New Facts & Figures About Divorce

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Here’s some new facts and figures about divorce gleaned from a new article by Dee Lee, a Certified Financial Planner. 

  • Each year in the USA, over 2 million people get married.  Nearly 50% of them will end in a Divorce.
  • 2nd marriages do not fare well.  Apparently experience isn’t much help in this area.  67% will end in a divorce.  For 3rd marriages, it gets even worse: 74% of them wind up in Splitsville.
  • The average age of first marriages that call it quits is 30.
  • New studies (which unfortunately are not cited in the article) indicate that children suffer much more trauma than originally thought after a divorce.  Yikes!
  • Family law is a $28 billion dollar industry each year.  Divorce lawyers in Massachusetts charge an average of $350 an hour.  This is in the same ballpark as Sacramento.  The “cottage industry” includes more than just attorneys: mediators, therapists, CPAs, court personnel, process servers, visitation supervisors, appraisers, authors, book publishers and more.
  • The cost of a divorce is about $20,000.  I recall reading years ago some ABA statistics that the average party in a divorce spends about $10,000 so this would be in agreement.  If a divorce is in your future, it is important to be realistic about the costs and plan for it.

If you have recently been through a divorce, how much was your attorney and what was the total bill? Were you satisfied or did you feel ripped off?  As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Source and further reading:  CBS Boston.  Photo credit by umjanedoan at Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Dads & Daughters

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I saw a book on the new acquisitions page of the Sacramento County Public Library website this morning that may be of interest to clients and readers.

The book is called The Dads and Daughter’s Togetherness Guide:  54 Fun Activities for Dads and Daughters to Help Build a Great Relationship written by Joe Kelly.  In my family law cases, quite often I hear complaints from Mom that Dad doesn’t “do anything” with Daughter during his parenting time (which is often on the weekend).  In one case I worked on, Mom alleged that Dad practically ignored the child all day while he played on the Internet or went bowling with his buddies.  Another similar complaint is that Dad doesn’t do age appropriate activities with the child.  In other words, he does things that he wants to do, without regard to the interests of the minor.  One Mom complained that Dad took his teenage daughters to jazz concerts and sporting events that his daughters couldn’t care less about.  As a final example, in one matter I handled, Mom alleged Dad was guilty of both sinsHe took his five year old daughter out on a fishing boat with his friends all weekend long.

If unaddressed, these kind of issues can lead to serious conflict between the parents and visitation discontent with the minor as well, at least in cases where Mom’s concerns are valid.  I’m not suggesting that Dad necessarily has to do something grand every time he has visitation.  There’s no need to go to Disneyland every weekend; but it is an opportunity to spend quality time with the child that should not be squandered.

Sometimes I think Dad’s behavior is unintentional.  He may never have considered the issue or could simply be clueless about what kind of activities he could do with his daughter.  That’s where this book comes in.  According to the publisher’s description, “Fathers know that doing things with their daughters is important. Shared activities build trust and self-esteem, show how much dads care, and allow everyone to cut loose and have fun. But even fathers who can beat the generation and gender gaps that make them feel awkward can’t always dream up cool places to go or mutually enjoyable things to do. Like the coach of their favorite team, dads need a game plan, and that’s exactly what Joe Kelly provides in Dads & Daughters Togetherness Guide.”

If you’re a Dad who has struggled with this issue, check this book out!  And if you’re a Mom who is unhappy with Dad’s agenda during his visitation, why not buy him a copy?  As mentioned above, this book is available at the Sacramento Library, but it can also be purchased at Amazon for under $10.


Speaking of the library, this month the Sacramento Library is calling on area residents to support reading, learning and community in Sacramento in conjunction with Borders.

During the month of August, visit any Sacramento area Borders Bookstore and donate one of 150 books from the Library’s wish-list. Not only will the Sacramento community benefit from the addition of the book to the Sacramento Public Library’s collection, but the Sacramento Public Library Foundation will receive 5% from the proceeds of the book’s sale.  For other ways to support the library, check this page!

Remember, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  ~ Charles W. Eliot.


 

I added my office this morning to Google Maps.  From time to time my listing will have a valuable coupon for prospective clients.  The first one is $25 off an initial consultation for prospective family law clients.  This offer expires on August 31, 2007.  I normally charge $100 at the first meeting for up to an hour.

At the consultation we would sit down face to face and discuss your goals, the issues in your case, your options and possible trouble-spots, court procedure, and of course I would try to answer any questions you have.  The best time to meet for a consultation is when your case is in the early stages or when you are simply contemplating taking legal action.  However, even if you case is has progressed to a later stage, I may still be able to assist you.  If you live outside the Sacramento area, the consultation can be performed on the telephone at a prearranged time.  Please contact me if you would like to set one up!  I am sure you will gain a much better understanding of your situation and find it worthwhile.  I am currently accepting new clients in the areas of family law, small business matters and bankruptcies.

