Category Archives: Family Law

Why Divorce Mediation Is The Best Way To Handle Child Custody

why divorce mediation is the best way to handle child custody

When parents decide to end their marriage, the divorce can have a number of psychological effects on the children involved. These include stress, anger, fear, and guilt.

Many of these feelings are exacerbated by the resulting custody battle. That’s why it’s up to the parent to make the process as pain-free for the kids as possible.

One way to do this is to opt for divorce mediation instead of a traditional divorce. This involves coming to an agreement on your terms outside the courtroom. A mediation attorney will guide you and your spouse to amicable solutions.

Divorce Mediation And Child Custody

This approach is much easier for your children when it comes to establishing custody. Let’s look at how everyone benefits.

Keep your children’s best interests in mind

The most important aspect of any child custody case is that the child’s best interests take precedence over anything else. You can achieve this much easier through divorce mediation.

By working together, you’ll be able to form a healthy visitation schedule. This means your children and you will have ample time together. You can also form a schedule that will provide the least amount of inconvenience for all parties.

With the help of a mediator, you can form a parenting plan that benefits your children’s development and emotional well-being. You’ll also be able to establish who’s responsible for financial necessities related to the children.

This is a much healthier situation than battling for custody terms in the courtroom. In these cases, parents often forget how their decisions will impact the children. In addition, the final decision is often made by the judge rather than the parents.

Protect your children from negative emotions

Divorce mediation is all about cooperation. The goal is to come to a common ground and work through your differences amicably. This makes for a much more civilized atmosphere.

On the other hand, traditional divorces are often fueled by anger. This can create a very negative environment at home. Your children will inevitably feel these negative emotions.

In addition, children can get dragged into the proceedings during a traditional divorce. This could mean appearing in court and testifying in front of a judge.

Mediation is a much quieter approach. You and your spouse can work out the custody terms with the guidance of a mediator. They’ll help keep you on track and can step in if tensions arise.

A cost-effective solution

During mediation, you and your spouse only need to hire one attorney to help you through the process. In addition, you’re not spending time fighting for terms in the courtroom. This is a money-saver for both parties.

Traditional divorce proceedings have the potential to carry on and on. This is especially true if each party continues fighting for the terms they want. In this case, both parties must continue to pay their attorneys.

However, if you opt for mediation, you can split the cost of hiring a single attorney. Furthermore, you’ll likely come to a solution much quicker than if you battle for custody rights in front of a judge.

Keep in mind that you’ll soon be financially independent. Doesn’t it make more sense to save money for you and your child’s future?

Mediation is less stressful

Regardless of the way you approach your divorce, this is a stressful time. However, engaging in mediation can make the transition much easier.

Stress can affect the way you interact with your child. This could lead to tension and problems at home.

A mediator’s job is to walk you through the process and allow you and your spouse to see the big picture. They’ll help you resolve conflicts and avoid negative emotional reactions.

Mediation will also help you come to a custody arrangement that’s less stressful for your children. This is critical during this trying time.

Remember, this is a passing phase in you and your child’s life. Instead of fighting, do your best to set a foundation for a hopeful future.

Avoid parental alienation

During traditional divorces, it’s common for parents to slander each other in front of the children. They may blame certain things on their ex-spouse or say things that could cause the children to see that parent in a different light.

This is called parental alienation. Sometimes a parent doesn’t realize they’re doing it and sometimes it’s intentional. Regardless, it has a negative impact on the child-parent relationship.

When two parents choose to mediate through their divorce, they’re less likely to engage in parental alienation. Working through their differences together instead of fighting will ease any resentment they feel towards each other.

A mediator can also help them understand how much of an impact the divorce has on their children. There’s a much better chance a couple will keep this in mind when parenting individually.

Set the stage for a healthy future

Regardless of the way you choose to settle your divorce, one thing is certain – this is the beginning of a new life for you and your children. Mediation is a great way to start that new life.

When you work with your spouse on a healthy custody plan that benefits everyone, you’re setting the stage for future cooperation. You’ll come away from your divorce knowing you can communicate effectively in order to solve problems.

Co-parenting isn’t always easy. You’re bound come to some hurdles along the way. However, forming a solid understanding of each other will help you and your children move on from the divorce and work toward a healthy future.

Mediation will also show you that fighting only causes additional problems and creates stress for you and your children.

Consider Divorce Mediation When Developing A Custody Plan

Your children’s future is the most important aspect of your separation. Unfortunately, traditional divorce proceedings don’t always allow patents to operate with the best interests of the children in mind.

Instead, consider divorce mediation and come to an amicable agreement that benefits your children.

If you and your spouse have decided to separate and need help to come to a custody agreement, we can help. Contact us for family law representation today.

The 10 Most Common Divorce Mediation Questions And Their Answers

the 10 most common divorce mediation questions and their answers

Every human that has gone through this is emotionally wrapped around these issues and feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. But Huffington Post says, when you are going through this, prepare to “engage your brain” and not your emotions. Divorce mediation alleviates many of those burdens.

If you’ve reached the point of ending a marriage through legal means, then it’s time to put your rational hat on, as that will make the process easier, and less expensive.

Any lawyer will tell you, it’s only logical.

You’ve Got Questions!

Here are answers to the top 10 most common divorce mediation questions that will have you grabbing for that hat, and breathing a sigh of relief.

What is divorce mediation?

Simply put, divorce mediation is the process used by two spouses in divorce to avoid a costly and lengthy divorce trial. All of the issues from property matters to custody sharing that would get negotiated in a divorce suit would be negotiated in the mediation process, without the traditional costly legal expenses of divorce court.

If you hire a lawyer for a custody or divorce suit, you are going to be paying for every single piece of paper your divorce lawyer touches in your case and billed for every email of complaint you send to them, and more. You’ll be paying a mediator an hourly rate and will meet with them a few times. Even the cost of mediation can be mediated.

So if your lawyer charges $300 an hour, they may bill you one-tenth of an hour for every email you send them. Thirty-dollar emails to complain about someone aren’t in every person’s family budget. That doesn’t happen in divorce mediation.

