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.

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

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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

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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.

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.

Unhappy Spouses Need to be Aware of Apps and Social Media Use as a Marriage Unravels

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Relationships are established much quicker in our hyper social media age. It used to be that relationships evolved over months but with technology – whether texting, social media, or email communication – everything happens at a rapid pace. For marriages that are on the rocks, a spouse can rekindle or find a new love and intensify the bonds rapidly.

A recent article in the Huffington Post highlighted how, “This means more affairs, and perhaps an increased number of marriages breaking up due to technology.” When a person is having a bad day at home with a spouse, they often turn to social media to relieve their stress and get back some enjoyment. But before you start to post negative comments about your spouse or send inappropriate pictures or posts over social media, think twice. Otherwise, you could wreck the success of a fair divorce.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers notes that 75 percent of divorce lawyers are utilizing evidence from social media in marriage dissolutions. Use caution and restraint when posting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any online technology or you could cause more trouble than your post was worth. Remember it is not social media that is causing the problem, it is your behavior that is inappropriate. Do you want to see photos of a night on the town with cocktails in the background and a post that says “thank goodness I am away from the husband and kids”? Imagine seeing this on a big screen in the courtroom for everyone to examine when it is time to decide alimony, child support, or your fair share of the child visitation rights.

Your ex’s lawyer and the judge will scrutinize these posts and be able to take them out of context. So exercise some restraint so that problems are minimized. Also be aware of the power of your cell phone. The new Apple iPhone 4s has an app “Find My Friends” that can land you in the crosshairs of a lie. A spouse can load you and other friends on their cell and see your location on a map. So when you claim to be stuck in traffic on the 405, your spouse can see in reality you are in Laguna Beach. The GPS system does not lie, and it will be hard to show that you got lost if you were truly messing around with a mistress, that happens to be a Facebook friend that lives in Laguna Beach.

So do yourself a favor and stay off all social media and exercise caution until the divorce is finalized and you want to start a new relationship. Otherwise you could jeopardize your child custody and marriage settlement because of inappropriate behavior.

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

Resolve to Divorce Amicably in 2012 and Try Mediation

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

In the New Year, couples who are getting divorced and can amicably do so can utilize mediation to make the dissolution process far less contentious. This process is far more attractive than a long, drawn-out courtroom battle. Mediation not only cuts out unneeded stress, but it saves money and time. For many, it is more of a team concept of both spouses, a mediator, and a few sessions to iron out the specifics of the divorce.

A mediator will provide guidance to reach a resolution on the issues that still need to be worked out. They bring critical negotiation skills to listen to each party’s interests and concerns, and then help to find a common resolution that each person can agree to. The mediator is a neutral party, and oftentimes an attorney, so they will be able to provide you with a background of what is legally permissible. When an impasse is reached or negativity stalls progress, the mediator knows how to get the conversation back on track. For some couples this means not doing the mediation all in one day. But in two to three sessions, you can resolve all the big priorities of the dissolution.

It is important for you to know what your future needs are so that child support, spousal support, and the division of assets and debts are done to help you find as stable of a future as possible. What many people like about mediation is that it allows you to express your values and opinions. A litigated divorce, in contrast, follows a more strict formula and what some call a “one size fits all” approach. Mediation is more sensible for two adults who can be in the same room together and hash out the details. You can take into account the budgets you live with everyday and the future needs you and the kids will have. Mediators also know how to look for tax savings and alternative settlement options to increase the chances of financial stability post-divorce.

Couples who have been through a mediated divorce say that it is far better to have the two people who intimately know their finances and assets decide how to dissolve the marriage versus a judge or pair of attorneys. At the end of the mediation process, a final divorce settlement will be created and approved by the courts. Months down the road, you will thank yourself for doing mediation. The money you saved can go towards the kids, a savings or emergency fund, or establishing yourself in a new home.

Gerald A. Maggio is an Orange County divorce attorney, in Irvine, California. To learn more about Orange County divorce lawyer, Gerald A. Maggio, visit Maggiolawfirm.com.