Category Archives: Separation

7 Important Steps To Take Before Leaving An Abusive Spouse

7 important steps to take before leaving an abusive spouse

Taking the steps necessary to leave an abusive spouse takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage. Breathe into that and know that you have a community of people here to help support you through the process. 

The priority is to keep yourself and your children safe while doing what’s necessary to legally extricate yourself from any binding relationships if necessary.

Before You Leave Your Abusive Spouse

Use the National Domestic Violence Hotline ASAP 

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend using the National Domestic Violence Hotline as often as you need. This free service can provide invaluable support for women and children, and experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate representatives are available to answer questions, offer information, make recommendations, etc., 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

You can contact them online here or by calling them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 800-787-3224. 

Contact an attorney with experience handling domestic abuse cases 

The reality is that domestic abuse is a very delicate situation when it comes to leaving, separating, and divorcing a partner. Nobody understands that more than you. The problem is that many “experienced” divorce attorneys are actually not all that experienced at handling divorces involving domestic violence. As a result, they can make rookie mistakes that compromise the safety and wellbeing of their clients and families. 

Seek counsel with Bay Area divorce attorneys who have experience with domestic violence cases and who can provide sound counsel around how to protect yourself as well as helping to facilitate a swift and as drama-free divorce as possible. We can lead you through pre-divorce counseling sessions so that you are protected, safe, and ready to launch when you officially file your divorce paperwork. 

Identify and confirm a safe space to flee to 

Leaving on the spur of the moment or in the immediate aftermath of a fight is not always the best move because it leaves you little to fall back on. Often, clients who’ve done that find themselves having to return to their abusers because they have nothing with them to take that first next step. Click Here to access a list of Bay Area domestic violence organizations and shelters. Call ahead of time and they can help you make a plan. 

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to bide your time and plan well. Secure a safe location, whether it be a local women’s shelter or a trusted friend. Under NO circumstances should you share your location with your partner. Make your move when you are calm and collected, have all of your necessary documents (birth certificate, license, passport, credit cards, a flash drive or cloud account to access your resume and contacts, cash if possible, etc.), as well as clothing, shoes, and toiletries.  

Make sure you have the following items 

We want to re-emphasize the documents and items you want to bring with you if at all possible. They will be necessary as you step into your new life, and they are also complicated to get a hold of once you are out of your home. 

  • Driver’s license 
  • Social security card 
  • Passport/REAL ID 
  • List of key contacts both printed and in some type of cloud storage (such as DropBox) so you can access it with your prepaid phone (See #7) 
  • Health insurance cards 
  • Bank account statements 
  • Any copies of existing or former restraining orders (Don’t have a restraining order in place? Visit, Do I Need a Restraining Order, to learn more) 
  • Copies of tax documents for the past three years 
  • Marriage license (if you have one) 
  • Your birth certificate 
  • Kids’ birth certificates 
  • Copy of your resume 
  • Clothes (both casual and work/interview appropriate) 
  • Toiletries 
  • Any precious heirlooms/jewelry/etc., that is small enough to take with you 

Your credit cards and some cash are also ideal to have with you. Abusers are notorious for canceling credit cards as soon as their partner gets away, so be prepared for that. If you have the ability to get your own card, that is ideal. OR, get a cash advance on existing cards so you have working cash in case your credit cards are canceled in an effort to strop you of your resources once s/he’s learned you’ve left. 

Get a post office box 

Secure a post office box before you leave and begin having your mail forwarded there. If you can, consider using a post office or mailbox location that is out of your normal loop or routine so it isn’t as easy to trace you there. These locations are secure and there is no way your abuser can find out your new address if you don’t offer it to him/her. 

Only access your mail in full daylight, during busy times of the day, so any potential altercation will have witnesses and more access to protection from the public. 

Speak to your children’s teachers, principal, coaches, etc. 

Share your situation with the teachers, administrators, coaches, etc., in your children’s lives. Make sure they also have copies of any existing restraining orders.  