How does mediation work?

Once two parties have agreed they are going to divorce, they may then discuss the “how” of it. In many cases, one party will suggest mediation right off the bat. At this point, a mediator is hired, and you would hire your mediator in the same way you would hire any other legal party in your case. Review, research, rate, and then hire. Ask as many divorce mediation questions that you can before you sign a retainer obligation, with anybody.

The mediator will then meet with you both. Most of your mediation questions will be answered in that first meeting. Everybody’s expectations and potential outlooks will be discussed, as will your responsibilities. In mediation, you hash out everything you would in divorce court, in a less formal and more comfortable way.

This will include parenting plans, real estate arrangements, support matters, and everything else you can think of that you would settle in divorce court. Generally, a timeline is established, after which time an agreement is made which is then taken to the court to be made official.

How long does mediation take?

You’ll have an idea of when this is going to end and what your possible outcomes will look like early in the process. This is something you do not get when you launch a full-scale divorce suit that will end up in a trial. Mediate reports that in 2005, the average mediation process was settled in 90 days.

In a divorce trial, you begin the process wondering what you and your children’s future will look like and you may not have those answers for years. Even the best divorce lawyer in the world can only tell you what to expect in divorce court, but that nothing is a guarantee and you and your children’s futures are in the hands of someone else now.

Is mediation the answer for everybody?

The simple answer is no. Mediation is about a group of people getting together to solve a problem, and all parties need to be solutions-oriented when they go into it. The same is expected of them in divorce court, but in a more formal fashion, and that formality takes time and costs money.

When a marriage is ending due to power imbalances, vengeful parties, or an unwillingness to even end the marriage on one side, mediation is going to be problematic.

However, California is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, and that means if one party wants a divorce it is going to happen, even if one party is rigid on the topic.

Domestic abuse is often cited as a reason to forego mediation. Divorce can also be very vengeful. On top of the emotional grips of a broken heart, there are children and a legal matter now on the table. The concept of “winning” too often overlooks the concept of a sound exit plan. Sometimes people don’t want to get divorced due to any or all of these issues. In these cases, mediation is not the best plan.

Will my vengeful spouse change through mediation?

This is situation specific. Often times the harsh realities of legal bills and judges lend to a change of heart for vengeful parties. In many cases a vengeful party will opt to sue for divorce and serve the other party with glee, claiming, “I can’t wait until a judge sees what you’ve done!”

Truth be told, that may not happen for as long as 18 months, or even longer. They may change their minds when a lawyer charging them $500 an hour tells them that revenge will be a dish served very, very cold, and an expensive one at that.

Custody plans that you want when Suzy is 9 may need to be completely different when she turns 11 and has a social life. Without divorce mediation, the reality is that you may never see the light of a courtroom until then. At the same time, in a divorce trial, you run the risk of a judge determining the future of your child.

If you want control of the process, divorce mediation is a good choice, but only if it is safe to do so and the mediation process is agreed upon and welcomed by both parties.

Is mediation expensive?

Ending a marriage and determining the future of minor children is a legal process and legal matters always come with a cost. In mediation, you control that cost. Divorce mediation is not nearly as expensive as a divorce case or custody suit that is going to trial. Having a separation agreement before mediation can lessen the costs of mediation even more.

A trial alone in divorce court could cost you thousands a day. A mediator will charge you hourly, and you only pay for your time with them. It could cost between five and 10 thousand dollars. Comparably, Straight.com notes that one divorce hearing alone could cost that much, with a five-day court hearing costing $50,000 in some cases.

In some divorce matters, one party winds up paying the costs of the other party. So your already heaping costs have the potential to double. This could happen in mediation as well, but not nearly at the expensive rate of a $50,000 (or more) divorce court process.

Is your revenge, bitterness, or heartbreak really worth a five-figure invoice? That’s college tuition for many kids today, or a few nice beach vacations to get your mind off of this major change in your life and create lifelong memories for the time you have with your kids.

Is mediation public?

No. This is another advantage of divorce mediation. You meet with your mediator as often as established and finalize an agreement both parties are happy with. None of that is public record. In the end, you take that agreement to court to make it an official order, and that is the only public record on your divorce.
The exception to this may be when a divorce mediation is court-ordered. In that event, all matters prior to mediation will be public record.

Do I still need a lawyer?

Ending a marriage is a legal process. You will be signing binding legal documents at the end that determines your future, and the future of your children if you have any. That will then go to court where it becomes a court order. You never want to go to court without legal advice, even if it’s just a matter of having an agreement made formal. It is an additional expense, but when you consider that this is the rest of your life, it’s one well worth it.

If mediation is becoming a high-conflict situation, being represented by someone more rational about the situation than you are is always beneficial. Many couples today have both lawyers and mediators, and the process is still less expensive.

A lawyer that isn’t dealing with heartbreak on top of legal fights and is fighting for your rights could even make the mediation process go smoother and sometimes even faster. It’s all situation specific, every case will be different.

Is mediation legally binding?

Once your matter goes before a judge and the seal has been set on your mediation agreement, this is a contract that is legally binding.

So for example, if you run into problems with custody sharing, real estate conflicts, or things of this nature after your entire divorce is finalized, any enforcement agencies you work with to resolve those conflicts will refer to this order as law. The mediation agreement is a more informal and less expensive process, but it is a serious one, and legally binding once the process is complete.

What are the biggest benefits of mediation?

Mediation sends the message that you are willing to conduct a legal matter in a rational and concessional way. In addition to the costs savings, the courts love it when they see a mediation matter come to the table. The court system today is clogged, and family law is always an emotionally wrenching situation.

Judges don’t want to see people arguing over 70 pages of nasty text messages, and they don’t want to spend all night the night before reading that nonsense either. They want to see clean facts aligned with the law, and parties that are conducting themselves reasonably and in line with the best interests of all involved, particularly the children.

When you bring a mediation matter before a judge, you are alleviating the court system of further stress, and no judge will ever hold that against you.

Should You Go To Divorce Mediation?

