Recently in Spousal Support Category

March 27, 2014

California Court of Appeals Affirms Denial of Spousal Support

colorful-symbols-2-949759-m.jpgSpouses who seek to divorce are often faced with many emotional and practical decisions. Breaking up a family can be a very trying time for everyone involved. But there are issues that must be addressed, including financial matters that will likely affect the family's lifestyle going forward. For example, in California, courts have the discretion whether to order one party to pay for the support of the other, i.e., spousal support, for a certain period of time after the divorce. But keep in mind that spousal support is not mandatory. If you are considering a divorce, it is critical that you contact an experienced family law attorney from the San Diego area who can help to protect your financial interests in the outcome of the proceedings.

In a recent case, the court of appeals agreed with the trial court in its refusal to award spousal support to the wife. Here, the parties were married in 2005, had one child in 2007, and subsequently separated in 2011. The husband graduated from high school and works at a country club as a "starter." His earnings total between $3,000 and $3,200 per month, plus an annual bonus during the holidays. The wife has an Associate's degree in accounting. While she worked as an accountant at the same country club, she had to leave her position due to a significant illness that left her hospitalized and in a coma for a time.

During her hospitalization and then after she was released, the wife took high doses of narcotic painkillers. Just before the couple separated, the wife attacked the husband in a domestic violence incident. The court issued a two-year restraining order against the wife. At the divorce trial, the court awarded the husband sole physical custody of the child and denied the wife's request for spousal support. She appealed.

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January 9, 2014

California Court of Appeals Affirms Decision Ordering Wife to Reimburse Husband's Spousal Support Payments

mortgage-and-money-2-963935-m.jpgDuring separation or divorce, spousal support is the payment that a court orders one spouse to pay to the other, on a monthly basis, for general support. Determining the amount of spousal support is a complicated process, and one that is not governed by any specific legal guidelines. The amount awarded fluctuates from case to case. Parties are encouraged to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney, someone who has detailed knowledge of the local laws and practices. Doing so will help to ensure that your right to receive a suitable amount of support is met (or to protect you from paying an unreasonable amount of spousal support).

Many surprising disputes have arisen over the right to receive spousal support in family law cases throughout California. In a recent court of appeals case, a husband sought to terminate his spousal support payments to his wife based on evidence that she remarried. The wife opposed the motion, arguing that she never actually remarried, but rather, merely procured a marriage license in Arizona without "consummating" the marriage. The parties later obtained an annulment, which she claimed was not the same as a divorce.

Here, the parties were married in 1985 and had two children who are both adults. The wife filed for divorce in 2000 and the judgment of dissolution was entered in 2001. After being awarded a temporary monthly support of $1,423, the wife was later awarded $2,400 in spousal support for five years beginning July 2002. At that point, the husband was also ordered to pay wife's attorney's fees of $25,000. Five years later, in October 2007, the wife sought a modification of spousal support - to permanent support, claiming that she had several medical conditions that prevented her from obtaining full-time employment. In June 2008, the court reinstated the $2,400 monthly payment, and the following year the award became permanent. The court ordered the husband to pay additional attorney's fees of $10,000.

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November 7, 2013

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher Finalize Divorce Two Years After Separation

1193021_dark_dollar_2.jpgIn their highly publicized divorce, actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have finally reached a settlement. According to reports, both parties are satisfied with the agreement and have signed the paperwork to end their marriage. While they were only married for six years, it took the two famous actors two years to resolve their differences, many of them financial. One of the contested issues was Moore's request for spousal support. Under California law, when a couple divorces or enters into a legal separation, a court may find it appropriate to order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of money each month.

In an earlier blog post, we reported on the two actors' separate filings for divorce. Moore, who is 50-years-old, asked Kutcher for spousal support and, to pay her attorney's fees, despite that she is worth (financially) more than he is. This case seems to be more about hurt feelings than any real financial need: Kutcher was thought to be having an affair with a 23-year-old woman right before their separation. Contrary to this scenario, most spousal support cases involve one spouse's financial need to maintain the marital standard of living.

