Archive for February 2019

New Case – Watch out if asking question in a deposition about a custody evaluation

New Appellate Case: Anke v. Yeager

There is a new appellate which came down from the Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal on February 4, 2019.  The case is Anka v. Yeager and can be found here https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2019/b281760.html.

You know it’s going to go badly for the attorney in the case when you read this in the opening paragraphs quoting the oath of admission required to practice law described in California Rules of Court, rule 9.7:

“These cautions are designed to remind counsel that when in the heat of a contentious trial, counsel’s zeal to protect and advance the interest of the client must be tempered by the professional and ethical constraints the legal profession demands. Unfortunately, that did not happen here.”  [Emphasis added.]

Yikes!

Sanctions for revealing the contents of a custody evaluation in deposition questions

In Anka v. Yeager, an attorney asked a question during a deposition as part of a child custody dispute about the contents of a custody evaluation.  The displeased trial court ordered $50,000 in sanctions against the attorney and party under Family Code sections 3025.5 and 3111.  The trial court found that the attorney’s asking questions about the custody evaluation in the presence of the court reporter and videographer at the deposition constituted an unjustified, malicious and reckless disclosure of the contents of the custody evaluation.

When the sanctioned attorney appealed.  She argued that the court reporter and videographer were “officers of the court” and were, therefore, exempt under 3025.5.  However, the appellate court held the court reporter and videographer were not employees of the court and were therefore not exempt.  The trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing the sanctions on the attorney.  The attorney by asking deposition questions referencing the custody evaluation disclosed highly personal information about the child and family.  Moreover, disclosure in the form of questions in the presence of a court reporter was malicious and reckless.  The court affirmed the sanction of $50,000 against the attorney but reversed the sanction against the attorney’s client.

Be careful about asking questions in a deposition about a custody evaluation!

So, what is the lesson here? In a custody cases, do not ask questions about the custody evaluation in a deposition without court clearance.  If you screw this up, you may be paying a lot of money in sanctions and could even face discipline.

Big Change Coming in California Mediation Law in 2019 You Need to Know About

New Form Required by California Evidence Code § 1129

The California Prenuptial Agreement — Dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s”.

multi-racial couple signing prenuptial agreement

Get your prenuptial agreement right!

California Prenuptial Agreement Rules Are Strict

I have seen A LOT of malpractice by otherwise supposedly competent lawyers in the area of prenuptial agreements. The California law for prenuptial agreements is fairly strict for what will pass muster and what will be thrown out. If you don’t get it right, your prenup won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

Here’s my “prenup formalities” checklist:

1.    The agreement must be in writing. California Family Code § 1611.

2.    The agreement must be executed voluntarily. California Family Code § 1615(a)(1).

3.    The parties must fully disclose information about debt and assets. California Family Code § 1615 (a)(2)(A).

4.    There must be a waiver of further disclosure expressly waiving, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or debts of each spouse beyond the disclosure provided. The parties should execute this prior in time to the signing of the prenup. California Family Code § 1615(a)(2)(B).

5.    Both parties should have counsel.   Furthermore, each attorney should sign off on the prenuptial agreement. California Family Code § 1615 (c)(1). (Technically, California Family Code section 1615(c)(3) provides that a prenuptial agreement could be enforceable with only one attorney. However, it is harder and I don’t recommend it. I won’t do a prenup without lawyers on both sides.  That’s because the requirements to show that the other party was fully informed of rights and obligations is too onerous. Because it sets the single attorney up for a lawsuit, I simply won’t do it.)

6.    Both parties must have had no less than seven calendar days to review the prenuptial agreement between the time it is presented in final form and it is signed. California Family Code § 1615 (c)(2).

Download the free Weber Dispute Resolution Prenup Checklist HERE!

Notary?

Although the code does not specifically require it, I always notarize my prenuptial agreements. Another tactic is to follow the agreement up with a postnuptial agreement for reinforcement.

Do a postnuptial too

Different rules apply to postnuptial agreements. So, if a court throws out the prenuptial agreement under the premarital agreement act, the same document as a postnuptial agreement may save the day

Gotta have counsel

When you are contemplating your own prenuptial agreement, make sure you do it with an attorney. Don’t rely on an online service or a paralegal service to prepare your documents. Too much can go wrong and it is very easy for a court to throw out an agreement if it doesn’t meet the requirements of the code. Also, as mentioned above, don’t let your attorney fly solo on this. So, make sure the other party has counsel.

Get it right!

Again, I have seen a lot of attorneys go down in flames because an agreement ran afoul of the code. I have seen even more agreements go down in flames because the parties tried to do it without counsel. Word to the wise: Get it right.

Prenuptial Agreements Are on the Rise, And More Women Are Requesting Them

Great post with tips for couples planning cohabitation