Only you can answer that question on divorce mediation. When you are undergoing this legal matter, however, it never hurts to investigate the process. Keep the emotions out of it, and you will find that when it comes to weighing the benefits and risks, divorce mediation is quicker, less expensive, and more beneficial for all parties.

Wouldn’t you rather take your kids to the ocean for the first time than paying legal bills? Get more of your divorce mediation questions answered in a free consultation with California attorney Gerard A. Falzone.

How Long Does It Take To Divorce Through Mediation?

how long does it take to divorce through mediationIf there is a divorce looming in your near future, you’re probably feeling a whole host of emotions. Sadness, fear, anxiety, and stress are just a few of the things on that list. And when the thought of all the necessary business of divorce hits you, you probably feel exhausted to boot.

But divorce doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. If you and your spouse are amenable, you can decide to mediate your way through this difficult time rather than go through painful litigation.

Exactly how long does divorce through mediation take? We’ll discuss that and more today.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process of divorce that allows both parties to take control. Instead of leaving the decisions up to a judge, you will be able to make the choices for your own future.

This method is especially good for parents and people who will need to continue to co-exist despite the divorce.

In addition to being faster and easier than a traditional divorce, divorce through mediation has a higher rate of compliance because both parties came to terms on the agreement together.

How Does It Work?

A mediated divorce involves a person called a family law mediator. This is a person trained to help people resolve their divorce issues. They act as the communication between the couple.

The mediator’s job is to make sure that everyone has their chance to speak without being interrupted. He helps clarify the points that both parties make and asks questions to keep the conversation on track with clear communication.

The mediator will also give you information about how the legal system works and what alternatives you can take to avoid them.

In general, you, your ex, and the mediator will get together in a couple of sessions that range in length from one to two hours.

The first meeting is when you will point out the things that need to be talked about and how important they are. It’s also where you will find out all of the paperwork you will need to gather up in order to speed the process along.

From there on, you’ll use each meeting to talk about the different compromises you need to make in order to meet everyone’s needs. The mediator gives information about the legal system and helpful hints for how other people have handled similar problems.

Eventually, you will meet an agreement and the mediator writes it up for you and your lawyer to approve.

How Long Does It Take?

The answer to this question varies because every marriage and every divorce is different. If you have a lot of assets that you need to divide, or if you and your spouse have a hard time seeing eye to eye, it could take a lot longer.

However, if you can both come to terms pretty easily, you could be looking at a very short process.

One of the major benefits to divorce through mediation is the fact that you won’t have to appear in court. This cuts down on the length of time considerably.

In general, easier cases take about three or four two-hour sessions that the mediator spreads out over a course of a month or so.

Here are a few of things that impact the length of divorce through mediation.

Your Assets

If you have a lot of things that you need to divide, it could take a while. There are more decisions to make.

Likewise, if you’ve come to an agreement on pretty much everything and just have one or two things to work out, the process could go smoothly.

Children

There’s no nice way to put it: children make divorce difficult. People are usually willing to compromise when it comes to financial matters. But when you add children to the mix, it gets sticky.

Expect to spend a while in mediation when it comes to the custody of your kids. But it’s worth it, you want something that’s going to work for all the parties involved.

Willingness to Compromise

Your mediator can’t tell you what you have to do. They don’t make the choices or give orders. They’re only there to help you compromise and meet a mutual agreement.

If you and your spouse aren’t willing to meet in the middle on some things, it’s going to take forever.

Complications

There are a number of complications that can make your mediation go a little longer than average. However, that’s still a small price to pay when you consider the cost and time that goes into a traditional divorce.

It’s very rare for a divorcing couple to agree on everything. But even if you can’t agree on basically anything, there is still a purpose behind mediation.

Even taking one or two items off of the list of litigation can cut down the length of time you are in court.

In fact, even if you and your spouse can’t get along, there’s still reason to attempt mediation. Even though couples who are amicable usually choose this route, it doesn’t mean it’s a rule.

It’s part of the mediator’s job to help both parties communicate even when emotions run high. It is possible to get through mediation even in situations like these.

Managing Divorce through Mediation

Divorce is hard, that’s a simple fact. It’s exhausting and it can sometimes make you feel like you don’t want to even get out of bed in the morning. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can make divorce as painless as possible when you choose to settle divorce through mediation.

For more information getting divorced and what you need to do to protect yourself, visit us today!

The Truth About Divorce Mediation

the truth about divorce mediationDeciding to get a divorce seems bad enough, but going through all the details of it is even worse. It’s hard to change your life in such a drastic way, especially when you have children and certain assets to think about.

How are you supposed to get out of this sticky situation and move on with your life? Is there a way you can do what you need to and minimize others’ pain in the process?

Look into divorce mediation.

This is one of the most beneficial tools available to couples who have decided to go separate ways. But unfortunately, not everyone understands what mediation is.

Many couples have a knee-jerk reaction to take things to court or settle things their own way, without realizing what mediation services can do for them.

Here’s the truth about what the process looks like and how it can help you.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is when two individuals who want a divorce go to the same professional for guidance. The mediator meets with them at the same time, helping each person voice their needs, concerns, and terms. Their role is to help the two individuals come to an agreement as smoothly as possible.

The mediator does not make decisions for either party and they do not speak on behalf of one spouse or another. This person can, however, help the two parties reach a mutual understanding regarding everything from child visitation/custody to financial assets and retirement distribution.

It’s a lot to talk over and there are many details to consider.

This is where divorces can “get ugly”, but with a mediator, things don’t have to necessarily be that way. The point of seeking this kind of help as opposed to an attorney is to settle things cordially in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

The Benefits Of Divorce Mediation Services

If the friendly nature of divorce mediation isn’t enough to convince you about these services, there are a few more benefits to consider. While this may be the end of the road for your marriage, it’s the start of your next chapter. Mediation can make the transition from one point in your life to the other much easier.

Here’s how:

It’s Easier To Stay On Good Terms

Say you want a divorce but you’d still like to have your ex-spouse in your life. Maybe you’ve realized there are better options out there or you’re simply committed to making a kind relationship work for the sake of the children.

Either way, a divorce battle is not a great way to start your new friendship. Having a mediator present for the divorce process, though, does salvage the good that’s left and help you both start anew.

