How long will it take before my divorce is completed?
By law, your divorce can be final six months from the date a copy of the Summons and Petition is legally served on your spouse (regardless of whether property or custody disputes remain).
What are your fees?
We charge by the hour. However, in order to ensure that there's enough to cover our initial work, we usually require a "retainer" of about $3,500 (it can be less, depending on whether a single task is involved, or more if it's a very complex case).
This "retainer" is not our fees; it's simply deposited in a bank account from which our hourly fees are deducted each month, with activity statements mailed to you (if the retainer is depleted, you may be asked to replenish it).
Ultimately, it's up to the Court whether you can be reimbursed for these fees, either from your spouse, or the community property.
What is a "Bifurcated" divorce?
A bifurcated divorce is one where the marriage itself is terminated while additional time is allowed by the Court to figure out how to divide the property. This way, disputes over how to divide the property don't delay the formal ending of the marriage itself.
What is a "Spousal" support?
Actually, there is no formal definition for "spousal support" under California law! But the term is generally used to mean the money paid by one spouse to the other to either maintain the "way things were" (so each spouse can continue to maintain the same life style as existed during the marriage) and/or to enable one parent to be the "at home" parent while the other is the "work force" parent.
Spousal support can be ordered at the beginning of divorce proceedings as well as once the divorce becomes final. The Court considers several factors in determining how much and for how long the support will be, including how long the marriage lasted, the supported spouse's education, his or her ability to earn and the standard of living that the parties had during the marriage.
For how long must one pay spousal support?
If the marriage was relatively short, support can generally be ordered for up to one-third of the length of the marriage. For long term marriages, support can last indefinitely, although the general policy in California is that it shouldn't last for more than one-half the length of the marriage in most cases.
Is every spouse in a divorce entitled to spousal support?
No. It depends upon the actual income being earned by the parties at the time of the divorce.
Is there a situation in which the wife may have the to pay spousal support?
Yes. Starting in the mid-90s, the social-economic status of women began to change and, more importantly, began to be recognized as changing by the courts. Before then, women rarely earned the same as men.
That's not necessarily the case anymore. In our office, roughly 40% of the women of a divorce earn more than $60,000 (up to $150,000) a year, while some husbands earn much less. In such cases, the wife may very well end up being ordered to pay spousal support to her husband if the husband's attorney requests and fights for it!
Am I entitled to receive a portion of my spouse's pension?
Depends... If the pension was earned during the marriage (while your spouse was earning "creditable" time towards his or her retirement), the answer is yes. In that case, the Court applies a formula that first determines the "community property interest" in the retirement earned during the marriage, and then figures your separate property interest.
What does "Custody" means?
The term custody has several meanings:
1) "Joint custody" means joint physical and joint legal custody of the child or children.
2) "Sole physical custody" means that the child or children resides with, and is under the supervision of, one parent, subject to the power of the Court to order reasonable visitation.
3) "Joint physical custody" means that each parent has significant periods of physical custody in such a way that gives the child or children frequent and continuing contact with each parent.
4) "Sole legal custody" means that one parent only has the right and responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
5) "Joint legal custody" means that both parents share the right and responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of the child.
6) "Primary physical custody" is a term that is frequently used to describe joint custody arrangements. Although useful in settlement discussions, it really has no legal meaning.
Lastly, in deciding how to award custody and visitation rights to one, or the other, or both parents, the Court takes into consideration any history of child or spousal abuse or the habitual use of drugs or alcohol.
I would like to share 50-50 custody of our children after the divorce. Is this possible?
Yes, but there are many factors that the Court (and you) should consider. Here are just a few:
• Do you and your spouse communicate well (if not, joint physical custody generally doesn't work well)?
• Are the children secure enough in their relationship with you, that they will not be affected if they are separated from the other parent?
• Depending on the age of your children, will transportation between both spouses' homes be a problem?
• Do both parents live in the same school district?
• Does each parent have adequate room for the children?
What are the three most common errors you see made by men in their divorce?
1) They believe that they must always pay spousal support (and ignore the possibility that they might actually be entitled to it).
2) They believe they must pay all the bills.
3) They believe they can never receive child custody.
To better understand these misconceptions, prior to about 1990 men didn't feel they were getting a fair break in divorce court. As a result, men's groups were organized throughout the country and actually began sitting in during court sessions, deciding whether to "boycott" a particular judge and/or sponsoring candidates to replace various judges.
Needless to say, this got the attention of judges and the courts. And court proceedings began showing much more equality when it came to men's rights in divorce court!
Prior to that, men rarely received child custody because they were generally assumed by the courts to be the family's "bread-winner" while the wife was usually assumed to be the one who stayed at home with the children. As we all know, this concept has radically changed over the years. Now, it is quite common for both parents to be wage earners and the children's care-givers.
Today, a father now has about the same chance of being awarded child custody as the mother.
Tell me about yourself?
I graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1959 in San Diego. I attended the University of San Diego and graduated with a BA in 1964. I then attended law school (and was Student Body President).
I began my legal education at the University of San Diego School of Law until being drafted during the Vietnam War. Upon my release from the Army, I attended -- and in 1971 graduated from -- Western State University Law School (now known as Thomas Jefferson School of Law).
I passed the California State Bar the same year (1971) and was formally sworn in as an attorney in January 1972.
I've now been practicing for 42 years. In 1983 I was appointed to the Family Law Steering Committee, serving in that capacity for about one year.
Do you have any specialties?
Yes. I am a Family Law Specialist by practice.
The State of California acknowledges two ways of becoming a specialist: Either by taking an examination and having practiced law for five years, or by devoting one's entire practice to that legal field. I've become a Family Law Specialist through the latter method, having devoted my practice to family law since 1976.
Prior to that, I practiced law with Michael Hegner, a criminal specialist, developing the necessary trial skills which have enabled me to aggressively represent clients in family law matters.
What distinguishes you from other family law attorneys in San Diego?
The average family law attorney generally limits his or her practice to the typical issues: Divorces, support, custody, retirement.
However, to be successful in this field, an attorney must be able to spot ALL potential issues that can come up. When I first decided to become a divorce lawyer, I knew the only way to rise to the top of my specialty was to become an expert at handling every possible family law issue.
So, besides the "typical" issues, I also handle all other matters that may arise in a family law case -- including criminal issues, child or spousal abuse, domestic violence, very complex divorces -- EVERYTHING.
I firmly believe that this willingness to expand my skills to cover all possible areas of family law -- along with my aggressive and comprehensive client representation -- gives me the "edge" that my clients appreciate!
Why should I hire you?
First, because I'm honest, I work extremely hard, you can always reach me and I do NOT overbill.
Second, because I hate losing! Yes, I'll assist my client in fairly resolving the issues that arise. But I'll also fight when necessary to the bitter end!
Third, you can always count on my personable and knowledgeable staff.
And finally... because 40 years of experience DOES make a difference!
I think you'll find that, all things considered, hiring me and my firm may be the best decision you'll ever make -- at a time when you need sound advice and high quality legal skills the most!