In San Diego County, there are no legal guidelines for courts to follow when rendering an award of spousal support. Therefore, when a couple is considering a divorce, it is extremely important to consult with, and ultimately hire, a widely experienced, local family law attorney. The California court system sets forth procedural steps to follow when seeking spousal support. The very first item is to initiate a divorce or legal separation case with the court. As in the Moore/Kutcher divorce, sometimes it takes a great deal of time to work through the contested issues. Parties may seek a temporary order for spousal support to get through the process until there is a final judgment in the case.

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May 9, 2013

California Court Ordered Mom to Pay Spousal Support to Man Who Allegedly Raped Her Daughter for Years

875412_balance.jpgIn San Diego and throughout California, the court may order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of money each month when a couple divorces. This is called "spousal support" - or as many people know it, "alimony." In determining the amount, courts will look at a variety of intricate factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living throughout, the ability of each spouse to have a job, the potential impact on any children, age and health of the spouses, and their debts and property, just to name a few. There are countless considerations that only an experienced, local San Diego Family law attorney can help sort through to create the best possible spousal support plan.

Sometimes, the award of spousal support may not seem fair. According to Fox News accounts, when California mother Carol Abar married Ed Abar, her daughter was just nine-years-old. Shortly thereafter, Ed Abar began raping the child, who did not tell her mother for fear of his threats. Sixteen years later, when her daughter finally told Carol about the assaults, she promptly divorced him. During the divorce proceedings, a judge ordered Carol to pay her ex-husband $1,300 in alimony each month, despite her allegations of abuse toward her daughter. In rendering the support award, the judge allegedly told Carol that she had no proof of her husband's criminal conduct.

Carol has been paying alimony until last year, when further reports indicate that Ed Abar pleaded guilty to one of four rape charges and was sentenced to over a year in jail. At this point, a judge temporarily halted the spousal support payments, which had accrued to approximately $22,000 over the years. After serving the required sentence, Ed Abar was released and is now actually seeking an order from the court - to reinstate his alimony payments.

Keeping in mind that Abar was convicted of raping Carol's daughter, he nevertheless, asked the court for a resumption in support payments as well as $33,000 in past due support. There seems to be somewhat of a "loophole" in California law as it concerns domestic violence. For instance, in making determinations regarding the award of spousal support, courts will take into account, documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the spouses. There is a "rebuttable presumption" against giving spousal support to an abusive spouse who has a criminal conviction for domestic violence against the other spouse.

Up until last year, California state law required a victim of spousal abuse to pay support to her attacker after a divorce. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1522 to close that loophole, but there still happens to be no specific provision preventing child abusers from receiving spousal support.

It will be interesting to see whether the court orders a resumption of support payments. The way the law in California stands now, the court is not required to consider Ed Abar's repeated child abuse. Spousal support issues can be extremely complicated to sort through and, more often than not, require a full and comprehensive understanding of the local laws and procedures.

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March 7, 2013

California Appellate Court Ruled Waiver of Spousal Support in Prenuptial Agreement Violated Public Policy at Time of Execution

1221952_to_sign_a_contract_3.jpg Raymond and Roberta Melissa were married on August 8, 1985. He was 41 and she was 32. He owned a Newport Beach home, a jaguar and had a net worth of over $2 million. She rented an apartment and worked as a nurse. As a condition to getting married, Raymond required Roberta to sign a prenuptial agreement that was drafted by a neighbor's attorney-son, Craig Wilford. Roberta did not hire her own attorney to review the document, even though Wilford told her she could. The parties signed the agreement in 1985.

The issue contested in this case pertains a clause that relieves both parties of the responsibility to provide spousal support in the event of a divorce or legal separation. This part of the prenuptial agreement specifically and explicitly recognized that California law (at the time of the document's execution) prohibited the future waiver of spousal support. The agreement even cited the case, In re Marriage of Higgason, as standing for that current state of the law. However, the agreement further provided that the law regarding waiver of spousal support was in "a state of flux" and because of that, they agreed to mutually waive such rights.