The Decisions Made Are Fair And Productive

Before you can focus on moving on, you have to make sense of what’s left of your marriage. There’s more to separating and starting over than packing up your clothes and finding a new place to live.

Actually, who is going to get the house? Who will have the cars, the furniture, the nice dishes, and so on? These can seem like tough decisions to make but they don’t have to be.

Your mediator can help you decide everything step-by-step. They will keep you and your spouse focused on the practical matters rather than letting your emotions get the best of you.

A Court Battle Is Avoided

There are divorced couples who can stay cool and collected, and then there are those who can’t stand to be in the same room. The latter is typically what leads to court battles and family drama, which can drag out the divorce process.

A mediator helps you avoid all of that. Even if you’re not on the best of terms with your soon-to-be ex right now, the right professional can bring you both back to a common ground.

They bring you to your senses and make you focus on the matter at hand rather than holding onto past wounds or playing the blame game. This is a much more productive approach, and it tends to work out better for all involved.

Mediation Makes The Future More Secure

Whichever way you handle your divorce, you have the whole future ahead of you. But, the decisions you make right now will affect the way of life you live later.

Mediation creates a contract that thinks ahead. It sets rules and guidelines for both parties involved in case certain circumstances change.

Plus, the experience of divorce mediators helps them bring creative solutions to the table. They show you and your spouse different ways to think about what you want/need from the divorce.

The Myths Of Mediation

It’s good to know what to expect from divorce mediation services, but it’s also in your best interest to beware of mediation myths. You’ve likely heard a few exaggerations about this divorce solution.

Things like:

It’s Better To Fight For What You Want

Some people will encourage you to take things to court rather than try to talk it out. They may want you to get that “big divorce check” out of compassion for you or think they know how it goes from headlines and TV shows.

Either way, more often than not, the best way to really get what you want is to go through mediation. This solves things from a rational perspective rather than putting you and your ex at each other’s throats.

You Risk Settling For Less

What if the settlement process is easier, but you don’t get everything you wanted? This is another fear that leads people to court or other divorce solutions.

Again, mediation is all about creating a fair deal. It helps you get what you need out of the divorce while giving your spouse enough to move forward with, too. Most importantly, it’s a clean way to get things settled without putting children or other loved ones in the middle.

Mediation Is Always The Answer

As beneficial as divorce mediation can be, it’s not right for everyone. If you feel like your spouse is hiding important details from you, or if they’re a struggling addict or have some other sort of condition that may affect their thoughts/behavior, think twice before going to mediation.

The former may keep you from getting the fair deal you should have because you can’t discuss things you don’t know about. The latter isn’t fair for anyone because addiction and mental illness keep the person affected from thinking straight.

Deciding If Divorce Mediation Is Right For You

Are you sure divorce is the answer to your marital problems? Are you ready to move on, but feel wary about a possible court battle?

There’s a better answer to your problems. In fact, divorce mediation can help you and your spouse find all the divorce answers you’ve been looking for. To get the process started, contact us today.

What To Ask Before Signing Your Divorce Decree

what to ask before signing your divorce decree

Getting a divorce may seem like the start of a new life, but it’s important you consider every angle before signing the final divorce decree.

The last thing you want is to end up in a more difficult situation than you’re in with your husband or wife. Sometimes getting out of a marriage turns out to be the wrong decision. In fact, one study showed that 22% of divorcees regretted their decision.

In addition to ensuring this is the best move for your relationship, you also need to make sure all the terms of your divorce are reasonable. A divorce decree isn’t an open and shut deal. There are many components you need to consider.

To help you out, we’re going over some common questions you need to ask before signing your divorce decree. These questions will help bring some clarity to the situation.

Is the Marriage Really Over?

The most important question to ask is if the marriage has truly run its course. Sometimes couples divorce as a result of years of struggle and emotional separation. They feel divorcing is their only option.

It’s important you and your spouse discuss this thoroughly. You have to be open about your feelings in order to avoid going through with the divorce only to regret it.

If you’ve hit a rough patch you can’t seem to get over, have you considered couples therapy? You may be able to resolve some of the issues you’ve been having and get things back on track again.

Divorce is a major life change. There will be financial hurdles, emotional hardships and learning how to live on your own again. It’s important you and your spouse are 100% certain that the relationship needs to end before signing the divorce decree.

Are You or Your Spouse Only Threatening Divorce?

Sometimes a person threatens separation or divorce out of anger or emotional pain. They may even use the threat as a tactic to get what they want.

This threat is also used to exert dominance over the other spouse or as an attempt to be taken seriously.

For whatever reason, this not the correct course of action. A marriage should end because both parties know in their hearts it shouldn’t go on.

Ask yourself if you genuinely want a divorce or are just threatening it to get what you want. Or, do you feel your spouse is doing this?

If the answer is yes, you should first look into marriage counseling. You may find more healthy ways to resolve your issues.

Are the Division of Assets Fair?

Before signing a divorce decree, you need to make sure all assets are divided equally and to your satisfaction.

This is something that many couples run into problems with. If the division of assets aren’t nailed down before the divorce gets finalized, there could be trouble down the road.

You’ll want to make sure your divorce attorney gets involved in the separation of assets to ensure you’re not getting taken advantage of. Each state has different laws regarding this. However, laws that apply to the distribution of marital assets don’t always garner a fair outcome.

Vehicles and property are two items that typically cause the most problems. If possible, try to come to an amicable decision regarding these assets and make sure the terms are clearly written into the divorce agreement.

Once you sign the decree, the terms are difficult to change.

Are Our Children’s Best Interest’s in Mind?

One of the most sensitive aspects of a divorce involves children. Depending on their age, this could be a very confusing time for your kids. You need to make sure you have their best interests in mind.

Unfortunately, sometimes couples are so angry with each other, they forget how impactful this time is for the children.

If you and your spouse are sharing custody of your kids, make sure the terms make it easy on them. They need to have ample time with each of you, so make sure your decree sets a fair and logical schedule.

You also need to nail down the financial obligations now so that no conflicts happen in the future.

