How To Choose The Best Divorce Attorney Based On Your Needs

Posted by: maggio

By: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

One of the biggest and toughest decisions in your life can be filing for divorce, something generally most people do not want to do except as a last resort.  The next biggest issue is choosing a divorce attorney to represent you in your case.

So, how does one go about choosing a divorce lawyer exactly?  It can be a daunting task and ultimately a subjective decision that only you can make.

First, doing your research is always a good idea.  The internet allows you to search divorce attorneys online, look at their websites, and get a feel for the attorneys out there in your area.

Speaking of divorce attorneys in your area, you should generally try to choose an attorney in your city or county, depending on where you are.  For example, if you live in Orange County and your case is in Orange County, you generally should find and retain an Orange County divorce attorney.  Why?  There are 3 reasons:  (1) your attorney will have to travel less time to get to court, which in turn will save you in legal fees, (2) a local divorce attorney will know how the court in your county works (i.e. the little “ins and outs” of the court system) which is invaluable, and (3) a local divorce attorney will be known by the other attorney in your case and, even more important, the judge will likely know that attorney.  All those factors can have an effect on your case in terms of legal fees, the duration of the litigation in your case, and in how your case might be resolved.

Chances are you know someone, i.e. a friend, family member, or someone you work with, that has gone through a divorce.  If they are willing to talk about it, ask for an attorney referral because that person has gone through the process whereas you likely have not.  That person can give you a lot of helpful information and assist you in choosing a divorce attorney that fits your needs.

Much like asking someone you know about their divorce attorney, checking out and reading the client reviews of divorce attorneys is also a good way to narrow the attorneys you will want to set up consultations with.  Such reviews can be helpful in getting a sense of what those attorneys are like.  Some of those reviews are posted on attorney websites, but there are independent websites like Avvo.com that has helpful information about attorneys including client reviews.

It is always advisable to meet with more than one divorce attorney once you have narrowed your choices.  Set up consultations with each.  Some will offer free 60 minute consultations, some will offer a free 30 minute consultation, and some will require a charge for their time, often at the attorney’s hourly rate.  Do not let the issue of free vs. paid consultation be the determining factor in choosing an attorney.  Instead, in meeting each attorney, ask questions about the attorney, about how they handle their cases, about how available they are by phone/email/in person when needed, etc.  Make an informed decision about the divorce attorney you pick after doing all of this.  You want to pick an attorney that you feel comfortable with, is accessible and who actually listens to you.

A word of warning:  if a divorce lawyer that you meet promises or guarantees an outcome in your case, run out of their office.  NO divorce attorney should EVER promise or guarantee an outcome, because there are many factors involved if your case goes to trial that may affect the final outcome.   Don’t ever choose an attorney that says only what you want to hear, but one that also tells you what you need to hear.

In the end, there is no such thing as “the best attorney.”  There are many qualified divorce lawyers out there.  Rather, the issue is choosing the best attorney for you.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with Gerald Maggio, please call our Orange County office at (949) 553-0304 or go to maggiolawfirm.com.

Top 20 Financial & Legal Steps To Take After Your Divorce Is Done

Posted by: maggio

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

In most divorce cases in most states, you cannot charge estate plans, life insurance beneficiaries, etc., until after your divorce case has been resolved and your divorce judgment has been entered by the court.  However, once your divorce is final, you need to take immediate financial and legal steps to reflect your new reality.  The following is a checklist of the actions that you need to take:

