Family Law Attorney in Diamond Bar Serving Throughout California
No family is perfect, and sometimes outside assistance is necessary to resolve a breakdown in a family relationship. Family law governs the legality of family relationships, and can be used in a wide variety of cases, including:
- Child custody and visitation rights during divorce proceedings
- The determination of paternity
- Domestic violence and child abuse
- Financial arrangements
- Legal agreements between couples
- Pre-marital agreements
A divorce is a stressful event that will significantly affect the rest of your life. The parties in divorce proceedings are understandably very emotional. Unfortunately, the will often result in poor decisions made by both parties
If you are going through a divorce, the situation is already stressful and overwhelming enough. Let us take care of the details and fight for what you deserve. Blasser Law’s experienced attorneys will arrange every aspect of your divorce agreement, including:
- Domestic Abuse
- Restraining Orders & Visitation
- Child Custody, Support, and Visitation
- Spousal Support
- Division of Property and Assets
- Grounds for Divorce – Fault/No–Fault
Family & Divorce Mediation
Mediation is an effective alternative for resolving family law disputes. It provides a couple with an opportunity to resolve their differences outside of court and start their separate lives without the need for a costly and stressful trial.
A mediator is an impartial individual who can assist the parties work through the issues of their divorce or other family law dispute. Often times, this will result in the parties reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. Mediation is voluntary and it empowers couples to retain control over the outcome of their divorce.
Mediation can be extremely beneficial because it is often less adversarial, time-consuming, and costly than battles waged in a courtroom. Your personal details remain confidential and the mediator will work to settle a couple’s dispute rather than assign fault or blame. Mediation participants have more control over the process, and the mediator encourages open communication from both sides. The goal is for both sides to work towards reaching a mutual agreement which can improve future cooperation and avoid further legal disputes.
Individuals can use mediation to reach resolve disputes concerning parenting arrangements, parenting plans, spousal support, and the division of assets and debts. If mediation is unsuccessful, you still have the option of resolving your dispute through court litigation.
Mediation, however, does not remove the need for legal counsel. An attorney can help you prepare for negotiations, explain the gravity of each legal issue which arises, and answer any questions about how to proceed. Your family law attorney should also review any proposed settlement agreement before it is signed and finalized. Blasser Law can assist you with all of these concerns.
A family law dispute often involves many legal issues which affect children. Some of the most common issues include child custody, time share, visitation, extracurricular activities, holidays/vacations, and child support. Indeed, these issues frequently turn out to be the most quarrelsome elements in any family law proceeding.
Custody and Visitation are legally significant terms that people frequently confuse. Custody has two elements: Physical Custody and Legal Custody. Physical Custody refers to which parent the child will live with. Legal Custody refers to which parent or parents will have decision-making authority for a child’s health, education and welfare. This includes decisions concerning where the child will attend school, what medical procedures can be administered, the child’s religious upbringing, sports activities and where the child will attend daycare.
Both physical and legal custody have serious consequences. It will significantly affect whether one parent has the right to move away with the child, the effects upon extended family, educational opportunities, and mental health counseling or treatment. It will also affect an individual’s tax liability.
Factors in determining joint vs. sole custody
When determining custody, courts must apply the “best interest of the child” standard. The policy of the law is that parents should be able to share their children and have frequent and continuing contact with their children.
A judge will typically hear the evidence both sides have to present and will then make a judgment call. Without the proper counsel, this can result in the court making a snap judgment without the assistance of any expert or family counselors. This is dangerous because it may establish a status quo from which future orders will deviate.
Prior to the first temporary custody order in a case, except in emergency matters such as those involving protective orders, the parties are required to attend mandatory mediation through Family Court Services, also known as Child Custody and Recommending Mediation or the Family Services Bureau (depending on the county). The parties will meet jointly or separately with a qualified mediator employed by the county. The qualified mediators are typically individuals who are Licensed Clinical Social Workers or Masters in Family Therapy. The mediator will speak with each party for a limited period of time, may request to interview the child or children, and will then formulate a short report and written recommendations for the court to consider.
