Tips from Chandler family law attorney

Woman Finalizing Divorce by Taking Ring Off

What to do After Your Divorce is Finalized

What to do After Your Divorce is Finalized

Your divorce decree (“Judgment”) was finally signed by a judge.  Now what?  There are several steps you should take:

  1. Estate Plans and Health Care Decisions. The Judgment and the end of your marriage will not automatically revoke a trust, omit your former spouse as a beneficiary of your estate, or prevent him from being your designated representative for medical decisions.  You should re-execute any existing Living Will/Health Care Directive, or execute a new one now that you do not have a spouse to communicate your wishes.
  2. Insurance beneficiary designations. Here again, the dissolution of your relationship will not automatically revoke prior designation, even if your Judgment contains specific words about insurance beneficiaries.  Check small term life insurance plans through your bank, credit union and employers to execute new beneficiary designations.
  3. Credit cards, department, and big box store credit accounts. Obtain a free copy of your credit report.  Contact all open charge accounts to be sure that you alone have charge privileges.
  4. Your last name. Through your divorce, you may have changed your last name.  If so, be sure to contact your employer, the Social Security Administration, the US Dept. of State (passports), and the DMV so that all records have your correct name.
  5. Change titles. Review all of your accounts and vehicle registrations (including boats, ATVs, RVs, etc.) to ensure that all of your vehicles are registered in your name alone; and, that you are not on registrations for vehicles assigned to your spouse.
  6. Make sure all financial accounts have been divided. A Judgment does not automatically divide financial and retirement accounts.  First, compare all the accounts you know about to the Judgment to create a list of all accounts which need to be divided.  If either you or your former spouse had a retirement account which was divided through the Judgment, be sure to contact the retirement plan administrator to have each spouse’s share of that account properly transferred to each spouse.  Also, contact all bank, investment, and financial account holders to divide the balances as stated in the Judgment.
  7. Keep your divorce file! Obtaining copies of your Judgment and other pleadings from the court take a lot of time and can be expensive.  Keep your Judgment until you are sure that both you and your former spouse have fulfilled all your responsibilities under the Judgment.

Choosing A Good Divorce Attorney

How To Choose A Good Divorce Attorney

Going through a divorce is much more than paperwork, finances, and dividing assets and debts.  Divorce is a life event…you are transitioning from one chapter to the next.  Choosing a “good” attorney to assist you with the divorce process and this life transition is a highly personal decision.  Certainly, you should start with friends or family who has worked with an attorney; however, you should still interview at least two attorneys to find a “good” attorney for you.

A good attorney for you will be one who listens to you, understands your goals and preferences, and has the professional skills and knowledge to manage your divorce as you prefer. Here are several tips to help you choose a good attorney for you:

  1. Know what you want from the attorney. Attorneys can be retained to assist in a limited number of tasks (“limited scope”), or for full representation.  In a limited scope arrangement, the attorney represents you for only specifically-identified tasks.  For example, you may retain an attorney for representation for a child support request, but not for division of assets and debts.  Limited scope representation is most appropriate when there is only one area in dispute.  Most clients, however, retain an attorney for full representation – all issues in a case.  Full representation makes sense for most clients when there is an overlap of facts and information between issues when the client is unfamiliar with the law, and/or when the client would not be comfortable speaking in front of his/her spouse or the judge.
  2. How much communication do you want/need directly with the attorney?  During your initial conversation with the attorney, ask the attorney about the process for having direct contact with the attorney…will you have to go through the secretary, then the paralegal, and then the attorney?  And, do you have to pay for each person’s time, only to repeat yourself again when you are in direct contact with the attorney?  In other words, it is reasonable to expect that you will be immediately directed to the most appropriate person who has the knowledge and expertise to address your questions and concerns.  You should also feel free to ask about response time… how soon will the attorney respond to your questions or emails?
  3. What is the attorney’s personality? Even though the attorney-client relationship is a professional relationship, you must be comfortable when working with the attorney and/or his or her staff.  Does the attorney patiently listen to your questions and concerns?  Is the attorney flexible in his or her approach to your case?  If you would like to have easier and more direct contact with the attorney, versus staff, be sure to interview attorneys in smaller firms.
  4. “Pit Bull” or Strategist? It is rare that a case requires the same approach throughout a case.  There are many variables which an attorney should be considered before determining the approach – pit bull, strategist or a bit of both.  Pitbull approaches are effective when there are strong facts and law behind that approach.  If not, this approach often results in a high attorney’s fees and weaker results.  A good attorney will honestly discuss various approaches with you which will most closely match your preferences and available funds for attorney’s fees.
  5. Does the attorney have a record of discipline with the State Bar of California (or any other state)? Before retaining the attorney, check the State Bar’s website to ensure that he or she does not have a record of discipline.  You should also feel free to ask the attorney if he or she has been successfully sued for malpractice or misconduct.

