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Areas of Practice
Unlike a Divorce, a Legal Separation does not terminate a marriage or domestic partnership and therefore you are not able to marry or enter into another partnership with another person. An individual may decide to file for a legal separation instead of a divorce for several reasons. These may include religious reasons or personal beliefs, because they do not meet the residency requirements to file for divorce, for financial reasons such as to keep health insurance or other benefits that require a couple to remain married, to shield themselves from their spouse’s debts, or to simply give the couple some distance from each other to consider a divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to proceed and address issues such as child custody and child visitation, child support, spousal or partner support, and property division.
A divorce (also referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” or “dissolution of domestic partnership”) ends your marriage or domestic partnership. California is a “no-fault” divorce state and therefore you only need to tell the Court that you have “irreconcilable differences.” The Court’s role related to Divorce is to assist the parties with regard to child custody and visitation, child support, spousal or partner support, property division, and division of community debts.
The mandatory waiting period required by California law for a divorce is 6 months from the date the person who filed for a divorce officially notifies their spouse or domestic partner. Divorces can, however, take significantly longer depending upon the issues involved and the level of cooperation between the parties.
Child support is the term used to describe the payments made by one or both parents to help pay for the day-to-day care and expense of a child. Child support is typically paid until the child reaches the age of 18, unless the child is unmarried and still enrolled in high school full time (in which case support typically continues until the age of 19 or until high school graduation, whichever comes first). Parents do not have to pay child support for emancipated minors. Child Support may be ordered for a disabled child after the age of 18.
California has established a formula to calculate child support based upon each parent’s income, amount of time each parent spends with the child, and each parent’s available tax deductions. However, there are situations where this formula does not apply.
Child Custody and visitation
Determining who has custody of minor children (under age 18) and developing a parenting (visitation) plan are often the most difficult and emotionally charged issues addressed by couples when they divorce or separate. In situations involving custody and visitation, the Court’s first priority is the best interest of the child. We assist our clients through complex legal processes including requesting or responding to a request for custody and a parenting plan, changing an existing order for custody or a parenting plan, enforcing an order for custody or visitation, custody mediation, supervised visitation, custody and domestic violence, and visitation rights of non-parents (grandparents, stepparents, foster parents).
spousal or partner support
When a couple becomes legally separated or divorced, the Court may order, or the couple may agree, for one spouse or partner to pay the other spouse or partner a specified amount of money each month. This is referred to as “spousal support” if the couple was married and “partner support” in domestic partnerships.
Many factors are considered by the Court in determining spousal/partner support, including, but not limited to, each spouse’s/partner’s earning capacity and standard of living during the marriage or partnership, the length of the marriage or partnership, and whether there was domestic violence committed by the spouse or partner that would be paying or receiving the support.
Paternity concerns the legal relationship of the father of a child and involves determining whether a man is the biological father of a child. In California, there is a legal presumption that the child of a married couple is their child. However, the name of the parents on the birth certificate does not assure that those named on the birth certificate are the legal parents.
division of community debts
Under California family law, just as assets generally belong equally to the spouses, so do the debts. The community estate is liable for debt incurred by either spouse before or during marriage, regardless of which spouse has the management and control of the property and regardless of whether one or both spouses are parties to the debt or to a judgment for the debt.
Under California family law, real estate and personal property acquired by a married person during marriage while living in California, as well as money earned by each spouse during marriage, is community property and is jointly and equally owned by both spouses. Property acquired by a spouse prior to marriage, or during marriage by inheritance or gift, and property acquired after the spouses have separated are that spouse’s separate property. However, there are exceptions that could have a significant impact on how property is divided. In addition, retirement assets may take various forms and are therefore subject to specific rules of division that apply to the specific asset. We help our clients to understand complex property division issues and help them negotiate and litigate the settlement of property division issues.
Unlike a divorce, an annulment does not terminate the marriage. Instead, it is a determination by the Court that the marriage or domestic partnership never happened since it was never legal. The Court may determine a marriage to be legally invalid if it is a marriage between close blood relatives or if it is a bigamous marriage. The Court may determine a marriage or domestic partnership to be declared “void” if one of the individuals was under 18 years old at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership, the marriage or domestic partnership was induced by force or fraud, one of the individuals was physical or mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership, or one of the individuals mistakenly believed they were not married because their former spouse or domestic partner was absent for 5 years or more and was believed to be dead.
California law defines domestic violence as abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship with each other. An “intimate relationship” is one in which the individuals are married or registered domestic partners, divorced or separated, dating or used to date, living together or used to live together (more than roommates), parents of a child together, or closely related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, in-law). Domestic violence law states that “abuse” includes the following:
- Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly (kicking, shoving, pushing, pulling hair, etc.)