Although courts are not bound by these recommendations and have the discretion to modify or reject them, they tend to give the recommendations great weight and adopt them. As such, a party’s future relationship with his or her children may be determined by spending less than an hour with a mediator. People who tend to do well are those who are courteous to the mediator and focus on their child as opposed to lobbing personal attacks towards the other party. Self-control is crucial, as is a person’s willingness to attend co-parenting counseling, therapy, anger management, or other forms of therapy. Indeed, most family court mediators are mental health professionals who are taught to believe that therapy is the best remedy to nearly every family law dilemma.
In some cases, the court will order a child custody evaluation. This can be a longer process where the parties can select a Licensed Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D.’s or Psy.D’s) rather than relying solely upon the court mediator. It provides both sides with more time to meet with the evaluator, and provides the evaluator with much more data to make his/her recommendations. The evaluator can contact any third parties he/she feels has information to offer and can visit the child’s school and home. Often times the evaluator will be able to complete psychological testing as part of the process. An evaluator will typically spend 25 hours or more on the case as opposed to the 1 – 2 hours that a family court mediator will spend. The evaluation typically results in recommendations set forth in a 25 – 45 page report. Although this is usually the best option to provide the court with full and unbiased information, it can be very expensive (e.g., from $7,500.00 – $30,000.00 or more).
Another option to consider is “recommending mediation” with a mental health professional that has substantial forensic experience with custody matters, but who may not be a clinical psychologist. The recommending mediator will work with both parents and the child to assist them with resolving any issues. The recommending mediator is not an arbitrator and cannot issue any orders, but he/she would submit recommendations to the court which would be given significant weight.
Initial custody hearings are typically less than an hour and are referred to as “short cause hearings.” During that limited time, the court will make its initial orders as to custody, time share, occupancy of the family residence, child support, spousal support, and other issues depending upon what relief has been sought and what is at issue in the pleadings. A party may request a “long cause hearing” at the time of an initial custody hearing, at which time the court will set the matter for a contested evidentiary hearing down the road. At that time the parties may call witnesses and present any other evidence they have to support their case.
The formula used to calculate the appropriate amount of support is known as the child support guidelines. California law provides guidelines to courts for setting the child support payment amount. Child support guidelines take into consideration factors such as: 1) each parent’s gross monthly income; 2) the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent; 3) the tax filing status of each parent; and 4) deductions such as property taxes and mortgage interest, pre-tax deductions, other children an individual is supporting, work-related expenses, etc.
In setting the amount of child support, the court considers income from all sources, regardless of its being taxed under federal law. The purpose of enacting the guidelines was to make the calculation less of a judgment call and more of a mathematical equation. Income can be in the form of money, property or services, and includes wages from a job, tips, commissions, bonuses, governmental benefits, passive income, rental or business income and all other income which is available for child support. Unlike spousal support, a party’s expenses are normally not a factor in computing child support.
The net disposable income for each parent is calculated by subtracting certain items form his or her income, including taxes, union dues, health care premiums, out of pocket business expenses, mandatory retirement, child or spousal support being paid from another relationship and costs of raising children from another relationship. The State of California has actually developed a child support calculator.
Family law disputes, particularly custody disputes, often times unfortunately result in one (or both) parents slinging as much mud as possible towards the other side. Parties have been seen to try and paint the other parent as incompetent, bi-polar, angry, depressed, a substance abuser, a physical abuser, a molester, an alienator, etc. Since no one wants to expose the children to such a person, it can result in temporary sole custody to the mud-slinging parent, random drug or alcohol testing or assessment, parenting classes, batterer’s classes, therapy, professional or non-professional visitation supervision, etc. The person who bears the brunt of this mud-slinging may be left looking at years of difficult litigation with the constant involvement of mental health professionals just to obtain a fair and reasonable custodial time share with his or her children.
