Father’s Rights in Family Law

It is a common, although mistaken, belief that the family law courts favor the mother in custody and visitation cases. In fact, the Court cannot give either parent precedence for custody or visitation based solely on gender. This has even been codified in various sections of the California Family Code.

If the mother of your children tries to tell you that you do not have rights to see your child, she is incorrect. You have rights, too. You have equal rights to have custody or visitation with your children, even if your name is not on the birth certificate (as long as you can show the Court that there is a bond between you and your children).

The attorneys and staff at Sperling Diarian McAllister and Shore wish you a happy and loving Father’s Day.

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Our New Firm Name

We have changed the name of our firm from The Sperling Law Firm to Sperling Diarian McAllister and Shore.  We are excited to announce this change.

Attorney Mitchell Sperling is the founder of Sperling Diarian McAllister and Shore based in Los Angeles County. Mitchell’s practice is focused on resolution of family law disputes, including, but not limited to, divorce, child custody/visitation, support, and division of assets. Mitchell represents major stars, producers, director, writers, and other celebrities. Mitchell Sperling was born in the early 1950’s, an era where life was idyllic, free, and easy. Educated at local schools in Los Angeles, Mitchell soon became an aficionado of the Los Angeles lifestyle. Mr. Sperling is an active member of the legal community. He serves as a volunteer family law mediator and a Judge Pro Tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Attorney Aree Diarian is partner attorney at Sperling Diarian McAllister and Shore and works to vigorously represent her clients in all aspects of marital dissolutions. She earned her J.D. at Trinity Law School, where she graduated with cum laude honors, and earned her B.A. at University of California, Irvine, where she graduated with magna cum laude honors. During her years in law school, she was an active leader in numerous campus organizations, including a nonprofit corporation that provides legal services to the poorest and most needy segment of society in Southern California. Aree also served as Editor on the law review board.

Attorney Lauren McAllister graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, minoring in English Literature. She attended law school at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, where she graduated cum laude. In addition to her J.D., Lauren received her Certificate in Dispute Resolution and her Certificate in Criminal Legal Practice. She also served as an Executive Editor of the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal.  Lauren is passionate about family law and providing the highest level of representation to clients.

Attorney Steven Shore graduated from University of West Los Angeles 1993. Mr. Shore has been certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist.  He has spent his entire career working hard to protect the rights of California and build a better community. Steven is highly experienced in Family Law, Criminal Law and Civil Law. He combines his knowledge of law with a compassionate approach to each client.

 

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Is Your Spouse Hiding Assets?

Hiding assets during a divorce is sneaky, unethical, and illegal – but it happens much more frequently than most people expect.

Could your spouse be hiding assets? And if they are hiding assets, does that mean you won’t get the divorce settlement you deserve?

If you are going through divorce, you need to ask yourself those two tough questions.

couple-in-financial-argumentMany couples today have complex financial portfolios. (Your list might include your marital residence, rental and/or vacation properties, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement and pension plans, stock options, restricted stock, deferred compensation, life insurance with cash value, perhaps a business or professional practice . .  . and perhaps much more.) Even in the best of times, it can be extremely difficult to keep track of all these moving parts. When a couple decides to divorce, that task can get exponentially more complicated.

As experienced family law attorneys, our office is always on the lookout for the spouse who is hiding assets, cheating, and lying.

We recommend due diligence.  That means getting records, taking statements, and obtaining financial evidence.

If you are thinking of divorce, plan for it.  Start getting records out of the house immediately.  Make copies, get account numbers, find back balances, get the bills, take pictures of assets, get passwords for accounts and emails, back up emails, text messages, and keep a secret diary of daily events.money-04

At Sperling Diarian McAllister and Shore, we shall instruct you in great detail how to conduct yourself during the divorce.  With over 50 years of experience, the firm knows family law.

 

Checklist For Couples With Children: Important Issues To Consider When Creating A Parenting Plan

When couples with children divorce or separate, they need to create an arrangement for the care of their children that best meets their needs. In child custody, that arrangement is known as a parenting plan. A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between parents that lays out their rights and responsibilities in regards to the care of their children. A comprehensive parenting plan is vital to a continuing relationship between children and their unmarried or divoco-parents1rced parents. It is also a useful tool to avoid conflicts that may arise in the future.

A Parenting Plan should cover the day-to-day responsibilities of each parent, the practical considerations of the children’s daily lives, as well as how parents will agree and consult on important long-term issues about their children. What is best for the children is the most important thing to consider when making a parenting plan. The following checklist identifies important issues to consider when developing a parenting plan. These issues are not exhaustive, and are simply meant to help guide your thinking and discussions on the topic.

  1.  Where Will the Children Live?

First and foremost, parents must decide on living arrangements for their children. This is referred to in the courts as “physical custody.” Parents may decide that the children live equally with each parent, moving between two homes on an alternating schedule. Parents may also choose to have the children live primarily with one parent, and have frequent visitation with the other. Regardless of the arrangement, determining where the children will live is usually the first step.