  1. Change your name on all of your financial documents, bank accounts, etc.
  2. Close and/or change the names on all joint accounts.
  3. Make sure that all credit card bills and loans are paid promptly and closed by you (or your spouse if such bills or loans were designed as their responsibility in the divorce).
  4. Open a checking and savings account in your name.
  5. Open a credit card in your name to establish your own credit history.
  6. Set up and start depositing money into an emergency bank account to cover 6 months of living expenses and don’t ever dip into it.
  7. Check all of your investment accounts to make sure that the stated ownership of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and retirement accounts are correctly listed.
  8. Change your name with the Social Security department.
  9. Change your name on your driver’s license.
  10. Change the title on your automobile(s) into your name if necessary.
  11. Change your automobile insurance coverage into your name alone.
  12. Have your spouse’s name take off of the mortgage (or lease).  This may be difficult to do without a refinance of the mortgage.
  13. Make sure that you transfer ownership of all deeds for your real estate and record with your county recorder’s office if not accomplished in the divorce case.
  14. Change your beneficiaries on all life insurance policies.
  15. Change beneficiaries on all retirement and pension plans.
  16. Revise your health insurance coverage, dependent on the terms of your divorce judgment.
  17. Make sure any Qualified Domestic Relations Orders that need to be done to divide retirement benefits per your divorce judgment get done.
  18. Contact an estate planning attorney and have a new estate plan done.  Be sure to update your medical and financial powers of attorney.
  19. Speak with a financial advisor if you did not do so prior to concluding your divorce case and determine a financial roadmap for you post-divorce.
  20. Review your tax withholding allowances and taxes with your CPA, particularly if you are receiving or paying spousal support (alimony), and make any necessary adjustments with your payroll department.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact the Orange County family law firm of The Maggio Law Firm at (949) 553-0304 or at www.maggiolawfirm.com.

 

What Role Does Social Media Play as Evidence in Divorce?

Posted by: maggio

By:  Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

What happens when a spouse reads a “tweet” you sent about your latest date or your spouse sees photos of you on a vacation she didn’t know you were taking on your Facebook page? Is Social media acceptable as evidence in a family law case? Family law is determined by state law which means each state has its own unique requirements for property division, custody and support. All states now have some form of no-fault divorce though. In a no-fault divorce it doesn’t matter if a spouse had an affair or if a spouse was otherwise to blame for the dissolution of the marriage. The idea of no-fault divorce is to save couple from gathering evidence of wrong-doing and from blaming each other in order to get more property or something other advantage out of the divorce.

In custody disputes though, a parent whose behavior could be construed as harmful to the children, or as irresponsible for a parent, etc. evidence of drug use, drinking, or otherwise inappropriate behavior may be used against a parent in a custody case. State laws vary on what may or may not be considered in a court’s custody determination and in some states, adult behavior which does not occur in the presence of the children and does not impair a parent’s ability to parent may not be a factor. Judges have a great deal of discretion though so every case is different, even different cases in one state may have different outcomes based on each judge’s discretion.

Facebook and Twitter can be used against you.  Social media sometimes offers clues to the opposing side about the truth of matters.  A person who is claiming he cannot afford to pay child support and then posts pictures of his latest cruise to the Bahamas may have some explaining to do. An individual who claims she cannot find a job and then “tweets” about her new consulting business could be caught in a contempt situation. We live in a new world where people are constantly talking about their own day-to-day activities as well as those of the people around them. Even a careful individual who does not post photos on Facebook might end up on Facebook if a friend (or even a friend of a friend) posts a photo and tags a person in it.

Is social media admissible in court? This is a growing area of law and is not entirely clear in every state or in every situation. Tweets and Facebook pages must be verified as true and verified as coming from a reliable source. Like information in Wikipedia, not everything you see or read on the internet is true, so verifying the truth of anything in social media can be difficult from an evidentiary standpoint. It has created new questions and new challenges for attorneys and for the courts. Perhaps the best advice if you are going through a divorce is to steer clear of social media until your divorce is finalized. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your specific rights and responsibilities with regard to social media and divorce under your specific state’s laws.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact The Maggio Law Firm at (949) 553-0304 or at www.maggiolawfirm.com.

Top 5 Things You Need To Know To File For a California Divorce

Posted by: maggio

1.  In California, there are only two legal reasons for ending a marriage: [1] “Irreconcilable Differences” or [2] incurable insanity. Irreconcilable differences means that no amount of marital counseling will save your marriage.

2.  California is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that you do not have to give the court any other reason for filing for divorce.   You are, in essence, suing for divorce and contrary to what you see on television, you do not have to “ask” for divorce.