— Michael

Parentage by Estoppel & Tips to Stay Cool

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::: Stay Cool! :::

I hope everyone is staying cool in the midst of this record breaking heatwave in Sacramento.  Man, this is almost as bad as living in Arizona, where I grew up!  Here’s some tips from the SMUD website to help keep you cool and save money on summer energy bills.  (For those of you out of the area, SMUD is our local electric utility!)

  • Keep windows closed during the heat of the day.
  • Draw blinds and draperies during the day to keep the heat out.
  • Set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher in the summer. You will save about 5 to 10 percent on the operating cost of your air conditioner for every two degrees of cooling you’re willing to give up.
  • Give appliances a break during hot summer afternoons and evenings. Many appliances create added heat and moisture making your air conditioner work harder. Limit the use of ranges and stoves, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines and other heat-producing equipment during midday. Use them in the early mornings or late evenings when the temperature is cooler.
  • Avoid keeping unnecessary lights turned on.
  • Prepare cool meals such as salads and sandwiches. If you must cook a hot meal, wait until later in the evening when it’s cooler.
  • Adjust ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise in the summer, Usually this means that the switch on the fan should be in the “down” position.
  • Change your air filter regularly. An air conditioning unit with dirty filters can use 5 to 10 percent more energy than necessary.
  • If you have a refrigerator or freezer in the garage that is not full, consider getting rid of it. These appliances tend to be older and therefore less energy efficient causing them to run continuously in very hot environments.
  • SMUD’s Shade Tree program offers free shade trees for customers whose homes have an eastern, western or southern exposure that heats up during the summer.

SMUD also reminds us that the best way to keep your home cool is to not let it heat up in the first place.  Caulking, weather stripping, good insulation and generous use of things that provide shade (trees, overhangs, awnings and blinds) make a big difference.

The SMUD site is worth checking out every once in awhile, even if you are not particularly interested in energy issues or paying your bill online.  As an example, right now, you can get a coupon for $5.00 off the Great International Soccer Match at Raley Field on July 26, 2007.


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::: Parentage By Estoppel :::

Sometimes in family law cases, the issue arises of what a man’s responsibilities are as far as support, in situations where it is discovered, somewhere down the road (and we are talking years here), that he is not a child’s father.  It may surprise some of you to learn that under the doctrine of parentage by estoppel, in some situations, the court may find an individual to be the legal father even when genetic testing conclusively proves otherwise.  If this happens, the man is on the hook for child support just like any other father.  Other these type of cases are initiated by the local child support agency when the mother requests public assistance benefits.

The leading California case for this proposition is Clevenger v. Clevenger, 189 Cal. App. 2d 658, (1961).  In a nutshell, the court laid out a policy that a husband owes a duty of support to his wife’s “illegitimate” child “when the husband from the date of birth accepts the child into his family, publicly acknowledges the child as his own, and treats the child as if it were legitimate.”  To support this finding, the husband must have represented to the child he was the father, the husband must have intended the child to accept and act upon this, the child must have relied upon the representation and treated the husband as his or her father and gave his or her love or affection to him and the child must have been ignorant of the true facts.  The court also added the representation must be long enough to frustrate any realistic opportunity of discovering the natural father and truly establishes the paternal relationship of the father and child.  In underpinnings of this policy were rooted in morality and the deep injury the child would suffer if the husband were permitted to walk away from the situation.

Earlier this week, the Appellate Court handed down an interesting decision related to the parentage by estoppel doctrine.  In County of San Diego v. Arzaga, 2007 SOS 4332, the doctrine discussed above was applied by the trial court to a situation where the Husband truly believed himself to be the child’s father and only stopped acting as such when he received the DNA test results.  The trial judge entered an order that Arzaga pay $959 a month child support and provide health insurance coverage for the minor, Karen.  Karen was born in 1989.  The trial took place in late 2005.

In this instance, for many years, Arzaga behaved toward the child “like her father” and Karen called him “Papi.”  Evidence included family photographs and cards as the child was growing up and Arzaga even sent the mother checks with notations that said “For Karen” and “Karen’s support” in the memo field.  Arzaga’s relationship with the mother ended in 1995, but he continued to have contact with Karen.  He stopped visiting when she was 14 but sent her $1000 for her Quinceanera, a traditional Mexican celebration when a girl turns 15.   Karen testified that Arzaga never told her he was not her father, “always tried to be like a father” and was comfortable being close to him and physically hugging.

Nonetheless, some interesting contradictions came out during the trial.  When the child was born, Arzaga testified that the Mother “made it known like I was the father” but Arzaga told her, “she’s not my daughter, because that goes back months.  But I saw her and she was a good little kid.”  Also, during the time the parties lived together, at one point the mother requested Arzaga to change Karen’s last name to his.  Arzaga described this as “funning around” and testified, “… I knew she was not my daughter.”  Arzage requested a blood test and the mother told him it was not necessary, because “You are the papi…”  Arzaga said he “got a good heart and went along with it.”  Despite this testimony, the trial court made a puzzling finding that it was, “clear that Arzaga truly did not know that he was not the biological father.”

