Sunday, April 5, 2009

Your Ex and Your Bonus

Pretty amazing, huh? You really are expected to share your bonus with your ex! I know, I think that’s a bunch of hooey, too!

But here’s something CRITICAL to consider right off the bat: are your bonuses included in your W-2? This is important because your support payments are based on your gross W-2 earnings, and if your bonus is already included in your W-2 AND you’re ordered to pay her a percentage of your bonus, then you’re paying her TWICE for your bonus!!!

It’s not likely that anyone else will raise this issue (no one did in our case…or should I say, no one but ME!), so be prepared to raise it yourself.

Here’s our tale of woe:

My husband’s 7/23/03 Order After Hearing stipulated: “7. In the event Respondent receives any future bonus income as a result of employment, he shall pay to Petitioner an additional support amount equal to 23% of such bonus within 10 days of the date on which he receives any such bonus.”

He did as ordered and paid THE DEVIL 23%—or $1,120.79—of his 2003 bonus on 2/16/04, which he’d received on 2/6/04. But this order was stipulated in error. He should never have been ordered to pay THE DEVIL any part of his annual bonuses because they're already included in his W-2s and, as such, are already factored in to his monthly support payments. (!!!) This error wasn’t brought to his attention until I questioned it in 1/05. His attorney didn’t question it, the judge didn’t question it...and even he didn’t question it. In fact, no one considered that his bonus might already be included in his W-2!

This order was reversed in his 1/25/05 Order After Settlement Conference: "5. The order after hearing filed in this matter on 7/25/03, which sets forth the current support orders, requires Respondent to pay Petitioner 23% of any bonus income he receives. Respondent contends that his bonus income is included in the calculation of his gross wages and that to require him to pay an additional 23% of any bonus he receives results in a double calculation for that income for support purposes. Accordingly, Respondent’s obligation to pay Petitioner 23% of his bonus income is hereby stayed without prejudice…"

And while it is absolutely, 100% true that my husband's bonuses are, in fact, included in the calculation of his gross wages, it’s also very interesting to note that at no time was he ever made to substantiate this claim (note the language of his order: “Respondent contends that this bonus income is included in the calculation of his gross wages…”). Hmmm…

He, of course, was not reimbursed for any part of his $1,120.79 overpayment to THE DEVIL.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Family Code Section 4320 - Spousal Support

Note: Excerpts from two pertinent court of appeals cases are inserted in this transcript for further consideration and discussion with your attorney; they are not a part of the California Family Code.

Family Code Section 4320

In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances:

......(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:

..........(1) The marketable skills of the supported party [your ex]; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.

..........(2) The extent to which the supported party's [your ex] present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party [your ex] to devote time to domestic duties.

......(b) The extent to which the supported party [your ex] contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party [you].

......(c) The ability of the supporting party [you] to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party's [you] earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

......(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

In re the Marriage of RICHARD and BARBARA SIMPSON, No. B048099, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION SEVEN, February 13, 1992, Decided: “After dissolution, a family may be entitled to be supported at what would have been a reasonable standard of living ... given what [Husband] would have earned had he worked at a reasonably human pace." … They are not entitled to continued guaranteed support at a standard of living which existed only because the supporting spouse ‘worked excessive hours during the marriage.’”


......(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

......(f) The duration of the marriage.

......(g) The ability of the supported party [your ex] to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.

......(h) The age and health of the parties.

......(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party [your ex] by the supporting party [you], and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party [you] by the supported party [your ex].

......(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.

......(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.

......(l) The goal that the supported party [your ex] shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period of time" for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court's discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.

......(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.

......(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.
In re the Marriage of JEANNE and ROBERT H. ANINGER, No. B038780, Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, 220 Cal. App. 3d 230; May 11, 1990: “The only factor adversely affecting [Wife’s] ability to meet her needs was an increase … in her housing cost resulting from her purchase of a $280,000 condominium. … …it would defeat the intent and reasonable expectations of the parties that [Wife] would achieve self-support … by going into debt far beyond her means. … By undertaking a debt beyond her reasonable means to pay presently or in the foreseeable future, [Wife] failed to make a reasonable effort to become self-supporting.”


NOT Insuring Your Ex after Divorce

The only possible way to keep your ex on your employer’s group health insurance plan is to file for a legal separation instead of a divorce (see my "Legal Separation or Divorce" post).

Otherwise, regardless of what your ex expects or demands, the good news for you is: YOU CAN’T. Not through your employer’s group plan, anyway. And not even if you wanted to! You can only insure family members through your employer’s group plan, and your ex is no longer a member of your family!

However, if you’ve been covering her up to your divorce date, and your employer has more than 20 employees, you might want to let her know (if you want to) that she’s eligible under COBRA for coverage equal to yours for 36 months after your divorce. She’ll have to pay for it out of her own pocket, of course…but at least she’ll be able to get health insurance if she can’t get it through her own employer.

And don’t go and try to be “Mr. Nice Guy” by keeping her on your health insurance even after your divorce is final, because it could bite you in the butt! A friend of ours did, and ended up having to reimburse his employer for every last penny that they’d spent toward her health insurance from the date his divorce was final! We were lucky: my husband waited a couple of months before dropping his ex, but because their end date was fuzzy (it was left open because it was based on her being seen by a specialist first), his employer let it slide. Same employer as his friend, but different, again, be careful!

Our story…

My husband’s divorce took YEARS, and in all that time the devil was eligible for FREE health insurance through her employer. But she refused it out of spite…she wanted my husband to have to pay for her coverage because it was costing him an additional $5,000 a year! Well, as you can imagine, my husband took great satisfaction in finally being able to drop that bitch from his plan! But to add insult to injury, when he finally DID drop her--2 years after he should’ve been able to--she actuallly had the nerve to be petulant and insulting about it! What a surprise!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ah, Bifurcation!


When you bifurcate your marriage, you are no longer married...but you're not done with your divorce yet, either.

Under State law, you can "bifurcate" your marital status from all of your other issues (child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct) and return to the legal status of an unmarried (single) person. But because your other issues are unresolved, the court retains the ability to resolve them.


There are at least two reasons to bifurcate your marriage:
  1. Your divorce has been dragging on and on, and you just don't want to be married to that bitch anymore (which was my husband's case).
  2. It's well past the 6-month mark, and you want to get married again (to someone else, of course...not to your ex!).

CAUTION: The way the law is written (see the blue, bolded text below), even if you bifurcate your marriage, you could still be stuck paying for your ex's health insurance! So if you DO decide to bifurcate, tell your attorney that you want it stipulated that your ex will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining her own damn health insurance, whether through her employer or through COBRA (see my post "NOT Insuring Your Ex After Divorce").

My husband requested a bifurcation from the devil because even though they'd separated in August 2002, he and the devil were STILL married when they were ordered to a Status Conference in January 2005! Do the math...that's 2 years and 3 months after their separation date! His request was granted, and they were bifurcated in April 2005. Yes, I know...that's CRAZY! (Then again, so is the devil: Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, etc., etc., etc.)

