August 2010 Archives

August 30, 2010

San Diego Child Support News--Jury Rules for Bren

The Justia-photo-57 jury trial.jpg>San Diego Union carried the story, just before the start of last weekend, of a billionaire who was sued by his adult children for the child support that they believed they should have received had their mother filed for guideline support instead of receiving non-guideline child support pursuant to signed, written contracts. It's an interesting story involving children suing their father for child support; a law suit for retroactive child support; and a child support issue decided by a jury.

Here are the individuals involved: Donald Bren reportedly a billionaire who made his money in real estate. Christie Bren, age 22, and David Bren, age 18, the children who never knew their bio-dad Donald and felt cheated by the amount of support paid. They filed suit upon attaining adulthood. And, finally, Jennifer McKay Gold, who had a relationship with Mr. Bren whereby the children Donald and Christie were born.

Reportedly, as each child was born, a child support contract was initiated between Bren and Gold. Child support, under California law, is determined by a mandatory guideline formula. The exception to this law applies in cases where the parents sign a private agreement for support; there is no public assistance helping mom and the children; the support is sufficient for the chid's needs; and, both parents voluntarily, without coercion, duress or fraud, enter into the agreement. Bren simply proved to the court that such agreements were executed between himself and Gold.

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August 27, 2010

Arquette California Divorce Petition Analysis

Justia-photo-55 P Arquette.jpegAs a La Jolla divorce attorney, I have seen many Petitions for divorce (dissolution of marriage) in the San Diego Superior Court. Many simply glance at the petition document assuming that the document only contains superficial information. I don't agree. This blog will examine the petition for divorce by Patricia Arquette wherein Patricia Arquette is the Petitioner and Thomas Jane is the Respondent.

Brief background: Patricia Arquette was born in 1968 and is 42 years old. She was raised in an actor centric family; commenced her acting career in 1986 and has appeared in many Hollywood movies. She was married to Nicolas Cage for 6 years and has been married to Thomas Jane since 2006.

On August 13, 2010 Patricia Arquette filed for divorce in the Central District Los Angeles Court. She lists one child, age 7. (This blog does not provide names of children.) The child was born three years prior to the marriage. Therefore there is a potential "Marvin" case which the attorneys will consider. (Michelle Marvin sued actor Lee Marvin to establish her common law marital rights as she and Lee were never married.)

She lists some separate property (for example, "jewelry") but states that there are other items which are "not presently known". As to community property Patricia Arquette states that there are such items however they are also "unknown". Some attorneys seek to extensively list all separate property and all community property however I don't see the value of doing this in the Petition. Possibly the "unknown" statement could be attacked as disingenuous. I like to simply state that the items will be listed in the mandatory Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. The Declaration of Disclosure is mandatory in divorce cases and lists property, debt, income and expenses.

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August 23, 2010

Speed, Pray, Love California Divorce Stories

Justia-photo-54 prayer.JPGAs a San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist I look for what is said and not said in a story. These three California divorce news items contain both and what is not said is often the most important.

First, the news reported last week that Mel Gibson crashed his exotic sports car in the hills of Los Angeles. The new stories headlines regarding this event exclaimed some type of instability as instability seems to be the overall conclusion as to Mr. Gibson at this point.

I obtained a copy of the police report concerning the crash and you can examine this document on a TMZ site. The report states that at 8:35 p.m. a 2008 Maserati crashed on Malibu Canyon Road with no injury and no involvement of another motorist or pedestrian. Mr. Gibson remained at the scene and supplied all information to CHP officers. Most importantly, "DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) is not suspected."

Second, there was a news story as to drive through prayer locations in California. While these locations do not exclusively deal with divorce, the pastor at one of the locations described that people show up and want prayer over common everyday issues--drugs, divorce or the loss of a job. The pastor described that people who don't go to church commonly show up as the prayer stand requires no commitment. He does not preach or try to convert; he simply offers love and prayer. You can only imagine that divorce, the loss of child custody rights, and other family law matters are present at this prayer stand.

