May 28, 2010

Even Our Presidents Have Gone Through Bankruptcy

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 10:55 am by demetriagraves

It’s interesting to discover that with a quick study of history, it seems that even our past Presidents haven’t been immune from difficult financial circumstances, even bankruptcy. It can be reassuring to know that you’re not alone if you are going through financial hardship, or perhaps even bankruptcy. As a family law attorney I help many people through their financial struggles, including bankruptcy. So I thought it would be interesting to look at bankruptcy from a historical perspective and it seems that even our Presidents have had to deal with bankruptcies and various forms of insolvency in the past.

Most of the past Presidents’ troubles came from real estate speculation, poor crop yields on the lands that they held, plus botched and frequently highly risky business deals.

When reviewing the finances of all 43 presidents, it’s interesting to note that eight became insolvent at one time or another during their adult lifetimes. Jefferson had a passion for expensive homes, land, and personal property. Madison was a poor judge of real estate values and gambled that his plantations would produce abundant crop production. William Henry Harrison had bad luck with the weather which destroyed his wheat and corn.

By the middle of the 19th century, land ownership went from being common to unusual. Lincoln lost everything when the general store he owned with a partner failed. An associate of Grant’s son ran through the former Union general’s entire fortune. The depression of 1893 ruined the value of McKinley’s investment in a tin plate company. Truman lost the clothing store that he owned with a partner. Most presidents were honorable and paid off their debts to the extent that they were capable of doing.

It appears that the nation’s chief executives were men of their times, at least financially. What is striking is the extent to which many were gamblers. Some, like Hoover, bet and won. He became wealthy in the mining business. LBJ made money as a cattle rancher, a risky business depending on the national appetite for beef and, to some extent the weather.
It could be argued that men who are willing to lead the nation into war, annex millions of square miles of territory or drop the atomic bomb to end a war were by their nature risk takers.  Whether that is a better trait for managing personal wealth or the nation’s fortunes is for history to decide.
Below is a light-hearted review of the poorest past American Presidents and their bad luck:
Our 3rd President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Despite an ostentatious lifestyle – or perhaps because of it – Jefferson owed money to various creditors throughout his life. He inherited debt from his father-in-law as a result of unusual estate planning and was a creditor to many unreliable debtors. His main source of income, “Monticello,” proved inadequate to cover his debts. Poor management of his estate and price fluctuations of commodities cost Jefferson dearly. Towards the end of his life, he was so severely in debt that he petitioned the state of Virginia to auction off his land; the state refused. After he died, his estate was was auctioned off, and his surviving daughter was forced to rely on charity.
Our 4th President James Madison (1809-1817): At his “Montpelier” plantation, Madison suffered similar difficulties to Jefferson. While his various agriculture businesses were occasionally profitable, in the end they lost him money. His stepson, a gambler, racked up debts. Madison absorbed these obligations and was forced to sell half of Montpelier to pay them off. Although he may have wanted to free his slaves, his financial troubles prevented him from doing so, and he was forced to sell some of them to pay off debts. Some historians suggest that he had his memoirs published posthumously in order to better provide for his family.
Our 5th President James Monroe (1817-1825): Monroe ran his plantation into the ground. At the end of his life, he petitioned Congress to relieve some of his family’s debt and was granted $30,000. It turned out to be insufficient and he was forced to sell his home in Paris and his 3,500 acre “Ash Lawn” estate. On Monroe’s misfortune, John Quincy Adams wrote “Mr. Monroe is a very remarkable instance of a man whose life has been a continued series of the most extraordinary good fortune, who has never met with any known disaster, has gone through a splendid career of public service, has received more pecuniary reward from the public than any other man since the existence of the nation, and is now dying, at the age of seventy-two, in wretchedness and beggary.”
Our 9th President William Henry Harrison (1841): While serving as the Ambassador to Colombia in 1829-1830, Harrison was forced to manage his farm from abroad. When he returned to the states, he discovered that bad weather had destroyed his crops. At the same time, his creditors were all demanding payment. On top of his own heavy obligations, his sons also owed substantial amounts. Harrison spent much of the time after his return to America trying to get his finances in order, and was forced to sell off most of his land. By the time he reached the White House, he was still reportedly in debt. His untimely death, only one month after entering office, may have been the only thing that prevented him from reaching total insolvency.
Apparently even our former Presidents have had their fair share of financial difficulties, plus it seems that the presidency has had little to do with wealth. Several former presidents brought huge amount of net worth to the job. Many lost most of their fortunes after leaving office.  Some never had any money at all. So if you are going through financial hardship and are considering bankruptcy as an option, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free confidential initial consultation, where you can get your questions answered. Don’t wait for things to escalate even further out of control. I look forward to being able to work with you and help get you back on track as soon as possible.

