Archive for Money

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?

 

 

Does Divorce Mediation Work for Complicated Financial Issues?

Complicated financial issues can make a divorce complicated. Mediation can help you sort out your issues.

Complicated financial issues can make a divorce seem complicated. Mediation can help you sort out your issues.

One common myth about divorce mediation deserves a debunking:  You can’t mediate when there are complicated financial issues. This advice is completely wrong. The opposite is true. The more complex your divorce finances, mediation offers the best way to sort them out without resorting to expensive litigation.

Comparing costly, stressful divorce litigation in court, and the same divorce process using mediation, these are the reasons why mediation can be a better choice for complicated fiancial situations.

Financial disclosure same for mediation as in court

Financial declarations in divorce cases are the same no matter whether you go to court, or pursue alternative dispute resolution.

Financial declarations in divorce cases are the same no matter whether you go to court, or pursue alternative dispute resolution.

Courts require the identical forms used in mediation. Parties complete an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) and a Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142). The law requires disclosure of all material facts and circumstances related to money – whether asked for or not.

Additionally, parties can have financial disclosures reviewed by counsel before agreeing to anything. Whether your divorce is simple or you have profoundly complicated financial issues, your divorce process will require full disclosure. There is no difference between mediation and litigation in the level of detail.

Because mediation relies on informal discovery rather than formal and expensive discovery, people actually tend to get more information in mediation than in litigation.

Lawyers know the name of the game when served with discovery in a litigated case is to provide as little information as legally possible.  It’s even more the case when there are complicated financial issues.  But in a mediation, the information tends to be more forthcomingbecause people are not being forced into tedious formal discovery processes.  This may seem counterintuitive, but actually it’s human nature.  When people are forced to do things they tend not to cooperate.  When things are more voluntary, people are less threatened and more likely to do what they are supposed to do.

Use a neutral financial specialist in mediation

The financial specialist can help gather information when there are complicated financial issues. Sometimes the parties may not know which questions to ask relating to the divorce finances.  The financial specialist can help know what questions need to be asked and can also alert parties to red flags.  This is especially helpful when the parties are at different levels of knowledge relating to the finances.  The financial specialist helps bring people to a level playing field.  Reports that the financial specialists produce can be very helpful in uncovering options and finding pathways to settlement.

Mediation lets you be creative with solutions for your divorce finances

Judges must follow the law. The law isn’t flexible. Judges have limited options to offer you. But when people mediate, they are free to create a settlement best for the family.

I have seen many “outside-the-box” settlements in mediation. Most are far better for the family than what a court could ever provide.

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There is no risk in mediation. Parties are not required or pressured to enter into any agreements without the option to talk with a lawyer before signing. You can have an agreement reviewed by your own financial professional at any point.  This ensures parties are not left to their own devices when considering challenging money questions.

Avoid shark attorneys who discourage mediation

Shark type attorneys will discourage you from mediating. They might tell you court is your only option. Be skeptical. If you have significant assets, they want your case. This serves their interests, not yours. They know they can make a ton more money if they can fight over your financial issues.

Don’t get sucked into a litigated case when you don’t need to. You might believe your case is so difficult, only a judge can sort things out. In today’s family courts, judges do not have the time to spend on complicated details. Those details important to you can be lost. A skilled mediator can handle any issue you present. Mediators take all the time you need to be sure you address and resolve each detail to your satisfaction.

Make sure your mediator possesses the training and experience necessary. When things get complicated, he or she should be willing to bring in additional experts. Ask whether he or she has worked with couples in circumstances similar to yours. Your mediator should be able to offer examples. Don’t work with someone getting on the job training during your case.

Read more about money and mediation:

Mediating Your Divorce When The Other Party Is a Bully

We Don’t Get Along Very Well. How Can We Possibly Mediate Our Divorce?

Will I Be Able to Keep the House?

How can we divide personal property without going crazy?

Sometimes it is most difficult in divorce cases to divide personal property —the “stuff” accumulated over the years of a relationship. When people share their lives with each other, they also share and accumulate a lot of personal property. Sometimes the task of dividing the household furniture, furnishings and appliances can be a real struggle. Not only can it be difficult to physically divide and value the assets, it can be a real emotional rollercoaster.

I mediated for a divorcing couple recently, who had their most difficult struggles dividing the pots, pans, furniture, washer, dryer, stereo and those little knick-knacks they picked up at the swap meet over the years. Worse they were on the “pack rat” side of things so they accumulated a lot of things together. Each item represented something important. One piece of artwork reminded them of their romantic vacation in Mexico. The silver they had purchased together to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The little statuette on the mantel was a gift from their child. All through the house they saw many symbols of their relationship and all that they had invested in each other. As a result, a task to divide personal property was extremely painful.

Here are some tips to help you divide personal property:

Understand that the court would only award a household asset at garage sale value.

divorce, personal property, divide personal property, san diego divorce attorneyUnless it is a Steinway Grand Piano or a rare piece of artwork, the chances are high that your stuff is not worth nearly what you may think. While you are looking at the values of things, think of what you would, as an objective outsider, pay for the item at a garage sale or a flea market. Be careful not to allow emotions to “inflate” in your mind the value of the flatware or the coffee maker. Yes we know that the teddy bear collection is absolutely adorable, but honestly, what would a third person really want to pay for it. Use common sense and don’t allow your emotions to cloud things for you when you divide personal property.

