Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a divorce and a dissolution? There is no difference, as these words are used interchangeably and mean the same thing.
What does the word equalization mean in the context of a divorce or legal separation? It means to ensure each spouse is taking a similar amount of community property and debt, i.e. if Wife is getting $5000 in community property items and Husband is taking $0, then Wife would owe to Husband an “equalizing” payment of $2500 to ensure each spouse takes the same value of the community at the end of the divorce or separation. The same is true for debt.
Is the law the same in cases in family law as it relates to children in the child welfare law system? No, absolutely not. Cases that are brought within the context of a parentage case, legal separation and/or dissolution are governed by the California Family Code. Cases in the child welfare law system, i.e. juvenile dependency cases, are governed by the California Welfare and Institutions Code.
What can I do if my judgment did not address a piece of community property in my divorce? The law in California permits a party or parties to return to court to dispose of any property that is considered to be omitted from the prior division of assets. The omitted asset would be equally divided, if it is deemed community property, UNLESS the parties agree to otherwise.
Isn’t having a team of collaborative professionals going to be more expensive than just hiring an attorney for my divorce? Typically no, as cases that are left unresolved and require a judge to make a decision have to go to an evidentiary hearing. Having an evidentiary hearing can be very expensive for a client far beyond any team of professionals depending on how complex the issues in dispute are.
Child Welfare Law
Can I change a court order I got relating to my children from juvenile dependency proceedings, i.e. cases involving Child Protective Services? It depends. Orders from a child welfare law case where dependency has been terminated with specific court orders in place are considered final custody orders. To modify these type of orders, the person seeking to change these orders will need to establish that there has been a significant change in circumstance since the prior orders were put made and that the newly requested orders would be in the child’s best interest.
What’s in an estate plan? An Estate Plan normally consists of four main documents: A trust, a will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management (DPA), and an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD). A will and trust plan for after death, and the DPA and AHCD plan for during life. Every person over the age of 18 should have most, if not all of these documents in place to plan for the unexpected.
What is the difference between and will and a trust? Both documents distribute property after a person’s death. However, a trust is considered a probate avoidance tool. A will by itself does not avoid probate.
Why should I get a trust? The main purpose of a trust is to avoid probate. Probate is a very lengthy, very expensive court process where the courts will supervise the distribution of a person’s estate. This process can take anywhere from 9-18 months to complete, and costs thousands of dollars that is paid from the estate. In California, probate is triggered when a person has assets in their name that value over $150,000. This means that if you own your own home, this asset will likely trigger probate. Placing assets like your home, financial accounts, and other valuable personal property in a trust will prevent probate from occurring. This means your beneficiaries will receive their inheritances much faster, and it will not be diminished by the cost of probate.