Co-Parenting Challenges & The Holiday Season

Every parent has imagined the look on their kids’ faces coming out of their bedrooms looking for Santa Claus on Christmas morning, or dreamed of Thanksgiving dinner with the kids and family members around a warm hearth. Favorite moments for many families happen around the holiday season, whether that’s generations-old traditions or new adventures.

So how do you and your co-parent get through this season when you both want the joys of those precious moments? Here are some tips to help.happy_holidays

  1. Pick your battles. Especially during the holidays, it is important to choose what holidays are particularly important to you and what days are especially meaningful to spend with the kids. Of course, every day is important and every tradition is important, but focus your attention on the holidays that mean the most to you. If your family traditionally celebrates Christmas Eve over Christmas Day, then the focus should be on making sure you make the most out of Christmas Eve. If you celebrate Hanukkah and your co-parent celebrates Christmas, there is probably a way to create a schedule where you both get to enjoy your respective holidays with the kids.
  2. Think outside the box. If you are having a hard time with a custody schedule, maybe “normal” just isn’t right for you and your family. A lot of schedules alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Christmas and New Year’s, etc., but those formulae do not work for everyone. If you and your co-parent get along well enough, maybe celebrate Christmas morning together, or spend an hour together around the Thanksgiving dinner table. If that is not an option, think of what other ideas would work for you. If your co-parent loves Halloween night and you are the creative costume-making type, maybe an agreement would work where you dress up the kids and your co-parent trick-or-treats with them.4-family-friendly-new-years-eve-bashs-houston-2015
  3. Stay in your lane. If there are discount airline tickets to your hometown, but the flight leaves 6 hours before your scheduled pick-up time, either choose a different flight or have that conversation with your co-parent before you book the flight. As much as the holidays matter to you, and as much as you have scheduled certain activities based on your availability, remember that your co-parent has also.
  4. Remember relief through the Court is slow. Even though a problem during holiday visitation may seem like a crisis, the Courts may not see it that way. Additionally, courts are usually heavily impacted during the holidays by judicial officers taking vacations and everyone else who needs relief flooding into the courtrooms. If your co-parent is acting unreasonably, it may be better to talk to them rather than seek relief through the Court. Things like planned vacations, exchange times for the holidays, and other similar issues are not grounds for ex parte (emergency) relief. If you feel that you need a Court order to make things go smoothly, plan ahead and file at least 3 months in advance.
  5. Enjoy your time. Most importantly, have fun with the kids during your custodial time, and find activities that are fulfilling to you when the kids are with your co-parent. Try not to stress about the little things. Be flexible with your co-parent because you will want him/her to be flexible with you.

From all of us at Sperling Diarian & McAllister, we hope you have a fun and peaceful holiday season! If you find that your co-parent is making this holiday season especially challenging, we can help you. Call us at (818) 205-9090 or email us at



Divorce – The Basic How-To’s

Getting married is as easy as signing a Marriage Certificate and exchanging vows. But when things don’t work, people are often shocked at the price tag of an “uncontested divorce.” In California, there are two methods of dissolving a marriage, a “Summary Dissolution” and standard dissolution.

Summary dissolutionis only available where the Parties have been married for less than 5 years and have no kids and a small amount of assets and/or debts. Even if this applies to you, however, you still cannot get a summary dissolution unless your spouse agrees.Divorce-780x520

Most people go through the process of a standard dissolution. Many are surprised to learn that a divorce is like a civil lawsuit. One spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and the other spouse is personally served and given notice of the lawsuit. They have 30 days to file a formal response.

In California, there is a 6-month mandatory waiting period before your divorce can be final. Even if you agree on everything from day 1, you still have to wait 6 months before you can get divorced.

After the Petition and Response are filed, the Parties must do their Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure and make a full disclosure of all assets and debts, provide supporting documentation, and provide disclosure of their income and expenses. These disclosures are mandatory and cannot be waived.