3.  You must have lived in California for 6 months and for 3 months in the county where you file for divorce.

4.  Part of the initial paperwork filed for divorce is a Summons.  In a divorce case, the Summons includes automatic restraining orders preventing either spouse from concealing, selling or disposing of any property, changing any insurance policies or beneficiaries, or taking any children of the marriage out of the State of California without the  written consent of the other spouse.

5.  To personally serve the initial divorce paperwork, the party initiating the divorce cannot serve the paperwork, but anyone who is at least 18 years or older can or you can use a professional process server.  A minor investment of less than $100 well worth the money versus asking a family member or friend to do so.

For more information or for a consultation, contact Orange County Divorce Lawyer Gerald A. Maggio at The Maggio Law Firm, Inc. at www.maggiolawfirm.com or (949) 553-0304.

Get The Right Attorney For Your Divorce

Posted by: maggio

One of the best bits of advice that you should adhere to is seek and retain a family law/divorce attorney to handle your divorce case.  Just because you were referred to an attorney by a friend or family member does not mean that you should hire them, particularly if they practice another area of law other than family law/divorce.  An attorney whose main area of practice is family law/divorce is going to know family law, the local court rules and procedures, the family law judges, and the opposing counsel, and that will have a direct bearing on getting a better settlement or better outcome if your case otherwise goes to trial.

Moreover, your case may involve a family business or other complicated joint assets, or underemployed spouses, and may require the use of forensic accountants, vocational evaluators, and other experts, and only a family law/divorce attorney is going to know the best options of who to use based on the need.  Such experts will also assist with settlement, and assist in litigation if your case otherwise does not settle. 

How to Dissolve a Domestic Partnership in California

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Those of a certain generation may recall Woody Allen’s famous line in his Oscar-winning film Annie Hall: “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

The “dead shark” phenomenon can happen to any relationship, of course, including those within a domestic partnership. Ending a domestic partnership in California, however, has some specific requirements of which those wishing to terminate their legal bond should be aware.

Whether between a man and a woman or a same-sex couple, a domestic partnership can be ended in two ways. The first is by a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership filed with the California Secretary of State. The second is through the Superior Court. Both of these options are fraught with their own potential pitfalls, not least of which because not every domestic partnership termination is eligible to be filed with the Secretary of State. To qualify couples interested in this route, the office of the California Secretary of State provides a 13-point checklist with such questions as whether or not children were born, will be born or were adopted during the course of the relationship. Likewise, the form asks how much debt was mutually accrued (it can’t exceed more than $6,000) and how much community property is owned (must be less than $38,000).

Clearly, it gets complicated quickly, which is why many of these types of separations often end up in California Superior Court. This could be a good thing as it gives you the right to a court hearing in front of a judge. When filing a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership, there is no hearing. Moreover, you forfeit the ability to have a new hearing or the right to appeal whatever decision is rendered to a higher court. In court, however, you also have the right to an attorney. This is where we can help expedite an amicable end to your domestic partnership and navigate you to a satisfactory settlement. Then, no longer burdened by the “dead shark,” you are legally free to pursue the other fish in the sea.

 

To learn more about Irvine divorce lawyer, Gerald Maggio visit http://www.maggiolawfirm.com/.

Lay Off Social Media During a Divorce

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Gone are the days when one’s personal life was, well, personal. Thanks to the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, texting and other forms of social media, it is easy for folks to broadcast anything and everything about their lives — no matter how mundane — for all the world to read and see.

However, anyone going through a divorce or involved in a marriage that is clearly on its last legs is best served putting the reins on such activity. Venting about the soon to be ex should probably be limited to a conversation with a trusted confidant, preferably in person.

A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys state they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking as evidence over the last five years. Not surprisingly, Facebook, which is wildly popular across the globe, leads the way in producing divorce evidence. It was cited as the top divorce evidence source 61 percent of the time.

What this means if a man is going through a divorce, he should not post photos of him and his buddies in a club surrounded by scantily clad women with a post that says something to the effect of, “Out on the town, no wife, no kids, the way my life was meant to be.” Women, of course, also should keep the level of discretion as high as possible, no matter how bitter they are about the ex-husband in waiting.