In reversing the order of the lower court, the appellate court latched onto this finding by the trial judge and noted that “it would be unfair … to apply the doctrine to an individual whose conduct was based on his mistaken belief that he actually was the child’s natural father.”  Despite his testimony highlighted above, the higher court found that Arzaga was “not apprised of the facts” at the time he made the representations to Karen and held himself out to be her father. 

This case just goes to show how unpredictable trial results and appeals can be.  If you need assistance with divorce, paternity or child support issues, please contact me!

— Michael

Michael W. Crosson, Attorney at Law
Family Law, Bankruptcy, Small Business Matters & Intellectual Property
Representing clients in the greater Sacramento area, including Placer, Yolo & El Dorado Counties

Bobby Brown Free After Paying Child Support

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Last week Pop singer Bobby Brown (My Prerogative, Don’t Be Cruel) was freed after spending three nights as a guest of the Norfolk County Jail in Massachusetts for failure to pay over $19,000 in back child support and court costs.  Brown was recently arrested while watching his daughter’s cheerleader competition at Attleboro High School.  Originally it was reported that Brown didn’t exactly do it on his own.  Washington D.C. Radio Station Hot 99.5 agreed to pay the arrears plus expenses in exchange for a week’s work at the station.

However, as often happens with Bobby Brown, drama surrounding the event unfolded and his lawyer Phaedra Parks stated the station “did not pay a penny toward Bobby Brown’s bail.”  She stated the monies were not received until days later and “promptly returned upon receipt.”  According to Parks, “There was never a signed contract or any formally executed agreement regarding Bobby’s appearance on 99.5.  This appears to be a publicity stunt at Bobby Brown’s expense.”

But not so fast!  Hot 99.5 posted an email alleged to be from Ms. Parks where she clearly states, “My Client Bobby Brown would like to appear on your show as proposed earlier.  Please advise when we can expect the money.”  This was on the Thursday before the money was wired.  The station also posted an email from the day before that appears to confirm the essential terms of the agreement.   At this point, both parties have mutually rescinded the offer.

A poll on Hot 99.5’s website shows that 89.74% of visitors thought Bobby “did them wrong.”  I agree with those people.  Looks like a contract to me!  Now the station has decided the money could better be used locally and decided to “pay it forward.”  Hot 99.5 is giving $1000 to 20 people who express a need for it so long as they also pledge to do something to make the world the little better.  What a great idea and better use for the funds!

There’s a few good lessons here.  One, if you don’t pay your child support, you can go to jail!  This is true in California as well as many other states.  It can happen as a result of civil contempt proceedings as well as criminal enforcement actions.  In California, under Penal Code Section 270, someone who “Willfully omits to furnish without lawful excuse” can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and serve one year and/or pay a $2000 fine.  In other states, the penalties can be much higher.  For instance, in Montana, in some cases, failure to pay child support is treated as a felony and a parent can be sentenced for up to ten years in prison and/or pay $50,000.  In Oregon, it is also a felony and one can be sentenced for five years and pay a file up to $100,000.  The Center on Fathers, Families and Public Policy created a chart with the help of a attorney that contains an overview of all the criminal statutes for nonpayment of child support.  If you would like to check your state, click here.

Two, it’s good to keep in mind a contract doesn’t necessarily have to be a “signed” or “formally executed” as Bobby Brown’s attorney was implying.  In fact, sometimes courts will enforce contracts that are entirely oral in nature.  Here there were writings back and forth and it appears there was a “meeting of the minds.”

If you are a parent who is not receiving child support, or a parent who has fallen behind in child support and wants to get back on track, please contact me for a consultation.  It’s better to deal with these things sooner rather than later.  Often I can help you!  I can also assist with small business disputes over contracts and other matters.


I received in the mail some flyers from Kids’ Turn for a six week workshop that some of you may be interested in attending.  It’s called “Divorce Education for Children and Parents.”  According to the flyer, the workshop will consist of six 90 minute weekly sessions for children ages 4 through 14, and their parents.  Children meet in groups according to their ages while parents attend groups at the same site.  Parents of the same family meet in separate rooms and when appropriate, both parents are strongly encouraged to attend.

The benefits of this workshop include:

  • Improved communications between parents and children leading to reduced conflict
  • New insight into how children experience divorce, both during and after the divorce
  • Powerful strategies for helping your children cope more effectively with separation or divorce

The workshop starts April 21, 2007 and the location is TBD but will be centrally located.  For more information or to register online, visit the Kids’ Turn website or call 800.392.9239.  There is a sliding scale for parents and no fee for children.  No one is turned away because of inability to pay!

I encourage all divorcing parents to take advantage of these opportunities to reduce conflict over custody and visitation issues and help make the dissolution process less stressful and traumatic for children.

— Michael

P.S. — If you can’t attend the program or don’t live in the Sacramento area, don’t fret.  A book based on the acclaimed Kids’ Turn program has been published.  It’s called Good Parenting Through Your Divorce and it’s available through Amazon.  The second edition came out last December.