The Top Two Problems California Family Law Divorce Litigants Face during an Economic Recession

The United States economy is currently experiencing a significant recession. We are all affected by the recession, and many news outlets and economic forecasters have warned that the recession will get worse before it gets better.

As a result of the current economic downturn, family law litigants faced with divorce often pose the same questions to their attorneys. The top two questions (and several possible solutions) are identified below.

Question 1: How can I afford an attorney?

Engaging in divorce litigation can be expensive. Expenses generally double due to the fact that spouses separate (thus creating two households), but income remains the same. As a result, preservation of assets and minimizing expenses remain extremely important for family law litigants. The long-term cost of failing to seek competent legal advice can be much more severe than the relatively inexpensive short-term costs of having an effective attorney representing you. You will find that your short-term investment in an attorney will likely provide significant, long-term benefits. In California, Family Code § 2030 authorizes the Court to order your spouse contribute to your attorney fees if there is a disparity in income or assets. Litigants may also consider taking out a personal loan, borrowing from family, or utilizing community resources to hire an attorney. Some attorneys offer reasonable payment plans, or allow litigants to fund their litigation using a credit card.

Question 2: Our house is upside-down and it does not make sense to sell just because we are going through a divorce. What can we do?

There are two ways to avoid the sale of a family residence during divorce: Reach a settlement or let the courts decide. It should be the goal of every family law divorce litigant to reach an amicable, cooperative settlement outside of court. Competent legal counsel can help you structure your settlement in a way that benefits both parties using proactive, creative thinking. Many times, clients require a creative, non-standard solution to their problem. Because agreements between parties in a family law case are generally limited only by the court's ultimate approval of the agreement, litigants are free to structure their settlement contract in any way they see fit. For example, our attorneys have prepared many Marital Settlement Agreements containing provisions wherein the parties continue to hold their real estate in joint title form following their divorce. Parties can agree to sell their property on a future date specified, but such an agreement should be carefully drafted. For example, the agreement should specify which party is responsible for paying the mortgage, taxes, maintenance and repairs, and so forth. If settlement discussions break down and parties cannot agree on how to handle jointly owned real estate, courts will most likely order property to be sold following trial. There are two possible exceptions to this disastrous result: Courts have the ability to equitably award assets “in kind” (i.e., the court can assign any particular asset or debt to one spouse as their sole and separate property, so long as something of equal value is also assigned to the other spouse); or, if children are involved, either spouse may petition the court under the Family Code to allow them to stay in the home with the minor child(ren) until a future date.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wilkinson & Finkbeiner San Diego Family Law Attorneys
The attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP, represent clients throughout Southern California and the San Diego area, including the cities of San Diego, North County, East County, South Bay, La Jolla, Chula Vista, Sorrento Valley, Serra Mesa, La Mesa, El Cajon, Carmel Valley, Beach Cities, Hillcrest, Del Mar, Solana Beach, North Park, Rancho Bernardo, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Santa Luz, Point Loma, Santee, Lakeside, Mt. Helix, Lemon Grove, Ramona, Bay Park, Carlsbad, Golden Hill, Cardiff, Miramar, Oceanside, Coronado, Imperial Beach, Alpine, UTC, University Heights, Jamul, Scripps Ranch, Bonita, Fairbanks, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach, CA. Our business lawyers also represent clients in Orange County and Los Angeles County. Whether you need a San Diego divorce lawyer, a southern California estate planning attorney, or a Los Angeles County business planning law firm, we can help.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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