The parties subsequently had a son who has autism and suffers from Fragile-X syndrome. Back in 1997, Roberta stopped working full-time. In the fall of 2009, the parties separated and then Roberta filed a petition for divorce shortly thereafter. Roberta continued to care for their son who is now 24-years-old, and works as a part-time janitor, earning $9 per hour. Roberta is unemployed.

The issue before the trial court was whether the prenuptial agreement was valid. The court's main two concerns were (1) whether it was required to apply the law in effect in 1985 when the agreement was executed; and (2) if so, whether the waiver of spousal support clause was void as against public policy. The court reviewed the Higgason case, relevant statutes and the later decision in In re Marriage of Pendleton & Fireman, and ultimately decided that it was required to apply the law at the time of execution. In so doing, the court held that it was "very clear" that spousal support waivers were void as against public policy in 1985. The court noted that relevant statutory amendments, as well as the decision in the Pendleton case, failed to overrule the Higgason case. The court entered a partial judgment holding the spousal support waiver invalid. Raymond appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision. After reviewing the evolution of spousal support waivers, and the reasons for holding such provisions as against public policy (namely the preservation of marriage and its connection to society's welfare), the court pointed out that things have changed over time. In Higgason, the court held the waiver of support to be against public policy because it sought to change the wife's statutory obligation to support her husband. A later case, In re Marriage of Dawley, added to this notion by holding that public policy renders an agreement unenforceable when it promotes or encourages dissolution of the marriage.

The status of the law in 1985 was that any written waiver of the statutory duty to mutually support each other was void as against public policy. The court of appeals refused to accept the language in the parties' agreement as circumventing the law in 1985. Despite the enactment of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act in 1986 (which failed to specifically address waivers of spousal support at the time), and the later decision in Pendleton that acknowledged the shift in public policy regarding such waivers, the court concluded that it was required to apply the law as it existed in 1985.

As a side note, in response to the decision in Pendleton, in 2002, the Legislature amended the statute requiring spouses to be represented by counsel before waiving spousal support in a prenuptial agreement, among other things.

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February 7, 2013

California Divorce Report: Actress Liberty Ross Files for Divorce from Director Rupert Sanders

Rupert_Sanders,_2012.jpgActress and model Liberty Ross filed for divorce from her husband, director Rupert Sanders, in late January 2013 in Los Angeles. The couple was in the news last summer after the story broke of an "affair" between Sanders and Kristen Stewart, who was the lead actress in his first feature film. Neither spouse has made a public statement, so the role of the affair in the divorce is only speculation.

Ross reportedly filed a divorce petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court on January 25, 2013. She and Sanders have been married for nearly ten years, and have two children, ages eight and six. Both Ross and Sanders are British, and they moved to Los Angeles for his film career. Ross has had a successful career as a model, and has also acted in several films. She had a role in Sanders' first feature film, Snow White and the Huntsman. Ross pleaded irreconcilable differences in her divorce petition. She is seeking custody of the two children and spousal support. Sanders is reportedly asking for joint custody and shared attorney's fees.

Actress Kristen Stewart played the title role in Snow White. Sanders cast Ross in the role of Snow White's mother. A story appeared in July 2012, around the time of the film's theatrical release, that Sanders and Stewart had a "massive makeout session." Descriptions of the incident range from an "affair" to a "hook-up" or "fling," depending on who is describing it. By most accounts, it was a single incident as opposed to a lengthy relationship. Both Sanders and Stewart issued public apologies. A lengthy series of deconstructions of the "affair," as well as media examinations of Sanders' marriage to Ross and Stewart's relationship to then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson, ensued for much of the rest of the summer.

