Archive for Marriage

I Have An Alimony Order in California – What is a ‘Gavron Warning’?

What is a Gavron Warning?

Paper family split between broken dollar heart with Alimony text

What is a Gavron Warning?

The idea of the “Gavron Warning” came from the case In Re Marriage of Gavron, (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 705, 250 Cal.Rptr. 148. In this case, the parties separated in 1976 after a 25 year marriage. Subsequently, the court ordered the husband to pay $1,100 per month of alimony. He did so until 1981, when he asked the court to reduce support to $550 and then terminate entirely after one year. This initial request was denied.

However, the husband tried again in 1986. This time the court ordered that support would continue for five months and then terminate. The wife appealed and reversed the trial court’s order. The appellate court held that because the wife was not warned in prior orders to become self-sufficient, she could not be penalized years later because the court did not tell her to make efforts. In essence, as the court argued, the failure to focus her on the expectation to become self-sufficient meant that the court could not cut her support now.

Because of this case, the courts will frequently issue a warning to the supported spouse. Here is an example of a Gavron Warning:

“NOTICE: It is the goal of this state that each party will make reasonable good faith efforts to become self-supporting as provided for in Family Code section 4320. The failure to make reasonable good faith efforts may be one of the factors considered by the court as a basis for modifying or terminating spousal or partner support.”

Supporting Spouses will want the Gavron Warning included

So, the lesson for support payers is to make sure that the court includes such language in the spousal support order. If it is not, it may be harder to reduce income later if the supported spouse refuses to make good faith efforts to become self-sufficient. When I am representing a support payer, I always ask the judge for a Gavron Warning and I almost always include it in written stipulations. I will also sometimes simply file and serve a written Gavron Warning to the supported party myself at the beginning of the case so that there is no question that the supported party has been warned.

The supported spouse will likely rather not have the Gavron Warning included, but it is hard to oppose it

When I am representing a supported spouse, naturally I will not bring the Gavron Warning up. However, if opposing counsel wants it in an order, there is no legal basis to resist it. The moral for the supported spouse is not to count on the alimony as a permanent means of support.

I frequently refer the supported spouse for vocational counseling to assist with re-entering a career. I get as much alimony as I can, but encourage the prudence of planning for self-reliance. After all, no one knows for sure what the future holds. Not only could the support payer try to reduce alimony, it could simply terminate by means of death. Any changed circumstance such as unemployment or disability could force a reduction or termination in support too. The best advice is to use the support as a life preserver to stay afloat in the short run, but take steps immediately to be ready for when the support may no longer be available.

Further reading:

How California Spousal Support Works

What does California Child Support Cover?

 

 

The Irreplaceable Dad: The Importance of Dads Stepping Up In Co-parenting and Moms Letting Them Do It

This article was originally posted in 2013.  We have received such a positive reaction that we are reposting it.  It was the subject of Shawn Weber’s upcoming interview on the Real Talk San Diego Facebook Live program on March 28 at 1:00 PM PDT.  Watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/yourwealthhour

Some dads aren’t so great

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Let me preface this post by noting that there are a lot of terrible fathers. Many of them are abusive, punitive and cruel. Many are irresponsible and fail to take their role as parent seriously. Some simply abandon and neglect their families. In such cases, it may very well be better for the kids if these dads weren’t around. Such men are not “fathers”. They are unworthy of the title. My heart goes out to their victims. But, there are good dads out there and in many cases, their role can be unnecessarily marginalized. I am only talking about the good dads in this post. Women, please don’t hate me.

Every time Father’s Day approaches, I find myself contemplating the role of a dad in the family- in particular, given my career as a family law attorney, the role of a dad in a post-divorce family. I grow increasingly frustrated with the term “single parent”, which is so often bantered about unnecessarily. We are told of how hard the single parent has to work. Often we are treated to images of single moms struggling to make ends meet with kids at home and a dad nowhere to be found or, at least, not involved. For many of my clients, that is the case. To be sure, there are a lot of dads out there who don’t step up.

Co-parenting is better when possible

In most cases, however, single parenting isn’t necessary. Co-parenting is the better way to go. After the demise of some marriages, one parent does everything possible to eliminate the other parent from the equation. I have heard moms say that they would be happy if their kids’ dad would just go away. Some even say they would prefer their ex-husbands to be dead. Such sentiment is surprisingly common. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

There are dads who check out and neglect their families, refusing to pay child support and refusing to take responsibility as fathers. There are dads who are abusive. It is only natural that a woman may feel uneasy about the man who beat her up. I am not talking about the bad apples here. However, there are many dads who do not deserve the level of scorn they receive.

Divorce can be nasty. When people get to my office, things are usually pretty bad. Folks don’t make the big decision to get a divorce unless they are very unhappy with their spouse. However, all too often, a wife can unnecessarily extend her hatred of her ex to his relationship with the children. These women, not realizing the damage they inflict on their children, will stop at nothing to minimize or even eliminate a dad’s involvement in the family. While they are very happy to maximize the child support they receive, they are relentless in removing dad from the parenting equation. This is not ok. Kids need their dad and although a wife’s experience of her ex-husband as a spouse may be less than perfect to say the least, this man still has an important role with the kids.

I have had a number of cases recently where a mother decides, for whatever reason, to relocate out of the state. These women have reasons for their decision to relocate. Sometimes the reasons are good. Many times they aren’t. Perhaps they are moving closer to family. Perhaps they feel they can get cheaper housing. Universally, they minimize the impact on the kids’ relationship with dad. They, wrongly, believe that they are the only important parent in their children’s lives.

What they fail to understand is that this man, with all of his imperfections, is still their kids’ dad. He is a part of them. They love him. Yes, they even need him. One prominent psychologist told me that the moving parent almost in every case fails to understand how devastating moving the kids away from the other parent can be. In family law, move-away cases are not about what is in the child’s best interest. Rather it is about minimizing detriment. It is rarely in the child’s best interest to move away. As participants in the legal process we are then asked to determine whether it messes the kids up more to lose their dad or to lose their mother. Judge’s hate these kinds of cases.

Dads matter to kids

I have seen grown, tough men weep openly in my office as they explain to me how hurt they are that the mother of their children cares so little for their contribution. One such parent lamented that with his wife moving, he would no longer be able to attend Cub Scout meetings or coach the soccer team. One father told me how upset he was that his son would miss out on campouts and fishing trips. Another dad told me how tragic it was that he and his daughter would miss their regular basketball scrimmages at the local park.

I have also seen children in pain that one of their parents is being cut out of their lives. One teenage boy told me that he misses his father terribly and doesn’t understand why his mother speaks negatively about him. He says, “He’s my dad. When she bad mouths him, it is like she is talking bad about me. It makes me cry. I don’t show her though; I just go in my room and punch my pillow.” Another twelve-year-old boy told me that while he loves his mom and understands that she had her reasons for leaving his father, he feels like a piece of him is missing. He said, “My uncles are great. But they are not my dad. Why can’t I just have my dad around.” Then with tears in his eyes he said, “I just wish I could still hang out with him.”

Dads, you need to step up

Not just to pick on the moms, I have had many mother’s complain that they wished that their ex-husbands would be more involved fathers. They try to encourage dad to participate, but he refuses. Sometimes dads just “check out” as parents after the divorce. This is not ok either. Dads, you need to step up.

I am a strong believer that it takes two genders to be most effective in parenting. To be sure, there may be someone out there who will take me to task and wrongly accuse me of sexism. I am just noting, that as much as we would like to say that there are no differences, men and women are, in fact, different. These differences, rather than seen as a way to divide families, should be embraced and celebrated. As a father of five children, my wife and I have had many conversations about how important we believe the gender differences are in our parenting. We each bring different parenting styles and different approaches to the table. These differences enrich our children and bring them balance.

father parent child

The best co-parenting I see is when both parents are deeply involved

While the parents may have deep and real differences that led to a divorce, they don’t show their children these differences. Rather they present a unified front to the kids. They both encourage a relationship with the other parent. They seek the other parent’s guidance and counsel about issues with the kids. The kids benefit greatly from having both parents as active and equally important parts of their lives.

(Just an aside, it is equally damaging when fathers eliminate mothers from the equation. But we are talking about dads here. We also see more cases where the dads get pushed out then the other way around. But the inverse does happen.)

So what is the lesson?

Moms, unless your ex is truly one of the bad apples I mentioned above, you should probably go out of your way to include him in the parenting of your kids. Remember, he is part of who they are as individuals. That is meaningful. Encourage him to be involved. Encourage your kids to reach out to him.

Dads, it’s time to step up if you haven’t already. You are vital and irreplaceable. You are more than a convenient source for child support. You are far more important than a mere sperm donor. Make SURE that your children know that you love them. Demonstrate your love by word and deed. Be responsible. Be involved. Tell your kids that you love them. Show an interest in their activities. Don’t give up. Don’t just blame your ex if you have a terrible relationship with your kids. Step up and take initiative. Those kids of yours are precious and they need you.  You are their father!

To both parents, minimize your conflict.