Do it yourself.

It is really not cost effective to pay your attorney $300 plus per hour to fight about who gets which couch or who gets the bath mat. If it’s a high dollar asset such as expensive artwork or collectable antiques, you may want to use your professionals. But, for most things it makes more sense to save the money and do it yourself.

Do an inventory first.

It’s a good idea early in the process and before you start dividing things to make a list. If time is a problem, I often recommend going through the house with a video camera and speaking about each item as you tape. You can then go make your list later.

Make a list to divide personal property.

In fact, make several lists. I suggest four columns. Column 1 means he gets it. Column 2 means she gets it. Sell everything you list in column three and divide what money you get equally. Column 4 is for those things in your closet to throw away or donate like the polyester suit in the closet, your old beta video tapes or the pile of Louis L’Amour novels that you haven’t read in twenty years. Notice, I am not including a list for items about which you cannot agree. I am a big believer in using the old Solomon method. If you can’t agree on who gets it, then sell it or donate it. You simply can’t afford, for most items, to spend the time arguing and spending money on your attorneys. One idea, if you are stuck, is to just take turns picking items you can’t agree on until they are gone. Another idea is to give extremely sentimental items as gifts to your children.

Make a plan for photographs and videos.

I recommend that you choose a date when each of you will make photographs and videos taken during the marriage available to the other. The person making the photograph or video available will allow the other to choose which ones her or she would like to duplicate. There are services available that can duplicate these items and even restore some of them for you for a reasonable fee. With today’s computers, scanners and printers, you may be able to do a lot of this yourselves. Each of you should share equally in the duplication costs.

Pets, according to the law, are property.

I have had many clients tell me how their pets have become nearly as important to them as children. They are often surprised to learn that the court deals with them not as living things so much as property. Few courts will entertain a pet “custody battle.” Remember, a court has the ability to truly play Solomon with your pets and order them sold. I advise parties to do everything they can to work it out relating to the pets. Do everything possible to consider your pets’ needs and do what is best for them rather than allowing them to become an issue of property division.

Be careful if there is a history of domestic violence.

In cases where there has been domestic violence, sometimes it is difficult to sit together and divide personal property. In such instances, it is probably advisable to go ahead and use your attorney as at least a go between. Naturally, if there are restraining orders in place, it would be impossible to meet face to face. But the same ideas described above apply. It is just you will need to make arrangements to inventory the house without the other being present and with proper legal arrangements. Don’t violate a restraining order just to get some stuff out of the house.

I have had many clients tell me that the process of dividing the personal items was a healthy cleansing process.

One client told me, it was nice to get rid of some of our old, useless stuff and start over for a fresh, clean break. If even after following these steps, a couple still finds it difficult emotionally, I recommend making use of a divorce coach, who can even come to your home while you do the division. Typically using a single divorce coach is much more cost effective than using your attorneys to divide household items.

If both parties approach the task to divide personal property with a fair, patient and open mind they will likely be successful in doing the division with little to no attorney intervention. The court’s are particularly happy when parties can reach agreements on their own. Parties should be careful not to allow the division of things bring unnecessary conflict. Remember, they are just things and not people.

tips to divide personal property, san diego divorce, san diego divorce attorney, Shawn Weber, san diego divorce mediator

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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CNBC: Divorce After 50 Can Be Pretty Hard

It seems that the grey divorce is on the rise. According to a post on CNBC.com, 1 in every 4 divorces is from a couple over 50. I find that amazing.

portrait of mature aged attractive senior womanDivorcing moments before retirement can be a dangerous proposition. I have seem many of my over-50 clients finding themselves in serious trouble. They often don’t realize that the community property portion of the retirement is cut in half in California. Nearly 100% of my clients lose money in the divorce. Dividing assets and no longer pooling resources can make for some serious budgetary heartburn. Younger couples can bounce back pretty well, but I often worry for the older couple. There just isn’t enough time to rebuild the nest egg. If one spouse stayed home to take care of kids and never reentered the workforce, there simply isn’t enough time to rebuild new job skills and earn sufficiently to save for retirement in such a short time. Support payers are often faced with the prospect of alimony payments for the rest of their lives.

This article on CNBC.com by Ilana Polyak does a good job of laying it out: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102083712

Let me know what you think? What thoughts or ideas do you have for older couples facing a divorce?

San Diego Attorney Sandra Morris on Why Collaborative Practice Saves Money

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My friend and colleague, Sandra Morris, is an outstanding family law attorney in San Diego and a member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego.  She recently shared a great article about the cost benefits in choosing Collaborative Practice to do a divorce as opposed to the terrible cost of litigation.  It’s a good read.

My favorite quote from the article: “The economic and time savings in the costs of discovery is enormous. You have saved time, and therefore saved money.”

Here is a link to the article: http://collaborativefamilylawsandiegoblog.com/?p=349

For information about how you can use Collaborative Practice for your divorce or legal dispute, contact Shawn Weber at 858-345-1616 or visit http://www.bravewebermack.com/Family-Law-Overview/Collaborative-Divorce.shtml.