DIVORCE/DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
Divorce is a life stressor that can impact a person much like a death in the family. At the start of any dissolution matter, the firm does a thorough intake with the client, sensitively listening to the client's concerns, and securing the information needed to provide the best advocacy. Confidentiality is strictly maintained, and trust is at the heart of the firm's representation. The firm works with a wide range of other professionals as needed, such as mediators, therapists, forensic accountants, specialized paralegals, and investigators. Whether a case requires fierce litigation strategies and aggressive courtroom advocacy, or a nuanced settlement negotiation, or a combination of the two, the firm meets the clients goals and needs by employing only the most effective methods for the circumstances of each case and client. High profile divorces are handled with the utmost discretion and avoidance of publicity, often filed and negotiated in a manner that avoids press coverage.
Abuse in any relationship can be devastating. California law recognizes emotional abuse and physical violence in a marriage, a non-marital relationship, a dating relationship, and even between close family members, as domestic violence (DV) covered by specific provisions of the family law code. The firm has extensive experience successfully securing temporary and permanent DV restraining orders against perpetrators of domestic violence, including move-out, mortgage payment, and support orders, and orders for sole legal and physical custody of minor children affected by the abuse. The firm also helps clients in seeking law enforcement assistance, counseling, and other services.
When disputes arise between parents who have never been married to each other, paternity is not presumed. Paternity must be established in court before any child custody and child support orders may be issued. The firm has successfully handled many paternity actions, including cases where parentage is in dispute, or where parentage is denied.
The firm offers mediation services for family law matters. When retained in this capacity, neither party is represented by the firm, as the firm is acting as a knowledgeable mediary between the parties to reach a fair and amicable resolution outside of court, which agreement is prepared and executed as a Stipulated Order or Judgment. The firm encourages mediation clients to retain separate individual advisory family law counsel. Clients may attend mediation with or without their attorneys.
The firm has extensive experience drafting and negotiating complex premarital agreements for well-known high net worth clients. An expertly crafted and carefully negotiated premarital agreement not only minimizes the cost and acrimony in the event of divorce, but may also include provisions for the death of a spouse, and provisions for how property will be acquired and held during the marriage. The firm's particular knowledge and interest in premarital agreements has also proved advantageous to its litigation clients where a premarital agreement is at issue in a divorce. The firm is well versed in California law pertaining to premarital agreements, and has defeated such agreements in divorce cases where the terms are unfair to the firm's client and contravene any aspect of California law.
international child custody issues
Cases involving parents with citizenship in other countries can give rise to custody disputes about a child's international travel or residence abroad. Concerns about abduction across international borders frequently arise. The firm has litigated and negotiated numerous orders that avoided cross border litigation for our clients, and led to more stability for their children.
The firm offers full service estate planning services on a flat fee basis. In vitro trusts tailored to the goals and assets of each individual client are the core of a comprehensive estate plan that, at a minimum, will keep the estate out of probate court. A pourover Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Healthcare Directive are also included in all estate plan packages, with additional documents included where necessary. Grant deeds for clients' real properties are prepared by the firm and then recorded with the appropriate county recorder to ensure that real properties are immediately transferred into the newly formed trust. Closely held family LLC's, family foundations, and other types of entities may also be established as a part of the estate planning representation. The firm takes a hands-on approach, carefully listening to the client's desired goals, performing a complete review of assets, considering all tax consequences, and then recommending an effective approach. All necessary testamentary and ancillary documents are prepared for clients so that the representation addresses all end of life issues. Demystifying the complexity of estate plan documents so that each client fully understands the content, meaning, and purpose of each document comprising the estate plan, and how the client's goals are met with the plan, is an integral part of the representation.
cross border estate planning issues
The firm has prepared estate plans for American clients residing in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Americans with dual citizenship residing outside the US have unique estate planning issues that are further complicated when they are married to a non-US citizen. The firm is well versed in the tax consequences for such clients and drafts all manner of complex trusts to achieve client goals with the least tax liability. The firm coordinates with foreign law firms in various jurisdictions to accomplish a US estate plan that addresses all legal issues for the client, both domestically and abroad in the country of residence.
CHILD CUSTODY/CHILD SUPPORT
When a parent is facing divorce, or the end of a relationship with children, custody and child support orders are an immediate concern. Even after divorce, enforcement issues and the need for new orders often arise. The firm has successfully litigated an array of post-judgment enforcement and custody modification issues, including move-away orders to allow a parent to move out of the jurisdiction with her child, imputation of income to a payor spouse to increase support payments, favorable custody orders for a client accused of 'parental alienation' by an abusive spouse, contempt proceedings to secure payment of child support arrears, and a lengthy custody dispute representing an abused military spouse with complex jurisdictional issues and evidence from military base hospitals in three foreign countries. In every case, the firm strategizes to reach the best outcome for the client and the client's children.
POST JUDGMENT PROCEEDINGS
After divorce, issues can arise concerning enforcement of custody orders, support orders, or obligations in connection with the division of marital property as ordered in the Judgment. Modification of child custody and support orders are frequent post judgment matters. The firm regularly litigates a wide array of post judgment issues with advantageous outcomes for its clients.
PROBATE AND TRUST LITIGATION
The firm handles certain types of cases involving probate and trust litigation. The firm offers representation defending trustees facing challenges to their trust administration, as well as trustees defending the trust from attacks on trust validity by excluded heirs or dissatisfied beneficiaries. The firm regularly brings petitions on behalf of trustees to secure court permission to transfer omitted assets into a testamentary trust (commonly referred to as a Heggstad Petition). In certain situations, the firm represents personal representatives where a decedent has died without any estate plan in place (intestate succession) or where a will needs to be probated.
trust administration services
The firm may be retained to provide legal guidance in an advisory capacity to successor trustees of testamentary trusts. Assistance with valuations, asset liquidation, tax issues, trust accountings, and satisfying the terms of distribution are among the services offered to assist trustees in properly discharging their duties. In certain circumstances, the firm may serve as a professional trustee for an existing trust.