Family law cases typically involve an intersection of legal issues and emotional concerns. As such, it is not uncommon for family law disputes to become contentious. In some instances, parties in family law cases will go so far as to attempt to frustrate the resolution of their cases by refusing to comply with procedural rules. To address such behavior, the California legislature enacted a statute that permits the courts to impose sanctions on non-compliant parties in family law cases, as discussed in In Re Marriage of Feldman. If you intend to end your marriage, it is essential to understand your rights and obligations, and you should speak to a California divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 1969. They separated after thirty-four years of marriage, and in 2003, the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. Pursuant to California law, the parties were required to disclose their financial information. The husband, who created numerous highly valuable privately held companies during the marriage, responded to discovery requests regarding his finances and provided a schedule of assets and debts.

The wife alleged, however, that the husband failed to fully disclose his financial information. Specifically, he neglected to provide information regarding several entities, a retirement account, and the purchase of a bond and a private home. The wife filed an application for an order imposing sanctions against the husband and requiring him to pay her attorneys’ fees, pursuant to Family Code sections 1101 and 2107. The trial court granted the application and sanctioned the husband. The husband appealed. Continue Reading ›

In California, the main concern of the courts in any child custody proceeding is what is in the child’s best interest. This means, among other things, that the court will assess whether one or both parents have a history of engaging in domestic violence. If they do, the court will assume that it will not benefit the child to live with the parent. The presumption is rebuttable, though, as discussed in a ruling recently issued by a California court. If you are faced with a custody dispute and have concerns about domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a California child custody lawyer to discuss your options.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the wife and the husband married and then had two minor children together. The wife subsequently filed a lawsuit requesting a divorce. Concurrently, she filed a petition for a DVRO (domestic violence restraining order) against the husband in a separate case. The DVRO petition was dismissed, however, due to her failure to serve the petition on the husband. The trial court then granted a divorce by default and awarded the wife sole custody of the minor children.

It is reported that the wife then moved to Utah with the children, after which the husband filed a motion to set aside the default on the grounds that he was unaware of the divorce action. The wife then filed a request for a DVRO in a court in Utah and offered evidence that the husband engaged in years of abuse against her. The Utah court granted the wife’s request and issued a temporary DVRO, while at the same time, the California court granted the husband’s motion to set aside the default and granted him joint custody. As such, the wife appealed. Continue Reading ›

While some people contending with family law issues are able to resolve matters amongst themselves, many will seek intervention and guidance from the courts. Typically, when a court makes a determination in a family law case, it will issue an order setting forth its ruling. The order then becomes the law of the case. In other words, the parties in the case are bound by the order and may experience negative outcomes if they do not comply with it. Family law orders can be overwhelming, though, and their meaning is not always clear. If you have questions regarding what your family law court order means and the potential consequences of not abiding by the order, you should consult a trusted California child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

Understanding Your Family Law Court Orders

When people receive family law orders, they should read the entire order thoroughly for several reasons. First, they should check to see if there is any pertinent information or a proclamation that the court made orally that is not in the order. They should also determine if there are any other errors that may need to be rectified. Secondly, they should make a note of any important dates, schedules, or calls to action. If an order creates any financial rights or obligations, they should note that as well.

There are often terms in family law orders that are not readily understood. For example, if an order incorporates or incorporates and merges an agreement or stipulation, it essentially means that it becomes part of the order, making it enforceable both as a contract and via a family court action. In custody actions, the terms visitation and parenting time are used to refer to physical custody, while the term custody refers to legal custody. In any family law case in which an order is issued, it is prudent for anyone subject to the order to speak with a knowledgeable attorney to make sure they fully grasp its the scope and meaning. Continue Reading ›

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused numerous changes in most aspects of everyday life, including how children attend school. As many schools throughout the Bay Area transitioned to online learning at the beginning of the pandemic, many parents struggled to juggle helping their children learn, performing their job duties, and handling the stress caused by the pandemic. While many parents found the shift to remote school to be challenging, divorced parents faced additional difficulties and were left wondering how they could help their children with online learning. If you have questions regarding online learning in joint custody situations specifically or child custody in general, it is smart to speak to a knowledgeable California child custody lawyer to evaluate your options.

