Date of Separation and the Collaborative Divorce Process

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.
There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Office of Frann Setzer, APLC

In some dissolutions, the date that parties separate is a crucial issue. This is because by law, the marital ‘community’ ends on the day when parties separate. The end of the marital community means that income earned or possibly property purchased after that date might belong to only one person. The date that parties separate also determines the length of the marriage, which potentially affects the length of spousal support or whether or not spousal support can be terminated.

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

While each situation is different, the date of separation can be a very contentious issue in a divorce.

For example, let’s say that Ms. Smith is the primary wage earner for her family. She believes she and her husband separated in January 2015, when she packed most of her belongings and began to spend many nights at her friend’s house and on the sofa at her office. Ms. Smith did return to the marital home for dinner at least twice a month. The couple also decided not to tell very many people about their impending divorce. Mr. Smith works, but earns approximately 20% of Ms. Smith’s income. He believes that the parties separated in August 2015, when Ms. Smith finally rented an apartment.

In March 2015, Ms. Smith received approximately $500,000 in commissions from work that she did from January 2015 until March 2015. Since Ms. Smith believes the date of separation was January 2015, she also believes that the $500,000 is her separate property.

Conversely, given his belief that they separated in August 2015, Mr. Smith believes the $500,000 is community, making him entitled to $250,000. To complicate matters further, in March 2015, the parties would have been married for 10 years. Under California law, a marriage of 10 years or longer is considered ‘long term,’ which could greatly affect spousal support.

The facts of this particular situation are such that, a court could find for either party in terms of a date of separation. It could be January or August. One person ‘wins’ and one person ‘loses.’

Does this sound complicated? The above situation occurs more often than you might think. Many people do not wish to be a part of the adversarial world of litigation, where the outcome is all or nothing and where they risk making enemies of each other.

Enter the Collaborative Divorce process, where clients can meet with their attorneys, divorce coaches and their financial neutral and craft a solution to a very complicated situation that works for them. Their attorneys advise them of the law, their coaches get them to examine their true goals and the financial neutral can examine their needs. A global solution can be reached that takes into account property as well as support. Complexity is not the issue, the willingness of the parties to listen to each other and reach an equitable solution is the definitive factor.

Do You Need A Child Specialist For Your Divorce?

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.
Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, but for those going through separation or

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

divorce that stress can be magnified. This is especially applicable for children, whose reactions to changes in holiday and family traditions may be difficult to measure. Perhaps this is the right time to add a Child Specialist to your divorce team.

Along with their attorneys and a financial neutral working with clients during the Collaborative divorce process, clients also have their coaches to lean on. Coaches are licensed mental health professionals who help clients identity intense feelings and play a key role in keeping emotions from derailing the process. While clients have strong feelings tied to finances, in my experience as a family law attorney, it is often the parents’ emotions surrounding the children that result in the most intense feelings and correspondingly, the most intense conflict, during the divorce process.

Parents worry about how their children are dealing with the divorce. They worry about establishing a routine that will work for their children. They worry about differences in parenting styles. Situations where the children might have special needs or where a child has a troubled relationship with one parent can cause particular concern. A Child Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with special expertise working with children.

A child specialist can help with these issues in a number of ways:

  1. Resolving differences in parenting styles or skills. A Child Specialist can help parents understand the impact of the divorce and their children’s developmental needs. While the Child Specialist will not make recommendations, he or she can convey the potential risks and protective factors unique to their children. This information can help you make parenting decisions and adapt your parenting style to the situation.
  1. Establishing an optimal schedule. The Child Specialist can also help parents by meeting with the children and then conveying to the parents an understanding of their children’s stress tolerance, developmental needs, as well that their hopes and wishes. This information can be used to help parents craft a parenting plan that works for their children, taking into consideration various factors such as how often the children should transition, whether the children stay together on the same schedule, how flexible the schedule should be. The specialist can also provide examples of schedules that might work well for the children.
  1. How are the children doing? Children often will open up to a neutral trained Child Specialist- someone who is focused on their needs and has no bias. The specialist can assess how the children are coping with the divorce. If the children need further support, the Child Specialist can make referrals to therapists in the community who specialize in divorce-related child therapy.
  1. Working with children who have special needs. Children with special needs such as autism, chronic illness, or learning disorders may benefit from the input of a Child Specialist. The specialist can help parents understand the unique needs of their child and how to structure a parenting plan that will keep the child stable and safe.
  1. Some children may have a difficult relationship with one parent. Sometimes children are drawn into loyalty conflicts and feel they must choose to align with one parent. These children are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict. The Child Specialist can meet with the children, assess the situation, and help the parents understand the dynamics that are harming the child, the emotional needs of the child, and how the parents can co-parent successfully to support their children. The specialist can help develop a plan to heal or reconnect the estranged child and his/her parent and can make outside referrals as appropriate.

Working with a Child Specialist to address your childrens’ needs during a divorce is one of the advantages of the Collaborative Process. By recognizing and addressing the impact on your children and the outcome moving forward, family relationships can be preserved and everyone can emerge from the experience with a healthy outlook toward the future, avoiding the pain and conflict of a contentious litigated divorce. Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to learn more.

Inaugural San Diego “Divorce Options” Workshop Offers Information, Choices

San Diego’s inaugural “Divorce Options” workshop on Oct. 22 brought the acclaimed program developed by Collaborative Practice California to individuals seeking information about their choices regarding divorce.

The San Diego Divorce Options team (L to R): Shawn Weber, Meredith Lewis, Frann Setzer, Anna Janda, Anna Addleman." width="800" height="589" /></a> The San Diego "Divorce Options team (L to R): Shawn Weber, Meredith Lewis, Frann Setzer, Anna Janda, Anna Addleman.

