February 25, 2010

It’s Not Divorce That Harms Children

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:32 pm by demetriagraves

My focus has always been doing what is best for the youngest members of the family when helping their parents through a divorce. Earlier this year was the 40th anniversary of the no-fault divorce. This California law took effect on Jan. 1, 1970, and was followed by a wave of marital separations that continues to this day — and also a wave of rhetoric condemning divorce for harming children and undermining the fabric of society.

As divorce is clearly here to stay, I prefer to focus on how the process of dissolving a marriage can be undertaken without damaging the children. For example, in an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. I always strive toward the one thing that children of divorce need most which is peace between their parents.

It’s interesting to note, that studies conducted in the past 20 years have shown that on all meaningful measures of success — social, economic, intellectual and psychological — most adult children from divorced families are no worse off than their peers whose parents remained married.

Researchers have found two explanations for this. Children who have to cope with their parents’ separation and post-divorce lives often grow resilient, self-reliant, adaptable and independent. Plus children may benefit from escaping the high-conflict environment of a rocky marriage. After their parents’ separation, as conflicts fade, children recover.

Sustained family conflict can cause children to experience the kinds of problems that are usually attributed to divorce: low self-esteem, depression, high anxiety, difficulties forming relationships, delinquency and withdrawal from the world.

Given that reducing family conflict is good for children, the best way to protect them during divorce would be to minimize the acrimony of the proceedings. Where custody disagreements are settled by a judge’s determination of what is in “the best interests of the child.” In practical terms, this can mean that both parents do their utmost to demonstrate that they are the better parent — and that the other one is worse, unfit or even abusive.

I help my clients to understand that it is family conflict, and not divorce that harms children. I always will steer my clients toward the goal of keeping divorce proceedings as simple and conflict free as possible for all parties involved. Prolonged adversarial custody battles can be very damaging to children so my strategy is always to work toward avoiding this scenario. Indeed, most family law attorneys would agree that children are often the unintended victims in contested divorces, particularly when custody is in issue. As a result, most would agree that reducing family conflict and the acrimony of divorce would be beneficial to the children’s well-being. Having an experienced family law attorney to guide you through this process is vital to ensuring that there is minimal harm done to children during their parents divorce.

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Is Beyonce related to Nixon?

Posted in Celebrity Paternity tagged at 6:28 pm by demetriagraves

Alexsandra Wright has given birth to a baby boy on February 4th. Wright, as you may recall, is the woman who filed a paternity suit against Mathew Knowles, father of Destiny’s Child singer Beyonce Knowles. If Wright’s claims are true then Beyonce has a new half-brother named Nixon.

Wright has claimed that she had an 18 month long relationship with Mathew and Mathew has never denied this.  Wright also says that they had picked the baby’s name together.

Mathew Knowles initially conveyed that he has no knowledge of the birth of a child and that he never had a DNA test. Well, it looks like Mathew will now been having a DNA test on March 1st.

Mathew has been ordered by a judge to pay child support to Wright unless the DNA test he is scheduled to have soon proves that he’s not Nixon’s father.

A Los Angeles judge has temporarily ordered Knowles to pay the newborn’s mother, Alexsandra Wright, $8,200 a month in child support plus cover 100 percent of uninsured medical fees. Additionally, the father to both Beyonce and her younger sister Solange, must pay Wright $20,750 for the month of January, despite reportedly forking over $10,000 before the child’s birth to cover medical costs.

Although Knowles has yet to confirm the rumored relationship, he filed for divorce from his wife around the same time that stories of his infidelity hit the news circuit. No specific reason was given for the split, but the former couple publicly vowed to remain “good friends” as well as “business partners.”

We’ll be anxiously awaiting the results of the paternity test, to find out if Nixon is a half brother to Beyonce and Solange and if the temporary payments will become permanent or not.

Restore Connections with Your Kids after Divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:25 pm by demetriagraves

By definition, divorce is a time for disconnect. Many people may feel alone, rejected and insecure in the months following a divorce. Often parents are concerned that their children may also be experiencing similar feelings. Thus most parents feel that it’s important to strengthen the bond with their kids during this transitional time, regardless of whether they are living apart, or not.

Kids want to know they are still loved, valued and cared about. Show them, tell them and keep in close communication with them – during the happy times and the sad ones. They need to know they have a safe place to turn, a shoulder to cry on and a non-judgmental ear when they need it. If divorce has been tough on you – remember it may have been even tougher on them – whether they confide that to you or not.

Here are five important ways to reinforce your connection with the children you love.

