A Worst Case Scenario for a Child Custody Case

In Family Law, child custody matters can be the most difficult emotionally, and unfortunately, some parents will go to great lengths to cut the other parent out of the child’s life.

A recent story in the Los Angeles Times ( part 1 is here, and part 2 is here) describes the story of Louis Gonzalez III of Nevada, who shared custody of a son with his ex-girlfriend Tracy West. Mr. Gonzalez was accused of violently and brutally assaulting Ms. West prior to one of the custody exchanges, and was put in jail. While at first all the evidence seemed to indicate he was the attacker, doubts grew and he was eventually completely exonerated of involvement, but not after he spent considerable time in jail and away from his family and son.

The twist in the story is that Ms. West may have fabricated the whole situation, just to leverage the custody case. Unfortunately for her, she lost primary custody of her son, and Mr. Gonzalez ended up with custody of the boy. A happy ending for the father, but a possible complete backfire for mother going to extremes to separate a parent and child.

A lot of people know that domestic violence, even when not directed at the children involved, can affect and limit custody and visitation with minor children in a divorce or paternity case. And while there are a lot of valid domestic violence claims, there are also people willing to make false or misleading accusations to try and get an upper hand in a custody dispute. It can create a drawn out and messy dispute, that does little to advance the best interest of the children.

And the lesson to learn from Louis Gonzalez case is for a parent who is falsely accused to not give up hope, that with patience and time the truth can come to light and they can be exonerated, and for a parent who would make a false accusation, a warning that you may end up in the exact position you want to put the other parent in.

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McCourts reach possible settlement in ongoing Divorce

In the ongoing divorce of the McCourts played out in Los Angeles Superior Court, and involving the fate of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, a possible settlement has been reached over ownership of the baseball team, as reported by the LA Times. The settlement depends on a Fox television contract being finalized, and also a one day trial for the Judge to decide if the Dodgers are a community asset that would be split 50/50.

If the Dodgers are determined to be community property, then the team would probably be sold, but even if the Judge rules that the team is Frank McCourt’s own property, the settlement agreement would still give his wife $100 million as reported by the Times. Not too shabby.

As I have previously posted, this whole affair would have been avoided if a valid marital agreement had been put in place, instead of the apparently rushed agreement that was found to unenforceable last year. Lesson learned? If you don’t want to share it in California, then take the time and spend the money to make sure you have a valid pre-marital or marital agreement.


UPDATE: Bud Selig killed the television deal part of the settlement, so the battle continues.

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Summary Dissolution: The Simplified Way to Getting Divorced in California

If you qualify, there is a simplified and more cost-efficient way to get divorced in California that a standard divorce petition. It is called Summary Dissolution of your marriage, and while it will not expedite your divorce action (you still have to wait the required six months in California no matter what type of divorce you are seeking), it requires less paperwork and only one filing fee since both spouses file jointly on the same petition.

However, the qualifications for a summary dissolution are pretty narrow. If you don’t qualify on all of them, then you need to file a regular divorce petition. The requirements are laid out in detail in California Family Code section 2400, but the basic requirements are:

1. The marriage has to have been for less than five years. Once you celebrate your fifth year anniversary, then you cannot file for a summary dissolution.

2. No minor children of the parties, including that the wife cannot be expecting. If you have minor children, than you don’t qualify and must file a regular divorce petition.

3. Neither party has any interest in any real estate anywhere. If either of you owns or has an interest in any real property, than you cannot file a summary dissolution.

4. The debt from the marriage (with an exception for an automobile debt) cannot be more than $6,000.00. This is adjusted for inflation over time.

5. The value of community property assets (assets acquired during the marriage), not including automobiles, cannot exceed $38,000.00.

6. The value of each individual spouse’s separate property assets, not including automobiles, cannot exceed $38,000.00.

7. Both spouses agree to forever waive any right to spousal support (alimony) from the other spouse.

If you qualify on all of the above requirements, than you can choose to have your matter proceed as a summary dissolution. The process requires a joint petition for divorce be filed, that both spouses sign together. Before filing the petition, the spouses are required to have exchanged financial information with each, and read a required booklet on summary dissolution. Then you must wait the six months cooling off period required under California family law, and after that you file you Judgment forms and your divorce will be finalized and mailed out to you.