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January 10, 2013

Modification of Spousal and Child Support Orders During Pending Divorce Litigation Reviewed by California Appellate Court

file0001373070796.jpgA husband appealed pendente lite orders terminating spousal support and declining to modify child support in a divorce matter. In re Marriage of Freitas, No. D060281, slip op. (Cal. App. 4th, Oct. 3, 2012). The trial court entered orders awarding child support to the wife and spousal support to the husband. It later declined to modify the child support order, holding that a recent precedent decision prohibited it from doing so, but it terminated the wife's child support obligation, citing the husband's prior conviction for domestic violence. On appeal, the husband argued that both decisions constituted error. The appellate court affirmed the spousal support order and remanded the child support order.

Christine and Kevin Freitas separated in March 2010 after more than eighteen years of marriage. The couple have two children, who were thirteen and nine at the time of the separation. The wife filed for divorce in April 2010. The husband filed an order to show cause (OSC) that August requesting spousal support and child support. The wife opposed a spousal support order, informing the court that the husband had an October 2006 conviction for battery against her, and that in July 2010, the court entered a domestic violence restraining order against the husband. After a hearing on the OSC in October 2010, the court awarded the husband $800 per month in spousal support while the divorce was pending, and awarded the wife $7 per month in child support. The court reserved jurisdiction to modify the support awards for September and October, giving the husband until January 4, 2011 to present additional evidence of her income.

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October 4, 2012

Ex-Wife's Motion to Extend Spousal Support Denied by Court, Finding Lack of "Reasonable Efforts" to Become "Self-Supporting"

1376892_12302791.jpgA California court denied a woman's motion to modify a spousal support order in In re Marriage of Khera and Sameer, finding that she had not adequately shown evidence of changed circumstances. The original spousal support order provided for a gradual decrease in support payments until an eventual termination date. The ex-wife (referred to herein as the wife for brevity) sought to delay the date for termination of support payments.

The husband, Sameer Khera, filed for the dissolution of his marriage to Madhu Sameer in October 2003. They had been married since 1986 and had three children. After they agreed on the record to some of the terms of the divorce in May 2007, a court entered a final judgment on the remaining issues in February 2008. Under the agreement and final judgment, the husband was obligated to pay spousal support of $2,650 per month beginning in June 2007. Monthly support would decrease to $1,650 on June 1, 2009, and would terminate entirely on June 1, 2010.

This type of spousal support order, in which the amount decreases over time, is known in California as a Richmond order, after In re Marriage of Richmond, 105 Cal.App.3d 352 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1980). Spousal support, under California law, is intended to allow the recipient spouse to maintain the same reasonable standard of living as during the marriage. The purpose of a Richmond order is to allow the recipient spouse time to become financially self-sufficient. The Richmond court held that a court should retain jurisdiction over a spousal support order to ensure that the recipient spouse has the ability to meet their own financial needs by the termination date, and to modify the support order if a spouse can show good cause.

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August 30, 2012

California Appeals Court Addresses Definition of "Remarriage" in Deciding Question of Spousal Maintenance

1383703_77353170.jpgA California appeals court, in Marriage of Left, has upheld an order that a man must continue to pay spousal maintenance, finding that his ex-wife's alleged remarriage was intentionally not legally valid and did not extinguish his maintenance obligation. In reaching its decision, the court examined the legal meaning of "remarriage" for the purposes of determining when to terminate a spousal maintenance order.

The parties, Andrew and Andrea Left, were married in June 2001, and Andrea filed for divorce in November 2005. The two entered into a stipulation in February 2007 in which Andrew, who worked as a stock trader, agreed to pay monthly child support of $14,590 and spousal maintenance of $32,547. The two reportedly attempted to resolve contested issues for some time. A court entered a "status-only" order dissolving the marriage on June 30, 2008, but it reserved jurisdiction over all remaining issues

According to the court's ruling, Andrea got engaged in December 2008. She and her fiance set a wedding date of May 2, 2009, believing that the remaining divorce issues would be settled by then. They planned and made arrangements for the wedding, but in the weeks leading up to the wedding date, Andrea reportedly realized that some divorce issues would remain unresolved. She did not want to enter into a new marriage until the remaining divorce issues were resolved, but she did not want to cancel the wedding ceremony, either. Instead of a "wedding," she and her fiance had a "commitment ceremony" that day. The rabbi who performed the ceremony was aware that they had not obtained a marriage license, although the guests reportedly believed that they had gotten married. They informed Andrew on June 24, 2009, that they were not legally married.