California Spousal Support Laws

Posted in Spousal Support tagged at 10:52 am by demetriagraves

When mentioning spousal support, it’s not uncommon to find that many people don’t really understand how it works. So here’s a brief outline explaining the basics of spousal support. California spousal support is governed by California Family Code Section 4320. California courts have discretion in granting the amount and length of time of spousal support.

There are different types of Spousal Support and these are listed below:

  • Temporary – may be available during the divorce proceedings and does not effect the amount of spousal support granted in the final disposition.
  • Short-Term – the court will determine the length of spousal support payments based on the length of marriage. If the marriage was short (less than five years), the court may grant support for a short length of time.
  • Long-Term or Permanent – marriages lasting ten years or longer are considered lengthy under California law. The court has discretion to grant long-term or permanent support in these cases. California courts do not favor granting support indefinitely.

Individuals who have been married, but are getting divorced may seek spousal support during the divorce proceedings. Spousal support can be established in a prenuptial agreement, it can be mutually agreed upon by the parties and presented to the court during discovery, or if no agreement can be reached the court will consider the facts as presented and award it based on the financial status of each of the parties and the nature of the lifestyle enjoyed by the couple during the marriage.

California courts will consider the following in determining spousal support:

  • Whether the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during marriage, taking into account:
    • Skills of the supported party; job market; time and expenses to acquire education or training to develop those skills; and need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
    • Whether the supported party’s earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties.
    • Whether the supported party contributed to an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
    • Ability to pay spousal support, taking into account earning capacity, assets, and standard of living.
    • The needs of each party based on standard of living established during marriage.
    • Obligations and assets, including separate property, of each party.
    • Duration of the marriage.
    • Ability of the supported party to work considering the interests of dependent children.
    • Age and health of the parties.
    • Evidence of any history of domestic violence.
    • Tax consequences to each party.
    • Balance of hardships to each party.
    • Any other factors the court determines to be in the interest of justice.

Once the court determines the spousal support payment schedule and amount, the only thing that will result in consideration of a modification is change of circumstances. If one or both parties to the support agreement have a sudden shift in income, then the court has discretion to consider a modification. Since most spouses work, spousal support (if necessary at all), is usually for finite period of time and modest amount. Spousal support in California can continue for an indefinite period, and it may be increased or decreased if there is a change in either party’s circumstances.

California spousal support lasts for however long the court determines. There is a rule of thumb for marriages that last less than ten years that the spousal support will last for half as long as the marriage; however, the court may grant it for less or more time depending on the circumstances. Marriages that are longer than ten years are considered long-term. Also don’t forget that spousal support from a former spouse is taxable in the year it is received. Thus, you must claim it as income on your tax return.

If you are faced with the prospect of paying or receiving spousal support due to divorce, consult a family law attorney.  An attorney will advocate on your behalf, help you understand your rights and guide you through the process. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered and receive the right advice and any help that you need.