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August 18, 2010

"Most Expensive" California Divorce -- Part 2

Justia-photo-53 baseball.jpgIn the last blog I described the California divorce issues in the McCourt divorce of business valuation (how much are the LA Dodgers worth?), Post Marital agreements, and spousal support. For a short recap--Jamie and Frank McCourt own the Dodgers (only Frank owns according to him), they've been married for 30 years and are now going through a divorce (most expensive in California divorce history, according to some). Much of the information gained for this blog was from an article in Business Week written by Richard Siklos.

San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist attorneys use forensic witnesses to help determine the value and cash flow of a business. The bigger the business, the more income generated by a business, the more variables that will exist. However the principals are the same whether the business is a ML baseball team or a mom and pop grocery store. There are just going to be more zeros in the Dodger evaluation. Reportedly, the McCourts have withdrawn $100 million from the Dodgers since 2004. Since 2004 the McCourts bought homes for $20 million, $27 million, $6.5 million and $19 million. Land for 4.6 million. And the list of personal expenses goes on and on. (For example, a hair stylist in Beverly Hills was reportedly paid $150,000 a year to be available to come to the McCourt home per their hair styling needs.)

Frank will argue that the extravagant spending indicates that the parties were living over their means. This is California divorce talk for "I can't continue to pay Jamie over $600,000 a month in spousal support. She should realistically receive $200,000 per month." Jamie will argue that the spending illustrates their extreme wealth standard of living. This is California divorce talk for "Frank should be paying me $1 million a month in spousal support."

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August 16, 2010

"Most Expensive" California Divorce Case

Justia-photo-52 Dodger Stadium.jpgAs a Certified Family Law Specialist attorney working in La Jolla California I've seen some high income and asset cases. However the California divorce between Jamie and Frank McCourt, owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, is reportedly one of the most expensive divorces in California history. There is an excellent article in Bloomberg Business Week magazine, author Richard Siklos, August 12, 2010 providing in depth coverage of this case. This blog will reference some of the comments from the article and add information from a Family Law Specialist's viewpoint.

The McCourts, Frank and Jamie, came from a humble starting point. Pooling together money to buy a parking lot on the East Coast, they became rich over many years of marriage and hard work. They failed in an attempt to buy the Boston Red Sox, but bounced back when they were able to buy the LA Dodgers from Fox. However, their current, ongoing divorce has been called the most expensive California divorce ever. An estimated expense of $19 million and the case has not yet been through trial. If they go through a full trial (for example, on the value of the baseball team), and then the losing side appeals the decision, the current cost of the divorce is probably less than one-half of what they will end up spending.

Under California divorce law, the court can bifurcate, or separate out, a key issue to the divorce case, and have a trial on that issue first. This is likely what the McCourts are doing as they have a trial scheduled to start on August 30, 2010 as to the value of the Dodgers. Frank says the Dodgers are worth approximately $800 million today. Jamie estimates the value is at least $1.5 billion. Frank claims to have a Post Marital Agreement (or Marital Agreement) signed by Jamie where she has signed over the team to Frank. If this agreement holds up, Jamie receives nothing regardless of how much the Dodgers are worth.

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August 13, 2010

Can Premarital Education Prevent San Diego Divorce Filings?

Justia-photo-51 wedding rings.jpgRecently I read an article online regarding the services offered from different groups to change the high percentage of divorce filings in California. This ranges from churches offering pre marriage counseling to secular groups offering secular pre marriage counseling and premarital education. La Jolla divorce attorneys wonder if these services actually help to lower divorce statistics.

It's widely reported in California that 50% of the marriages end in divorce and the divorce rates for second marriages are much higher. Can these services significantly impact these rates?

This blog has just reported on premarital agreements. Typically, the person who possesses a significant amount of property and/or is wealthy will try to protect his/her assets from a divorce by having a prenuptial agreement signed prior to the marriage. San Diego Certified Family Law Specialists speculate whether these documents raise the chance of a divorce. While such premarital contracts are much needed and/or desired by the wealthy spouse (prior to marriage), these unromantic contracts seem to start the marriage with a focus on divorce.