Anyway, here's an excerpt from my husband's Order After Status Conference that you can use when talking to your attorney about bifurcation and healthcare insurance:

.....“The parties stipulate and agree that the marital status shall be bifurcated and a judgment for dissolution of the marriage submitted to the court. ... In entering into this stipulation, each party acknowledges that medical insurance is available to him or her through their respective places of employment and upon entry of the judgment of dissolution contemplated herein, each party shall be responsible for obtaining and/or maintaining his or her own medical insurance coverage.”

So here's the kicker: after 6-2/3 years, my husband and the devil STILL don’t have a signed Judgment of Dissolution!!! And do you know, it doesn’t really matter because they're bifurcated! All of their other issues were settled at trial 8 months after their bifurcation, so - technically - they're done...but the devil won’t sign the final Judgment! Why? Because it's FAIR!


Family Code Section 2330-2348

2337. (a) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court, upon noticed motion, may sever and grant an early and separate trial on the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage apart from other issues.

.....(b) A preliminary declaration of disclosure with a completed schedule of assets and debts shall be served on the nonmoving party with the noticed motion unless it has been served previously, or unless the parties stipulate in writing to defer service of the preliminary declaration of disclosure until a later time.

.....(c) The court may impose upon a party any of the following conditions on granting a severance of the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage, and in case of that party's death, an order of any of the following conditions continues to be binding upon that party's estate:

..........(1) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any taxes, reassessments, interest, and penalties payable by the other party if the dissolution of the marriage before the division of the parties' community estate results in a taxable event to either of the parties by reason of the ultimate division of their community estate, which taxes would not have been payable if the parties were still married at the time the division was made.

..........(2) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall maintain all existing health and medical insurance coverage for the other party and the minor children as named dependents, so long as the party is legally able to do so. At the time the party is no longer legally eligible to maintain the other party as a named dependent under the existing health and medical policies, the party or the party's estate shall, at the party's sole expense, purchase and maintain health and medical insurance coverage that is comparable to the existing health and medical insurance coverage. If comparable insurance coverage is not obtained, the party or the party's estate is responsible for the health and medical expenses incurred by the other party that would have been covered by the insurance coverage, and shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting from the lack of insurance.

..........(3) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in a termination of the other party's right to a probate homestead in the residence in which the other party resides at the time the severance is granted.

..........(4) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the rights of the other party to a probate family allowance as the surviving spouse of the party.

..........(5) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the other party's rights to pension benefits, elections, or survivors' benefits under the party's pension or retirement plan to the extent that the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.

..........(6) Prior to entry of judgment terminating status, both of the following shall occur:

...............(A) The party's retirement or pension plan shall be joined as a party to the proceeding for dissolution.

...............(B) If applicable, an order pursuant to Section 2610 shall be entered with reference to the defined benefit or similar plan pending the ultimate resolution of the distribution of benefits under the employee benefit plan.

..........(7) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences if the bifurcation results in the loss of rights to social security benefits or elections to the extent the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.

..........(8) Any other condition the court determines is just and equitable.

.....(d) A judgment granting a dissolution of the status of the marriage shall expressly reserve jurisdiction for later determination of all other pending issues.

.....(e) If the party dies after the entry of judgment granting a dissolution of marriage, any obligation imposed by this section shall be enforceable against any asset, including the proceeds thereof, against which these obligations would have been enforceable prior to the person's death.

What’s a QDRO?

A QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relations Order, is a court order issued to your wife that grants her the right to receive all or part of your vested interest in a private retirement plan.

Your attorneys must determine the present value of your plan, and if you and your wife don't agree on the value, the judge will decide it for you based on expert testimony ($$$). So unless the difference is substantial, you’d be better off negotiating the difference.

If your wife isn’t counting on a deferred settlement for retirement income later on, her attorney will likely offer an immediate offset settlement, which would treat the value of each of your marital assets (including debt) as tradable commodities to use as bargaining chips. You’d each take one asset to offset one being retained by the other party. In this case, you might consider offering your wife a larger share of the marital home by offering her a credit of 100% of the value of the marital portion of your pension (vs. the usual 50% she’d normally get), which would increase her share of the home's equity, while you could retain all of your pension.

For example: Let’s say that you have $150K equity in your home; her half is $75K. And let’s say that the value of the marital portion of your pension is $50K; her half is $25K. But rather than give her $25K of your pension, you offer her a 100% credit of your pension’s value toward her share of the home’s equity, which increases her equity share to $125K ($75K + $50K = $125K). While this reduces your equity share by $25K, you'd make up the $25K by retaining the full value of your pension.

An alternative to an immediate offset settlement is a deferred settlement, which requires a QDRO for private retirement plans. You'll still need a Domestic Relations Order for a public plan (federal, state, local or military), but not a “Qualified” order.

Your wife will most likely receive a monthly income from your pension once you’re eligible to retire, but with a 401(k), ESOP, Profit Sharing Plan, etc., she'll be paid out immediately once the plan receives and approves the order.

However, in our case, the devil accepted an offer from the plan administrator to be paid out IMMEDIATELY from his PENSION.

And here’s the kicker: The plan administrator has assured my husband that paying the devil a one-time, lump-sum $6K payment will have NO effect whatsoever on the amount of his retirement!

So, hell yeah, we were excited about that!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Uh-oh...I Worked 'Crazy' Overtime Before! Now What?!

In ordering spousal support, the court considers the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

I bet right about now you’re thinking that you really screwed yourself by busting your ass and working all that overtime to give her the luxury of staying at home all day!

Yeah, we husband was in the same boat. He'd provided the devil with a lifestyle beyond their means by working an unreasonable amount of overtime, and sacrificed all of his limited free time to give it the luxury of being a stay-at-home wife and mother (even though they didn't have any kids, and it wasn't even pregnant when it quit her job to sit on its ass all day).

So, do you want the good news? Take a look at this California Court of Appeal decision:

In re the Marriage of RICHARD and BARBARA SIMPSON, No. B048099, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION SEVEN, February 13, 1992, Decided: “After dissolution, a family may be entitled to be supported at what would have been a reasonable standard of living ... given what [Husband] would have earned had he worked at a reasonably human pace." … They are not entitled to continued guaranteed support at a standard of living which existed only because the supporting spouse ‘worked excessive hours during the marriage.’”

This means that the court can NOT base spousal support on the crazy overtime you worked during your marriage...and you've got the Appeallate Court decision to prove it!

Does My Girlfriend/Wife’s Earnings Count Toward My Support Payments?

I know that most of you will find this shocking (NOT!), but the devil actually tried to increase my husband’s support payments based on MY earnings.

At that time, I was a single mom, working full time to provide the sole support of my THREE children. And, yes, SHE KNEW THIS!!!

And not that it would've changed the outcome, but my (now) husband and I weren't even engaged and, in fact, didn't even live together yet. And, again, it wouldn't have changed anything, but once we did move in together, we maintained separate banking and credit accounts, didn't combine our incomes, and (except for rent and utilities) didn't share expenses.

So how do we know that it tried to pull this? Because, in addition to numerous verbal inquiries made to my husband, it also made at least two written inquiries to its attorney...which it stupidly and eagerly shared with us!

