July 2013 Archives

July 25, 2013

Husband Accused of Fatally Beating Wife After She Asked for Divorce - to Stand Trial

975584_broken_heart.jpgIn a San Diego courtroom, a judge recently ordered an Iraqi-American man to stand trial for killing his wife after she allegedly asked for a divorce. According to an article in the U-T San Diego news, the 32-year-old victim was fatally beaten in her California home. When the incident first happened, authorities believed that the murder was a hate crime because they discovered a note in the home that read: "Go back to your country, you terrorist." Naturally, the hateful message drew international attention and condemnation. But as the investigation continued, evidence revealed that her 49-year-old husband was unable to accept that his wife wanted a divorce and had allegedly reacted in a violent manner. Authorities ultimately arrested the man and charged him with a domestic violence murder.

At the pretrial hearing, the couple's 18-year-old daughter testified that she had gone with her mother to the courthouse to obtain divorce papers. She further mentioned that her parent's long-standing problems had deteriorated in 2012, and when her mother told her father that she wanted a divorce, he laughed. According to a recent news article, a judge in El Cajon ordered the husband to stand trial for the murder of his wife.

Domestic violence is a serious matter. In legal terms, it is the unlawful infliction of injury on the person of another. The victim may be a current or former spouse, a partner or a child. California domestic violence laws prohibit the use of physical force or threats to traumatize household members. Some of the common crimes of domestic violence include 1) corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant; 2) domestic battery on an intimate partner, 3) child abuse and endangerment, and 4) stalking and criminal threats.

Under the law, acts of domestic violence include, 1) hitting or striking another person; 2) exerting force or violence, 3) cruel or inhuman punishment, 4) physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, 5) conveying criminal threats of harm, and 6) neglect or endangerment of another's health or safety. In some cases, the risk of domestic violence increases when a woman tells her spouse that she wants a divorce.

A person contemplating divorce may resist initiating the process for fear that once the spouse is informed of the decision, he could exhibit violent behavior. But there are ways to seek protection in advance. In California, family courts can grant spouses a temporary restraining order to prevent the perpetrator from approaching the home for a certain period of time. A permanent restraining order would require that the perpetrator remain at least 100 yards away from the home for up to five years and prohibits any contact whatsoever with the victim. There is a certain amount of proof or evidence one would need to provide in order to receive the order of protection.

In the case discussed above, it does not appear that the wife/mother sought any protection from the San Diego court system. If a person is considering divorce and has any concerns about a potentially dangerous situation involving another, it is important to get help as soon as possible. A local family law attorney could help to protect your safety and your rights.

Continue reading "Husband Accused of Fatally Beating Wife After She Asked for Divorce - to Stand Trial " »

July 18, 2013

Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi Seeking "Swift and Amicable" Divorce

1108079_monthly_fee_5.jpgMost couples from San Diego enter into marriage with the expectation that they will be married for the rest of their lives. Over the ensuing years, married couples often have families, acquire property, incur debts, and share interests and experiences. Essentially, they share a life together - as intended. So when a couple makes the difficult decision to divorce, there are many issues and "loose ends" to tie up and settle. In an ideal world, the process would run smoothly, efficiently and with little or no strife. If you find yourself contemplating divorce, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who is fully knowledgeable in the local laws and court procedures and can help you navigate the process with as much ease as possible.

It seems that Nigella Lawson and her soon-to-be ex-husband are working toward the goal of a quick and easy divorce. According to a news article, the couple - each of whom is reported to be worth millions - intend to have an "undefended" divorce, and neither is expected to make a financial claim against the other. Media outlets have speculated that some widely publicized photographs of Saatchi with his hands around Lawson's throat during an argument may have led to the filing for divorce.

Saatchi said he was disappointed that his wife failed to make a public statement to explain that he opposes violence and never physically abused Lawson in any way. Another news source said Saatchi described the incident as a "playful tiff." But police reportedly issued Saatchi a "caution" after he allegedly admitted to the assault. After the extensive media coverage of the compromising photographs, it is no wonder the couple would like to expedite the divorce process as quickly and amicably as possible.

In California, when spouses seek to divorce, there are many issues to resolve, and working with an experienced family law attorney is one way to move matters along efficiently. Parties have to consider and address many matters, such as the division of marital property (identification and valuation), child custody and visitation (if the couple has children), and spousal and child support. In some instances, the law dictates how to handle and calculate these items. For instance, California law provides a set schedule for determining child support based on income. Parties have to keep in mind, though, that income can include finances received from a variety of sources, not simply a weekly paycheck. As for spousal support, there is no set schedule in San Diego County. Rather, judges rely mainly on court opinions, court orders and case law dating back decades.

Some additional issues to consider (to name a few): how long will you receive spousal or child support payments; who will be responsible for a child's medical insurance and expenses; who will pay for college; what if a custodial parent moves out of state; what is in "the best interest of a child" and who makes that decision? In order to obtain the best settlement for a client, the family law attorney will need to be experienced, prepared and fully apprised of the relevant procedures and local laws.