Spend less time fighting about stuff in court and more time working together in a mutually respectful manner. I encourage the use of mental health professionals, mediation or Collaborative Practice to help folks work together. I know the split up probably hurt. Now, be the grown-ups. Swallow your pride. Find a way, if at all possible, to work together for your kids.

mother and father co-parenting

 

Read also:

6 Tips for Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

3 Great Tips to Give Your Kids a Voice in Your California Divorce

Five Tips to Have a Miserable Divorce

Five Tips to Reduce Your Divorce Stress that Most Attorneys Won’t Tell You

Stress Management ConceptDivorce and legal separation can be an extraordinarily difficult time in a person’s life. Clearly, divorce is not just a legal process; it’s a human experience. Although there are legal and financial questions to address, the transitioning of the family is not without a good deal of divorce stress. Here are some ideas to help manage the divorce stress that a lot of attorneys will never share with you:

Consider a No-court Option

If you ever want to get depressed, spend a day at the family court observing the poor folks being shuffled through adversarial litigation. At court, the lawyers make a lot of money and the parties cede the control of their futures to attorneys and strangers in black robes. While some cases require court, most do not. There are many consensual dispute resolution options available such as mediation or Collaborative Practice that can keep you and your family out of court. Ask your attorney if she offers no-court divorce options.  If she doesn’t, then look elsewhere.

Consider Hiring a Divorce Coach

Resist the temptation to use your attorney as a therapist. In Collaborative Practice, mental health professionals assist as members of a team hand-in-glove with attorneys and financial professionals. While not doing therapy, coaches help the parties in a divorce situation deal with the emotions and the divorce stress. EVERYONE can benefit from time with a divorce coach. Even clients, who think they are handling the divorce stress without a coach, are often surprised with how much a mental health professional makes things go more smoothly. If nothing else, learning how to interact with you now estranged spouse and your kids during this difficult time is of huge benefit and can significantly reduce your stress. While divorce coaches are most typically used in Collaborative Practice, I have had a great deal of success incorporating coaches in mediation or even adversarial litigation.

Consider Hiring a Divorce Financial Specialist

Finances can be one of the biggest causes of divorce stress. Resist the temptation to use your attorney as a financial planner. I can tell you, most attorneys went to law school so they wouldn’t have to do math. As such, this is not the person to ask for financial advice. Hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a great way to get good financial advice and to find clarity regarding money—even if you were not the spouse who handled the money. There is no reason to suffer in financial ignorance. Financial knowledge is empowering!

a worried woman feeling divorce stressTake care of your body

Most people when they are stressed out first neglect taking care of themselves. When folks get scared or depressed, the temptation is to forget your health. Don’t do that! Besides, exercise is a great way to blow off steam. Join a kick boxing class. Lift weights. Put a punching bag in your bedroom. Also, make sure you are eating well. Eating too little or too much can exacerbate your divorce stress. You need good fuel for your body, mind and spirit.Get into the Spirit of Things. Prayer and mediation can be great ways to center yourself to deal with stress. No matter what your religious background, taking time to be mindful through meditation or prayer can significantly strengthen you. Talk to clergy or a spiritual advisor to find the best way for you to fuel your soul.

sport, box and people concept - young man in gloves boxing with

Forgive your Ex. This is a tough one for many people. But hate can do more to damage the hater than anyone else. So, look for ways to let go of your anger and forgive. Maybe the marriage is over, but holding on to hurt and resentment does little to help you move on. Look forward. Don’t look back! You will find that your load is much lighter.

Beautiful Woman Doing Breath Exercises With An Autumn Background

 

 

Try these steps to reduce divorce stress

These are only a few ideas to reduce your stress during a divorce or legal separation. But if you take even just these tips to heart and implement them in your life, you will find that you will be strong as you go through this difficult time in transition your family. Don’t fret. There is a light to the end of the tunnel!

Other articles related to divorce stress:

Stress, Divorce and Down Dog by San Diego Attorney Win Heiskala

CNBC: Collaborative divorce can ease emotional, economic stress by Deborah Nason

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

Will I be able to keep the house?

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What?!?! How could we have been so wrong about the divorce rate?

Conflict between the man and the womanFor years I had pretty much taken it as gospel the popular statistic that 50% of all marriages end in divorce.  It seemed to fit an apocalyptic narrative, which seemed to fit to the time.  But recent evidence shows that although divorce rates increased and peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, rates have actually been declining steadily ever since.  In other words, we were dead wrong and its wrong to keep repeating it.

Read about it here and here.

Now… that doesn’t mean that people aren’t divorcing.  Fortunately for me and perhaps unfortunately for the rest of the world, my family law practice is humming right along.  I don’t seem to have a shortage of divorce cases coming through my door.  So, I still hold to this sentiment: although I may not be able to change the fact that people get divorced, I may be able to change HOW they divorce.

That’s why I offer out of court consensual dispute resolution options like mediation and Collaborative Practice.  I simply believe that helping families transition without the need for adversarial litigation makes the world just a little better and makes the lives of those going through the divorce way better.

Christie Brinkley & Billy Joel still friends

Christie Brinkley & Billy Joel still friends 20 years after their divorce. Watch Billy serenade the Uptown Girl. http://ow.ly/AdygX

 

Newest from the #CPCAL blog: “Conscious Uncoupling and Collaborative Divorce”

Newest from the #CPCAL blog: “Conscious Uncoupling and Collaborative Divorce” http://ow.ly/zQVSq