It is also important to note that child support is significantly dependent upon each party’s custodial time share. The more custodial time you have, the more money the other party has to pay or the less money you have to pay. In other words, in addition to the need to be with the children, factors such as control, revenge, vindictiveness, learning to believe you are a victim, and money (especially money) are considerations in seeking custody and fighting for every day and minute and trying to exclude the other parent.
We are not suggesting or recommending this course of conduct. It is, however, a “fact of life” when it comes to dealing with a family law dispute. Simply put, you sometimes see the worst side of the best people in family court. By retaining the experienced attorneys at Blasser Law, you can protect yourself from false allegations and fight back when they arise.
Domestic Violence is about power and control over another person. It is not a mere problem with anger. Abusers can act charming, loving and attentive…when they want to. In California, domestic violence is a crime. Criminal Code section 273.5 requires criminal penalties including jail or prison and participation in a 52 week batterer’s treatment program. To meet the criteria for arrest under 273.5 the partners must be married, living together, or have a child in common and the victim must have visible injuries.
Domestic Violence (DV) in Family Law is significantly subjective and is often misused as a tactical vehicle in an attempt to obtain custody. While there may be no doubt as to its occurrence when someone is hit, shoved, has credible witnesses, medical care or visible injuries, it is sometimes difficult to prove absent independent corroboration. DV may include threats, non-contact actions, expressions of anger and other elements deemed threatening to a party. If a person, be it a household member or a spouse, is placed in reasonable fear or apprehension of injury, domestic violence has occurred.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Act can be found in Family Code §6200 et seq. The definition of DV is in §6211 and the definition of abuse is in §6203. While this is not a treatise on Domestic Violence (DV), certain points should be noted:
- Family Code §3044 is frequently the motivating factor in the bringing of allegations, whether founded or fabricated. Family Code §3044 raises a rebuttable presumption that if there has been a showing of DV within five years, an award of sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child would be detrimental to the best interest of the child. Stated differently, if Party A proves that Party B perpetrated DV, Party A will be significantly ahead in any attempt to obtain sole custody (and a higher or lower amount of child support).
- DV can result in criminal charges pursuant to Penal Code §273.5. This is serious stuff and can result in loss of custody, jail time, fines, attending a one year batterer’s program, therapy, etc.
- Some DV allegations in family law cases are fabricated, exaggerated, and even brought with the cooperation of friends. While false allegations are not uncommon, unfortunately a very significant percentage of DV allegations are true and can result in serious physical and emotional injury…not just to the victim, but also to minor children. We are adept at both prosecuting and defending these claims.
- Absent someone being under the influence, DV rarely occurs in a non-confrontational environment. People argue, goad each other, threaten each other, until one party does something to react, be it having physical contact with the other party, making a threat, screaming, kicking an object, throwing an object, etc. At that time someone will call 911, the police will respond. Sometimes, if things are very heated, the responding officers will issue an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) for one party to vacate the residence for a period of time sufficient to enable the other party to file papers in the court seeking a more permanent order or to allow things to cool down.
- In cases of substance use, including drugs and alcohol, if a party is under the influence the police will take that person into custody. As to custody matters, if habitual usage is established the court may order a drug or alcohol assessment and/or treatment as part of any DV orders, and may also order supervised or restricted visitation with minor children.
- We sometimes hear creative terms such as “financial abuse”, the threat that the other party will be thrown out into the street and will get nothing, the threat that a spouse will take everything, and threats regarding seeing the child. Husbands often use financial threats as a weapon to control a wife. None of these threats usually form a basis for DV. People get angry and say stupid things in an effort to hurt the other party. They rarely come within the meaning of Family Code §6203.