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August 9, 2010

San Diego Premarital Agreements Discussed

Justia-photo-50 negotiation.jpgAs a San Diego divorce lawyer who prepares premarital agreements, I am followed the marriage of Robbie Williams to Ayda Field on August 7, 2010 in Los Angeles. Mainly, because Williams had Field sign a premarital (prenuptial, ante nuptial) agreement prior to the marriage.

Not everyone in this country has heard of him however Robbie Williams is an entertainer (singer, songwriter) who's success in the British entertainment industry has earned him an estate of approximately $160 million.

In the past I have kept the file of a couple for whom I have prepared a premarital agreement in my office pursuant to an educated guess that the marriage would fail. I haven't been able to verify this suspicion with scientific data. Beth Potier of the Harvard News Office wrote an article stating that prenuptial agreements predict doom in a marriage, if for no other reason, the legal document is unromantic. With the divorce rate of approximately 50% for first time marriages and a higher divorce rate for second marriages, anything that makes the second marriage less romantic does seem to predict doom for the marriage.

I have had two trials in the last three years involving premarital agreements and a request to set aside the agreement. This litigation can alone be as expensive, laborious and time consuming as any litigation in family law. Here are some thoughts as to the preparation of a prenuptial agreement:

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August 6, 2010

San Diego Family Law News-Domestic Violence Part II

Justia-photo-49 police tape.jpgThere has been much interest by San Diego divorce attorneys and California divorce lawyers as to the recent story that Charlie Sheen was sentenced to essentially nothing as a result of his reported plea of guilty to a domestic violence charge in the State of Colorado.

My last blog was about this event and reported the facts from a news article. A well known Los Angeles attorney stated that Colorado rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Sheen. Others have commented that Mr. Sheen received "celebrity treatment" when he was sentenced to a California rehab center and given credit for time already served there which could mean that Mr. Sheen faces little or no consequence in this case. Mr. Sheen was arrested after his wife called 911 in Colorado and reportedly stated that Mr. Sheen threatened her with a knife and that she was "scared for my life..." further that, "I thought I was going to die for one hour." (This is reported in the Daily Mail article by Daniel Bates.)

The last blog established what constitutes "domestic violence" under California Family Law. Further, who is entitled to protection in the San Diego divorce court for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders. And, how findings of domestic violence can alter the custody and support orders issued in the San Diego Family Law courts.

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August 3, 2010

California Domestic Violence Laws Affect Custody and Support Orders

Justia-photo-45 battered women.jpegAs a San Diego divorce lawyer and Certified Family Law Specialist for over thirty years I have seen substance abuse, alcohol abuse and many other factors will cause tension and stress to build and many time release itself in the form of spousal abuse, or domestic violence.

Domestic violence, simply put, is a type of prohibited violence (usually an assault or a battery) committed by one person of a statutorily defined relationship against another person of the same defined relationship (usually a married couple). The violence is of the type that puts the victim in fear of harm (usually bodily injury) by virtue of the violence of the perpetrator. If a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is granted by the court, the victim will be the protected party and the perpetrator will be the restrained party.

Domestic Violence may result in criminal and/or civil court actions and consequences. A recent news story described that actor Charlie Sheen pled guilty to a charge of committing domestic violence (criminal) against his Wife in Aspen Colorado. The assault occurred last December and Mr. Sheen just entered his plea. According to the plea bargaining, Mr. Sheen will not be sent to jail however he may serve time at a rehab center in California (this decision is reportedly up to the rehab center whether Mr. Sheen will receive credit for prior days spent in the rehab center).

This plea deal and court order reportedly caused California attorney Gloria Allred to openly criticize the sentencing. The Riley Center reports that 50% of all women murdered in the US are murdered by a spouse or close acquaintance. Further that domestic violence occurs in 60% of all marriages. In my experience, domestic violence is perpetrated by both Husbands and Wives.

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