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March 22, 2012

California Bill Would Prevent Convicted Abusers from Receiving Spousal Maintenance

528902_48194552_03262012.jpgA bill pending in the California Legislature intends to close a loophole that sometimes causes abused spouses to owe maintenance payments to their abusers. Under the bill, people convicted of certain criminal offenses committed against a spouse would be precluded from obtaining benefits, such as spousal maintenance or attorney's fees, from the abused spouse in a divorce case. The law would also amend the California Family Code to award one hundred percent of the community estate to a spouse who is the victim of a "violent sexual felony" committed by the other spouse. The Family Code currently awards one hundred percent of the community estate to one spouse when the other spouse is convicted of either the attempted murder or solicitation of the murder of that spouse.

The bill, filed in the state Assembly as AB 1522, passed the Judiciary Committee on a 7-1 vote on March 20. The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and it has the support of the San Diego District Attorney, the California District Attorneys' Association, and the San Diego Board of Supervisors.

A San Diego case, previously reported in this San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, inspired the bill. Crystal Harris, a San Diego financial analyst, was ordered by the judge in her divorce case to pay $3,000 per month to her ex-husband in spousal maintenance. This was despite the fact that her ex-husband, Shawn Harris, is serving a six-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting her. The judge reduced the spousal maintenance amount to $1,000 per month because of the domestic violence allegations. On appeal, the order of spousal maintenance was reversed, based in large part on Crystal Harris' argument that Shawn Harris has no expenses while in prison. Under current law, he could ask the court for spousal maintenance again when he is released. His release is scheduled for 2014 if he serves his entire sentence.

In a separate proceeding, a judge ordered Crystal Harris to pay her ex-husband $47,000 in attorney's fees. This was based on an agreement the Harrises made before Shawn Harris' criminal case, one that Crystal Harris does not believe should have been honored given subsequent events. The total amount later came down to $26,000 when the amount of restitution owed by Shawn Harris in his criminal case was deducted from the total.

Crystal Harris testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of the bill on March 19. She says she felt "re-victimized" by the spousal maintenance and attorney's fee orders. Other supporters of the bill say it is necessary to prevent a second injustice against domestic violence victims, and to give "peace of mind" to said victims.

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January 19, 2012

San Diego Court Places Limits on Parents' Duty to Disclose Financial Changes

896161_71592802_01252012.jpgThe California Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Diego ruled earlier this month that a parent or spouse's obligation under the Family Code to disclose changes in financial status to the other party does not extend past the date a court enters a final judgment. The court reversed the trial court's order imposing sanctions against an obligor ex-husband and father, which were based in part on a failure to disclose certain financial changes after a divorce decree was granted.

This case could have a significant impact on how California parents handle child support issues after entry of a decree, and it will be important for parents who have child support orders, both as obligor and obligee. An obligee, who receives payments from the other parent, has an interest in knowing if that parent is not paying the full amount of which they are capable.

The parties in this case have three children. All of the children were minors when the mother filed for divorce from the father in Wyoming in 2003. A Wyoming court granted the divorce in 2003. The wife and children relocated to San Diego, and a California court confirmed the decree in 2005. At the time of the divorce, the father declared an annual income of $800,000 and agreed to pay $8,500 per month in child support. The child support amount would reduce to $4,000 per month when only one child remained a minor. The father also agreed to pay monthly spousal maintenance of $12,000 for a ten-year period.

The mother brought an action in San Diego in 2007 to modify and enforce support. She requested an increase in the child support amount, enforcement of arrears on spousal maintenance, and court costs. Her financial declaration to the court indicated that she had a net worth at the time of $14 million and monthly expenses of over $40,000. The father's financial declaration showed significant changes from the time of the divorce. He had sold his business, his monthly income was less than $11,000, and he claimed to have $60,000 per month in expenses. He had earned $3 million from his business in 2006, which he had not disclosed to the mother. He had also brought in over $100 million in 2007 from the sale of the business, but later ventures had not been successful.