Anyone who thinks antics that could be deemed as bawdy or showing a lack of character or self-control will not be used as evidence in the courtroom is way off base. In fact, when it comes to deciding alimony, child support and visitation rights, bank on social media activity coming up during a hearing.

“You’re finding information that you just never got in the normal discovery process — ever,” said Denver attorney Leslie Matthews recently.”People are just blabbing all over Facebook. People don’t yet quite connect what they’re saying in their divorce cases is completely different from what they’re saying in Facebook. It doesn’t even occur to them that they’d be found out.”

Former AAML president Linda Lea Viken agreed.

“(We’ve told) our clients when they come in, ‘I want to see your Facebook page,’ Viken said.’I want you to remember that the judge can read that stuff, so never write anything you don’t want the judge to hear.’

“It’s all pretty good evidence… the judges don’t really have any problems letting it in.”

Besides the social sites, bear in mind your cell phone could be the bane of your existence during divorce proceedings. The new Apple iPhone 4s has a “Find My Friends” application. A spouse is able to load you and other friends on their phone and see where you are on a map. So if you say you’re at a Ducks or an Angels game, but are instead at an address in San Clemente, home to someone who just happens to be a prominent Facebook friend, that relationship will be inspected.

All in all, anyone in the middle of a divorce should keep social media activity as vanilla as possible. Of course, avoiding it altogether until everything is done is the best way to go.

Renee Cary writes for Irvine divorce attorney, Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm. To learn more about Irvine divorce lawyer, Gerald Maggio visit Maggiolawfirm.com.

Divorce Mediation Helps to Create Fairer, More Amicable Dissolutions

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

A new book The Longevity Project sheds light on many interesting aspects of how to live a long life and those people who end up the healthiest and happiest. Amongst many other topics, it discusses marriage and divorce. Staying married just for the children is not a good idea when the home environment is clearly troubled, they noted.

A home environment where parents are always in arguments, hiding things from each other, and taking sides with the children can have worse effects on a child’s long-term health than if they were to get divorced. A divorce blogger, Mandy Walker, wrote that, “…the Longevity Study reinforces the importance of putting the best interests of your children first when divorcing. There are some that will argue putting their needs first means not divorcing, period. But the reality is that life is more complicated than that, and divorces happen and will continue to happen.”

Divorce mediation can create a more stable way to break up the marriage and create a tailored solution that benefits the kids and the couple. Within a handful of sessions, the adults can discuss what their interests are for the division of assets, any property, and the parenting agreement. This is in stark contrast to a litigated divorce where a judge will decide everything and the process can take up to a year with a lot more costs.

As the blogger said, “…we can make significant improvements to how children weather the divorce of their parents by normalizing divorce.” Mediation allows the dissolution to happen in an amicable way. With each spouse’s input they will be able to more actively have a hand in the parenting agreement and learn more about the collaborative parenting process.

The divorce mediator is a neutral party, so he or she will facilitate the discussion and move it forward when there is a roadblock. The process shows each parent how they can take part in their child’s education and health care decisions, amongst other things. Mediation helps each parent find a way to be civil and cooperative, which can have great effects on how they carry themselves post-divorce.

Mandy Walker notes that, “…people who can face the end of their marriage as a learning opportunity can have the resilience and capacity to reinvent themselves.” Mediation can help a couple consider issues they might have never thought about, increase awareness of what is a fair settlement, and help them start a better chapter of their lives.

Renee Cary writes for Orange County divorce mediation lawyer, Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm. To learn more about Orange County divorce mediation attorney, Gerald Maggio visit Maggiolawfirm.com.

Custodial Parents Need to Take Quick Action on Overdue California Child Support

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

There are more than 60,000 cases of past due child support in Orange County, which is equal to more than 50 percent of child support cases being overdue, according to the California Department of Child Support Services. Divorced parents should know that child support laws still apply even when one of the parents moves out of the state. Federal laws mandate cooperation between the states, so it is only a matter of time before these issues will catch up with a person who is trying to evade paying court-ordered child support.