  1.  How Will Legal Decisions be Made?

In most cases, parents will equally share the right and responsibility to make major decisions affecting their children’s lives. These decisions specifically include those regarding their children’s health, education, and religious upbringing. This type of shared decision-making is referred to in the courts as “joint legal custody.” (Under California law, there is a presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the children). In exceptional circumstances, such as those involving physical or substance abuse, sole legal custody may be awarded to one parent alone.

  1.  How Much Child Support Is Needed?

Under California law, child support is calculated using a complex formula using state regulation, which is done using a program called DissoMaster. The DissoMaster’s proposed support is called “Guideline.” The essential factors in calculating the Guideline are the combined income of each parent, the number of children involved, and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Courts may deviate from the Guideline in exceptional circumstances.

  1.  Who Will Provide Health Insurance?

State and federal laws require that children have health insurance coverage. Parents need to decide who will pay for this coverage. If one parent has a better health insurance policy and/or can obtain coverage at the least cost, that parent will likely be required to continue providing coverage for the children. The payments made toward health insurance will be considered in the process of calculating child support.

  1.  Who Will Pay Uncovered Expenses?

Life is full of unexpected expenses, such as uncovered medical bills, payment for orthodontic devices, or therapeutic services for children. Parents should have a plan in place for splitting these unexpected costs. Parents should also discuss how they will split other sporadic expenses, such as new text books for school, extracurricular activities, or a vehicle for driver–aged children.

  1.  Who Will Provide Transportation to and from School and Other Activities?

Parents need to create a plan for reliably transporting their children where they need to go. Parents will need to consider their individual work schedules and work out a plan for transporting their children to and from daycare, school, extracurricular activities, parties, and play dates. Parents also need to determine who is responsible for transportation when the children’s custody changes hands, where the exchanges will happen, and what the ground rules will be.coparents3

  1.  How Will the Children Spend Their Vacations, Holidays, and Special Events?

How children will spend their vacations, holidays, and other special events (like birthdays) can be a divisive issue between parents. It is important to address this issue early, so both parents understand the rules in advance. Will the children spend certain holidays with one parent every year, or will holidays alternate between parents? Parents should come up with a fair arrangement that considers all school breaks, holidays, and special events (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other events such as weddings, graduations, etc.).

  1.  Who Will Attend School and Extracurricular Events?

Parents should decide who will attend parent-teacher conferences and other school and extracurricular events. Will both parents arrive separately to each event, or will events be split? If events are split, parents must decide upon a method for determining who will attend each event. (For example, Mom attends on even-numbered days, and Dad attends on odd-numbered days.)

  1.  Which Third Parties May Visit and Communicate with the Children?

California law recognizes that individuals other than parents often have a significant impact in children’s lives, and have a strong interest in maintaining contact with the children. Parents should decide how and when the children will communicate with these third parties.

  1.  How Will Parents Communicate with Each Other and Their Children?

Generally, parents should not communicate with each other through their children, i.e., use the children as messengers. Parents should decide upon a method and schedule for communicating with each other about the children’s lives and for decision-making. Parents should also decide upon a method and schedule for the children to communicate with them when they are in the other parent’s care.

  1.  Who Will Claim the Tax Deduction(s)?

Generally, the parent with primary physical custody will claim the tax deduction(s) for the children each year. However, the tax deduction is valuable, and can often be used as a bargaining chip during negotiations for child support. Parents may decide that the non-custodial parent will claim the tax deduction(s) each year, or parents may decide to alternate claiming the deduction(s). Parents must decide who will claim the deduction to avoid tax issues with the IRS later on.

  1.  How Will Parents Save for College Expenses?

If the parents have been contributing to a college fund for their children, it is worth discussing how that will continue. Parents may decide to continue contributing jointly to a college savings plan or trust fund, or both parents may decide to start a savings account on their own.

  1.  What Happens if One Parent Must Relocate?

Parents should discuss what to do if one parent finds himself or herself in a situation where he or she needs to relocate away from the other parent. Parents should contemplate this possibility and work through issues like physical custody, visitation, and costs of travel. Parents may agree to prohibit any relocation except with prior court approval and reasonable notice.

  1.  How Will Future Conflicts Be Resolved?

No matter how well parents plan for the future, they simply cannot anticipate every contingency. Since even the most cooperative parents will not always agree, it is important to have a plan in place for resolving future disputes.

At SDMS, we encourage, where possible, parents work with each other to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable California family law attorneys will be your advocates and help you through difficult situations. If you would like more information about parenting plans, child support, visitation, or any other family law issue, call us at (818) 205-9090 to schedule your free consultation today.

 

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The Stages of Grief and Mourning in Divorce

It is well known that grieving is a process. The end of an important relationship, like the death of a loved one, often requires the participants engage in the grieving process. Family law litigants face not only the dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership with all of the heartache associated with it, but at the same time the stress and anxiety of a court proceeding.