The mother asked for sanctions against the father for failing to disclose these sources of income. The trial court agreed, finding that he had "unnecessarily prolonged litigation" and breached his fiduciary duty. It increased his child support to $18,000 per month and ordered him to pay attorney fees and sanctions. The father appealed some of the trial court's holdings.

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November 17, 2011

California Woman Ordered to Pay Spousal Support to Abusive Ex

A San Diego area woman was ordered by a family court judge to pay $1,000 per month in spousal support to her ex-husband, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for abusing her. While this may seem contradictory, both the criminal conviction and the award of spousal support follow the letter of two separate areas of the law. Whether they follow the spirit of the law may be another question entirely. The woman appealed the order, arguing in part that her ex-husband has no expenses while incarcerated. The judge agreed and reversed the order, but the ex-husband will be within his legal rights to ask for spousal support again upon his release.

The divorce of Crystal Harris and Shawn Harris, filed in 2007, became final in 2010 after twelve years of marriage. That same year, Shawn Harris went on trial for an alleged incident of sexual assault in 2008, part of a years-long pattern of abuse. Crystal Harris had used a hidden recorder to obtain evidence of abuse. A jury convicted Shawn Harris of forced oral copulation, but additional charges of spousal rape by force and sodomy resulted in a hung jury. He received a sentence of six years' imprisonment and will be eligible for release in 2014.

Crystal Harris works as a financial analyst, earning around $110,000 per year. Shawn Harris worked as a car salesman, but Crystal Harris had supported him since the birth of their first child in 2002. Under those circumstances, California law permits a judge to award spousal support to the spouse earning less money. The judge awarded him $1,000 per month in spousal support and ordered Crystal Harris to pay $47,000 towards his legal fees.

The statute allows an award of up to $3,000 per month in the Harris' circumstances, but it also gives a judge discretion to reduce or eliminate the amount of the award when the receiving spouse has been convicted of domestic violence. The only time a judge is prohibited from awarding spousal support at all is when the spouse has been convicted of the attempted murder of the other spouse. The judge lowered the support amount to $1,000 because of the conviction, which Crystal Harris called the "rape discount."

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October 6, 2011

Big Spousal Support Bill for the Richest Man in San Diego County

A recent court ruling reviewing the divorce settlement of billionaire investor Charles Brandes and his ex-wife Linda includes a hefty monthly spousal support payment. The ruling, issued by San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bostwick, comes after a dispute arose over the division of property in the couple's 2005 divorce settlement. The original settlement agreement gave Mrs. Brandes five residences, including a penthouse and two condominiums in New York City and a house on the beach in Del Mar. She also received, in addition to other property, $18.7 million dollars from their savings and investments. The investments she received in the divorce reportedly generated around $154,881 per month, the sufficiency of which was one of the issues addressed by the court this year.

frances_marie_30102005_029_10062011.jpgCharles Brandes is a San Diego money manager and owner of Brandes Investment Partners. He has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion. Forbes Magazine listed him 331st on its list of the 400 richest Americans for 2011. In 2010 it listed him at #655 among the world's billionaires. Mr. Brandes' monthly income when the he and Mrs. Brandes first met was allegedly around $12,500, and is now reported to be upwards of $16 million. He and Mrs. Brandes married in 1986 and separated in 2004.

The court reviewed the question of whether the original division of property was fair under California law and whether the amount of spousal support was sufficient to meet her needs. Mrs. Brandes requested spousal support of $735,000 per month, citing expenses such as a wardrobe budget of $70,000 a year and substantial expenditure on art collecting. She also requested modification of the property division based on a valuation of her share of the marital estate at $453 million to $597 million. The court awarded her an additional $10,052,042 "to equalize the division of community property," as well as spousal support of $485,000 per month, far less than her request but hardly a small amount.