Well, thank goodness for Senate Bill No. 145:

In re the Marriage of LINDA MICHELE and PAUL LOUIS ROMERO, No. E030759, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION TWO, 99 Cal. App. 4th 1436; July 11, 2002, Decided; July 11, 2002, Filed. “In 1993, however, the Legislature … passed Senate Bill No. 145, which added subdivision (b) to Family Code section 4323. That provision, which became effective in 1994, consisted of the following limitation: "The income of a supporting spouse's subsequent spouse or nonmarital partner shall not be considered when determining or modifying spousal support. … In addition to adding subdivision (b) to Family Code section 4323, Senate Bill No. 145 made similar amendments to the child support provisions."

So, to answer your question: "NO, your girlfriend/wife’s earnings can NOT be used in establishing your child and/or spousal support payment amounts"!

Your Ex Was Awarded the House?

Your ex was awarded the house,* and she agreed to refinance the loan and buy you out of your share of the equity.** This has been verbally agreed to by you, her, and your attorneys, and approved by the judge, as well.

But wait! Has it been STIPULATED in your Order After Hearing?

If not, you’d better get it specifically stipulated in your Judgment…NOW!

What’s the big deal?

If you don’t make sure that your name is removed from HER mortgage, then it’s YOUR mortgage, too!

You’re no longer making the payments, so you don't have the ability to build equity or deduct the interest on your income tax returns, but you will STILL be financially liable for the loan, and will STILL have all of the same financial worries as before (has she been late on a payment…missed a payment…defaulted…paid her property taxes?), only now you won't have the benefit of homeownership because you no longer have a financial stake in the house!

And what happens if you want to buy another house?

- Best-case scenario: you’ll have to hassle with producing a court order to prove that you no longer have any financial liability for the existing loan even though your name is still on it (which may be an exercise in futility because the lender will likely recognize you as a co-borrower regardless. After all, you applied for the existing loan, you signed for the existing loan, and your name is STILL on the existing loan…so as far as the lien holder is concerned: it’s your loan).

- Worst-case scenario: Your loan application is rejected because your income-to-debt ratio is too high (your mortgage isn’t supposed to exceed 31% of your gross income), even though you don't have a financial stake in the house!

So if you don’t take care of this NOW before everything is finalized, you’ll have no chocie but to take care of it later…which will translate in to more $$$...LOTS and LOTS of $$$. Your attorney will most likely ask the judge for the court to hold jurisdiction over the house until your ex refinances it; he will also ask that it be specified exactly how long your ex has to refinance the loan, and what will happen if she doesn’t do it within the specified period of time (e.g., a forced sell if she can’t – or won’t – refinance, regardless of the reason).

The devil had 45 days to refinance the loan, which she (of course) didn’t meet. But because there was no stipulation concerning what would happen if she failed to meet the deadline, there wasn’t much my husband could do other than take her back to court and spend $$$ that he didn't have.

So be sure your court order is worded properly right from the get-go. It should stipulate (1) that she “shall be permitted an opportunity to buy out Respondent’s [or Petitioner’s, as the case may be] interest in the family residence,” (2) that she must refinance the existing loan, (3) that she must “remove Respondent’s name from any loan or mortgage within 45 days from this date,” and (4) specifically what will happen if she fails to refinance the loan for any reason within the stipulated period of time.

My husband’s Order After Hearing failed to stipulate that the devil had to refinance the loan; it only stipulated that she had 45 days in which to "remove his name from the loan." That’s not the same thing. We're just lucky that this didn't become an issue.

And, NO, a Quit Claim Deed won’t suffice! (

*Do NOT let her get away taking you back to court to increase your support obligation just because she can’t afford her mortgage payment: it’s not your fault if she "fails to make a reasonable effort to become self-supporting by undertaking a debt beyond her reasonable means to pay presently or in the foreseeable future." (1)

The devil acknowledged in court that she wouldn't qualify to refinance their marital house on her own because she was unemployed, and that she wouldn't be able to afford the mortgage payments once she became employed, so my husband was awarded the house and agreed to refinance it and pay the devil half of its equity. Two months later, they returned to court and the devil tried to pursuade the judge that she should be given an opportunity to buy the house; it swore that it and her mom would jointly refinance the house, and that its mom would move in and share expenses. This is the ONLY reason my husband agreed to allow the devil and its mom to buy him out of the house. So what happened? The devil refinanced the house on its own, and to this day relies on the entire amount of my husband's child support to make its mortgage payments. Needless to say, we're armed and ready for battle if the devil ever tries to take my husband back to court for increased child support based on its inability to pay its mortgage.

(1) In re the Marriage of JEANNE and ROBERT H. ANINGER, No. B038780, Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, 220 Cal. App. 3d 230; May 11, 1990: “The only factor adversely affecting [Wife’s] ability to meet her needs was an increase … in her housing cost resulting from her purchase of a $280,000 condominium … it would defeat the intent and reasonable expectations of the parties that [Wife] would achieve self-support … by going into debt far beyond her means … By undertaking a debt beyond her reasonable means to pay presently or in the foreseeable future, [Wife] failed to make a reasonable effort to become self-supporting.”

**Do NOT let her stick you with paying any part of her closing costs! The BUYER traditionally pays the closing costs, and you are NOT the buyer…SHE is! The devil tried to force my husband to pay for half of its $6,966 closing costs (or $3,483)! We were dating by then, so he asked me to look over its proposed equity disbursement. If I hadn't looked at this, he would've (unwittingly) paid for its costs because sharing in the devil's closing costs had never been agreed to or even discussed! He protested through his attorney, and the fight was on! I don't know how the devil did it, but it managed to convince the Escrow Officer to set aside the ENTIRE amount of its closing costs (all $6,966!) from my husband’s equity disbursement, which its attorney then held in trust for TWO YEARS (!!!) before they went to trial and the judge deemed that it was rightfully his. He eventually received the money that remained (less what the devil’s attorney had helped herself to, to pay for things like, oh, the ENTIRE cost of their QDRO [vs. half], among other things)!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Buying a House?

I bet you're wondering, "What does me buying a house have to do with anything?" Well, we wondered the same thing once upon a time. So before we bought our house during my (now) husband's long, drawn out divorce, he asked his attorney how it might affect things, if at all.

She, of course, didn't respond.

After we bought our house, his ex started crying about him including his mortgage interest on his income and expense report. We wondered what this was all about, so we again asked his attorney. That's when we were told that buying a house DOES affect your support payments! How? By increasing them, of course!!!

Yes, that's right. Your mortgage interest is used in the Dissomaster calculation to calculate your support payments because, even though you're spending more money each month now that you have a mortgage payment, you're able to claim your mortgage interest on your tax return, which means that you could get a larger refund from the IRS each year. (No guarantee, of course...we ended up OWING money that first year, and yet his support payments increased regardless!)

So while you're decreasing your available cash each month, you MAY be getting an increased refund from the IRS each year (income). Of course, your refund certainly won't be equal to your increased monthly expenses, but the court doesn't care about that...your refund is additional income as far as they're concerned. So buying a house means you'll now have even less available cash because your newfound wealth (that annual tax refund) is going to make your spousal and/or child support payments go up!