Once financial disclosures are exchanged, the Parties can then proceed either to Trialor engage in settlement discussions. Well over 90% of all cases are resolved in settlement discussions. The Court will help you settle your case by setting hearings where a Judge will listen to you and help you negotiate a settlement.

abc_conversation_100714_wgWhether you go to Trial or agree in settlement discussions, the last document in your divorce is a Judgment. The Judgment divides all assets and debts, both assets and debts acquired during the marriage and those acquired before and after the marriage. It will also order spousal support and child support, if applicable. If you have minor children, the Judgment will make orders about custody and visitation. Your Judgment may include specialty issues, such as a QDRO for a pension, fiduciary duty provisions, equalization payments, or other specific issues.

The Judgment is intended to be the last document in your divorce, but if you want to change an order, you might be able to. Child custody, visitation, spousal support, and child support can be modified in post-Judgmentproceedings. Child issues can be modified until your children turn 18, emancipate, or graduate from high school. Spousal support can be modified for the term specified in the Judgment, and may be unlimited.

Even in an uncontested divorce, there are a lot of steps to the process. But with the right help, it can be done efficiently and with as little money out of your pocket as possible! Call the attorneys at Sperling Diarian & McAllister. We can help you! (818) 205-9090

How’s Your Legal Health?

Everyone knows the latest health trends and the “magic diet” that will get you in the body you want for this Summer. Paying attention to physical and mental health is a common, everyday activity, and rightfully so. But what about your legal health?

contract-2Your legal wellbeing is more important to you than you know, and failing to take good care of this aspect of your life could have serious implications for your future, your family, and your finances. Here are just a few tips to make sure that these areas of your life are adequately protected from an unexpected lawsuit.

  1. Have a Will or Trust. These testamentary documents could save your heirs thousands of dollars in probate fees and attorney’s fees. A Trust is particularly useful because the property in a Trust does not go through probate, the time-consuming and expensive process of transferring property from the decedent to his or her heirs. Even if you do not have much property, a simple Will designates the administrator of your estate and who receives what. Contact us today for help in drafting these vital documents.
  2. Define Contractual Relationships. So many contractual relationships are casual and do not involve a written contract. If you rent a room to a tenant, for example, you may not have bothered with drafting a specific contract, setting forth the rights and obligations that you and your roomie have to one another. But if things go south, there are laws in place that could severely impact your ability to get that unpleasant roommate out of your home, or to protect yourself from an unfair landlord. A landlord/tenant contract clearly defines the boundaries, expectations, rights, and obligations of all Parties, which is essential if the landlord/tenant relationship falls apart.
  3. Keep Updated Insurance Policies. Everyone knows that auto insurance is a legal requirement in California, but what about renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Having inadequate coverage could be financially devastating in the event of a fire, earthquake, or injury on your property. If a guest gets hurt on your property or is bit by an animal, do you have sufficient coverage to pay the attorney’s fees, damages, and other costs associated with such an injury? Contact your policyholder to make sure.
  4. Buy Worker’s Compensation or Malpractice Insurance. CourtroomIf you are a professional, such as a lawyer or a doctor, with assets, make sure that you have an up-to-date malpractice insurance policy. Similarly, if you are a contractor, construction manager, or entrepreneur with people working under you, make sure you have adequate Worker’s Compensation insurance, even if you believe that your underlings are “independent contractors” and not “employees.” It could save your financial welfare. A serious claim of malpractice or workplace injury could strip you of your home, savings, and retirement accounts without these protective policies in place.
  5. What About Unexpected Lawsuits? Even if none of the above categories seem to apply to you, there is always the terrifying possibility of an unexpected lawsuit. A small car accident that leads to a claim of injury, or words spoken in anger that lead to someone filing for a restraining order, in today’s world, it is impossible to know when a lawsuit is right around the corner. Even if there is absolutely no basis for the lawsuit, you will probably still have to foot the bill for attorney’s fees upfront. You might be able to recover those fees down the road, but most defense attorneys charge you first, then ask for reimbursements later. Spend a little time thinking about how you would approach the problem if it happened to you by researching legal plans, double-checking your insurance policies, or even calling an attorney to ask for general advice.

The attorneys at Sperling Diarian & McAllister have built a reputation as being honest, hardworking, and fair. We are committed to protecting your interests, helping your financial planning, and protecting your assets. Contact us at (818) 205-9090. We are happy to assist you.

