony. If you or your spouse were awarded spousal support in your divorce, it is possible to have that support reduced.

Ways to Reduce Spousal Support After Divorce

Unless the conditions under which spousal support can be reduced or terminated are specifically addressed in your divorce agreement or court order, the paying spouse can request the court to order a reduction. There are three main steps in determining whether you’re entitled to a reduction.

1. Analyze the Spousal Support Order. There are no shortcuts to winning a spousal support reduction, and it isn’t enough to ask the court for one because you think it’s called for. Make sure you fully understand what the original order calls for. Check what, if any, provisions for modification or non-modifiability are outlined in it.

2. Analyze Your Former Spouse’s Change of Circumstances. One of the top reasons for a reduction in spousal support is the changing circumstances of one or both parties. What does that mean? Simply put, it’s the reason you believe a reduction is justified. Common changes in circumstances include:

• The paying spouse’s income has decreased since the spousal support was ordered.

• The receiving spouse’s income has significantly increased since support was ordered.

• The receiving spouse is now living with another partner. Sharing a home with a roommate, no matter what gender, does not qualify.

3. Prove Your Claim Through Evidence. Once you understand your original spousal support order, and you’ve identified any changing circumstances, you’ll need to produce evidence to the court that backs up your request for reduction. This can be in the form of financial documents, written declarations, oral testimony, or a combination of all three.

What the Court Considers

The court contemplates several factors when deciding whether a reduction is justified. Illness, unemployment, and remarriage are all causes for consideration. So, too, are a party’s age and physical and emotional condition. Keep in mind that the courts do not look kindly on those who voluntarily leave a job or seek a lower paying one simply to avoid paying the ordered support.

A reduction in spousal support can often be more difficult and complicated than obtaining the original order. That’s because in post-judgment divorce orders, the family court has certain conditions for modification and must use a complex evaluation, not a computer program, for determining if a change is warranted

An experienced California family law attorney can help you evaluate your current order and advise whether a request for reduction is proper. If you’re facing a spousal support modification request and want to oppose it, an attorney can tell you whether the request for modification is justified and help you oppose it if necessary.

dissolution

Do I Qualify For Summary Dissolution

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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.

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.