Modifying Custody Arrangements to Assist with Learning

Many divorced parents who share custody of a child find themselves in a situation where one parent is able to sit at home and monitor the child’s learning while the other parent is not. In some instances, a parent’s new spouse may be able to assist the child. In such instances, the parents may wish to enter into a verbal agreement where the at-home parent has physical custody of the child during the weekdays for the purpose of assisting the child with school.

While it may be tempting to enter into such agreements, it can have unintended implications for each parent’s custody rights. When parents disregard their child custody or visitation orders to allow one parent greater access to the child, it can harm the other parent’s custody rights. This is especially true if the parent with increased access subsequently requests a custody modification. As such, it is smart for anyone who is considering entering into such a verbal agreement with their co-parent with regard to schooling to contact a family law attorney. Continue Reading ›

While most parents want the best for their children and strive to provide them with safe and loving environments, others, unfortunately, engage in behavior that causes their children to suffer physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. When parents share custody of a child, they may not always be aware that their co-parent or someone in their household is mistreating their child. As such, it is critical for parents to increase their awareness of subtle indicators of harm so that they can recognize the signs of child abuse. If you believe your child is being harmed by your co-parent or a member of their family or household, it is in your best interest to consult a dedicated California domestic violence attorney to determine your options.

Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse

Children who are being abused often present with signs of harm throughout their bodies. In other words, they may frequently have broken bones or cuts, scratches, or contusions on their bodies and faces. While many children sustain minor bruises or scrapes when they play, children that are being abused often suffer such bodily harm on a more frequent and extensive basis.

Children who are subject to abuse often become withdrawn as well, which is sadly usually attributed to “moodiness” rather than a symptom of harm. They may also become anxious or angry and may lash out at people other than their abusers. Many victims of child abuse suddenly begin performing poorly in school or lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Continue Reading ›

Typically, if a deceased person drafted a will prior to their death, the courts will uphold the will and disburse the person’s assets according to its terms. There are some exceptions, however, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a California court in which the court found it necessary to reform the will based on extrinsic evidence that proved the testator’s intent was contrary to the provisions of the will. If you have questions pertaining to your rights with regard to a loved one’s will, it is smart to consult a California probate and trust lawyer to discuss your options for seeking your desired outcome.

Factual History

It is reported that the testator and her husband married in 1981.  In 2000, the testator executed a trust leaving a rental property to her adult sons from a previous marriage and a pour-over will in which she granted the residue of her estate to the trustee to be administered after her death. She did not advise her husband of her estate plan. The testator died in 2016, after which the defendant, one of her sons, became the trustee.

Allegedly, the defendant then filed a probate petition in which he requested that the testator’s community and separate assets be transferred to the trust, which he alleged was required by the pour-over will. The husband filed a petition seeking reformation of the will to affirm the testator’s intent to only transfer the residue of her separate property into the trust. The court granted his petition, and the defendant appealed. Continue Reading ›

While some step-parents and step-children have a close bond, others have contentious relationships, and it is not uncommon for them to argue over property and assets. In some instances, their disputes continue after the death of the parties that tie them together. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which a step-daughter accused her step-mother of coercing her father into modifying a trust for her benefit. While the court ultimately found in favor of the step-daughter, it declined to award her the double damages she requested on the grounds that she failed to demonstrate bad faith. If another party unjustly violated your right to receive assets from an estate, it is in your best interest to speak to a California probate and trust lawyer to discuss what relief you may be awarded.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that, in 1986, the decedent established a revocable trust. He amended it numerous times after it was established. Specifically, it was modified on seven occasions. The decedent died in 2015, after which litigation surrounding the trust ensued. Specifically, the suit focused on amendments in 2008 and 2012. The decedent’s daughter from a prior marriage sued the decedent’s widow, asserting numerous causes of action. Over time, the claims were whittled down so that all that remained was a claim for an order compelling the return of certain property under Probate Code section 850 and a claim for double damages under Probate Code section 859.