1. Connect through notes:

If you’re living together, slip a note in your child’s lunch box or notebook every few days. A quick joke, cartoon, reminder about a special event ahead or just a warm “I Love You!” will let them know they’re on your mind and in your heart. If you’re not spending time together, send an email note or a quick text message to convey that you’re thinking about them.

2. Connect through idle chats:

Take advantage of idle moments here and there when you’re together with your child. Driving in the car is a great time to ask questions, share your feelings, and be empathic about their comments. When you’re helping them with homework, cooking meals together or doing other chores you can strike up a conversation as well. Just be careful not to turn these communications into lectures. You’re there to listen, understand and acknowledge. If you judge or condemn, you’ll close the door to hearing any more.

3. Connect through bedtime routine:

It’s always wise to create a before bedtime routine with your children that integrates warm connection. Spend time reading books on changing themes, talk about your own childhood memories and challenges. Find out about their day, get them to tell you what happened, describing the events of their day in detail. Bedtime routines help you both unwind and appreciate one another.

4. Connect through a new project:

After divorce many things change in a child’s life. It’s a good opportunity to create connection through new projects that take on special meaning. Whether it’s a multi-day puzzle, a plastic model you complete together, new shelves or other decorating project in their bedroom, this shared time is a wonderful time to talk, listen to music and make a stress-free connection.

5. Connect through special dates:

Every now and then create a special outing alone with just one of your children. Take them to lunch, the zoo, a big-city shopping trip, a sports game or a wonderful movie. Children cherish alone time with you and the opportunity to catch up with one another without competition from siblings. Prepare this “date” in advance so you both have something to look forward to. End the date with a token gift as a keepsake “reminder” of your time together.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reinforce your connection with your children, especially as you all transition through and after a divorce. It’s the sincerity of your effort, not the money you spend, that impacts their lives and helps them to feel safe, loved and secure despite the changes and challenges that may be created by a divorce.

Connection time will also heighten your awareness about your children’s attitudes, moods and feelings so you can address potential problems early-on. More communication, not less is always the answer. Create the time to keep connected with your kids. You won’t regret it!

February 19, 2010

‘Virtual Visitation’ In Our Brave New World

Posted in Visitation tagged at 12:05 am by demetriagraves

Welcome to the twenty first century and ‘Virtual Visitation’. This concept has been long coming for divorced and or separated parents who live far apart. Working out visitation can be frustrating, not to mention expensive, when parents are hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Many non-custodial parents can now look forward to taking advantage of virtual visitation to stay in touch with their children who are no longer residing close to them. Of course virtual visitation can’t take the place of traditional in-person visits, but it seems like the world just got flatter and parents who are living a long way away from their children can still keep in touch virtually.

Recently there have been cases of judges utilizing new laws which allow, ‘web visitation’ by way of video conferencing .This virtual visitation supplements the non-custodial parent’s “in-person” visitation rights. This allows those parents who don’t have primary custody to have the next best thing to an in-person visit when it’s not feasible to have regular in-person visits. Now that video chatting is common place and accessible in most homes, there’s no reason why these virtual visits won’t become more widespread.

New Virtual Visitation Laws are now being established across the country to facilitate the critical parent-child relationship when parents are separated. This will allow many military, incarcerated or other long distant non-custodial parents the legal right to utilize technologies such as email, telephone, internet and video conferencing to maintain contact with their children.

Most clients that I have spoken to about this idea are very excited at this prospect and many consider it to be a no-brainer. It certainly helps to lessen the blow that many non-custodial parents feel when their particular circumstances mean that they can no longer be geographically close to their children. So here’s to this type of law becoming universally adopted and more widespread across the country.

Finding the Right Family Law Attorney

Posted in Family Law tagged at 12:00 am by demetriagraves

Many people don’t know where to start when they’re looking for a family law attorney. There are even statistics to support this as some studies have shown that most people spend two hours or less gathering information and selecting their attorney. So here are some tips to help you find the right attorney.

1.  Determine the type of lawyer you need.

In most states, a licensed attorney may practice in any field of law and not long ago most lawyers were general practitioners, meaning that they handled cases in many different areas of practice. Now days most attorneys concentrate on very specific areas, such as family law, and most states have a process of specialization for attorneys.

The law has become very complicated. Some jokingly say that our laws become more complicated as a direct result of their being so many attorneys! It is more likely that as our culture got more complicated, our laws followed. Whichever, the result is that it has become necessary for lawyers to concentrate their efforts on a particular field.

2.  Utilize referral sources.

Like many areas, good old fashioned word of mouth is often the best way to find an attorney. If you know of friends or family members who have had a positive experience with an attorney, you know that you’re much more likely to.