It’s important you also work around you and your spouse’s work schedules so that the practice of joint custody goes as smoothly as possible. Not only will your children benefit, you’ll make it easier on yourself as well.

Are Your Finances In Good Shape?

At the beginning of a divorce proceeding, the judge will likely prohibit both of you from selling the marital property. You also can’t use joint bank accounts or credit cards for major purchases.

Judges do this so that one spouse won’t take advantage of money or assets that are still jointly owned.

If you or your spouse have any major purchases or legitimate financial transactions to complete, you’ll need to do this before the divorce happens.

It’s best to go over all these things with your spouse and come to an agreement on all financial matters. Once you both sign the divorce decree, you can then split your finances, meaning all checking and savings accounts and any credit cards you have together.

You’ll also need to agree upon the resolution of any debt you’ve acquired together.

What Will Your Living Situation Be?

It’s important you decide what the initial living situation will be before signing the decree.

Who’s staying in the house? Who’s moving out and where are they moving?

You need to make sure the decree is fair to both parties. The person who must move needs to be able to afford a new residence. This is especially important if children are involved.

Making sure this all gets squared away before signing the decree ensures you avoid a messy situation and potential conflict.

Don’t Sign A Divorce Decree Until You’re Ready

If you’ve come to the conclusion that divorce is the only option, it’s imperative you understand the terms of the decree. You also need to ensure they are fair and balanced.

Signing the decree hastily could mean serious issues down the road.

If you need a qualified divorce lawyer to help you through the process, we can help. Contact us today.

Divorce vs Separation vs Annulment: What’s the Different?

divorce vs separation vs annulment whats the differenceMaking the decision to end a marriage can be one of the most difficult times of a person’s life. It can also be one of the most confusing.

From the legal jargon to the paperwork, there are myriad responsibilities you’ll be tasked with navigating. Unless you’re aware of the intricacies, what should be a relatively straightforward procedure could become vastly more complicated.

One of the points of contention might be understanding your options. You may be wondering what the difference is between divorce vs separation vs annulment.

Ending a marriage is ending a marriage, right? Why so many terms for it?

Today, we’re breaking down a few key characteristics of each of those options, so you can better classify which one your case falls into.

Ready to learn more? Let’s go!

Divorce vs Separation: What’s the Difference?

Let’s start simple. A divorce is the legal dissolution of marriage.

Your legal duties to your spouse will be either terminated or reorganized depending on your situation. When the process is complete, both parties are free to remarry.

There are two basic types of divorce. They include:

No-Fault Divorce

This occurs when the spouse filing for the divorce does so without blaming the other person for any specific wrongdoing. Rather, they simply claim one of these three grounds:

  • Irremediable breakdown
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Loss of affection

Fault-Based Divorce

Allowed by some states, this occurs when there is a specific reason prompting the divorce. These reasons could include:

  • Adultery
  • Abuse or domestic violence
  • Abandonment
  • Substance abuse

Before filing for divorce, some married couples might opt to undergo a trial separation first. There are two types of separations:

Separation by Agreement

When it comes to divorce vs separation, it’s important to understand that separation does not legally end a marriage. Rather, it just means that you and your spouse do not live together for a period of time.

This is commonly referred to as “separation by agreement.”

You’re not required by law to even live with your spouse under the same roof in the first place, so you don’t need to file with the court system to begin a separation. You will, however, need to work out any child care, bill payments, and other support issues beforehand so all parties know what’s expected of them. A family practice lawyer or mediator can help you work through these issues to make sure everything is covered.

In many cases, a trial separation period is the first step toward pursuing a divorce, though this is not always the case.

Legal Separation

Some states allow you to take your separation a step farther and apply for legal, or judicial separation.

If you’re ready for your separation to result in a major change to your marital status, you’ll need to file for a legal separation. You can do so by petitioning to a lawyer at your local Superior or Family Division Court.

During this period, you’ll live apart from your spouse on a separate property. Living under the same roof while sleeping in separate beds is not permissible.

A legal separation can last as long as a divorce (around 8 to 10 months), so be sure to plan accordingly. During this time, you and your spouse will be prohibited from marrying or beginning a domestic partnership with anyone else. Wives cannot resume their maiden names yet.

If you have minor children, you’ll iron out details around final custody and visitation rights as required. Alimony orders can come into play at this time as well.

With so much to deal with, you may question why anyone would go through the hassle of filing a legal separation over just going ahead and filing for divorce. This is because some religious or moral beliefs might make couples eschew the legal dissolution of their marriage. Thus, divorce vs separation becomes an even more conflicting and polarizing discussion in these cases.

How Does Annulment Fit In?

Let’s add another term to the mix. You may associate “annulment” with those flash-in-the-pan, 15-minute celebrity marriages, but it’s a relatively common process.

Unlike a divorce, which recognizes that a marriage occurred and then nullifies it, an annulment essentially treats the union like it never existed in the first place. Once the process is complete, each party is free to marry someone else.

The court system will determine how an annulment affects child custody, child support, matrimony, and asset division.

A couple has grounds for filing for an annulment if the marriage was:

  • Incestuous
  • Bigamous
  • The result of force or fraudulent pretenses
  • Occurred as a result of physical or mental incapacity
  • Inclusive of at least one underage party
  • Entered into while one spouse was already in a marriage or registered domestic partnership
  • Entered into while under the influence

Annulments are usually administered to couples who haven’t been married for too long (think just weeks or months). This helps reduce the headache of dividing assets and figuring up child support.

Making Sense of the Journey Apart

Working through these issues with your significant other can be a difficult time. You’re likely feeling a ton of emotions, from grief to anxiety and everything in between.

This is where we come in.

We’re a family law practice skilled in helping people just like you understand their legal rights and make sense of the road ahead of them. From helping you understand divorce vs separation vs annulment and every legal decision in between, we’re your go-to resource.

The journey doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing or chaotic. Contact us today and let’s take that important first step together.

Your Guide To Dividing Assets In A Divorce Settlement

your guide to dividing assets in a divorce settlementA divorce settlement is often a scary thing. Your life is taking a turn you never really expected, with major consequences.