Allegedly, the trial court found a presumption of undue influence with regard to the 2012 amendment. The widow did not rebut the presumption, and the court voided the 2012 amendment and ordered the widow to return the property she had obtained pursuant to the amendment. The daughter appealed, arguing in part that the court’s finding of undue influence required a finding that the wife committed financial abuse of an elder. The daughter further argued that this finding required an award of double damages under Probate Code section 859. Continue Reading ›

When people lose a loved one, they often not only have to contend with the emotional impact of the person’s death, but in many instances, they also have to fight family members who unjustly violate their property interests in the decedent’s estate. The California courts do not view people who dispose of or conceal property that belonged to a decedent in bad faith kindly, and will often issue harsh penalties to parties who engage in such conduct. In a recent California ruling, the court explained what relief is available for parties aggrieved by bad faith conveyances. If you need to protect your property rights in a probate case, it is advisable to consult a California probate and trust lawyer regarding your rights.

The Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the decedent died in October 2013. Soon after his death, the plaintiff and the defendant began arguing over his estate. First, the defendant petitioned to admit a will purportedly signed by the decedent in 2009 into probate. The plaintiff objected to the petition on numerous grounds, including the allegation that the defendant drafted the will and named herself as the sole beneficiary. He also filed a petition challenging the validity of numerous trust documents the defendant drafted and executed on the decedent’s behalf. The court consolidated the will contest and trust petition.

Allegedly, the court ultimately granted the plaintiff the relief sought via the petition, including the return of multiple parcels of land that belonged to the decedent’s estate, and imposed a penalty of over $10 million, which represented twice the value of the parcels. The defendant appealed, arguing that such penalties were impermissible under the law. Continue Reading ›

People that have substantial assets will often feel pressure to provide for their children financially. In some cases, pressure can progress into outright manipulation.  Older individuals are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse, and tragically, are sometimes coerced by their children into modifying estate planning documents to preclude other beneficiaries. Elder financial abuse is unlawful, though, and parties found guilty of committing such acts may face significant penalties. For example, a California court specifically held that double damages could be imposed for the commission of elder financial abuse even absent a finding of bad faith. If you believe your loved one is a victim of elder abuse, it is in your best interest to meet with a California probate and trust lawyer to evaluate your options.

The Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff and the defendant, who are brother and sister, each had complicated relationships with their parents. The plaintiff relied on his parents for financial support throughout his adult life, at one point borrowing $75,000 from them. The defendant was estranged from her parents for a long time because they could not accept her sexuality. Thus, she was largely precluded from recovering benefits from the trust the parents established.

It is reported that the mother passed away, and the defendant and her father reconciled. The father then amended the trust so that the estate would be divided equally between the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff then saw an email the defendant had written accusing him of elder financial abuse. He subsequently made his father execute a statement denying the abuse. The father died a few weeks later. Shortly before his death, he transferred thousands of stock shares and the deed to his property to his son. Continue Reading ›

It is not uncommon for wealthy families to create trusts so that they can pass assets on to their children without facing significant tax penalties.   While beneficiaries are typically granted certain rights with regard to trusts, parties who bear no relation to a trust generally do not have standing to petition the court regarding a trust’s internal affairs. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, as shown in a recent case in which the Supreme Court of California ruled that a person whose status as a beneficiary was eliminated due to fraud, undue influence, or incompetence has standing as well. If you are involved in a dispute regarding a trust, it is prudent to speak to a skillful California probate and trust lawyer to discuss your rights.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was a beneficiary of the subject trust, which was a family trust. The settlor of the trust, who was the plaintiff’s mother, made a series of amendments to the trust that ultimately eliminated the plaintiff’s shares and expressly disinherited her. The settlor died shortly thereafter. The plaintiff then filed a petition arguing that the amendments in which she was disinherited were invalid because the settlor lacked the competence to make such amendments and the amendments were brought about by the fraud and undue influence of her sisters, who were also beneficiaries of the trust.

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