This can feel embarrassing or intimidating, but remember that your abusive spouse is the one who should be embarrassed. You have done nothing wrong. Your leaving is an act of courage, bravery, and love for yourself and your children. It will be seen as such by others and learning to grow into a lean on your expanding community will be a good first step as you begin baby-stepping into your new life. 

It’s also good for the adults in your children’s lives to know what is going on. It’s very common for children of domestic violence and/or divorce to struggle in school, withdraw socially, become more sad or angry, etc., and so knowing what is going on allows the adults in their lives to provide better and more compassionate support.  

Acquire a prepaid cell phone before leaving an abusive spouse 

These “burner phones” are exactly what you need because the calls can’t be traced. Do not share the number with anyone who might even consider giving it to your abusive spouse. If you have a moment of weakness or you suspect your abuser has found out your new number, you can ditch the old phone and get a new one.  

Call Us When You’re Ready To Leave

It breaks our heart that posts like this need to be written. That said, we are here for you whenever you need expert legal counsel or advice about your domestic abuse situation and to begin taking you through the steps to file and finalize your divorce. Contact me here at the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone to schedule your free phone consultation, or call me at 510-521-9500 or 415-482-7800.

Keeping it Together at Work When Your Marriage is Falling Apart

keeping it together at work when your marriage is falling apart

Is your marriage falling apart?

Sometimes, when a relationship is on the rocks, it can seem like everything else in your life is about to fall apart, too. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you keep it together in other areas of your life, such as at work, you’ll be much better at the end of everything.

Even if you can’t save your marriage, you can save your career and your pride. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to keep it together at work, even when your marriage is falling apart.

7 Ways To Keep It Together At Work

Let your supervisor know

Without going into dramatic details, it’s a good idea to alert your supervisor to the fact that you’re splitting up with your partner.

Before you start the conversation, decide exactly what needs to be said, and leave the rest out. The less you say, the better. Just give the basic information so they know what you’re going through.

If your job offers a benefits package to employees, you could also ask your supervisor or an HR representative about any support services that may be offered, or about an Employee Assistance Program. Sometimes, these benefits can help you through difficult times.

Keep things discreet

There might be a few close coworkers who you’ll also want to alert to the change in your relationship. However, for the most part, less talk is more. Avoid dishing the details about how your marriage is falling apart during water-cooler conversations.

Be selective with the details you tell about the situation. Being too open at work can come back to haunt you – people might stop trusting your credibility, or be reluctant to give you future opportunities at work.

If a coworker who you don’t know well asks you how things are going with the divorce, say something short and general, so you won’t accidentally spill too much. It’s a good idea to decide what you can say before they ask. For example, stick to a script like, “I’m still figuring things out, but thank you for asking.”

Remember that you can always choose to give them more information later on. However, once something’s been said, there’s no way to take it back.

Use your non-work support system

It’s important to have a good support system you can rely on outside of work, so you won’t start searching for a support system at the job instead.

Even if you’re close with some of your coworkers, try not to rely on them as your sole source of support. Spend more time with your non-work friends, and give them the details that aren’t appropriate to share with coworkers.

You might occasionally vent to your close work friends, too, but keep this to a minimum. People quickly get overwhelmed if they both have to work with you and support you outside of work, and this can damage those friendships.

Have a backup plan for hard days

Most days, you should be able to power through your normal work responsibilities. However, there will be those days when the stress and emotions feel like too much to handle.

If you feel overwhelmed at the moment, try to channel that energy in a non-destructive way at work. Try taking a quick break if you can. Take a brisk walk, get some coffee for energy, or step into the bathroom for some private deep breathing.

Once you feel like you’ve calmed down, get back to work and finish your tasks for the day.

If you get overwhelmed at a time when you can’t realistically take a break, try to compartmentalize the situation in your mind for the moment. If you can, take out a notepad and write down a few words about how you feel, then fold it up and make the choice to deal with those feelings when you have time.

Reduce communication with your former spouse

When your marriage is falling apart, the last thing you need is calls, texts, and emails about it at work. It’s important to cut off communications with your former partner as much as possible during work hours.