May 24, 2010

Tips for Finding the Right Bankruptcy Attorney

Posted in Bankruptcy, Uncategorized tagged at 11:10 am by demetriagraves

Unfortunately bankruptcy filings in the U.S. continue to rise, therefore the demand for good, qualified bankruptcy attorneys has been stronger than ever. But as a number of unscrupulous individuals rush to capitalize on this trend, being able to find a good bankruptcy attorney can be a challenge. It’s important to do your homework in this area as an experienced and qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you successfully navigate state and federal bankruptcy laws to obtain much-needed debt relief. Here are a few tips for selecting the right bankruptcy attorney, including a description of what a bankruptcy attorney does.
Before beginning the search for a bankruptcy attorney, it is important to understand what such a legal professional does. Some of a bankruptcy lawyer’s responsibilities include:
  • A bankruptcy attorney will work with the client to determine if filing for bankruptcy is the best option and which chapter (type of bankruptcy) is the most appropriate.
  • A bankruptcy attorney will ensure that the case is conducted in accordance with state and federal laws. He/she will also make sure that all paperwork is completed properly and filed in a timely manner.
  • A bankruptcy attorney will accompany the client to creditor meetings.
  • Finally, a bankruptcy attorney will sometimes represent the client in bankruptcy court. This depends on the situation.
Experience counts when it comes to bankruptcy. The longer an attorney has specialized in bankruptcy, the more complex situations they will have encountered. An experienced attorney can make the difference between a favorable outcome and a disastrous outcome, especially if your bankruptcy case gets complicated. Most importantly, one should look for attorneys who have experience working with consumer bankruptcy cases.
When looking for the right bankruptcy attorney it is important to conduct an interview with the person to make sure that the fit is right. Make sure that you make a list of all the questions that you have regarding your financial situation and any questions you have about bankruptcy. Consider which attorneys gave the most informative and easiest to understand answers. Once your bankruptcy is underway, you’ll likely have additional questions. Thus, it is vital to find an attorney who can explain things to you without confusing you even more. Other important questions to ask are:

Child Support, Custody & Visitation

Posted in Child Support, Custody, Visitation tagged , , at 11:08 am by demetriagraves