Some parents battle with the scenario of their ex always paying late or never the full amount.

What is sad is that some exes do this to spite their ex-wife or ex-husband, but it really hurts the child. In turn, millions of kids are not receiving the support that helps them live a happier, healthier life. Before things get out of hand, there are enforcement methods to make every effort to get an ex to pay. Custodial parents should not just give up, and child support attorneys can help to make sure your child support order is followed. Courts can also require an obligor to pay one year of child support up front. Your ex must show proof of the deposit. This child support “security deposit” will get put into an interest-bearing account and withdrawals can only happen with court authorization.

One of the easiest ways to ensure child support is paid for is through wage assignment. The employer of the obligor can be served an earnings assignment order, which means that the child support will be automatically deducted from the ex’s earnings. These orders also show that the ex must notify you about a change of employment, and the new employer’s contact info, within 10 days of being on a new job.

A judgment lien can also get assessed on your ex’s real property if they owe past due child support. The lien is recorded with an Abstract of Support Judgment. Then, when the debtor tries to sell the property or get a loan from the asset with the lien, he or she will be forced to pay it off. Most lenders and purchasers of this property will be unable to proceed when there is a lien on the property, so this effective enforcement method should be reviewed.

A custodial parent can also enforce child support payments through a writ of execution. A county sheriff, marshal, or registered process server will serve the obligor with the writ of execution. This will seize the funds, real or tangible personal property, or sell the real or tangible personal property and deliver to proceeds to the custodial parent.

Custodial parents should know that timely action is needed to get the child support you are due. Contempt proceedings can be held to enforce the child support order or judgment. Every month where your ex has not paid in full can be punished as separate count. And they can be responsible for paying the custodial parent’s legal costs due to the enforcement proceedings.

Renee Cary writes for Irvine divorce attorney, Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm. To learn more about Irvine divorce lawyer, Gerald Maggio visit Maggiolawfirm.com.

Proposed Legislation Would Eliminate Spousal Support for Convicted Sexual Felony Spouses

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Current California divorce laws will grant spousal support to a husband or wife when there is a significant difference in income. Temporary spousal support can be granted to help during a transition, or if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years permanent spousal support can be established. Currently, one of the exceptions to this rule is if your soon-to-be ex tried to murder you. Victims rights advocates say this does not go far enough. A recent bill ¨C AB1522 ¨C would extend this exception to spouses who are convicted of other violent sexual felonies.

“Victims of violent sex crimes already suffer physical trauma, fear, and an assault on their privacy and dignity,” said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who recently introduced the bill. “To require them also to pay their abuser alimony or to give them a share of their pension or household goods is cruel and makes a mockery of the intent behind the laws governing the fair division of assets in a divorce.”

A victim of marital rape, sodomy, and forced oral copulation urged lawmakers to make this change in the divorce and spousal support laws. Crystal Harris was ordered to pay $1,000 a month before her husband Shawn Harris was convicted and sent to state prison for six years. The San Diego Superior Court judge considered the domestic violence when figuring the spousal support and reduced her obligation from $3,000 to $1,000. Crystal had a financial consultant job whereas her husband had been out of work for several years when their 12-year marriage ended. She was also ordered to pay $47,000 of the $100,000 legal fees from the divorce proceedings. Crystal felt victimized again when she was ordered to pay this even though he had committed three serious felonies.

Since Shawn is in prison, he does not receive spousal support but when he gets out, he could currently ask the courts for spousal support unless AB1522 passes. AB1522 would also allow the injured spouse to not pay the legal and attorney fees the convicted spouse owes in any divorce proceedings. This would make a big difference throughout all of California for victims of spousal assault and sex crimes.

Victims should contact a divorce and domestic violence attorney that can promptly and effectively uphold your rights when a situation occurs that harms you or the children. An experienced attorney can be your ally to help with legal and safety concerns in these times of need.

Renee Cary writes for Irvine divorce attorney, Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm. To learn more about Irvine divorce lawyer, Gerald Maggio visit Maggiolawfirm.com.