Continue reading "Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi Seeking "Swift and Amicable" Divorce" »

July 11, 2013

Same Sex Couples Find Divorce a Long and Costly Process

1267479_broken_heart_pic.jpgJust last month, the United States Supreme Court paved the way for federal recognition of same sex marriages, by striking down Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"). But while gay couples in San Diego and throughout California have found some welcome relief from the obstacles to getting married, many are reporting great difficulties when trying to get a divorce. Deciding to divorce is no easy decision. Irrespective of whether the couple is heterosexual or of the same sex, the ensuing process is typically fraught with high emotions and complicated procedures. An experienced family law attorney can help to anticipate the difficult moments and seek to protect your rights every step of the way.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, gay couples have reported that when seeking a divorce, courthouse staff do not know what to do. At least one person interviewed indicated that the extra paperwork alone delayed the divorce for an entire year. Of course, with lengthy delays one may typically expect to find an increase in costs and fees. Part of the confusion seems to be related to the issue of geography. If a gay couple is living in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage, in all likelihood one of the parties will have to move to a state that does, in order to dissolve the marriage.

In addition to the complicated matter of geography and varying state laws (or lack thereof), there is the question of when a gay couple's relationship started. Because of the changes that have taken place (and continue to occur) throughout the country, courts have not yet reached a consensus about when a gay couple's legal bond begins. Such ambiguity will surely lead to confusion over when, where and how to obtain a divorce, should it come to that.

Furthermore, the article suggests that a same sex divorce costs twice as much as one involving a heterosexual couple. And if the gay couple also has children, they will find the costs could be tripled. Unfortunately, it seems that it may take some time for states to enact laws that protect same sex couples who seek to divorce, affording them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples experience at that stage of their marriage.

Another person interviewed for the article suggested that couples, those specifically who live in states where same sex marriage is recognized, should consider preparing a pre- or post-nuptial agreement in an effort to protect their rights as much as possible. There is no guarantee, however, that the agreement will be enforceable. At this point in time, there seems to be an inconsistency in the way courts have approached and handled divorce proceedings involving gay couples.

In California, registered domestic partners have some options under the law. There is a way to enter into a summary dissolution, should the couple together meet all of the requirements. But it is likely that the laws will be evolving in California and throughout the country. An experienced, local family law attorney can help you to navigate the changing divorce landscape with confidence and ease.

Continue reading "Same Sex Couples Find Divorce a Long and Costly Process" »

July 4, 2013

California Supreme Court Rules Pre-Marital Military Service Credit Not Community Property

1193021_dark_dollar_2.jpgCalifornia is a community property state. This mean that in places like San Diego, and in cities throughout the state, all assets (as well as debts) that have been accumulated during the course of a marriage should be divided equally in divorce. Identifying marital property and properly assigning value to such items is not always a simple task. There are times when the courts have to get involved to determine the extent of community versus separate property, and how it should be divided. Laws pertaining to the division of property upon divorce can vary from state to state. It is important to contact an experienced, local family law attorney who can protect and maximize your rights to a fair and just settlement.

In California, it is established law that retirement benefits attributable to service rendered during a marriage are considered community property, divisible equally in divorce. But as we can see in the recently decided Supreme Court decision discussed below, the matter concerning the extent or limitation of community property is not necessarily clear.

In this case, a husband rendered his military service before the marriage from 1982 to 1986. He began working as a firefighter in 1989. The Fire Authority participated in the California Public Employees‟ Retirement System (CalPERS), which afforded husband the option to purchase up to four years of service credit towards his retirement benefits for his military service. The couple married in May, 1992. During the marriage, husband exercised his right to four years' worth of retirement credit for his premarital military services. Husband paid for the additional credit at least partially with community property funds.

At issue before the court was how much, if any, of the value of the four additional years of credit is community property. In determining whether retirement benefits are separate or community property, the court looked at the husband's marital status when the services on which the benefits are based were rendered. The court agreed with the trial court's conclusion that because the husband's military service was rendered before the marriage, the four years of additional credit are the husband‟s separate property. The trial court ruling compensated the wife for her share of the community's interest in the property. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision, holding that the court acted within its discretion in awarding the wife one-half of the amount (plus interest) that the community spent to obtain the credit.

Identification, valuation and division of marital versus separate property can be complicated, and often is the cause of many unexpected disputes between divorcing spouses. Here are some items to consider: 1) will retirement accounts be part of community property; 2) are there business accounts; 3) has one spouse tried to hide assets in anticipation of divorce; 4) will a house be valued at purchase price or current fair-market value; and 5) are there joint loans that you will continue to be liable for after the settlement is reached?

Identifying all marital and personal property as part of a San Diego divorce case is critical to winning what rightfully belongs to you and securing the quality-of-life and financial well-being for you and your family.

Continue reading "California Supreme Court Rules Pre-Marital Military Service Credit Not Community Property" »