Divorce is never easy. Seeing a relationship unravel before your own eyes can take its toll in many ways. Often this process can be hardest on the younger members of a family. When going through a divorce it’s important to remember that your kids need your support and assurances. No matter how bad it seems, it’s important to put aside your own difficulties and focus on helping your kids manage this transition as smoothly as possible. So that they come out stronger and relatively unscathed. In this article I’ll be focusing on discussing Child Support in financial and legal terms instead of emotional terms. I’ll also cover the topics of custody and visitation because they are also related to how child support is calculated.
Custody and visitation issues top the list of concerns for couples involved in a divorce. For many years to come the now ex-spouses must continue to plan their lives together and negotiate the dozens of choices that come up when raising children. Judges will go to great lengths to get the two parties to make their own decisions and solve their own conflicts.
When two parents separate, it is usually determined that a child will primarily reside with one of the separated parents. In those situations, the parent keeping the child will incur most of the child-related expenses: food, accommodation, clothing, groceries, utilities, transportation, school, lessons etc.
To reflect that inequity, the common law has established that each parent has a legal obligation to support their child, financially speaking. No law has made any rules regarding the fulfilling the emotional needs of the child.
It is typical practice to establish one parent as having primary custody. That parent is referred to as the ‘custodial parent’. The other parent is referred to as the non-custodial parent. Regardless of the schedule, in most cases the parents are required to make important child care and upbringing decisions together.
A strictly legal definition of child support is “Periodic money payments payable by a non-custodial parent, to the custodial parent, for the care of his or her minor child.” For those who are unfamiliar with law speak, custodial parent is the one keeping the child while non custodial parent will be the one making the periodic payments.
For the parent who does not have the child living with them, this means equally or fairly contributing to their child’s expenses and needs. This is done by requiring that parent to make monthly or other periodic payment (rarely a lump sum or annual payment) to the other parent as a contribution towards the expenses of raising a child.
Initially, costs were split fifty-fifty between the parents. But over time complex systems have been established to determine the payments that need to be made keeping in mind the income of both parents and the number of children.
There are unique rules to deal with children who are no longer minors, and have special or extraordinary needs or expenses, and when a child or the children spend close to equal time with, and maintain residence in the homes of, both parents.
If the parties cannot decide upon a support amount and payment frequency, child support is set by the court and will be calculated based on the California State Guidelines and on any data that the parties may present. The State Guidelines are designed to be fair and equitable to the parents and more importantly, be in the best interest of the children.
California law allows either party to apply for a change in child support payments. The law requires that before a support change will be considered by the court, a material change in the status of the parties or the children must have occurred. This can include a change in the financial status of either party (for better or worse) or a change in the needs of the children such as education costs or an illness.
In California, any couple who cannot agree on custody or a visitation schedule is obligated to participate in and complete a counseling program prior to their disagreement being taken up by the court.
Judges that are forced to make custody and visitation decisions will base their rulings on evidence provided by the spouses and by professionals, such as psychologists, family service representatives or doctors. The judge will also take into account any history of child abuse, drug or alcohol addictions and any protective orders that may have been issued to help determine what is in the best interest of the child. However, the courts in California tend to grant joint custody, where the parents share in the day to day care and in making decisions regarding upbringing.
Based on the above factors, most spouses come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation schedule for their children rather than depend upon a judge to decree what is best. This is an area where professional legal assistance is a must. As a family law attorney I offer an initial free consultation, where you can get you questions answered.
Child support as an issue is so important that the right to child support and the responsibilities of parents to provide such support has been internationally recognized. In fact, during the 1992 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a binding convention was signed by every member of the UN declaring that “the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the children’s development is a common responsibility of both parents and a fundamental human right for children”. The convention further asserted that the primary responsibility to provide such for the children rests with their parents.

May 14, 2010

Understanding Bankruptcy Law

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 9:45 am by demetriagraves

Bankruptcy is a legally declared state of financial insolvency, or the inability of a debtor to pay his bills. The primary purpose of bankruptcy is to help an individual or company get out from under debt and get a fresh start. Bankruptcy litigation refers to the legal process involved in obtaining debt relief through bankruptcy court.
In the United States, bankruptcy litigation can be initiated on the behalf of both individuals and businesses. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution directed Congress to create laws governing bankruptcy; as a result, all such cases are handled in federal courts, and not at the state level. Bankruptcy can be either voluntary, which is filed by the debtor, or involuntary, which is forced through a filing by the creditor.
Until just a few years ago, filing for bankruptcy was fairly easy. Not anymore. When Congress changed the nation’s bankruptcy laws in 2005, many debtors found the new “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005,” to be more hindrance than help in overcoming past mistakes and starting anew.
The new law is stricter, featuring more requirements than ever before. It is important for anyone considering filing bankruptcy to understand the following:
It doesn’t matter whether you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy that discharges your debt or Chapter 13 bankruptcy which enters you into a repayment plan with creditors, anyone filing bankruptcy is required by law to attend credit counseling by a court-approved counseling service.

Under the new law, it is no longer your right to be allowed to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If, after proving your income the court determines that you make more than the medium income within your state, you may be required to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead and enter into a repayment schedule to pay back all (or most) of your creditors.