Another way to find a lawyer that does the kind of law you need is through other lawyers. You or someone you know probably knows a lawyer they could call and ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer you ask practices criminal law and you need a family law attorney, the criminal lawyer will be able to give you some referrals in the practice area you need.

There are also referral lists maintained by most local and state bar associations. The downfall of using these services is that there is usually no screening on the qualifications of the particular lawyer with the individual need. It is then up to the consumer to inquire sufficiently into the lawyer’s experience compared to the need of the consumer.

3.  Look online to research lawyers in the area you need.

The internet is an extremely beneficial source of locating a lawyer. Many websites maintain directories of lawyers nationwide. Most law firms these days maintain websites and usually you can find those through any search engine. Often lawyers are active in professional or community organizations which may be featured on a website. It’s a good idea to review an attorney’s website. This will tell you about the person and the areas they practice so you’ll know more about them before meeting in person.

4.  Meet in person

The initial interview is extremely important. I offer a free initial consultation so that you can get all your questions answered. Take with you to the interview all of the documents and other information that relates to your problem. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer about his or her credentials and how many cases similar to yours that she has handled.

Prepare a list of questions to ask when you get there – what is the law related to your case? What are the realistic outcomes? What is the lawyer’s philosophy for handling your case? Do they recommend a fight to the end, winner take all approach or one geared more toward settlement? Consider your comfort level with the attorney and the personal compatibility. Did you get a feeling of trust from the attorney? Did the attorney seem to know what she was talking about? Did the lawyer seem confident about your case?

5.  Establish reasonable expectations.

Many people have never dealt with a lawyer before, so they don’t know what to expect. First and foremost, you should expect frank, easy to understand advice. Your lawyer should point out for you the strong and weak points of your case and give you a realistic expectation of the potential outcomes. They should keep you informed and send you copies of documents pertaining to your case. If a lawyer gives you a guaranteed result, run the other way!!! Lawyers are prohibited from guaranteeing any particular outcome, so be very leery if this happens. Don’t expect your lawyer to act as a psychologist, financial advisor, tax planner, or to give any other advice outside of her expertise. If you need advice in other areas, consult a professional in that area.

6. When in doubt, get a second opinion.

Just as in the field of medicine, you might get three different answers from three attorneys. If you are left with a feeling of uncertainty after discussing your problem with one attorney, please do see a second.

To wrap this up I do hope that if you need a family law specialist you will come to me first. I’ll meet with you personally, answer your questions, suggest things for you to consider that you may not have thought of and give you a clear and easy to understand evaluation of the probable outcome of your issue.

February 18, 2010

Flavor Flav Support Payment Mysteries

Posted in Child Support tagged at 11:56 pm by demetriagraves

Rap veteran FLAVOR FLAV has played down reports he owes his ex-girlfriend more than $63,000 in child support payments, insisting he’s been making frequent contributions to pay for their kids’ education. That’s not so mysterious, but wait…

Angie Parker, who is the mother of three of Flav’s seven children, won a court judgment recently to increase the Public Enemy star’s monthly payments from $117 to $837.72. Mystery number one: How he ever managed to get away with paying only $117 per month when he has been a star for longer than some of his seven kids have been alive?

Another mystery is how Flavor managed to accrue $63,000 in back payments when his monthly payments have been so low?

The  recent ruling was made to include their third kid, who was born years after their original child support agreement in 1996.  Now think about that one! Angie divorces Flav, is getting support for years and THEN has another child with him??

The new deal, which is expected to cover the youngsters’ tuition at a private school, was retroactive to 2008, when Parker filed the appeal for an increase.

This is not the first time Flav has been accused of failing to adequately support his children; his daughter made similar claims in January, 2009, and another woman with whom he has three kids, Karen Ross-Fortunate, has also made similar allegations.

But the hip-hop star, real name William Drayton, Jr., is adamant he’s not turned his back on his ex and is dealing with his financial commitments. He’s claiming that he has made many payments to Parker outside of the court order. He wants to make it clear that he hasn’t been neglecting his children.

The child support debt isn’t Flav’s only money problem – the 50 year old was recently reported to owe more than $183,000 in unpaid taxes. Given the complicated financial structure of the music business, that isn’t very mysterious at all.

February 8, 2010

Which Comes First – Bankruptcy or Divorce?

Posted in Bankruptcy, Divorce tagged , at 7:24 pm by demetriagraves

Like the long-standing chicken and egg story of which came fist? Bankruptcy and divorce have been viewed in a similar way. It’s a well known fact that financial difficulties often lead to marital problems and ultimately divorce. Then conversely, there’s the cliché of a long and highly contested divorce ending up with bankruptcy as part of the picture. Of course, ideally one should seek some legal advice to prevent a messy divorce which may result in bankruptcy. So this raises some important questions that I’d like to address on the subject of bankruptcy and divorce.