As large as the award to Mrs. Brandes may seem, it might be considerably less than what California law could allow. California follows community property rules, meaning that all property acquired during the marriage, with a few exceptions, belongs to the marital estate. Each spouse is entitled to half of the community estate in a divorce, with adjustments made based on a number of factors. For example, a court may award more than 50% to one spouse of it finds the other spouse to be at fault for the marriage's breakup. Out of an alleged total net worth of over $1 billion, Mrs. Brandes seems to have gotten a rather small percentage.

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August 8, 2011

What Is The cost Of A California Divorce?

Justia-photo-106 mccourts.jpegIn a recent Los Angeles Times article journalist and sports writer Bill Shaikin discloses that Jamie McCourt might petition the divorce court to ask for the sale of the LA Dodgers baseball team. If you have not been following this case, the McCourts, Jamie and Frank, are involved in what might be the most expensive divorce in California history. They own the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team as well as numerous properties in California. This blog has posted several articles regarding this case. We correctly predicted that Jamie would be successful in her motion for spousal support and we predicted that Jamie would be successful in her motion to set aside the pre marital agreement.

As a San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist attorney it is my field to follow legal trends in divorce law and family law in general. In recent months reports have described this case as financially destructive. The Australian just reported that this case could cost $35 million in legal fees. My office recently represented a spouse in a high income case. This couple had successfully sold businesses for millions and in one case for over a hundred million dollars. The case quickly was analyzed and successfully resolved. One of the spouses stated that one should never become emotional about business or financial issues.

So, where did this all go wrong for the McCourts? Both Frank and Jamie McCourt have expert, top rated, legal teams. I especially like the way that they have associated attorneys into the case to pull legal talent into their side of the case. Association of counsel is a practice that I use in some of my cases. However a quick scan of news articles* on this case show that the case is continuing to generate pre trial motions rather than to wrap this case up with a trial, or better, end this case with a successful mediation or negotiation. (*LA Times reports that Frank may request the court to lower Jamie's spousal support order; and, myfoxLA.com reports that the McCourts are heading for a mini trial as to the characterization of marital property.)

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August 1, 2011

California Divorce News: Schwarzenegger Spousal Support Strategy

Justia-photo-103 Arnold Maria.jpegJournalist Megan Johnson of the Boston Herald reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger filed an amended divorce petition on or about July 25, 2011 under which places the issue of his Wife's spousal support before the California divorce court. Previously, his petition stated that Maria Shriver should be denied any right to spousal support. There can be no question that this was a significant change as every news reporting agency picked up this story. As a San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist attorney I want to raise the question of why Arnold Schwarzenegger changed his pleadings.

With a La Jolla divorce office, we handle spousal support issues in ordinary cases as well as high income cases. As to why Arnold Schwarzenegger would change his petition lets first consider whether he initially committed a mistake in the typing of his divorce petition. Divorce litigants, especially self represented litigants, commonly make mistakes in their divorce pleadings. My office took over a case last week from a self represented litigant (formerly known as a "pro per" litigant) and found a significant mistake on the petition that would have resulted in a significant waiver of legal rights. However, it is unlikely that Arnold Schwarzenegger's high priced and highly specialized divorce attorney made a mistake.

So next we turn to the reason of strategy (or, political correctness) as the explanation. Do you remember just a few weeks ago when Arnold Schwarzenegger's Wife, Maria Shriver, was found walking on the Santa Monica beach by the paparazzi? And similarly, when Sandra Bullock was found by the paparazzi walking alone in the mountains? Walking alone in an area of great natural beauty signifies humility and one reflecting on his/her life and the eternal lessons to be learned in going forward. It shows great inner strength and morality; even a spiritual side to the person. The opposite of this would be a celebrity who surrounds oneself in gaudy selfish displays such as riding in a chauffeured limousine to a ridiculously expensive bar or night club while in the midst of a divorce. These cases do get publicity as seen by the video below.

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