You’re not alone — especially if you’re older. Among Americans 50 and older, divorce rates have almost doubled since the 1990s.

Divorce is intimidating, but there are ways to make everything easier. Keep reading to find out what happens when you divide your assets, and the best way to go about it.

What Happens?

First things first: what happens in a divorce settlement?

The long and the short of it is that “ours” transitions slowly (and not always easily) to “yours” and “mine”.

But it’s not like when you were kids and fighting over a shirt.

What happens to your property after divorce is a legal process that decides who has legal ownership of your property. And it can have a major bearing on your financial future.

Preparing to Divide Your Assets

It’s not as simple as eeny-meeny-miny-moe. When divorces happen, it’s a big change from the future you thought you were going to have when you got married.

And not just growing old together. You had certain ideas about financial security, where you were going to live, etc.

Now, you’re faced with dividing assets that were intended to be shared when you acquired them.

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can sort through a divorce amicably without tears, frustration, or arguments (chances are, you’re not) then you need to be prepared for what happens next to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.

Here are five things to keep in mind before you jump down the rabbit hole and start divvying up your assets.

Know Your State Laws

Dividing assets in a divorce settlement aren’t just about dividing up the pots and pans. It’s about dividing assets with one eye on your short-term and long-term financial security in mind.

This is where state laws come into play.

But they also vary widely from state to state, so it’s important to know your state’s exact laws on assets in a divorce.

All states have adopted laws relating to the fair distribution of marital property, but fair isn’t the same thing as equal. And that’s where you run into problems because both parties want to get their share.

Know What’s Separate vs Marital Property

Part of state laws deals with separate property versus marital property and how the two are handled in divorce.

If you don’t know what those are, it’s time to brush up.

Separate property is any property acquired before marriage, after divorce, by gift or inheritance during a marriage, or via separate property funds during a marriage.

Marital property refers to property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. Generally, any property acquired during a marriage is considered marital property regardless of whose name the property is under or how it’s titled.

Generally, the two don’t mix. But, separate property can lose its status as separate property if you comingle. For example, if you own an apartment as separate property but add your spouse, it’s no longer separate property.

The separate property that was yours before remains yours. But marital property, even if it wasn’t in your name (like a house or a 401k) is fair game.

Get an Attorney

Let’s be honest. If you’re getting divorced, you need to have a divorce attorney.

Even if you had what seemed like the best relationship with your spouse, the truth is, if you’re getting divorced, things went sour somewhere.

And while there are divorces that proceed amicably, that usually isn’t the case.

In most cases, you need a mediator. They’ll make sure that an equal split is actually an equal split.

There’s also the laws — whatever research you can do, a trained lawyer knows the laws better than you.

Make a List, Check it Twice

Before you ever start a discussion over who gets what, you should know what you’re dealing with.

Make a list of all the assets you have. This should include things like joint property, securities, bank accounts, all vehicles, household items, valuable collectibles and retirement plans. And by everything, we mean everything.

The easiest way to do this is for spouses to make the list together that is honest and fair. It will also save you a lot of trouble later.

What happens after that can get messy, especially if you’re trying to determine who will keep the house. Often, if you have children, it will go to the parent with primary custody, but it’s not a guarantee.

If you don’t have children, well, things are both a lot less messy and a lot messier.

Choose an Asset Valuation Date

This is an important step in the divorce settlement process and one you can’t afford to overlook.

Once you’ve listed out all the property you have between you, you’ll need to choose an asset valuation date. Basically, this is the date when you and your spouse agree to fix the value of your property (an important step with volatile assets like investment accounts).

Since the value of the assets can change day-to-day or week-to-week, the valuation date sets a hard value on the assets being divided, even if the value changes since the assessment.

Play Nice

And above all, when you can manage it, try to play nice.

It isn’t just for the sanity of all involved parties (including your children). Making a divorce settlement as amicable as possible is the easiest way to make sure a divorce doesn’t turn into a long, expensive process where courts determine the value of your assets and who gets what.

The most efficient and painless way to handle a divorce is through property division agreements without trial. But the only way for that option to work is if everyone agrees to get along as well as possible.

Making Sense of a Divorce Settlement

Divorce can be a scary thing. But it can be a lot easier with the right advice from the right divorce lawyer.

Check out our blog for tips on how to best handle divorce, like these tips for co-parenting after divorce.

But if what you really need is sound legal counsel, then it’s time to use a trusted local divorce attorney.

We offer free phone consultations. Head to our contact page to get started.

Divorce After 50: What You Should Know

divorce after 50 what you should know

Divorce after 50 is becoming such a common trend that it’s now dubbed “gray divorce.” Some of the topics we’ll be covering may seem common sense, while others may not be. Afterall, divorce is tricky at any age.

That’s why we’re here to guide you through it. Here’s everything you need to know about getting divorced after 50.

Think Of The Kids

By 50, most kids will be thriving out of the nest. But no matter how mature or dependent your kids may be, divorce is heavy for everyone involved.

If you do have kids, be sure to check in on them throughout the divorce process to make sure they’re okay. And while it may seem easy to go to them with your stress, don’t. You could be putting children in the middle of the divorce, and adding an extra burden to their lives.

I say this because a friend of mine is currently buckling under the stress of her parent’s divorce. She’s in her 20’s and successful, but the strain of the divorce is so great that she’s had to seek counseling. Both her parents unintentionally used her as leverage at the expense of her own mental health.

Even if you can’t go to your kids with your divorce woes, there are still plenty of people you can go to for help…

Focus On Financial Stability

There’s a good chance you’re losing something in a divorce. If your partner was the breadwinner, that leaves you in a bind on how to make and manage money, even if you do win a chunk of money in the divorce. Don’t rely on your partner to hold your hand after the divorce.

This is your time to be selfish. Make sure that you’re set up financially. Don’t sign anything until you know you’ll be taken care of.

Make sure that everything is divided fairly and put in your name, especially as they pertain to joint accounts. We’ll get into keeping track of your assets later. If you have a will, alter it so that it reflects who your desired beneficiaries are.