I’m often asked by clients in financial trouble who are contemplating divorce, if they should file bankruptcy first, or wait until the divorce is filed or concluded? This is a good question and there’s no standard black or white decision on this, rather there are many shades of gray. The answer depends entirely on where you live and what issues need to be resolved in the divorce. I offer a free confidential initial consultation where I can go over all your options and work out the best course of action for your individual circumstances. Though here are some general guidelines on this subject.

A married couple, even if they aren’t living together, can file for bankruptcy together.  After the divorce, they can no longer file together, so two cases might need to be filed. Thus, you can save a filing fee if you file before the divorce.  A Chapter 13 filing is where debtors who earn a regular income can develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. But, and this is a big but, you can’t expect to maintain a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you are divorced and you should be aware of a number of issues that could adversely affect one of the spouses in a bankruptcy.  So, it’s best to talk to a competent attorney and be completely honest about the domestic situation before filing.  Plus you may find that the attorney, upon learning that a divorce is imminent, won’t represent both of you, because of the potential conflict of interest.

Additionally, if you are still living together, even if the divorce is imminent, the income of both spouses, at least to some extent, will need to be included in the calculation of the means test to determine if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a viable alternative. Chapter 7 filings involve having the bankruptcy trustee gather and sell the debtor’s nonexempt assets in order to cover debts owed to creditors. So, if the combined income is too much, it might be better to wait until you have separated before filing bankruptcy.

Generally, there are three things that get sorted out in a divorce: property division; child custody; and spousal and child support.  (Spousal support is also called “alimony.”)  The automatic stay in bankruptcy will stop any property division but won’t stop the determination of child custody or the payment of child or spousal support.  Thus, if you file for bankruptcy before the property is fully divided up, that process will go on hold for a while.  Since the determination of property rights includes the payment of debts, the bankruptcy will often help resolve some of those issues.

If your marriage is breaking up and you’re thinking of divorce, cleaning up your debts will help you get a true fresh start. I’m here to give you the right advice and to help make sure that your start off on the right foot and you’re moving forward in the right direction.

February 7, 2010

German ordered to repay house deposit to his in-laws after divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 9:26 pm by demetriagraves

If you’re going through a divorce in Germany, it’s not only a greedy ex that you have to contend with, now the in-laws may be after your money as well.

Judges in Berlin recently ordered a man who kept the family home after a divorce to pay back a gift of €29,000, that’s almost $40,000 from his in-laws that had helped the couple buy the house.

The ruling by the Federal Court of Justice has been interpreted as a landmark judgment which could allow in-laws to reclaim presents given to their child’s spouse if the marriage breaks down. I’m not sure what this ultimately means for cases in the U.S. but the decision certainly raises some interesting questions about what is gift and who owns the marital assets. Hey, what’s next? Will we see all the wedding guests starting to demand their wedding gifts back after divorce?

In this case the Berlin Judges said that the “contractual basis” of such presents depended on the in-laws’ child being able to enjoy the fruits of the gift. That basis no longer applied after a divorce.

“If the child benefits from the gift for a long period of time (for example if the couple lives together in a house donated by the in-laws), then only a part of the gift must be paid back,” the judges said in their ruling.

“If the parents want to avoid this and make sure that only their own child benefits from the gift, then they should offer it only to that child,” the court added.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of this type of case, especially in this day and age where many couples are relying on financial help from family to purchase their first home. Even with prenuptial agreements becoming more common, parents who offer this financial support to their married children, may wonder what will happen to the gift in the unhappy event of a divorce. So this increase in prenups may be driven by parents who are concerned that, if the marriage breaks down, they won’t be able to prevent any money or property that they gifted to their children from passing out of their child’s hands.

If you are given an asset in marriage then the court has to decide whether or not to disregard it or take it into account during a divorce settlement. In most cases they will not be able to disregard it, unless it is protected by a prenup, which might not hold up anyway, or it is put in some sort of trust which can be expensive and tax-complicated.

Interpretation of the law here means that once an asset is paid over it is assumed to be a gift, unless you can prove that it is not, in which case it would fall into the pot and it is up the court to decide how to deal with it.

Thinking About Divorce?