- If there is DV, or an allegation of DV, a party normally files a Request for Order seeking, amongst other relief, a restraining order, a stay-away order, temporary custody, temporary support, counseling or therapy for one or both parties, a “kick-out order”, etc. This is often done ex parte which means without the presence of the other party. If a request for an ex parte order is filed, it can be with notice to the other party, or without notice. If it is with notice, the other party may file a Responsive Declaration within a specified time period. This may range from one to two days in most counties. If it is issued without notice based upon an allegation that great or irreparable harm will result from giving notice, the Court will consider only the moving papers and may issue, deny or modify a temporary order, pending a hearing within either twenty-one or twenty-five days or, if custody is involved per Family Code §3062, within twenty days. The law generally requires notice but in a significant percentage of cases a party will file without notice because it is easier to win when the other side is not present at court to defend himself/herself. Judges frequently are callous and sign these despite the policy of the law as set forth in 5th and 14th Amendments on the theory that it is only three weeks until the hearing. For a child torn away from a parent, or for a parent torn away from a child, the Court’s do not understand that this can be a lifetime.
Domestic Violence should not happen to anybody and there is no excuse for it. Just as in battery cases, words, no matter how insulting or derogatory, do not justify putting someone in fear for his or her safety. When such threats, physical contact or actions do result in abuse, attorneys coming onto a case or a party can file a request for emergency restraining orders offering protection for victims fearing for their safety. Temporary Restraining Orders can be granted by a court within twenty-four (24) hours of being submitted to the Court and then become part of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) by which any law enforcement agency in the State of California has access to them and will enforce them.
In the family law context, the allegation of domestic violence is an all-too-common occurrence. Spouses seeking an advantage in litigation often seek domestic violence restraining orders to obtain sole and legal custody of the children, expel the other spouse from the family home, or just as a way to get even with their spouse. Often times these allegations are fabricated or over embellished. Issues from the past surface, resulting in allegations of physical and emotional abuse from one-time isolated incidents. This can leave the accused spouse having to disprove every allegation posed by their vindictive former spouse. In these cases, a practiced family law attorney can mean the difference between: 1) having a restraining order granted and having one denied; 2) having one’s children on a fair timeshare or having restricted visitation; 3) having access to the family home or being excluded; 4) being able to possess firearms or not; 5) obtaining or maintaining a security clearance or not; and 5) being able to enter certain foreign countries or not.
In the end, remember to always control your temper and “count to ten” before responding when you are angry. If emotions are too high to calm yourself down, then walk away rather than respond. Do not make any threats. No hitting or pushing. Don’t do anything in the presence of your children to scare them. Don’t make derogatory remarks about the other party in the presence of children. If you need protection, or if you need to be defended against such an order, we are competent, capable and experienced attorneys. Blasser Law has the ability to deal with these circumstances in an effective manner.
Spousal support has two different standards, depending upon whether the order is temporary or permanent. Temporary orders are set by the same computer programs that are used to calculate child support, but the factors considered vary from child support and the court may deviate from the guideline figures. Unlike child support, a party’s expenses and ability to meet those expenses are considered by the court, as reflected by the evidence including a party’s requisite Income and Expense Declaration.
When the time comes for the court to determine permanent support, it is prohibited from relying upon the guidelines and must independently consider each of the criteria set forth in Family Code Section 4320, including the marital standard of living, earnings and earning capacity, job skills, duration of the marriage, time away from work to raise a family, age and health of the parties and instances of domestic violence. It also includes the admonition that the goal is for the supported party to be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.
Should a party be unemployed while issues on spousal support are pending, courts are liberal in granting what is colloquially referred to as “seek work orders.” These orders typically demand that a party spend no less than 30 hours per week seeking work and maintaining a journal of all efforts to obtain employment.
Permanent support is not “permanent” within the normal definition of the word. “Permanent” in regard to family court orders normally means that, in order to seek or obtain a modification, there must be a showing of a material change in circumstances since the prior order.
Emotionally Contentious Cases
Unlike many attorneys, we do not shy away from high conflict litigation cases involving custody, property issues or false allegations. That is why many of our cases come to us on referral from other attorneys. We understand the nuances of family law litigation and that we are dealing with egos, emotions, the need to control, vindictiveness, retribution, domestic violence, family interference, alienation, disputes between former and current partners, hidden assets, and the myriad other machinations and consequences of a relationship gone bad. We are ready to fight for your rights in any family law matter you may have.