Planning On Moving Away With Your Kids? Here’s What You Need To Know

In California, when one parent decides to move away from the other and take the children along, the case becomes a “move away” case. Both parents are free to go wherever they want, whenever they want. The only time that it becomes a move away case, is when the moving parent wants to take the children along.

If you are planning on moving away, here are some things to keep in mind:take off

  1. Even a move of a short distance can be a “move away.”The Court has found that a move away case exists where the other parent’s relationship with the children will be affected by the move. In Los Angeles, that means that a move of a fairly short distance could be considered a move away case if heavy traffic prevents the other parent from exercising their old visitation schedule.
  2. Sole legal custody does not equal the right to move away. Even though Family Code 7501 states that the custodial parent has the right to change the child’s residence, Courts will not grant the move-away without a consideration of all relevant factors. The landmark case on move away, In Re Marriage of Burgess(1996) 13 Cal.4th 25 and its successor, In Re Marriage of LaMusga(2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072 established a lengthy set of factors used by the Court in determining move away cases.
  3. These are the LaMusgafactors:1) The reason for the proposed move; 2) The child’s interest in stability and continuity in custodial arrangement; 3) The distance of the proposed move; 4) The age of the child; 5) The child’s relationship with both parents; 6) The relationship between the parents; 7) The wishes of the child; and 8) The extent to which the parents currently are sharing custody. A discussion of all eight factors is a blog entry in and of itself.
  4. The move-away process will likely be a lengthy one.If you plan on moving in the next two months, do not expect the Court to be done with the move away evaluation. Most Courts require a separate evaluation of the child and family situation by a third party, in most cases a Parenting Plan Assessment (PPA) or similar assessment. Due to high demand and low availability, these assessments can take months to complete.
  5. Moving without the Court’s consent could be detrimental to your future success.If a parentage (unmarried with children) or divorce case has been filed and there is no Judgment, moving without an agreement or Court order is a violation of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) and could place you at risk of a contempt of Court action. Even if your case is post-judgment, Courts do not look kindly on parents who move away without an agreement or Order, and the decision could impact the Court’s order when the assessments are completed.
  6. The remedy for a move-away without permission is return of the child, not the other parent.If the other parent to your children has moved away without your consent or a Court order, the remedy is an order placing the children in your custody. The Court will not make an order that the other parent return to their former residence. In some situations, such as where the non-custodial parent travels for work, it may not be feasible to be the primary caretaker, regardless of the injustice of the move.

can-i-move-away-if-i-share-custody-with-my-exThis is just a brief introduction to this complex area of law. It has been said that move-away cases are the hardest cases for the judge to determine, because the impact on the parents and the children is so extreme, even when the right decision is made.

If you are planning on moving away with your children, or if you have learned that the other parent plans on moving, do not wait to get help. The attorneys at Sperling Diarian & McAllister have tried numerous move-away cases, and we can help you. Call us today at (818) 205-9090 or email us at