The most important caveat to remember is that a summary dissolution requires that both parties agree to proceed this way. At anytime prior to the Judgment being entered into, either spouse can change their mind and file a revocation of the summary dissolution petition. If that happens, then the divorce can no longer proceed as a summary dissolution, and you must go through the regular divorce process. But if you both agree, a summary dissolution can be a simpler and easier way to get a divorce in California.

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Marital Agreements and the McCourt Dodger Ownership Battle

In the highly publicized divorce case affecting ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a Judge in Los Angeles ruled that the Marital Agreement between the McCourts was invalid. The agreement purported to give Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. The ownership of the Dodgers will now be decided under California’s community law statutes, which presumes that property acquired during the marriage is community property and equally shared by the parties.

This case is a good example of the importance of taking time when drafting marital agreements, and making sure both parties have every opportunity to seek legal counsel to advise them regarding the agreement. While marital agreements between spouses during marriage can be held valid, a judge will usually be very carefully in analyzing and upholding the agreement has valid, and if, as in this case, it appears that proper procedures weren’t followed or one party was not fully informed of his/her rights, then the agreement won’t be enforced.

If you are considering entering into a marital agreement, be sure to consult with a family law attorney about your rights and the enforceability of the agreement.

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Five Things to Remember When Getting a Divorce in California

There is no quick and easy way to getting a divorce, and depending on the circumstances of your specific case, it could be one of the worst experiences of your life. If you’re going to file for Divorce in California, here are five things to keep in mind while going through the process of dissolving your marriage.

1. Be Patient. California has a minimum time period to get a divorce, a “cooling off” period to make sure you really can’t work things out, so don’t expect to be able to get a quick divorce in California. The law requires at least six months to have passed before a divorce can be granted by a judge, so even the simplest, most straightforward matter is going to take some time. And if child custody and property are involved, a divorce can last much, much longer.

2. Community Property. In California, all assets acquired during your marriage are called community property. Community property means that both spouses have an equal, one half share in all assets and property from the marriage. Even if the house or bank accounts are only in the name of one spouse, it doesn’t matter, each spouse will have a one half interest in that property. On the flip side, all debt, generally speaking, acquired during the marriage is also split in half.

3. Alimony. If you make more money than your spouse, you will likely end up paying him or her spousal support. That’s true whether you are a man or woman, so a wife could end up paying her husband spousal support if she has a higher income than him. Welcome to equality! However, keep in mind that California courts also will look at not just actual income of the spouses, but also income potential. Income potential considers what a person should be making, or what they previously have made,  with the capabilities they have.

4. Child Custody. If you have kids, determining custody and visitation of the children can be the nastiest part of a divorce in California. The court prefers that both parents work out custody and visitation issues, and will normally require you to go to mediation before a judge will make an order regarding child custody. A custody dispute can also be very expensive. And remember, the court views it from what is best for the child, not who is the most deserving parent. It’s far better for the children involved to have the parents work out an agreement than to have a court order custody and visitation.

5. Be Sure You Want To Get Divorced. Divorce can be very expensive, very emotional, and can take a lot of your time. Assess your situation, and make sure this is the decision you want to proceed with. Of course, if your spouse wants a divorce, then you have no choice. California is a no fault state, meaning that only one spouse must want the divorce for the court to grant it.

If you do decide to proceed with a divorce, or have to respond to a petition for dissolution filed by your spouse, find an attorney that you feel comfortable with who can help you through the legal process. A good attorney is not only one who understands the law but also can help you understand what is happening in your divorce case. If you would like more information or have any questions about getting a divorce in California, please call a family law attorney at the MacLean Chung Law Firm, 818.305.6200, or visit our website at www.macleanchung.com.

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Welcome to our Family Law Blog!

Welcome to our blog! The family law attorneys at MacLean Chung Law Firm present this blog for information on current issues and law affecting family law in the Los Angeles area and throughout the state of California. Family law includes the areas of divorce, child custody, child and spousal support, paternity or parentage, and adoptions. We hope you enjoy our blog, and for more information on our law firm, visit our website at http://www.macleanchung.com/. Thank you!

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