I's bullshit, to be sure! But it is what it is...and it sucks!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things to Track...and Why

You will always be in a better position to argue your case if you can show facts in support of your position. So here are some suggested tracking mechanisms and schedules to help you successfully resolve your case, prove your claim, and/or reduce conflict between you and your ex and/or your child's co-parent:

Child-related Expenditures. Despite how she makes it sound, she's not the only one who spends money on your children! So protect yourself from support hikes by keeping track of your child-related expenses like child support; work-related childcare; health, life, dental, and/or vision insurance; medical and prescription co-pays; uninsured medical, dental, and vision; extracurricular activities; gifts; entertainment; and vacations. And don't forget basic necessities like food, housing, clothing, furniture, transportation, school lunches and supplies, over-the-counter medicines and supplies, hiarcuts, etc.

Court Order Summations. Keep all of the issues in your Temporary Orders, Orders After Hearings, Judgments, etc., straight by creating a simple table of all of your court-ordered stipulations.

Explanation of Earnings. Create spreadsheets to explain complicated pay stubs, non-recurring overtime, bonuses, W-2 earnings, etc.

Holiday, Birthday and Special Day Schedule. Eliminate confusion by spelling out agreements for holidays, birthdays, and special days, and incorporating them into your annual parenting calendar.
Example: Child’s Birthday.
“Follow the approved Parenting Schedule. Parents will coordinate and accommodate one another to the extent practical when planning [Child's] birthday celebrations.
Parent A: Spends [Child's] actual birthday with her (all day or as [Child's] school schedule and Parent A’s work schedule permit).
Parent B: Celebrates [Child's] birthday on Parent B’s next regularly-scheduled parenting day.”

Income and Expense Reconciliations. Create a spreadsheet that compares your monthly bottom line to hers to compare and contrast your income-to-debt ratios, which is considered when setting support amounts.

Medical Reimbursement Form. For collection of the other parent’s share of your child’s uninsured medical care expenses (co-pays, prescriptions, etc.).

Parenting Plans. Develop a comprehensive plan for each parent to approve and use to help resolve your co-parenting issues.

Parenting Calendar. Eliminate confusion by transferring your parenting schedule onto an easy-to-follow, monthly calendar.

Percentage of Parenting Time. Is your parenting time at issue? Create a spreadsheet to calculate your precise annual percentage of parenting time (and hers, too!) to support your claimed time with your children. Dissomaster is based on your percentage of parenting time!

Reconciliations of Disputed Monetary Issues. Develop spreadsheets to explain disputed monetary issues.

Sequence of Events. Keep a detailed chronology of relevant events, which will help you establish a pattern of behavior to substantiate your claims. Remember to also record all of the "right" things that you're doing.

Table of Events and Documents. Develop an at-a-glance chronology of all of the documents and events relevant to your case. This will help you direct your attorney to the right piece of paper in your file, rather than have her do an expensive search.

Unresolved Issues List. Maintain an outline of all of your outstanding issues, which will help you to remember even the small things.

Contact Me. Let me know if you have questions about any of these (or other) tracking mechanisms, or if you'd like me to email you examples or templates. I'm glad to help! :)

How Can I Help?

Has it occurred to you yet that you “don’t know what you don’t know”?

What I mean is: have you figured out that you don't even know what questions you should be asking because you don't even know that they need to be asked in the first place?

We were there, too...and it hit us like a ton of bricks!

True story: My husband was 2+ years in to his nasty-ass divorce when our landlords said to either buy the house we were renting or move. He asked his attorney if buying a house would affect his case, and she ignored him. Sure enough, after we'd bought the house we were told that homeownership would cause his support payments to go up!!! (I'll explain this in a separate post.)

But the process was always the same: we'd ask my husband's attorney a question, and we were either ignored or treated like idiots because we'd asked such a basic question. (Ah, there's nothing like a condescending response to a legitimate question!) But there's no such thing as a "basic question" when you don't know the rules of the game to begin with!

And so we learned the hard way that attorneys keep you in the dark by holding back information. Think about it: they're paid for their knowledge, so they're stingy with it. They have zero incentive to educate're just expected to go along with whatever they tell you to do. Besides, we were charged up the wazoo every time we asked a question that was actually deemed intelligent enough to answer (although most weren't answered), so we weren't exactly inspired to ask as many questions as we should have.

About Me…

I stayed out of all of this for the entire first year that we were together. But by the beginning of our second year, it was clear that I would have to step in. I became an expert at researching divorce- and child custody-related issues out pure of necessity: if I hadn't, my husband would've gotten totally screwed!

As attorneys go, my husband had a very good one. And with her knowledge and tenacity, combined with my research and documentation*, my husband** walked out of that court room feeling good about the outcome, as he'd been able to accomplish all that he'd set out to from the very beginning: a fair parenting schedule, a reasonably fair support order, and an equitable division of assets and debts.

*I spent 2 pre-trial days in court at my husband's attorney's request as a resource for her and my husband, and to testify at trial concerning how I'd calculated our percentage of parenting time figures.

**He actually WAS my husband at this point: we were able to get married 3-1/2 years in to this f-ed up process (which was 3 years after we'd met) because he'd finally demanded a bifurcation from the devil after his divorce had dragged on for more than 2-1/2 years. (More on bifurcating in a separate post.)

In going through all of this, I’ve learned two very important things:

1) You are just one of dozens of your attorney’s clients. Your attorney doesn't have the time (and you probably don’t have the money) to “baby sit” your case. Other than adding documents to your ever-growing file, it’s likely—and understandable—that it won’t be accessed often between contacts. So you'd better become the expert on your case!

2) The value of better understanding the issues specific to your case is immeasurable...but thoroughly researching these issues on your own takes a good deal of time and know-how, and even if they were able to do it for you, paying your attorney’s office to do this would be much too costly. I've done a lot of the research already, and have posted my findings here for you. For free!

I started this blog to save you from all the same bullshit.

So don't hesitate to email me your comments, questions, concerns, or requests for information, and I'll send you examples and templates...FREE. Just ask.

What's in it for me, you ask? That's simple: the satisfaction of knowing that I'm helping someone who might not otherwise get that help, and keeping him from being screwed by his ex!

Good luck! I hope to hear from you soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What if She Quits (or Threatens to Quit) her Job?

Yeah, unfortunately, we’ve been there, too…

From our 2007 Sequence of Events: [The Devil]’s Angry, Threatening Voice Message. 7:40 p.m.: “[Angel], this is [the devil]. Um, I wanna know why I got a check for 10 dollars [instead of the $20 she unreasonably demanded]. … I w-[ant] I need a call back and I need you to tell me why you’re not paying me what I n-[eed] deserve to be paid. Um … if I hafta quit my job and take you back to court so you can pay me 23 hundred a month then maybe that’s what I hafta do.”

At that time, between child support and earnings, the devil’s monthly income was at least $4,237.50, so we didn’t take her threat seriously. But if she had quit her job, the court would have “imputed” her income to calculate child support, spousal support, and/or attorney fees being as she would have been purposefully unemployed or underemployed.