Understanding what to expect during this process is a vital part of successfully getting through it. Grief has been characterized as taking place in five stages:grief1

1. Denial and Isolation

The first reaction to learning of the imminent or actual end of a marriage or domestic partnership is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger

As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends, or family. Anger may be directed at someone who is completely innocent, even if rationally we know the person is not to be blamed.

Do not hesitate to ask your attorney or therapist to give you extra time or to explain just once more the details of what to expect. Arrange a special appointment or ask that he or she telephone you at the end of his day. Ask for clear answers to your questions. Understand the options available to you. Take your time.

3. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–

  • If only we had seen what was happening sooner…
  • If only we had gone to therapy or sought a trusted advisor…
  • If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…

Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression

Two types of degrief3pression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

5. Acceptance

Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. We may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

Tips for Driving on Super Bowl Weekend

We are getting excited to celebrate the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons this weekend as they face off in the 51st Super Bowl. Here are a few simple tips you can use to avoid running afoul of DUI laws:

  1. Talk to your buddies beforehand to figure who will be the Designated Driver.
  2. Hire a taxi, Uber, or Lyft if you feel like you’ve celebrated a little too much.
  3. Use the California DMV’s handy chart as a guideline for your drinking: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/hdbk/actions_drink.
  4. Remember that DUI is more than just drinking. Any impairment while driving can be an offense.
  5. If you do get pulled over, cooperate with the officers.

Be safe out there this weekend! Go teams!

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Parental Alienation Syndrome

When a divorce involves minor children, their best interests must be kept as a top priority throughout the dissolution process and continuing after the divorce is final.

It is widely accepted that children are far better off maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents when there are no signs of neglect or abuse.

With almost 37 years experience representing men and women in divimageorce, I have witnessed many cases where one of the parents will let their own feelings obstruct the development of a relationship between their children and ex, which can result in parental alienation.

Parental alienation, while a relatively new concept, has quickly become recognized as a genuine condition that is extremely detrimental to the mental health of children.

Through psychological manipulation, the alienating parent fosters and encourages rejection of the other parent. This can be done subtly and unintentionally through occasional belittling comments, to active and malicious “brainwashing” with the intent to replace any love the child may have for the other parent with hate.

Alienation can be cataclysmic during such an emotional time as divorce.

The children are trying to comprehend why their parents will no longer be together, and the younger they are, the more likely they are to cling to whatever they ar
e told. This creates a perfect situation for a vindictive parent who is wrapped up in their own emotions to warp the perceptions of their children.

In most situations, the primary custodial parent is the leading offender in contributing to parental alienation. 

This overwhelmingly makes non-custodial fathers the targets due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of custody disputes result in mothers receiving primary custody.

Since the children spend more time with the primary parent, the mother usually has more of an opportunity to spread her influence. While the alienating parent may not intend to hurt their children, this can have extremely negative consequences on their well-being and is more common than you might think.

160631120-200x300Recent studies have found that some level of parental alienation can be found in 11-15 percent of divorces involving children, and that severe alienation can be classified as abuse (though it is often overlooked).

Children can suffer from many issues that hamper development during their most impressionable years, including depression, low self-esteem, trust issues, and an increased risk of developing substance abuse problems. In severe of cases where one parent actively contributes to alienating the other, it becomes what is known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

While it has long been debated whether PAS is an actual clinical condition, the most recent version American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders finally added a section under the child psychological abuse category called parent-child relational problem that encompasses PAS:

“Non-accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child.”

It is fortunate that the psychological community is beginning to take a more serious look at this issue, and I am hopeful that the legal community will follow suit.

How to Help Your Children During Divorce

Children of divorced families tend to have long-term adjustment difficulties when there is ongoing conflict between their parents. Boys, in particular, are likely to display marked behavior problems when this exists. Children’s adjustment is also determined by the amount of conflict the parents had before the divorce.

Some things that you can do to enhance a child’s adjustment are the following

(1) Prior to the separation, it may be helpful for both parents to discuss the impending divorce at a level appropriate for the child;

(2) Be available to answer questions;

(3) Read age appropriate books on divorce with your child;

(4) Reassure the child divorce is not his or her fault;

(5) Let the child know that you will both continue to love him;

(6) Put child’s needs first;

(7) Do not argue with other parent in front of child;

(8) Do not expect your child to meet your emotional needs;

(9) Be consistent in your parenting;

(10) Make visitations regular and predictable;

(11) Let the child know that you will tell other important people in case he or she would like to seek support from these people

(12) Do not be openly critical of other parent;

(13) Do not interrogate child about visits with other parent, and most importantly be sensitive to your child’s emotional needs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL:

SDMS
Attorney Mitchell Sperling
13960 Ventura Blvd. 2nd Floor
Sherman Oaks, California 91423
(818) 205-9090  Fax: (818) 205-9099