Posted in Divorce tagged at 9:23 pm by demetriagraves

Divorce is a serious matter that affects you emotionally and psychologically, but at the same time, it makes things easier for both husband and wife to break their union and go on with their separate lives. Many of my clients end up making the decision, that going through a divorce is ultimately less painful than remaining in an unhappy and destructive marriage. Why continue to lead miserable lives making each other unhappy? It is a fact that not all married couples end up being together for the rest of their lives. But of course, there are couples who are blessed with happy and content married lives. If you think your marriage is not going anywhere, and you have used all possible options to save it, why not consider divorce?

Divorce is the best solution to solve your marital issues legally. To some people, divorce may sound traumatic especially if there are children involved. My objective in working with divorcing couples, is always to consider the best interests of the children and make this as smooth and pain-free as possible. Looking at divorce in an objective way, it is actually a process of dissolving the marriage yet maintaining the respect between husband and wife. It is also a more acceptable and logical approach to settle other concerns such as child custody, spousal support, distribution of debts and properties. Divorce is a stressful process to withstand, and going through the whole process is even worse. If you are thinking of having a divorce, please get the help of an experienced family law attorney. Divorce lawyers will be there to represent you properly to the court. Also, having legal assistance will lessen your tension in enduring all the legal processes that you have to go through. Getting professional and credible divorce attorneys is important for a speedy and fair settlement.

Are you reluctant to hire a professional family law attorney because you’re concerned that it would cost a fortune? Think about how much you could stand to lose if the divorce doesn’t turn out the way you were expecting. Many people are surprised to discover that going through the whole process of divorce without legal assistance can result in a much  greater cost, such as loss of child custody, spousal support and unfair distribution of properties and debts. The chance of finding yourself on the losing end is high if you are not properly represented in the court. You don’t have to be intimidated by the fees of divorce lawyers. I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can freely discuss your options and I’ll fully explain any concerns that you may have in regard to cost. All you need to do is set an appointment. It’s possible to get much more in the settlement through the help of family law attorney, which is worth more than the cost charged. There are more important things to ponder on than just exhaust your time and energy thinking about the arduous process of divorce. Get the help of the experts and leave your worries behind.

Here’s the two most important points that I tell my clients to consider when going through a divorce:

Dividing the marital assets can be the hardest part of any divorce—keep emotions and spite out of this. If you want to get to survive this divorce with all of your fingers, toes and a fair share of the assets then heed my advice. The calmer you approach this, the better off all involved parties will be.

As I mentioned earlier, children always come first. If you have children, it is important to think about them first.  Yes – the divorce is most likely all about you, but you still need to think as a parent. If you are the non-custodial parent, you need to make sure that your “ex” has everything necessary to care for your children comfortably. I know it’s tempting to want to take everything, but you probably don’t want your children sleeping on the floor or drinking out of paper cups, right? I work with my clients to maintain a fair and balanced approach, ensuring that the kids are fully taken care of as a first priority.

February 1, 2010

Loan Modifications are Increasing Canceled Foreclosures

Posted in Forclosure, Loan Modification tagged , at 1:39 am by demetriagraves

I’ve recently come across some information that suggests that Loan Modifications are starting to reduce the number of homes that end up in foreclosure. The amount of California foreclosure cancellations increased 26.5% in December to 13,243, primarily because of loan modifications.  Plus, for the first time the number of canceled foreclosures in California overtook foreclosures reaching real-estate owned (REO) status.

In December 2009, the amount of foreclosures heading back to the banks, REO, dropped 11.9% from the previous month to 12,437. It looks like significant declines in foreclosure discounts by lenders drove the decrease in sales to third parties. Lenders discounted the opening bid on foreclosure auctions on the courthouse steps by nearly 40% for most of 2009, but in December lenders offered only 33.7% discounts.

Given the amount of pressure servicers face to complete more modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), it should follow that more homeowners should be able to stay in their homes.

Under HAMP, the US Treasury Department provides capped incentives to servicers for the modification of loans on the verge of foreclosure. According to the latest report from the Treasury, there were 30,000 permanent modifications up to November 09. Previously many banks had been focusing on collecting documents. It seems that now more lenders are converting more loan modification trails into permanent modifications.

The timing of the increase California foreclosure cancellations, may be related to a required one-year delay before a foreclosure sale.

These numbers may not mean much to someone who is having difficulty keeping up with their mortgage. The main thing that I would like to emphasize is that there is help available and if you find yourself in a difficult circumstance with your mortgage, please seek some advice, sooner rather than later. There are many options available to you and it looks like many California Homeowners who have been on the verge of foreclosure have been able to take advantage of some of the programs available that can help to keep you in you home.

If you have further questions or would like some advice in this area, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can find out what you need to know and what your options are. There are many choices available, let me help you work out which option is best for you.

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