Here’s how it works:

If the Court believes that a parent has voluntarily reduced his or her wages, no matter how justified, it may compute child support based on that parent’s “imputed income”—or the amount they could be earning.

Minimum wage is $1,300 a month, and the court assumes that everyone can work at a minimum wage job. To impute more than minimum wage, you would need to plan on a vocational examination of your ex to have the admissible evidence needed to impute her higher income.

Imputed income can also be used when an individual is self-employed and her earnings would be greater if she were not. But to be able to impute her income, there needs to be opportunity as well as ability, which means that not only does your ex need to be qualified to do a job, employers also need to be hiring for that job.

So as far as we were concerned, the devil’s threat was a non-threat.

But if she had quit her job, she would’ve been jeopardizing the children’s wellbeing simply because she was pissed off. If that had happened, we would’ve asked the judge for sole physical custody until the devil was able to secure steady, full-time employment sufficient to once again support herself and the children (in combination with my child support). In the meantime, our child support obligation to her would’ve been reduced to zero.

End of problem.

What if She Wants to Leave the Area with the Kids?

In our case, the devil is the children’s for simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the custodial parent as “the mother” and the non-custodial parent as “the father.”

Whether the mother wants to move the children out of State or to the next town, it’s best to consider the father’s rights early in the planning process as move-away cases can be very difficult, time consuming, and costly. Before the move is planned, the father should be informed and an effort made to reach a mutually-acceptable parenting plan based on the proposed location of both parents.

Fortunately for fathers, the State of California takes in to consideration the impact of a long-distance move on his relationship with his children. The primary factor of “best interest of the child” is considered along with (1) the existing custody and parenting arrangement, (2) the attachment and support of the father and other relatives, (3) the child's ties to the community, school, church or synagogue, and friends, and (4) the child's desires and wishes. If the move would harm the relationship between a child and the father, and yet the mother remains set on the move, it may be sufficient to justify a change in custody to the father.

The primary consideration for modifying an existing order to allow the move-away is the child’s ability to have continuing and frequent contact with both parents without a detrimental effect to the father. If allowed, the modified order could provide additional time with the father during the summer months and other school recesses, while obligating the mother to pay the transportation expenses incurred in facilitating the visit.

In any case, a mother who moves away with the child without providing notice to the father may not only face a change in custody but criminal charges of kidnapping as well.

Does She Want More Child Support?

The court requires that a significant change in circumstances must have taken place before modifying support orders, as follows:

* Change of Employment: A parent changes jobs and his/her income has changed significantly.

* Change in Custody Arrangements: The child now lives with the parent paying support.

* Change in Visitation Schedules: The visitation time with a parent increases or decreases significantly.

* NOT Past Child Support: The court will not modify past child support obligations; this is not permitted by Federal law.

Therefore, the court should refuse to hear your ex’s case for increased child support based solely on whether you get a raise, work overtime, or get a bonus (especially if your bonuses, like my husband's, are already factored in to the Dissomaster calculation).

I say "should" because, as you know, the dad always seems to be getting screwed...but knowing your rights should help protect you from being taken advantage of.

What Does Child Support Cover? (Updated to Include Our Day in Court)

For years (8 to be exact!), the devil expected my husband to reimburse her for one-half of her out-of-pocket expenses for the children’s school supplies, clothes, shoes, haircuts, etc.

Don’t get me wrong: he pays child support. In fact, he pays A LOT of child support! But the fact that child support is supposed to cover all of these things didn’t stop her from harassing him for reimbursement. (I’ve documented as many as three emails, two text messages and five voice messages in the same day demanding reimbursement for a $10 expenditure that she’d planned to incur for one of the kids that was actually covered by child support. We've learned to simply ignore her demands.)

Here’s the deal…

Child support guidelines and calculations are designed to minimize disparities in the standards of living between households by defraying the cost of the child(ren)’s predictable and recurring expenses incurred by or while in the care of the other parent.

So what IS your ex supposed to be doing with all that money you've been ordered to fork over to her each month? It’s supposed to be going toward your child(ren)’s:
• food (groceries, school lunches, etc.)
• housing (mortgage payment [excluding principal payment], property taxes, homeowners insurance and home maintenance costs)
• utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer, garbage, cable TV, internet and telephones)
• K-12 education (school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, field trips, class parties, etc.)
• transportation (car payments, registration, insurance, maintenance and fuel)
• furniture
• clothing (clothes, shoes, outerwear)
• medical (over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies)
• personal hygiene products (toiletries and accessories)
• bedding and linens
• laundry and cleaning supplies
• discretionary/extracurricular activities to include enrichment (e.g. piano, ballet) and sports (e.g. karate, soccer), and all associated expenses (e.g. registration, lessons, instrument, uniform, gear).

Generally speaking, the only things that are NOT covered by child support are work- or school-related child care, health insurance premiums, and any uninsured medical expenses (i.e. co-pays). All other expenses are covered by child support.

The court can order you to pay for other items, as well, but these are typically extraordinary items such as tuition for necessary special education and the like. So you aren’t liable for any extra expenses unless it states so in your support order.

In other words, you aren’t obligated to pay for anything beyond the specified support amount. And paying for any extras is entirely up to you.


On 10/26/10, the devil's fiance (referred to herein as "no nuts") served my husband with an Order to Show Cause for "extra curricular and other issues as pleaded." That is: she wanted the Judge to order him to reimburse her for one-half the cost of her out of pocket expenses for the children's 2010 and future extracurricular activities and school-related expenses. She also wanted him to "obtain and maintain adequate wardrobes for the children [to be kept at our house]." (Which, by the way, we are NOT obligated to do and which, by the way, we have ALWAYS done.)


They went to Court on 11/23/10 (yes, the week of Thanksgiving!).

The Judge started by asking the devil to clarify what it was she was asking for. The devil reiterated that she wanted to be reimbursed for one-half of her 2010 extracurricular activities and school-related expenses. The Judge at least pretended to be confused by her ridiculous request: she made it clear that this is "not an issue of reimbursement"; that she would consider prospectively but not retrospectively. (That is: she would consider future expenses by establishing an order, but not past expenses by ordering enforcement of something that had not previously been ordered].)

The devil then complained that my husband has never reimbursed her for the children's school supplies expenses. The Judge (God bless her!) looked at the devil, dumbfounded, and said, "Isn't that what child support is for? It's not child support PLUS he buys everything for the children!" Priceless!!

In the end, the Judge dismissed everything that came out of that idiot's mouth. She did, however, order my husband to reimburse the devil for one-half of the children's future expenses related to their (non-existent) music lessons. (The devil had lied to the Judge by saying that she'd had to cancel the children's music lessons because she couldn't afford them...only they hadn't taken music lessons in months because they'd only just been dabbling in them and really didn't enjoy them enough to want to continue.)

What is Dissomaster?

Dissomaster is a program that calculates TEMPORARY guideline child and spousal support.

Temporary Spousal Support

The support that you're ordered to pay from the time you file for divorce until your divorce is final (a minimum of 6 months in California) is considered “temporary” support. Temporary support is usually set at a higher rate than permanent support.

In re the Marriage of ANDREA L. and MICHAEL P. SCHULZE, No. G015895, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION THREE, 60 Cal. App. 4th 519; 70 Cal. Rptr. 2d 488; December 29, 1997, Decided: “Temporary support … usually is higher than permanent support because it is intended to maintain the status quo prior to the divorce.”

By the time my husband’s divorce was final, he'd paid at the higher “temporary” rate for more than 2 years (versus the 6-month period that it's intended to cover).

Dissomaster v. Permanent Support

Permanent spousal support is NOT supposed to be based on Dissomaster; it's supposed to be calculated by the Judge...and the Judge is NOT supposed to use Dissomaster as a guide.

In re the Marriage of ANDREA L. and MICHAEL P. SCHULZE, No. G015895, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION THREE, 60 Cal. App. 4th 519; 70 Cal. Rptr. 2d 488; December 29, 1997, Decided: “The spousal support component of a permanent family support order must be based on the statutory factors enumerated in section 4320 of the Family Code, not pegged to a number generated by a computer program intended for use in calculating temporary support [DissoMaster].”

But be prepared: Even though--BY LAW--spousal support is NOT supposed to be based on Dissomaster, IT IS! It ALWAYS is!

My husband's permanent spousal support was also based on Dissomaster. When specifically questioned about this, his attorney chose to avoid the question rather than answer it. Attorneys don't want to argue this point with the judge. In fact, they're probably counting on the fact that you don't know this law.

You CAN fight this...but you'd better make sure that it will be worth the potentially enormous attorney fees that you're likely to incur, because you’ll probably have to take your case all the way to the Calfornia Court of Appeals. Then again, if you were (un)lucky enough to be married for 10+ years, it may be worth your while to fight this if you're looking at paying a large amount of spousal support for the rest of your ex's life!

The Childish BPD Adult

One of the most helpful things that we’ve learned about people with BPD is that they have the emotional capacity of a toddler (that is, they’re perpetual 2-year-olds). A BPD feels lost when faced with a decision or when given a choice, which confounds the rest of us because we are under the mistaken impression that we’re dealing with an adult. But we’re not: we’re dealing with a child. And as a child, it’s difficult for her to respond to grownup concerns.

While making a choice represents freedom for most of us, too many choices can be painful for a BPD. When approached as a child (that is, the choice has been made for her), the message reaches her. Unfortunately, BPDs don’t understand that this is what’s happening or why they feel overwhelmed and angry.

As quoted from a BPD: “Talk to me as an adult and I will pretend to be [an adult]. … It amazes me sometimes how well I can play the roles [of an adult] and fool others. … If you talk to the pretend adult, then you will get pretend answers and behavior. But if you talk to the child … then I can respond. This is my secret and for a long time even I didn’t know this secret. It’s hard to be a child in a grown up world. … ” Like the BPD quoted, our BPD has no idea that she even has BPD, let alone that she’s a child pretending to be a grownup. All she knows is that she feels overwhelmed and confused, and so she lashes out at the source of her anger: you. After all, you’re the “big meany” who posed the question in the first place.

So now we don’t wait for our BPD to come up with a solution; we just tell her how it’s going to be. Our BPD reacts to this in typical toddler fashion: (1) she throws a fit, (2) she pouts, and then (3) she accepts. Without fail. And understanding this has made our lives a thousand times easier!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tax Exemptions for Children: Sample Language

Be sure that your court order stipulates which parent will claim the child(ren) on his or her tax return. Some parents alternate years, so that the father claims the child one year and the mother the next. My husband has two minor children; he claims one child and the devil claims the other, so his order is written like this:

20. Each party shall be permitted to claim one of the children on his or her income tax returns each year, with Petitioner ["the devil"] claiming Child 2* and Respondent claiming Child 1.*
By January 31st of each year until Child 1* reaches the age of majority, Petitioner shall provide to Respondent a completed and signed Form 8332 – Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents. By January 31st of each year until Child 2* reaches the age of majority, Respondent shall provide to Petitioner a completed and signed Form 8332 – Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents."

*Your child(ren)'s name would be substituted for "Child 1" and "Child 2."

Form 8332 - Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents is required for a parent with less than 50% custody to be able to claim the child on his or her tax return. You can download the form from the IRS website ( You should also visit to learn more about claiming a child who is a dependent of parents who are divorced, legally separated, separated under a written separation agreement, or who lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the calendar year.

*IMPORTANT*: You won't be allowed to deduct your work-related childcare expense if your tax return doesn't reflect that your child lived with you all year. The IRS's reasoning is that if the child doesn't live with you, then you don't need childcare to be able to work. This, of course, if flawed thinking because many non-custodial parents are court ordered to share in the cost of work-related childcare. But the law is what it is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Your Ex Unstable?

There are many formally identified personality disorders, each with their own set of behaviors and symptoms. My husband and I have found it immensely helpful to learn as much as we can about the many disorders that "the devil" has been diagnosed with (remember: knowledge is power), such as:

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is more common in woman than in men. People with this disorder are unstable in several areas. Abrupt and extreme mood changes, stormy interpersonal relationships, an unstable and fluctuating self-image, unpredictable and self-destructive actions characterize this disorder. They generally have great difficulty with their own sense of identity. They tend to experience the world in extremes, viewing others as either “all good” or “all bad” (and flip-flop often between the two). They form an intense personal attachment to someone only to quickly dissolve it over a perceived slight. (You're either perfect or your not, good or evil, there's nothing in between.) Other traits include a fear of abandonment, impulsive actions, chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness, and bouts of intense inappropriate anger (rages).

The best analogy that I've found is this: When you're dealing with someone with BPD, you're dealing with a perpetual 2-year-old. Armed with this knowledge, we've found that it's best just to tell "the devil" what to do rather than ask her opinion, just like we would a 2-year-old. Like a toddler, she initially throws a fit, but then she will settle down and accepts our rules because they're fair and they make sense. And even though we have to go through this every time, at least we have a system.

Check out BPD ( and read "Walking on Eggshells" to learn more about this disorder and how to help and protect yourself.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with narcissistic personality have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, are absorbed by fantasies of unlimited success, and seek constant attention. The narcissistic personality is oversensitive to failure and often complains of multiple somatic symptoms. Prone to extreme mood swings between self-admiration and insecurity, these people tend to exploit interpersonal relationships.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder is characterized by a person who is always calling attention to themselves and being overly dramatic. Minor situations can cause wild swings in emotions. They easily become bored with normal routines, and crave new, novel situations and excitement. In relationships, they form bonds quickly, but the relationships are often shallow, with the person demanding increasing amounts of attention.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People with dependent personality disorder may exhibit a pattern of dependent and submissive behavior, relying on others to make decisions for them. They require excessive reassurance and advice, and are easily hurt by criticism or disapproval. They feel uncomfortable and helpless if they are alone, and can be devastated when a close relationship ends. They have a strong fear of rejection. Typically lacking in self-confidence, the dependent personality rarely initiates projects or does things independently. This disorder usually begins by early adulthood and is diagnosed more frequently in females than males.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Compulsive personalities are conscientious and have high levels of aspiration, but they also strive for perfection. Never satisfied with their achievements, people with compulsive personality disorder take on more and more responsibilities.

They are reliable, dependable, orderly, and methodical, but their inflexibility often makes them incapable of adapting to changed circumstances. People with compulsive personality are highly cautious, weigh all aspects of a problem, and pay attention to every detail, making it difficult for them to make decisions and complete tasks.

When their feelings are not under strict control, events are unpredictable, or they must rely on others, compulsive personalities often feel a sense of isolation and helplessness.

We’ve also had to deal with and learn about these mental health issues:

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation is a situation where one parent intentionally attempts to alienate his or her child from the other parent by poisoning the child's mind, and usually succeeds. This disorder usually arises during child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's unjustified campaign of denigration against a parent. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the parent.


Hypochondriacs have a preoccupying fear of having a serious illness, despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance of good health. While many people may worry from time to time that minor physical symptoms may be a sign of a serious illness, a diagnosis of hypochondria is reserved for those who have a preoccupying fear of disease that lasts for at least 6 months. Two thirds of hypochondriacs have other psychiatric disorders such as major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Document, Document, Document (or “Sequence of Events”)

To protect myself from the devil's exaggerations, misstatements, accusations and out-and-out lies, as well as to document its abusive behavior and many blatant violations of our court order, we began documenting EVERYTHING, and have since captured the devil's past, present, and continuing transgressions. We call this monster our "Sequence of Events" (or "SOE").

Why keep your own SOE? To establish a pattern of behavior to substantiate your claims or to refute hers. This is an absolute must if you're in a heated custody battle.

You should not only write down the egregious things that she does, but the things that you're doing, too. Your goal is to not only document the crap that you've got to put up with from her, but to capture what you're doing right (taking the kids to soccer practice, accommodating her request for a schedule change, paying your share of work-related childcare, doing homework with the kids, etc.).

And, of course, you should be doing everything "right" right now. Don't give her any ammunition to add to her own sequence of events!

But if you do mess up (call her a name, pick the kids up late, or whatever), document that, too, along with an explanation. Why? Because when she throws that up in your face (and she will), you'll be able to refer to your SOE and say, "Wait a minute, that's not what happened. Here's the way it really went down..." If you don't document the incident, she holds all the cards: she would be able to make a random accusation, and if you don't even remember the incident so you won't be able to defend yourself. Well that won't happen to you because you have an up-to-date SOE!

And if you're good about documenting everything, you can even protect yourself when she makes something up...because if you didn't write it down, then it didn't happen! Right?

Following is a recent email in response to the devil as an example of how we were able to destroy it with FACTS (which we wouldn't have had without our SOE). It was in the throws of a histerical tantrum and demanding reimbursement for expenses that I'd already paid for:


If you’re done with the histrionics now, why don’t you take a minute to read through all of this, and you’ll see that everything that I was trying to calmly tell you on the phone tonight was true.

On 9/7, you sent me an email asking for $42.50, which was half the cost of [Child 2’s] little league: “I need a check for [Child 2] to sign him up for Little League. The price is $85 which we can split, if you can please have a check ready for me because the sign ups are September 23 5:30pm to 8:30pm Roundtable Pizza.” (And then you didn’t sign him up on 9/23.)

On 9/10, I paid for a 3-month rental for [Child 1’s] trumpet and bought her sheet music for a total of $73.08, which [Child 1] then called and told you about.

On 9/11, I gave you the following explanation along with a check (#1051) made payable to you for $5.96 in response to your 9/7 email: “[Child 1] was supposed to get an instrument over the weekend, due date is Thursday. [Child 1] said you were planning to take her to a music store. I am not interested in purchasing an instrument or renting a new instrument, I would prefer to split the cost renting a used instrument.”

Little League & Instrument Rental Expenses
Cost 1/2 Cost
[Child 2’s] Little League $85.00 $42.50
[Child 1’s] Trumpet Rental $73.08 $36.54
Each Parent’s Share $79.04

I Paid (for Trumpet) $73.08
Less My Share Owed $79.04
I Owe You $(5.96) (Check Attached)

You’ll Pay (for Little League) $85.00
Less My Reimbursement $(5.96)
Your Share Comes To $79.04

This means that we’ll each spend $79.04 toward the kids’ extracurricular expenses.

And then on 10/21, I left a check (#1032) at daycare made payable to Art Class Vendor for $62.50, the amount of which I paid in full. You didn’t share in any of part of this cost, and the plan was for you to pay the entire $62.50 cost of [Child 2’s] next art session…which, so far, you haven’t done and are now, in fact, trying to get me to pay half of.

On 10/29, you sent me a follow-up email to your 9/7 email, even though, to my knowledge, at least, you still hadn’t registered [Child 2] for Little League: “…[Child 2’s] baseball was $92 for sign ups and not $85.00…”

So, as you can see and as I calmly stated on the phone, I don’t owe you anything for [Child 2’s] Little League or [Child 1’s] trumpet rental, and it’s your turn to pay for [Child 2’s] art classes.


How Will My Social Security Be Affected?

Your ex (or soon-to-be ex) may be able to draw from your Social Security account when she retires or becomes disabled if you were married for 10 years or more, and if she doesn’t remarry, and if she would be entitled to more money from your account than her own.

Those are a lot of “ifs.”

But it really doesn't matter, because even if she does end up drawing from your Social Security account, it won’t affect the amount of your benefit in any way.

There are plenty of other things for you to worry about, but this isn't one of 'em. (Whew!)

"Half the Length of Your Marriage" Rule

How many years have you and your wife been married?

That's a very important question because the answer will determine how long you’ll be forced to pay spousal support if she goes after you for it.

In general, you'll be ordered to pay for an amount of time that's equal to half the length of your marriage. For example, if you were married for 6 years, you’ll probably have to pay for 3. And you'll probably pay for 4 years, 9 months, for a 9-1/2-year marriage.

But if you're (un)fortunate enough to have been married for more than 10 years, you could end up paying indefinitely! (See "The 10-Year Rule.")

So pay close attention to which anniversary you're coming up on while you contemplate just might speed up your decision-making process.

How Do I Calculate Our Separation Date?

Your separation date is the date that you first told her (or she told you, or you both agreed) that you wanted to separate/get a divorce.

On August 28th, my husband told his ex that he wanted a divorce. She filed for legal separation 2 months later on October 28th. He countered with divorce papers 3 weeks later on November 21st. Their first court date was December 5th. He moved out later that day. Even though he didn’t move from their marital home for more than 3 months, the Court set August 28th as their separation date because that's when he'd first told her that he wanted a divorce.

So if you're seriously considering a divorce, you should lock the date in by telling her of your intentions, and then write it down. In fact, start writing everything down from this point forward (see "Document, Document, Document").

Legal Separation or Divorce?

There’s no real advantage to a legal separation if you’re planning to eventually divorce anyway.

The only advantage would be that you could indefinitely cover your estranged spouse through your employer-sponsored health benefits while not being responsible for any debt she might incur during your separation. (IMPORTANT: If you don't drop your ex from your employee-sponsored health benefits as soon as your divorce is finalized, then you risk having to repay your employer for covering your ex from your divorce date until you finally drop her. I've seen this happen several times, too. Ouch!)

So unless you have a need to, or agreement with your soon-to-be-ex, to keep her on your health insurance for more than 6 months, then save yourself some money: skip the legal separation and file for the divorce.

You can always get remarried if you (shudder) change your mind later on.

The 10-Year Rule

Under Californian law, you must pay alimony until your ex remarries if the marriage lasted beyond 10 years (i.e., a "long term marriage"). In other words: if you've been married for 10 years or more, you could potentially be ordered to pay spousal support for the rest of your ex's life.

But if you haven't been married for 10 years yet, you'd better think about your future: do you want to stay married to her for the rest of your life, or do you want out?

If you want to get a divorce, then you'd better do it before the 10-year mark. (Why do you think Tom Cruise divorced Nicole Kidman when he did? They were approaching the 10-year mark, baby!)

Do I Need a Paralegal or an Attorney?

Upfront costs to retain an attorney will run you about $5K, more or less. And it will go fast!

If you’re both fair-minded people and neither of you has an "ax to grind," then you probably don’t need an attorney. (Then again, you wouldn’t be reading this if you thought she'd be reasonable, right?)

My 2003 divorce cost about $450 TOTAL for a paralegal and court costs despite the fact that we’d been married for 12 years, owned a home, and had a minor child. I didn't ask for spousal support or part of his pension, we split the proceeds from the sale of our house, and we agreed on fair child support. Simply put: he was an alcoholic who wanted the divorce so he could drink whenever he wanted; I wanted the divorce because I...was...done. We didn’t hate each other, we just didn't want to be married anymore.

The flipside of that is my husband's divorce (it's important to note that I didn't know my husband during this time and had nothing to do with the disintegration of his marriage). On November 22, 2002, the devil proposed that he pay her $3,500 a month in family support and give her full physical custody of the children. She refused to work outside the home, and planned to home school the children at least through elementary school (though we later learned that she’d planned to home school them through high school!). She also proposed that she’d continue to live in their marital home, and would split the proceeds with my husband if and when she ever chose to sell the house – although she admitted that she had no intention of ever selling it. But there was no way my husband would’ve given her full custody of their children nor could he have afforded to pay her $3,500 a month! Needless to say, he rejected her "offer."

My husband's divorce cost him (and, ultimately, us) in excess of $35,000. (No, that’s not a typo…I really did intend to type “thirty-five thousand dollars.”) And he still doesn’t have a signed Stipulation of Final Judgment. Simply put: he wanted the divorce to escape her frequent, controlling rages; she didn’t want the divorce because she hadn’t reached the magic 10-year mark yet.

It's Her Fault? Strike While She Feels Guilty!

If you’ve decided to get a divorce and she's in any way to blame, take action NOW while she’s still guilt-ridden. DO NOT wait until things settle down. If you do, YOU WILL REGRET IT! That’s not just my opinion, that’s FACT.

I’ve seen it happen time and again: in EVERY instance where the wife was responsible for the divorce (affair, guy in the wings, whatever) and the husband let things slide and hesitated to file for divorce or consult an attorney because “she’d never be that way,” the next thing he knew—BLAMMO! He was blindsided! She’d hired an attorney...and she'd been talking to her friends and, oh yeah, she doesn't want to be fair anymore. Now it's all about making him pay for the "privilege" of having been married to her (i.e., spousal support or “bitch payments”).

This can, for the most part, be avoided by acting quickly while she's still feeling guilty and wants to "make things right." This isn't the time for denial: I'm sorry, but you're about to go to war. Don't give her the upper hand by your inaction.

Thinking About Divorce? What You Should Be Doing RIGHT NOW!

· If you’ve been working excessive overtime so that your wife could stay home or your family could live beyond its means: STOP! Support payments are based on your W-2; the court doesn’t differentiate between regular and overtime earnings.

· Start putting money aside if you can: you’re going to need it!

· Stop direct deposit of your payroll check at least a month before you tell your wife that you want a divorce: it can take up to two pay periods to become effective. If you don’t, you’ll risk what happened to my husband: his soon-to-be-ex withdrew ALL of the money from their joint checking account as soon as his deposit hit. (She also stole his next [paper] payroll check, which he’d hidden under the floor mat of his truck. She found it, forged it, and cashed it at their bank’s ATM. So be careful!)

· Safeguard anything that's precious to you that you can't live without (photos, DVDs, CDs, tools, etc.)…NOW! That means start taking those things out of the house: not enough for anyone to notice, but a little here and there. Otherwise, you'll risk never seeing some of this stuff again regardless of who gets what in the divorce. From our 2002 Sequence of Events: “I arrived home from working a double shift only to discover that [the devil] had stripped our home of every family photograph, photo album, portrait and videotape. I’d been warned by others (my attorney included) to safeguard anything of value—sentimental or otherwise—that was in our home; however, even after all the nastiness [the devil] had put me through, I knew she understood how precious our family photos were to me and couldn’t bring myself to believe that she’d commit such a contemptuous act. And yet she did.”

· If she isn’t working, make sure she gets a job! And soon! The devil wasn’t working when she and my husband separated, and he was initially ordered to pay her $2,592 a month family support even though he was only earning $3,600 a month! (Remember: you can’t just work overtime to make up the difference during this time because your permanent support will be based on your total earnings. The more you earn, the more you’ll be ordered to pay, and the more hours you’ll have to work just to get by.)

· Still undecided about whether to divorce? Read the “10-Year Rule” and “Half the Length of the Marriage.” That ought to get you off the fence and help you decide whether you’re either “in” or you’re “out.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009


You’re here, so you probably live in California and are either considering, going through, or suffering from the effects of a divorce.

Welcome! You’re in the right place.

But let me just say right upfront that if you're not willing to be fair, then this blog is NOT for you. So go!

And women, be forewarned: while this is written primarily from a female perspective (mine), it is NOT written with you in mind (not unless you are actually the reasonable one, and your ex--
or soon-to-be ex--is the one who's being difficult).

As for the rest of you who really do just want to do the right thing so you can get on with your lives and take care of your kids, this blog is tailor made for you! So read on.

Men are generally the one's who get screwed in a divorce, so my husband (a veteran "screw-ee") and I have had no choice but to become quasi experts on men’s rights just to keep things fair. In the process, he and I have become the “go to” couple for our male friends, family, and co-workers who need reliable advice to keep them from being taken advantage of and to preserve their relationships with their children.

Keep in mind that we're not attorneys and we don't pretend to dispense legal advice...we're just sick and tired of watching men get the screws put to them when they get a divorce in California.

So that's it. I’m just getting started with my "data dump" from our 0wn 7 years (and continuing!) of hell and all of the associated knowledge that we’ve acquired along the way, so be sure to check back often as more information is posted, and more questions are asked and answered.