Career

If your partner was the breadwinner, you may be looking for employment for the first time in a long time. Don’t be discouraged.

Rely on any friends and networks you’ve nurtured over the years. You never know when someone you know has a job opportunity that offers a great 401(k) match.

And don’t forget to put any volunteer experience on your resume. Not only does it show initiative, it also demonstrates your skills in a wide range of scenarios.

Retirement

If you’re getting divorced closer to retirement, or working isn’t an option, you need to ensure that your 401(k) plan can take care of you.

This may mean making a few sacrifices. If money is going to be tight, you can consider moving into a smaller home or lowering your standard of living.

I know a lot of this doesn’t sound appealing, but the goal is to make sure you’re set up for the long term.

Your Assets

A large part of finding your footing and financial stability is making an inventory of what you and your partner shared. This goes beyond the physical property.

Make sure you have a good idea of what’s in your bank accounts, personal and shared. Also be aware of any investments, retirement accounts, pensions, and life insurance policies.

Create a list for yourself of what you own, what your partner owns, and what you share. Make sure you know what’s on the list, so you don’t get blindsided in the divorce.

Betrayal

Divorces aren’t usually pretty sights. Yeah, there are stories of people settling amicably and with little cost to either party, but those cases are rare. If a divorce was sprung upon you, you may be in for a rude awakening.

A divorce doesn’t spring up out of nowhere. Usually, they result from years of pent-up and unexpressed emotions. Don’t be surprised when your former significant other shows a side of themselves that you’ve never seen before.

They may try to be seeking revenge for something from the marriage. Again, this is a time for you to be selfish. Lawyer up, find your center and keep moving forward.

Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out

As mentioned, this divorce after 50 is a growing trend. This isn’t to say that what you may be feeling is any less real, but there is help out there if you need it.

From counseling to friends, don’t be afraid to reach out. Whether you like it or not, this is a time for change; don’t wall yourself in. Sometimes all you need is an open ear and supportive shoulder.

Also, take some time to step back from the situation and reevaluate your life. Get a life coach if you need to, but try to find out what you truly want out of life.

A New Beginning

No matter how the divorce turns out, this is your time to reassess your life and goals. What do you want? You can go back to school, travel, or pursue artistic goals.

If you view the time after your divorce as saddening then that’s exactly what it’s going to be. This is a time to reinvent and challenge yourself. This is a new beginning.

Hope During Divorce After 50

Like any kind of divorce, divorce after 50 can be a painful and confusing time. You may not have the life you had before, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is a time to explore who you are, secure your future, and defend yourself if need be.

If you or someone you know find yourselves facing divorce after 50, please contact us at the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone, Attorney At Law. It is our pleasure to serve the central Bay Area. We are here for anyone going through the financial and emotional difficulties that divorce presents.

Divorce can be a tumultuous and challenging experience, but it doesn’t have to be experienced alone. There’s always help, and there’s always hope for the future and the joys that it will bring.

5 Common Reasons For Divorce

5 common reasons for divorce

The divorce rate in the United States reached a 40-year low in 2015. Divorce is still quite common throughout the country, though.

If you’re currently going through or considering a divorce, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone.

It’s true that every divorce is different. But, many of them stem from similar causes. Understanding the most common reasons for divorce can help you feel less alone during this difficult process.

Read on to learn more about the main reasons couples choose to end their marriages.

1. Infidelity Is One of the Top Reasons for Divorce

In the United States, approximately 17 percent of couples cite adultery (by one or both parties) as the reason for their divorce.

Men and women both commit adultery for a variety of reasons, and infidelity can occur at any point during a relationship. The likelihood that at least one partner will be unfaithful increases during the following periods:

  • After the first year of marriage, when the “honeymoon period” ends
  • After the first child is born
  • During the 5th to 7th year of marriage
  • During middle age when children are grown

Infidelity rates are currently on the rise. This is due in part to the fact that the internet and social media have made it easier to connect and form relationships.

2. Money

Differing financial goals are another one of the main reasons for divorce. In fact, a lack of financial compatibility is a greater contributor to divorce than a lack of money.

40 percent of divorced couples say that incompatible financial views were the main cause of their divorce. If one partner is frugal and the other enjoys spending, it’s highly likely that a couple will experience problems.

That being said, financial stress can still contribute to marital problems and divorce. This is especially true is the husband is unemployed. According to a report published in the American Journal of Sociology, men who are unemployed are more likely than women to leave the relationship.

3. Lack of Communication

Many couples begin their marriage with good communication skills. But, over time, they get busy, grow apart, and don’t know how to talk to their partner.

recent study surveyed 886 individual divorcing parents. Of this group, 55 percent cited “growing apart” as the reason for their divorce, and 53 percent said that they were “not able to talk together.”

An inability to communicate can take various forms. Some couples will notice that they’re arguing more frequently, while others will simply not speak at all.

4. Addiction

Addiction puts a lot of financial and emotional strain on a relationship. Individuals with addictions are more likely to participate in other problematic behaviors, including lying, stealing, and adultery.

As a result, 7.3 percent of marriages end in divorce because of drug or alcohol addiction.

Even after seeking help from rehab programs or support groups, many couples are unable to reconcile if one partner struggles with addiction.

5. Lack of intimacy

A lack of intimacy is another common contributor to divorce. In addition to a decrease in sexual intimacy, many couples also cite a lack of general physical contact (hugs, kisses, holding hands, etc.) as a reason for choosing to end their marriage.

Couples see the intimacy in their relationship wane for several reasons, including the births of their children and mental health issues.

75 percent of survey respondents who described their marriage as lacking intimacy said that they’re unhappy about the current situation. 50 percent also said that they wouldn’t have married their partner if they knew that intimacy would decline over time.

However, only 33 percent said they consider leaving their marriage because of a lack of intimacy.

It may not be the biggest reason on its own, but a decrease in intimacy could lead to adultery or other problems that rank higher on the list of reasons for divorce.

