The Defense of Marriage Act, Prop 8 and Divorce: What Now?

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) today as unconstitutional, and declining to rule on Prop 8, therefore allowing legal same sex marriage in California, there are numerous ramifications. Some of them have to do not with marriage, but with divorce.

For example, what are the financial ramifications for same sex couples during a divorce? CLFG San Diego member Justin Reckers of Pacific Divorce Management looks at a few of the issues including taxes, benefits, and spousal support in this article.



Prenuptial Agreements Not Only For The Wealthy

by Justin A. Reckers, CFP®, CDFATM, Director of Financial Planning
Pacific Wealth Management and Pacific Divorce Management

Most people who divorce do not have the financial concerns of Rupert Murdoch. The wealthy media mogul recently announced the impending divorce from his third wife, Wendi Deng, after 14 years of marriage.

Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng

You don’t have to be as wealthy as Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng to benefit from a prenuptial agreement.

Murdoch, CEO and chairman of News Corp., ranks number 91 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires, with a net worth of $11.2 billion. Speculation is rampant about the possible settlement with Wendi Deng. Various media reports claimed Murdoch’s payout in his second divorce from wife Anna in 1999 cost $1.7 billion.

The media has assumed that Murdoch and Deng have a prenuptial agreement. I have no doubt given Murdoch’s marital history and the fact he has children with one of his former wives. But even with wealthy people, it isn’t always the case.

The idea of getting a prenup tends to fly by even the wealthiest clients. People still think if you get a prenuptial agreement, it means you are planning for divorce even before you say “I do.” They believe it seems cold and unromantic.

From my viewpoint as a financial planner, I disagree with this thinking. It can be very romantic to have this discussion about money. Discussing money values, learning how your future spouse views financial decision making, their experience with money management and agreeing up front to some ground rules for managing your family finances can be a source of safety, financial security and comfort.

When financial advisers work with soon-to-be-wed couples, we help them determine how best to divvy up assets and streams of income. We also work side-by-side with family law lawyers who draft the prenuptial agreements. We examine the tax implications of dividing certain assets should it be necessary, and we figure out the long-term impact of ensuring the spouse with less money receives sufficient income.

We make sure both parties think through the implications of their decisions, and that they consider the many life stages they will go through. How will they provide for their children if they are divorced? What if one of the individuals becomes ill or disabled and cannot earn an income? What happens as each spouse ages?

When a couple is focused on starting their new life together, they don’t often stop to picture what might happen down the road. Financial and legal experts can help insure important decisions are made with complete information and adequate consideration of the financial intricacies of marriage and divorce.

There are as many versions of prenuptial agreements as there are couples. One size never fits all. And prenuptial agreements aren’t financial straightjackets either. In some cases, spouses going through a divorce contest assets and whether their status is truly “separate.” It can become complicated when an asset considered separate property is sold, and then the money is reinvested. Is the new property still a separate property? Or is it now marital property? If it’s not part of the original agreement, this is where things can get a little complex.

It is smart to put a prenuptial agreement together before marriage as well as to update it periodically just as you would update your estate planning when circumstances change.

You don’t have to be as wealthy as Rupert Murdoch. You only have to be conscious of the emotions that often complicate financial decision making and be willing to be open and honest with the person you love.

Twenty Two Songs You Should Never Play at a Second Wedding

June is the long time traditional month for weddings – even second weddings. The members of CFLG San Diego wish all brides and grooms the very best in their lives together. We have just a little advice starting with your wedding playlist, thanks to this fun article.

We especially agree with this tip: avoid playing any songs you played at your first wedding!

Read Twenty Two Songs You Should Never Play At A Second Wedding

Kids In The Courtroom: Good Idea Or Not?

 Children  often  want to be heard  when their parents separate and divorce.  How can children have a voice without  exposing them to courtroom battles?

by Nancy Stassinopoulos, Attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist,
Stassinopoulos & Schweitzer, LLP, San Diego, CA

Nancy Stassinopoulos

The traditional Family Court system, which is based on litigation with attorneys for each parent, tries to help families with children to resolve child-sharing disputes, but with mixed results.  Although mediation at Family Court Services (now called “child custody recommending counseling”) is required before a judge makes decisions on child custody and visitation, by the time parents walk into the court mediator’s office, they are often entrenched in their positions and unable to agree on a parenting plan.  So they end up in the courtroom, where the adversary process causes more acrimony between the parents, and where the children suffer from the toxic fallout.

The Family Court judge has the option to appoint an attorney for the children, called “minor’s counsel.”  This attorney will interview the children and represent their interests in court hearings. Usually, the court appoints minor’s counsel only in high-conflict cases, where the children need their own advocate.

The California Family Code requires the judge to consider the wishes of the child if the child is of “sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation.” Recently, the California Legislature has decided to give children more of a role in the legal process. If a child who has reached the age of 14 wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so unless the judge determines that it is not in the child’s best interests. The judge can even permit a child younger than 14 to testify in certain circumstances.

Many family law attorneys think this new law is a bad idea, because it puts the child in the middle of the conflict and exposes him or her to the highly charged atmosphere of the courtroom. A parent who wants his or her child to testify in court may not be thinking of how harmful that could be for the child. The child may not realize that he or she will have to be placed under oath, sit in the witness box and be questioned by the attorneys for the parents, usually with the parents present in the courtroom.

The collaborative divorce process gives the children a voice in the decisions about where they will live, and how much time they will spend with each parent, while protecting them from the conflict of the courtroom.

In a collaborative divorce, the parents, together with their collaborative attorneys and coaches, may decide to use a “child specialist” as part of their Collaborative team. The role of the child specialist is to work with the parents and the children to provide each child with the opportunity to express their concerns, to give the parents information that will help their children through the divorce process, and to assist the Collaborative team in developing an effective co-parenting plan.

The goal of the collaborative divorce process is to help the family during their transition from one home to two homes. Children need to participate in the decisions made by the family, in a manner that is appropriate to their age.  They may have concerns about their pets, their bicycles, and their friends, and they may find it hard to share these concerns with their parents. The child specialist in the Collaborative team can listen to the children and make sure their questions are answered and their needs are met.

Collaborative divorce allows children to have a say in their own future and the future of their family, without feeling pressure to “choose sides” and without the intimidation of the courtroom setting – a healthier outcome for everyone.

Divorce Rage to Blame for Santa Monica Shootings, Ricin Letters

CFLG San Diego member Myra Chack Fleischer found a common thread between two recent violent acts, one of which caused the deaths of five innocent people. In both the recent shootings at Santa Monica College, and ricin filled letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unaddressed rage about divorce was at the heart of both incidents.

Collaborative divorce methods seek to address these strong emotions, acknowledge and deal with them so they don’t find destructive avenues of expression, like in these two circumstances.

Read Myra’s column for Communities Digital News with more details.

State of Washington Encourages Collaborative Divorce

The State of Washington passed new legislation which encourages couples to consider collaborative divorce, keeping families out of courtrooms. The bill signed by Jay Inslee is called the Uniform Collaborative Law Act.  It allows couples to agree on terms of their divorce without going to court.

The members of CFLG San Diego congratulate Governor Inslee and the legislature for making this option available to divorcing couples in Washington. We wholeheartedly support this alternative to adversarial divorce processes that take up time and resources of the state’s courts and hurt families in the long run.

Read more here: