Family Law

Maintaining Respect and Friendship between Parting Couples through Mediated Divorce

The process of divorce is always a demoralizing and emotional experience, especially for one who does not want to end the marriage. Besides the costly court fees, divorce cases also usually last a long time, affecting not only the divorcing couple’s daily personal activities, but their time at work too.

Besides the divorce case itself, there are other issues that the couple will need to settle which, if they cannot agree on amicably, will have to be decided by the court instead. These divorce-related issues may include child custody and support, visitation rights (of the non-custodial parent) alimony or spousal support and division of property, assets and debts.

Since the laws that cover divorce and all other issues related to it are complex, requiring the assistance of a good family lawyer becomes necessary; and couples need to know that the more knowledgeable and experienced their legal counsel is, the better their rights and interests would be fought for – but all these also require additional costs.

Aside from court settlement there is another way through which a divorce may be settled – one that is guaranteed to spare the couple from lengthy courtroom time and costly fees – Mediation.

Mediated divorce is a private process and does not require the presence of a lawyer (though any of the partners may be assisted by one if he/she wishes). Through the help of a mediator, who is chosen by the couple and who makes suggestions regarding what may be the best options (to settle divorce and all other issues) based on the couple’s circumstances, the couple makes the decisions on how everything will be settled.

There are other benefits that make the mediation process more advantageous than court procedures, some of these include:

  • Confidentiality: while the couple have a free hand in making decisions that will work best for both of them, their personal lives and interest are also kept from becoming public news and gossip. In the mediation process, whatever transpires is kept between the couple (and their lawyers, if they each have one) and their mediator.
  • Cost: a court settlement can take weeks, months or even a year to finish, while a mediation process may take only hours or days, saving the couple from incurring off time from work and costly court fees.
  • Compliance: since the issues were decided by the couple, making sure that each party abides by the decision is more ensured.

The mediation process is gaining greater popularity in settling divorce and other related issues as it also makes the process less stressful for the divorcing parties. The process also builds an air of respect and friendship that may determine the couple’s attitude towards each other, even long after the divorce has been settled.

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Steps for Requesting Visitation Modification in California

The court’s decision regarding custodial arrangements is not set in stone. As a child gets older, or the situation changes for one or both parents, it may be necessary or desirable to make a request for visitation modification. In fact, parents in California may find that they will need to make changes to the custodial agreement every 3 years or so. According to the website of the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, P.C., in San Jose, this is easy enough to do if the child’s parents are in accord, but it there is a problem reaching an agreement, it may be necessary to get legal assistance in filing for a visitation modification in a court in California.

When requesting for a formal visitation modification, the first thing the requesting parent has to do is to provide documentation showing why the changes are necessary to serve the best interest of the child. If the change in circumstances only affect the parent and not the child, it is harder to get the court’s approval for visitation modification as it is the priority of California courts to encourage a consistent and stable parenting arrangement.

To go ahead with requesting for visitation modification in a California court, the requesting parent needs to:

  1. Fill out Form FL-300 (Request for Order) and optionally Form FL-341 (Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment). These will detail the proposed new arrangement
  2. Have the form/s checked out by a qualified lawyer experienced in visitation modification requests to ensure everything is correctly filled out
  3. Make copies of the forms for keeping, sending to the other parent and submission to the court
  4. Submit the form/s to the court clerk and pay the filing fee
  5. Receive two copies stamped “Filed” and a court date, or a mediator date if required
  6. Have someone else serve the other parent in person or by mail with the filed application and Form FL-320 (Responsive Declaration to Request for Order) at least 16 days prior to the assigned court date, depending on if Item 4 and “Court Order” boxes of your Form FL-300 are checked. If they are, the papers must be served in person
  7. Have the server file a properly filled out Form FL-330 (Proof of Service) or Form FL-335 (Proof of Service by Mail)
  8. Determine if attendance to mediation orientation or child custody recommending counseling is necessary
  9. Attend court hearing or mediation, whichever is applicable

Forms that may be useful

  • Form FL-341(A)- Supervised Visitation Order
  • Form FL-341(B) – Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment
  • FormFL-341(C) – Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment
  • Form FL-341(D) – Physical Custody Attachment Form
  • FL-341(E) – Joint Legal Custody Attachment

There is a lot of work that goes into getting a visitation schedule modified. Being aware of the legal process involved can help you improve your chances of getting the desired outcome.

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Living with a Visitation or Custody Schedule

Raising children after a divorce can be overwhelming and fraught with a mixture of excitement and frustration for anyone; however, there are a number of unique matters which must be considered and dealt with that can make various times of the year particularly difficult.

For parents sharing custody or with visitation schedules, one of the most important issues to be considered is how these schedules and time with the children will be affected over the various holidays that crop up through the year, including summer vacation. While this can cause a great deal of anxiety, it can be made easier by employing the following tips:

  • Have a detailed, pre-planned parenting plan to work from – whether this is a plan that was developed during divorce proceedings (and every divorced parent should have one of these) or a modified plan that better fits you and your ex-spouse’s current lifestyles, any divorce lawyer will advise you to make sure you always have a parenting plan in place prior to starting the holidays. This way, you, your spouse, and your children can easily know where the kids will be and what to expect. This often cuts down on tension and arguments, and makes everything much easier on the children.
  • Make plans as far in advance as possible – if you plan on going on vacation or visiting other family members, whether you have the children or not, make sure these plans are made ahead of time as much as possible. That way everyone else can know where you will be and plan accordingly. This also gives children more structure, which is important.
  • Make sure to keep all involved parties informed of changes/needs – should issues arise or plans change, make sure everyone who is involved is told of these problems and changes, from your ex-spouse and the kids to a required third party (if you have supervised visitation). Even if these changes don’t directly affect your visitation or parenting time, the other parties should be aware of things that could potentially cause changes.
  • Start new traditions – holidays are full of family traditions, whether it’s taking a road trip in the summer, going caroling on the first week of December, or any other traditions your family may have. However, there may be many of these traditions that cannot happen at all or have to be modified because the whole family can’t be together or you do not have your children on certain dates. This can be very upsetting for children, particularly if the parents make a big deal about it. As such, being positive and starting new traditions that better suit you and your children’s new lifestyle can immensely help with the transition and ease tensions.
  • Focus on the holidays themselves, not the dates – children get excited about the holidays, rather than the actual dates. So if you can’t see your children exactly on the 25th of December for Christmas, but have to wait until the 27th, make sure to focus on celebrating the holiday and being together. That way the children won’t feel upset or pressured because they weren’t able to see you and those they love on certain days.

Whether you utilize these or other tips to help you after a divorce, it’s always important to remember to do what you can to make the holidays a happy and enjoyable time for yourself and your family.

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