Tips for Making It Through the Divorce Process

No matter what a couple’s reasons for divorce are, the process is almost always stressful. But, you can significantly mitigate that stress and have a smooth divorce by taking the following steps:

Consider Mediation

Legal mediation is often preferable to going through a court case. It is less stressful, make negotiations easier, and is faster and less expensive than going to court.

Mediation is especially easier for couples who have children and want to make the process easier for them.

Know When to Let Go

It’s important for both parties to pick their battles when going through a divorce. They should work to establish a fair settlement. But, both partners should avoid getting hung up on “winning” and fighting over small amounts of money.

Hiding money in secret accounts or selling off assets is especially problematic and will just make the divorce harder for everyone involved.

It’s also essential for both parties to manage their expectations around things like division of property and custody.

It’s unlikely that everyone will be totally satisfied with the outcome of these aspects of the divorce. But, knowing when to concede and move forward will help everyone — especially children — get through the process easier.

Find a Qualified Attorney

Choosing a qualified divorce attorney can make the process much easier. Take your time interviewing attorneys and look for one who communicates and well and seems to have your best interests in mind.

Some other things to keep in mind when making your decision include:

  • Experience and specialization
  • Type of client they typically represent
  • Hourly rate and retainer
  • Access to resources like parenting coordinators and financial experts
  • Trial record and court success history

When you’re meeting with potential divorce attorneys, you should also be on the lookout for red flags. Some common ones include sharing confidential information about other cases or appearing distracted by phone calls and emails.

Looking for a Divorce Lawyer?

If you live in or around the San Rafael, CA, and are considering a divorce, contact us at the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone today. We offer a free phone consultation, and we’ll help you as you go through the challenges of a divorce.

8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Divorce Without A Lawyer

8 reasons you shouldnt divorce without a lawyer

According to the U.S. Census, around 41% of marriages end in divorce.

But despite the prevalence of divorce cases, each situation is unique and often difficult to navigate.

Doing a DIY divorce may seem like the way to save some money and reduce stress. But there are some very important reasons that you shouldn’t divorce without a lawyer.

Let’s explore 8 of them.

You Don’t Know the Laws

That’s not an insult. What you don’t know regarding divorce law can really hurt you.

Your friend who went through a divorce might give you advice. You might do some extensive research on the Internet.

But this isn’t a substitute for legal advice. Laws change. Something very small could make or break your case.

Divorce without a lawyer is like having surgery without a doctor. It’s just not in your best interest to try to tackle this alone.

You Despise Paperwork

Getting a divorce without a lawyer means you get to do all the paperwork. And it can feel like Mt. Everest sometimes.

You’ll need to read and understand some very complex agreements before signing. Some of it takes meticulous review and response. There will be tasks to complete before you ever see a judge.

Paperwork is just part of the deal. We don’t like it either. But we do it because we want the best outcomes for our clients.

You Don’t Like Disorganization

You may be great at real estate, healthcare, teaching, roofing or whatever your profession is. But trying to do something that you’ve never done before can create a lot of extra work for yourself.

You’ll be trying to learn new things. At the same time, you’re expected to put them into practice.

But you don’t have to go through a divorce without a lawyer. A lawyer will simplify the process, reducing stress on you, your children and everyone involved.

What Seems Equal May Not Always Be Equal

You want a very amicable divorce. We commend you for trying to work things out in an agreeable way. What may seem to be a 50/50 split at first glance, may put you at a great disadvantage financially later.

A few years after a divorce without a lawyer, this may be very clear to you. But at that point, it’s already done.

A lawyer will factor in everything. They’ll run the numbers. And they consider the less obvious but important variables. They then work to reach a fair division based upon the circumstances of the individual case.

Divorce Can Be an Emotional Roller Coaster

A lawyer isn’t a replacement for a therapist. But they can help you through the emotional ups and downs.

Some divorces can inflict a lot of trauma on a person. Anger, shame, resentment, sadness, jealousy; we’ve seen it all.

A lawyer will help you manage this emotional battery by giving you the confidence you need to get through the tough times.

You Want What’s Best for Your Children

Children can be severely traumatized by divorce cases.

Children of divorce are more likely to:

  • Get lower grades
  • Suffer from health conditions
  • Attempt suicide
  • Have lower paying jobs
  • Have psychological problems

Much of this is the result of messy divorce battles that place children in a tug-o-war.

One parent may try to get full custody while the other feels that he/she has no recourse. Children might be asked to testify.

Barring some severe extenuating circumstances, you have a right be in your children’s lives. If you need to take on most or all of the responsibility for some reason, you have a right to be appropriately compensated by the other parent.

Children should be protected as much as possible during a divorce to reduce this trauma.

A divorce lawyer will help you evaluate the situation and make your case in order to improve the outcome for your children.

You Need to Present Your Case in the Best Light

We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. We’ve hurt people. Or didn’t do something we know we should have done. We all have things we wish we’d done better.

It doesn’t mean we’re bad people or that we should lose everything because of a mistake.

That’s why regardless of what you may have done or not done, it needs to be put into perspective.

The court system can be ruthless. A lawyer on the other side can take something small and blow it out of proportion.

Because of guilt that you do feel, it may be hard to defend yourself against these coordinated attacks when you go through a divorce without a lawyer.

Your lawyer will be objective about the facts. He/she’ll find a way to show you in the best light. They’ll help you stand up to people who try to tarnish your reputation and make mountains out of molehills.

You Might Not Have to Go to Court at All

A divorce without a lawyer almost always ends up in court. That’s where most of the stress on you and your children happens.

Costs can skyrocket.

But a great lawyer will always try to settle out of court when it’s in your best interest. Chances are you’re not trying to take your spouse to the cleaners. You don’t want to hurt them, yourself or your children.

A lawyer will work with your spouse’s lawyer, discuss concerns and demands and try to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Divorce Without a Lawyer

If you’re considering a divorce without a lawyer, it may be time to reconsider. A divorce requires a person to the law and fill out a lot of paperwork. It can be hard to figure out what’s fair and children often get caught in the middle.

But a divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process, perhaps even keeping you and your children out of court. They will be a trusted resource who’s working for you to achieve the best outcome.

Still not sure? We can help. Call for a free telephone consultation.