You need to be as free from distractions as possible while you’re working. Avoid any unscheduled conversations with your ex, including even short text messages.

A seemingly harmless conversation can quickly derail you if you aren’t careful. Limit communications to emergencies only, such as a situation involving your children.

If you get a message from your ex, take control by telling them that you can’t give them your attention right now, but you can talk about it later. Suggest a time that would be better for the two of you to talk.

If you have to respond right away, plan out what you’re going to say before you say it. You might even want to write down key points of the conversation to keep it from getting derailed.

Don’t use work to escape

Sometimes, work is a welcome distraction from the stress and emotions that come when your marriage is falling apart. To an extent, it can be helpful to use work as a form of escape. However, avoid using work as a way to completely avoid your emotions or block our the experience.

At some point, you’ll have to face those feelings, and the longer you wait the harder it will be. Find positive, beneficial ways to deal with your emotions now so they don’t come back to haunt you later.

Build a helpful environment

You’ll be more successful if you work to build a work environment that can help you stay focused and positive.

When your marriage is falling apart, it can feel like your life is spinning out of control. You’ll need to manage your work environment so you have the best chance at success. Use notes, reminders, apps, and whatever it takes to help you stay focused and think positively.

When your marriage is falling apart

If you’re thinking about divorce or starting the process, you don’t have to do it alone. You’ll be better equipped to stay focused on work if you have a great attorney by your side.

Ready to talk to a divorce attorney? Contact us now to get started.

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.

What is Legal Separation?

what-is-legal-separationLegal separation is either a precursor or alternative to divorce which involves the removal of one spouse from a shared household. Although they are considered still legally married, this separation has both economic and personal consequences as regards child support spousal support payments, and any income earned during the term of the legal separation.

The Judicial Process of Separation

A formal legal separation involves a judicial process presided over by a court judge; for example, in California the state Supreme Court is mandated that couples must live in different houses in order to qualify as legally separated.

It is important to understand that during this separation, the spouses remain husband and wife; however any income earned after cohabitation and its is considered their sole private property, and does not factor into any post divorce settlements – should the legal separation morph into a full-blown divorce. Indeed; eventual spousal support payments in the event of a divorce are affected by the date of legal separation.

Consequences of Legal Separation

Although separated couples are allowed to date and see other people during the period of the legal separation, they cannot marry third parties. Primarily, the court judgment is necessary to ratify the terms of the regulatory agreement presented by the parties by mutual agreement; or, by the presiding judge as regards parent child relations. Some of these considerations include the extent of parental authority, child care and support, visitation, and any associated maintenance costs of the afore-mentioned.

How Do You Start the Process?

The process of legal separation is started after the couple reaches a mutual agreement and presents the appropriate application – which is the petition for divorce/separation – and jointly presents this application to a magistrate. Alternatively one spouse can present the application, as long as he/she has the consent of the other spouse to do so on his/her behalf. Additionally, this application – the Settlement Agreement – also includes the terms of the regulatory agreement, which concerns matters of visitation childcare subject to custody decisions concerning matrimonial property, pension payments, family contribution, housing allocation, and any other considerations that arose as a result of the marital agreement.

Contentious Legal Separations

Generally speaking, legal separations – as well as divorces – proceed in a much more economical fashion when there are no children involved. If, however, the proceedings are contentious and one spouse files the complaints, he or she must have various documents that purport to support his/her economic or situational grievances. Of course, the other spouse and file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. After the court receives these, the legal procedures will be set at a later date, at which time the spouses will have to appear in court with their lawyers.

In the worst-case scenario of either a legal separation, or outright divorce, if the spouses have not reached a mutual agreement, then the judge, having heard both sides, will render judgment. As such, you should always consult with a family attorney even before you begin the process of a legal separation, because the ramifications will have a life-changing effect on your family – especially if there are minor children involved. In the event that there are no objections from your spouse as to the terms, the most likely scenario is that the presiding court will grant the separation.

As the laws vary from state to state, it is imperative that you consult with a local attorney, was well-versed in Family Court law, before you begin the process.