In the past, those filing bankruptcy could virtually erase their debt and start new in seven years, while continuing to live the lifestyle they’d grown accustomed to. That’s no longer always the case.
Under new federal bankruptcy laws, the IRS determines your monthly budget, and what you should be able to repay. Most are forbidden from having cell phone expenses as well as cable TV, high-speed Internet access, movies, meals out with the family, and anything else beyond the minimum allowable expenses as determined by the IRS and the courts.
For some individuals, bankruptcy litigation offers an opportunity to get out from under staggering debt and to start over. Though, this action should only be pursued after all other alternatives have been discussed. Such as, financial counseling, credit restructuring and debt consolidation.
Bankruptcy isn’t what it used to be, thanks to millions of Americans who abused the system in the past. Once reserved for people in dire financial situations to help them free themselves from excess debt and start fresh. While filing for bankruptcy may have once seemed like a good way out of a bad situation, many consumers are now opting to try and fix their financial woes themselves in lieu of letting the government fix it for them.
The final decision to file for bankruptcy can be a tough one to make. Nobody wants to be burdened with all of the problems associated with the preparation and filing process and this is where an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you out. If you’ve felt the burn of the bad economy, or if you’ve gotten yourself into debt in an entirely unrelated manner – don’t delay the potentially unavoidable, contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney today.
If you have gotten to the point where you’ve had to start paying any of your bills late, you’ve already unknowingly gotten the ball rolling down the wrong track. Late payments lead to late fees, increased interest and quick accumulation of a greater debt. If you have trouble making ends meet now, imagine the trouble you’ll face a few months down the road when your late payments have lead to a substantially larger amount of money owed.
This can turn into a never ending cycle if you don’t act quickly to do something about it. Bankruptcy is not necessarily always the best solution to the particular problem that you have, but you might never know that without setting up a consultation with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. The longer you wait, the worse things could become for your finances, don’t do further harm to your finances by waiting around for things to magically get better, contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney today. I offer a free initial confidential consultation where you can discuss your options and get all your questions answered.

California Divorce Basics

Posted in Divorce tagged at 9:42 am by demetriagraves

As a California based family law attorney I’m often asked to go over the basics of what is involved in a divorce in California. So here’s a brief overview of the divorce process. California is a ‘no-fault’ divorce state, this basically means that when a spouse requests a divorce, they will not need to specify a reason or prove wrong-doing on part of the other party.
No-fault does not mean no disagreements, and unfortunately there are often disagreements between the parties involved regarding how the family assets are going to be handled, or how the kids will be cared for. Not to mention issues of spousal support, child support, custody and visitation. This is where it pays to have an experienced family law attorney on your side. Sorting through these various issues can be complex and it’s important that you have the right advice.
Even if you both agree on how to separate your lives, it is important to have the agreement reviewed by a professional. A qualified family law attorney who has been involved in many divorces can help you spot weaknesses in the agreement and this will help ensure that the final agreement is strong and will last for many, many years, with out further disputes or difficulties. From time of initial filing, the soonest a divorce can be finalized is 6 months.