- Sexual assault
- Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Disturbing someone's peace
- Destroying someone's personal property
- Physical abuse of family pets.
Individuals injured on the job often find that their claims are denied by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. As a result, these individuals often go without medical treatment or financial compensation. Insurance companies frequently deny coverage of work injuries, claiming that the injured worker had a pre-existing injury or condition, that the individual was not injured on the job, that a healthcare provider determined that the individual was not disabled as a result of a work injury, etc. If you receive notice from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company that your claim has been denied, we can help you challenge their decision and fight to get your claim accepted. However, it is important to act quickly to protect your rights.
Filing a claim
Employers are required by California state law to file a claim with their insurance provider within 24 hours of a workplace injury. The failure of an employer to file a timely claim may be an indication that the employer or their insurance carrier is unwilling to pay injured workers the benefits they are due or provide the medical care for which the injured workers are entitled. If you are injured on the job, time is of the essence. It is important to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected.
what an injured worker may be entitled to
If you are injured on the job, you may be eligible to receive:
- Current and ongoing medical care
- Disability payments
- Assistance with vocational retraining
- Cash settlement
- Life pension
types of injuries
We assist individuals who have sustained many types of work injuries including:
- Back and neck injuries
- Shoulder and elbow injuries
- Knee injuries
- Foot and ankle injuries
- Carpel tunnel and other hand and wrist injuries
- Head and brain injuries
- Hearing loss
- Stress claims
- Many other injuries
- Free initial consultation
- No recovery, no fee to you
- Attorney fees are 15% of your final settlement
last will and testament
A Will is a legally binding document which states the wishes of an individual after they pass away with regard to what happens to their estate and assets and who will become the guardian of any under aged children. It is often created in conjunction with a Revocable Living Trust.
revocable living trust
A revocable living trust is an integral part of most estate plans and is often developed in conjunction with a Last Will and Testament. Transferring the title of assets to a trust allows for your designated successor trustee to take the necessary steps after your death to honor your wishes while allowing your loved ones to avoid the complex, time-consuming and expensive probate process and to maintain privacy. Furthermore, if you become incapacitated, your designated successor trustee is able to step in on your behalf, eliminating the need for conservatorship proceedings.
power of attorney (health care proxy)
A power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, is a legal document in which a person specifies and authorizes another person to make decisions on their behalf if they should become incapacitated. This is often developed in conjunction with an advanced healthcare directive.
advanced healthcare directive (living will)
An advanced healthcare directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions they wish to have taken with regard to their health should they become unable to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. An advanced healthcare directive is often developed in conjunction with another form of advance directive known as a power of attorney (health care proxy).
Trust Administration and Probate Law
Unfortunately, the rights of beneficiaries during the probate of an estate or trust administration may occasionally be violated. Sometimes an executor or trustee will breach their fiduciary duty by self-dealing, commingling estate or trust assets, failing to provide a full accounting of the assets, failing to preserve the assets of the estate or trust, failing to remaining impartial as to how they treat beneficiaries, or failing to property distribute assets in accordance with the terms of the Last Will and Testament or revocable living trust. When this happens, the estate or trust beneficiaries often require legal assistance to enforce their rights.
Like probate, the goal of trust administration is typically to transfer property from an individual who has passed away to that individual’s beneficiaries who are identified in a revocable living trust. Unlike probate, trust administration is typically not a court-supervised process, and is more private and typically significantly less costly to the estate. Even though the administration of a trust is typically not court-supervised, trustees have a legal fiduciary duty to properly administer the trust, and failure to fully comply with the law could result in legal and financial risk to the trustee.
If you have a loved one who has not completed sufficient estate planning, and who is now no longer able to care for themselves or to look after their finances, then you may need to establish a conservatorship. We assist our clients with this sensitive and complex process.
Many California children are legally cared for by guardians instead of parents, domestic partners or stepparents. Becoming a guardian means that you are responsible for providing adequate care and nurturing of the child in a positive environment. The Court will investigate your background to verify that there are no detrimental factors such as drug use or violence that could cause harm to the child. We help our clients through the complex process of becoming the legal guardian of a child or objecting to a legal guardianship.
Other Civil Matters
real estate law
We assist our clients with matters involving the acquisition or sale of real property, drafting and review of leases, unlawful detainers, easements, and other real property disputes.
We assist our clients with business, corporate, limited liability company and partnership matters including the purchase and sale of existing businesses, drafting of contracts, litigation regarding breach of contract, formation of business entities, and other litigation regarding business matters.