The San Diego “Divorce Options team (L to R): Shawn Weber, Meredith Lewis, Frann Setzer, Anna Janda, Anna Addleman.

Led by Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego volunteers including attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist Shawn Weber, coach and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Anne Janda, and forensic accountant Anna M. Addleman, CPA, CDFA, CFF, CFE, the Divorce Options provided unbiased information about self-representation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigated divorce. The workshop addressed the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in an informational and compassionate small group setting.

Also participating as panelists were attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist Frann Setzer, and attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Meredith Lewis.

The workshop reviewed the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options for attendees.

“We are so pleased members of the public were able to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Shawn Weber. “The truth is that the presenters learn just as much from the participants as they do from us. It’s helpful to hear what concerns them most, and what resources they are looking for whether from our organization or others in the community.”

Weber said the Divorce Options program is useful to anyone thinking about divorce or other relationship transitions including cohabiting couples with children or LGBT couples looking for a process aware and respectful of their unique needs. The next Divorce Options workshop is planned in January 2015.

Community groups and organizations can also inquire about bringing a free “Divorce Options” workshop to your location. Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego for more information at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

Tips on How to Find the Best Family Law Attorney for You

Attorney Frann Setzer

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

It surprises me how many phone calls I receive from potential clients whose first question is, ‘what is your hourly rate?’  While I appreciate that legal help is not inexpensive, my experience is that receiving advice from a qualified professional is invaluable.

My tax professional charges a similar rate to an attorney. While she is not the least expensive accountant, she has saved me thousands of dollars.

Remember when you are speaking with a family law attorney for the first time, you are in fact interviewing each other to see if it is a good fit.  Money should not be the only criteria in your hiring decision.  Rather than start by asking an attorney’s hourly rate, you need the answers to the following questions first:

  1. Expertise.   Does the attorney you are interviewing have solid credentials?  Is he or she certified as a Specialist by the State Bar?  Does family law comprise 100 percent of his or her practice, or does he or she practice in several other areas of the law as well?  Does the attorney have other degrees, such an MBA, a master’s degree in taxation or a financial credential? While well-credentialed, experienced attorneys invariably charge more than those who are not, the quality of the advice received is often vastly different.  As with my tax accountant, paying for good advice can translate into thousands of dollars saved.  Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  2. Philosophy.  Attorneys are people too!  Some are more aggressive, some are more passive.  How often does the attorney you are speaking with litigate?  Is he or she trained in Mediation?  Is he or she trained in the Collaborative process?  When presented with a problem, would this attorney suggest filing a $5,000 motion with the court, or would he or she first pick up the phone and call opposing counsel or write a letter to try to solve the problem?  Certainly at times it is necessary to litigate, but litigation is usually the most contentious and expensive route to take to solve a problem.
  3. Chemistry.  Your family attorney is someone who you are going to be ‘living with’ for a period of time.  Do you communicate well with this person?  Does your attorney understand your concerns and suggest solutions with which you are comfortable?  Is your attorney able to explain the legal issues to you in plain English?  Having a certain amount of chemistry is necessary in order to create a feeling of trust that this person is acting in your best interest.
  4. Comparison Shop.  Quite a bit of information can be found on an attorney’s website.  Even more information can be gained through a personal interview.  While many attorneys charge for a consultation, it is money well spent.  You will gain a sense of who this person is, the type of office in which he or she works and most important, you will be able to assess whether the hourly rate quoted is a good value.  You should also receive an initial professional opinion about your case.  See at least two attorneys.  Remember that consulting with an attorney does not obligate you to hire that person.
  5. Billing Practices.  Should you decide to consult with an attorney, ask about his or her billing practices.  Exactly what does he or she charge for? Does staff complete some of the work? Staff work costs less money per hour than the lead attorney.  You should receive a retainer agreement from an attorney you are considering hiring.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take a day to read that agreement and be sure you understand the services provided and how they are charged.  If you do not, do not hesitate to ask questions. Attorneys vary more than you might think on how they charge for services and the services that they provide.

Selecting the right attorney to represent or consult with you can make all the difference in the experience you have during dissolution or other matters, the amount you spend in legal fees and in the outcome of your case.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take the time to make a well-considered hiring decision.

Developing Diversity in Divorce Goal of Statewide Conference April 25-27

CPCal working to meet the needs of the modern family

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

 

(SAN DIEGO) – Collaborative Divorce professionals throughout California will focus on broadening the reach of the Collaborative model to an increasingly diverse array of families at its statewide conference April 25-27 in San Francisco, California.

A team of ten members from the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego will take a leadership role in the conference, including attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health practitioners. They include Julie Mack, attorney/mediator and President of CFLG San Diego; attorneys Adryenn Canton, Hildy Fentin, Julia M. Garwood, Meredith Lewis, Frann Setzer, Nancy Taylor, Colleen Warren, and Shawn Weber; and financial advisor Ginita Wall.

“Our model offers a way to meet the needs of non-traditional families in the legal system,” said Mack. “It allows for flexible, respectful solutions to common family law challenges involving marriage and divorce. We strive to address the legal and psychological factors affecting a wide range of families.

“The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is eager to let people know we offer them a range of choices for legal, financial, and mental health services all with the ultimate goal in mind of preserving the health and well-being of the family, however the family model is defined for them. The Collaborative model is especially well suited to addressing issues that aren’t always typical and often prove challenging in the court system.

“We urge families struggling to address these issues to give the Collaborative Process a chance. Even if they are skeptics, they have nothing to lose by giving our alternative a try,” said Mack.

The collaborative process is being used in divorce and family law, domestic partnerships, same sex marriages, employment law, probate law, construction and real property law, malpractice, and other civil law areas.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process offering an alternative to litigated divorce.

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.