To file for divorce in California there is a residency requirement, you must have lived in California for at least six months and be a resident of the county in which you file for at least three months. If the other party lives in another state they have the right to demand that the case be heard in their state. And most likely they are going to request just that.
To obtain a divorce in California a spouse may file on one of two grounds: Irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ basically means that the applicant believes the marriage cannot be saved. Because California is a no-fault state, the party filing for dissolution is not required to state why they wish a divorce and they are not required to provide any documentation regarding their reasoning. In fact, the court will not consider any data having to do with why the divorce is being requested or why it should be denied. The simple fact of a request for a divorce by either party is considered sufficient grounds to grant it.
If you and your soon to be ex-spouse have no assets or children, then filing for a divorce is much simpler. If there are material assets or if there is any disagreement about how the assets of the marriage are to be divided, or if there are kids involved. This is where it can get more complicated and you really need professional legal assistance to guide you through this process, so you don’t get any unexpected surprises.
The court has established a process and a procedure for divorce. The steps are as follows:
The party that initially files for a divorce is called the ‘petitioner’. The papers they file with the court are called a ‘dissolution of marriage’ or dissolution for short. These papers simply describe that a divorce is desired. The other party is then officially presented with the dissolution documents, a process which is called ’service of process’. The receiving party is referred to as the ‘respondent’. The date of service establishes the start of a 6 month period which California courts require as a minimum time to grant a divorce. This 6 month minimum period is usually for an uncontested divorce. More on that below.
The respondent has 30 days from time of service to file an answer with the court. If the respondent does not file an answer, the court will record a ‘default’ and simply grant the divorce when the 6 month waiting period is complete. This is often called a ‘no contest’ or uncontested divorce and is common practice when there were no assets to divide and no children. If you have been served divorce papers and if there are assets to divide or children involved you must take action within 30 days or you will lose important rights.
When the respondent files an answer, this starts the process of ‘discovery’ in which the parties each have a chance to describe to the court the assets they feel should be involved in the divorce, present their wishes regarding its distribution and also present their wishes regarding the custody of the children.
In cases where the parties can agree between themselves regarding the assets, their distribution and custody of children, the time and expense of a divorce is greatly reduced. If you are involved in a divorce and there are assets or children involved, it is important that you secure the help of an experienced family law attorney. Who will help you establish an agreement that is in your best interests and which takes into account the well established standards regarding asset distribution and custody.
If the applicant and respondent do not agree regarding the assets involved in the divorce, their division or on custody matters, then it is up to the parties (through their attorneys) to present evidence to support their wishes and it is up to the court to make a decision based on the evidence presented. A contested divorce in California that involves modest assets can take between one and three years to resolve.
California courts will, for the most part, if practicable divide “community property” equally. Community property is what the couple earned (assets minus debts) from the time of the marriage to the date of their separation. Community property can be divided unequally by mutual agreement. For example, one person may assume all the family debt in exchange for another benefit such as keeping a retirement account. In rare instances, the court may find compelling reasons to divide contested community property unequally. For example, if the court feels that one party is in need of more support that the other, it may award that party a higher share of the marital property. There are also formulas for calculating child support and spousal support but this topic will be covered in more detail in another article.

I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get your questions answered and your own individual situation reviewed. Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of this complimentary initial consultation if you are considering a divorce or have been served with papers and you’d like some further advice.

May 6, 2010

“I now have joint custody of my little girl”

Posted in Testimonial tagged at 11:34 pm by demetriagraves

“I have a small girl whom I’ve been completely involved with since her birth, despite her mother and I having never been married. We had a mutual agreement that the courts never needed to be involved, and everything would be 50/50.  But eventually she filed for full custody, demanding I see my little girl 2 days a month. All this after 3 years without incident.

Frankly, I was scared. She had retained an attorney, but I could not afford one. We ultimately came to an agreement which held briefly. I thought my child was residing out of town with her mother for 4 months, when in fact, she was only 12 minutes away. At this point I immediately asked a friend in the law field for help. That friend came up with Demetria L. Graves.

Upon meeting Ms. Graves, I was immediately impressed with her demeanor. Previous potential counselors were unnecessarily “cut-throat.” One went as far as to say “I’ll get you full custody and MAKE her pay you support. We’ll stick it to her!” This coming from a lawyer at a large and well-to-do firm. Demetria asked me what I wanted, as opposed to telling me what to do just to get even. She understood my position and respected it. Demetria also never hesitated to tell me when my approach to the situation was wrong.  She moved quickly and her assistant, Sabrina, kept me informed every step of the way, via phone, email, and mail. Access to her newsletter led me to hold Demetria in even higher regard as a person truly dedicated to their field and wanting to help others understand it.

I now have joint custody of my little girl, with equal time/expenses shared. All I wanted was fair treatment for my Baby Girl, which is; both parents in her life.

I have, and will continue to refer Demetria Graves to anyone in need of counsel.”

Crescen Bacon

Inheritance and California Divorce Law

Posted in Divorce, Uncategorized tagged at 10:11 pm by demetriagraves

When I work with clients who are either contemplating divorce or are already in the process of going through a divorce. One of the major concerns that people often have attention on is the division of their assets. One interesting circumstance is if there has been an inheritance to one of the spouses.

Under California’s divorce laws, certain types of property are considered community property and are divided between spouses when a marriage ends. Other types of assets are considered separate property and are excluded from division. An inheritance is one of the latter types of assets and is not included in the community property calculation.

    Community Property

  1. California is a community-property state. Each spouse owns a one-half share of any assets accumulated during the marriage. This includes property acquired from the day of the wedding to the date of separation. Under California law, community property includes real property and personal property.
  2. Separate Property

  3. Property that either person acquired before the marriage or after the date the couple separated is not included in community property calculations. Gifts received by either spouse during the marriage are considered separate property for family- law purposes.
  4. Inheritance and California Divorce

  5. California divorce laws classify an inheritance received during a marriage as separate property. The other spouse is not presumed to have a half-share of any money or property received in this manner, as would be the case if the inheritance were included with the marital community property.
  6. Mixed Property and Divorce

  7. The line between community property and separate property can become blurred. If funds received from an inheritance were used to pay for something that is considered community property, such as the mortgage on a home or an asset the couple would use together, the asset could be considered a mixed one, or a combination of community property and separate property.

    To avoid a situation where the inheritance (separate property) gets mixed with community property, it needs to be kept separate. For example, money received in this way should be deposited in a bank account with only one spouse’s name on it. Placing the money in a joint account could result in the money being considered a mixed asset.

  8. Consult A Family Law Attorney

  9. California divorce law can be complicated when it comes to determining which assets are community property and subject to division and which ones are separate property. The date of separation can affect whether an asset is considered community property. A person who is currently separated or who is considering a divorce should consult with a qualified family law attorney to find out what his or her rights and responsibilities are under the law. I offer a free initial consultation, where you can get your questions answered regarding your particular circumstances.

Charlie Sheen Surrenders Custody of Kids

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Custody, Visitation tagged , , at 10:08 pm by demetriagraves

It’s recently been reported that Charlie Sheen has surrendered legal custody of the two kids he had with Denise Richards. Apparently Charlie and Denise signed a written agreement in which Denise now has full legal custody of 6-year-old Sam and 4-year-old Lola.  Up to now Charlie and Denise had joint legal custody.

There are reports that Denise wanted full legal custody given Charlie’s current marital turmoil with Brooke Mueller – it looks like they are getting ready to divorce. Plus Charlie has a history of sobriety issues and criminal problems and it appears that Charlie didn’t put up a fight and was willing to give up his joint legal custody. This is legal custody not physical custody, Denise was awarded primary physical custody as part of their divorce. It’s assumed that Charlie will still have visitation rights, even though he’ll no longer have joint legal custody.

It’s believed that the agreement was signed two weeks ago but the parties didn’t want to file it with the court just yet. Denise having full legal custody means that she can make medical, schooling and other important decisions without getting Charlie’s sign-off.  She can also leave the country with the kids without Charlie’s permission.

Under their divorce agreement, Denise has primary physical custody and Charlie has visitation rights.  Charlie has been paying Denise $50,000 a month in child support since their divorce and that amount has remained static.

If Charlie ends up divorcing his current wife Brooke Mueller he could be up for more support payments. According to their pre-nup, she’ll get $55,000 a month in child support plus add-ons, like medical and schooling expenses and that could drive the monthly support upwards of $125,000. Mueller won’t get a cut of his Two-and-a-Half Men earnings, Denise Richards already has dibs on that.

May 4, 2010

Common Family Law Myths Explained

Posted in Family Law, Uncategorized tagged at 4:19 pm by demetriagraves

As a Family Law Attorney, I often find myself sitting in the hallways of the courthouse waiting, and usually I come across many different people.  In these hours of waiting, I often hear unrepresented parties discussing their legal matters and I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what the law actually is.  I’ve decided it’s time to address these myths, and bring some clarity.  So here’s some common Family Law myths explained:

Myth: Having Joint Legal Custody means that each parent is financially responsible for half of everything the child needs.
Truth: Whether or not a parent has legal custody (versus physical custody) of a child has nothing to do with whether or not he or she has to pay support, or how much that parent will have to pay.  Legal custody dictates who gets to make major decisions for your child, like where your child will attend school, which doctor the child will got to etc. In most circumstances, Parents tend to “share” joint Legal Custody, which can change if the Parties cannot mutually agree to the important decisions.
Child Support it totally different then the Legal Custody issue, which is more based on the time or physical custody that each parent has,  the gross incomes of both parents, and and other financial factors, which assists the court in determining the state “guideline” based on the above mentioned factors.
Further, both parents may not be responsible for all of a child’s expenses.  Child Support is about covering the necessities in a lump sum.  Things like food, clothing, rent or mortgage payments.  There are plenty of things that aren’t considered necessary expenses, or that are covered by orders separate from a Child Support order.  There may be separate provisions for health care expenses, or extracurricular activities.  Often times, when it comes to discretionary spending that the parents don’t agree on (for instance, one parent feels it appropriate to buy the child a brand new car and the other parent doesn’t agree), the parent who disagrees may not be responsible for any portion of the purchase.
Myth: Whether or not a parent pays Child Support determines whether or not he or she has a right to see his or her child.
Truth: The obligation to support your child and the right to spend time with your child are totally separate issues.  A parent who puts his or her child at risk may be required to pay support, even though he or she is not allowed to see the child.  Likewise, a parent who cannot pay support may have an order allowing him or her frequent visits.   In the Family Courts, judges are looking at what is in the best interest of the child.  Most of the time, this is the child having both of his or her parents in his or her life, making financial contributions as stated by statewide “guideline” calculations.
Myth: You have a right as a parent to see your child.
Truth: To a certain extent, this is true, but not the way most parents seem to think about it.  As mentioned above, the Family Court is really protecting the rights of your child; your child’s right to be safe, happy, and healthy—emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Most of the time, this interest is best served when everyone who loves your child gets to play a part in his or her life.  This is why a court will order a visitation schedule.  Not because you as a parent have a right to that time with your child, but because your child has a right to that time with you.
Myth: You should tell the judge about every time the opposing party has wronged you.
Truth: Judges are busy people with full schedules.  One of the things they appreciate is brevity.  Some facts are relevant, others are not.  Chances are, if you recall every detail of every argument you’ve had with your ex-spouse or partner for the past three years, you’re doing yourself a disservice.   This is one of the many reasons why having representation in the  Family Courts is so important.  Attorneys understand the law, so that they can present the information the judge needs to make a decision without presenting information that might be harmful to your case, or simply irrelevant.
Myth: When a couple divorces, each person automatically gets half.
Truth: This is interesting because we do live in a “Community Property” state, but this is not always true.  If the decision is left up to the court (see next myth), the judge will consider a variety of factors in divvying up property.  What matters?  The list is long but includes who owned what before and during the marriage and how those things were acquired.  For instance, if one party owned a home prior to the marriage, the other spouse does not automatically get “half” of the house at divorce.
Myth: It’s best to just let the judge decide.
Truth: There are very few occasions when it is best to just let the judge decide.  Usually, people say this for one of two reasons:  they’re uncertain of what they want and how to ask for it, or; they’re so certain that they’re in the right that they’re unwilling to compromise.   Yet another reason why the assistance of an attorney can be crucial when it comes to Family Law matters.
An Attorney can let you know what expectations are reasonable when it comes to Family Law, and can express what you want in a way that makes legal sense.  More importantly, an attorney can let you know what expectations are unreasonable when it comes to Family Law, so that you don’t end up with an order you hate instead of an agreement you could have lived with.
There are very few times when the Family Court would be unwilling to accept an agreement the parties have come up with themselves.  As long as it’s fair, and the parties have touched upon all the relevant issues, a Judge is likely to approve an agreement.  Isn’t it better for a family to make decisions for itself, rather than asking a relative stranger to do so?

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