The bottom line is that you should definitely use personal referrals as the starting point in your search for a good attorney for you and your situation.  Using these tips during your interview process will help you make a good decision.

Caring mother helping little daughter dressing for walk with dad, family talking getting ready to go out standing in house hall, divorced young couple shared parenting and joint custody concept

Essential Tips for Making a Parenting Plan Work

Essential Tips for Making a Parenting Plan Work

Parenting Plans That Work. (or How to Minimize the Need for Court and Attorneys)

Parents can minimize, if not eliminate, the need for attorneys and the court system by creating a good parenting plan.  Parenting plans created by parents also address the specific needs of the family.  To create a parenting plan that works for your family, including the following:

  1. Details! Details!  Details!
    • Parenting days and times. Certainly, as the schedules of you, your child and your ex-spouse become more complicated, there will be disagreements, time conflicts and other issues affecting parenting times.  Because of this reality, many parents are tempted to not use a parenting schedule or to create a vague schedule.  These parents often end up needing an attorney and/or the court’s assistance to later create a working parenting schedule.  If your family feels too restricted by a set schedule, feel free to include language like “if we cannot agree, then our schedule will be _______”.  Parents should also keep in mind that children adjusting to two homes greatly benefit from certain and regular parenting time.  This certainty provides the children with security when they are going through a lot of adjustments.
    • Where will exchanges occur? While most parents choose exchanges at each parent’s residence, feel free to get creative.  Consider exchanges at school or daycare, or at a midway point.  Also, be sure to consider issues such as traffic flow, each parent’s work schedule and distance from home, and the child’s extra-curricular activities.
    • How will decisions be made about your child’s school location, medical care providers and treatment? As all parents know, there is a myriad of on-going decisions which must be made about their child’s education, medical care, and extra-curricular activities.  In California, decision-making is referred to as “legal custody”, which the parents share unless they, or the courts, decide otherwise.
    • Vacations, holidays and traveling outside of the country. Discuss with your co-parent the length and frequency of vacation time for each of you (including “staycations”) and how you will share holidays.  You should also work out agreements about advance notice and any concerns either parent has about travel outside of the US.
    • Religious practices. Each parent has a right to involve a child in that parent’s religious life.  Each parent also has a right to not involve a child in religious practices.  Either way, an effective Parenting Plan will accommodate each parent’s preferred practices, or the choice to not have religious practices.
  2. Co-parenting Practices. While not essential, co-parents often benefit from agreements about how they will work with each other.  Consider including in your Parenting Plan communication practices both parents can live with.  Examples include the preferred means of communication (email versus texting) and how soon each parent will respond to the other’s communication, considering the topic, work schedules, and other commitments.  Most parents find agreements to use one form of communication and for responses “within ___ hours” reduces uncertainty and simplifies communication.

If you and your co-parent cannot work out basic agreements for the parenting plan, an attorney will be able to guide you through the court’s process to set a parenting plan through orders.  If your co-parent is inflexible, unreasonable or communication is just too difficult, contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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