Story from a Client: Beware of Borderline Personality Disorder

“Stan” thought he’d hit the jackpot when he met, courted, and then married “Suzette.” It was a second marriage for both of them.
borderline-personality-disorder-symptoms-1024x933Plus they both also had, long term, live-in relationships.  Suzette was like no one he’d ever met.  He felt blessed and grateful to be her husband.  Mind you, Stan knew he had flaws.  He admitted as such, and worked to improve himself.  After all, it was so good 
being married to this woman.  And the many times she pointed out his flaws, he did whatever it took to correct them.  
What puzzled Stan was why the good and even neutral parts of their marriage couldn’t be sustained.  No matter what, Suzette found some way to upset things.  She’d push and complain, nag and bitch, ignore and scold, until the situation would degenerate into living hell for her husband.  After anywhere from an hour to a day later, she’d act as though she did absolutely NOTHING wrong. And when Stan would react like virtually anyone would after abuse, Suzette would blame HIM for starting trouble. It was as if the woman had amnesia.
It turns out she did have a self-imposed form of amnesia.  This is because she had Borderline Personality Disorder.  They are so well defended that their sense of reality is warped.  Suzette and other women with this disorder, project their particular Borderline failings and behaviors onto their husbands.  
In battles and arguments they don’t necessarily have to be right.  But they absolutely cannot be wrong when it comes to how they behaved.  When the two of them had normal, spousal arguments, Stan almost relished them because they were based in
reality.  Suzette could admit being wrong concerning a logistical mistake like being late, or technical mistake like knocking something over, etc.  And she’d easily accept Stan’s apology when it came to something like that which he had done. BUT….when Stan would apologize for his reactions to HER borderline, abusive behavior toward him, THIS apology she could not accept. 
When he’d catch her blatantly lying, she’d scream, “I don’t lie! When I lie, it’s because YOU taught me to do it! But I DON’T lie!” Borderline wives are notorious for browbeating and tongue lashing their husbands.  When caught red handed, the response is the
same. “I don’t ever brow beat!  When I do, it’s because you (he) deserve(s) it. But I DON’T browbeat!”  It’s truly the bizarre world story of “Alice Through The Looking Glass.”
So what happens when a husband like Stan, would fight back against a Borderline woman like Suzette during one of these browbeatings? It would be like throwing water js1ln4ofjtrvbdmsmodcon a grease fire.  It only made it worse.  However, like any normal man, when Stan finally would reach his saturation point, he’d glare her down, while firmly, sharply, and intensely using his voice to let her know that he’d had enough.  Then like any man, Stan would stay the hell away from her, usually going to sleep in another room.
Then, as virtually always happens with a Borderline woman, Suzette would wake up the next day in the most cheerful of moods. Not having the slightest idea why Stan was upset.  Of course that gave her ammunition to point out how he’s always ruining  good times by needlessly starting trouble.   The one constant that Borderline wives all share is that they believe there are NO consequences for their behavior, NONE.
So why did Stan wait eight years before deciding he was finished?  It’s because when a Borderline like Suzette is good, she is BEYOND good. Even worse, she’s not being phony while acting lovingly toward her husband.  If she was faking, then it would be easy to realize it.  This is a woman who goes from “I have the most wonderful husband in the world!” And then within an hour tells him he’s a disgrace as a husband and she is sorry she’d ever met him, let alone married him. 
Finally, one year after deciding he was through, Stan filed for divorce.  Now the real nightmare began.  When divorcing a borderline woman, everything in the normal world is thrown out.  If a man is divorcing a shrewish, histrionic witch, it’s still a cakewalk if this witch isn’t a borderline.  
Logical deals have no bearing on a borderline woman like Suzette.  Stan wasn’t out to get her.  He just wanted to be away from her. She got worse and worse and more vindictive.  Stan’s lawyers threw everything they had at her.  If they’d been going against a NON-borderline witch, Stan’s side would have crushed her in two days.  Sort of like the way an antibiotic defeats a bacterial infection. But doing the same thing when divorcing a BORDERLINE woman, is like getting antibiotics for a viral infection. They are ineffective.
So what to do?  In virtually every divorce case,  especially with a crazy, the advice is to do everything possible to not go to court. Yet the opposite is true when dealing with a Borderline woman.  Borderlines cannot go under oath. They intrinsically know they could be exposed.  This means after the man’s side does everything possible to secure a deal in one month, but as expected, comes up empty, then it is imperative the next step should be right to the courtroom. It will be way less expensive than having the Borderline and her lawyers drag things out to cause pain and run up bills.
bdf68e27d326027d7d733f1c161f0e74Stan and his lawyers learned this the hard way.  Every time they did things with unrelenting, maximum effort the regular way, and things appeared to be heading to a conclusion, Suzette would FIRE her attorney!  She wound up using FIVE of them. All she really wanted was revenge.  She wanted to continue to draw this out, not only to run up Stan’s legal costs, but to do whatever she could to continue heaping emotional abuse on him in the process. Then off course, this borderline woman would blame Stan and HIS attorneys for doing it to HER!
Always remember, logic and reality have no bearing when dealing with a Borderline woman.  Only unrelenting pressure, and the potential to expose the REAL her, will make any headway in a borderline divorce.  Please recall, they believe there are NO consequences for anything they do or say.  So they will do or say anything if it suits them.  Unfortunately in California Family Court, these women get away with a majority of the false and reprehensible things they do and say.  The man and his legal team were
always ethical and honest. And that is how it should be.  However, they must also be ramrod tough, relentless, and unbending in the effort to get the Borderline out of his life as quickly and as fairly as possible.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD came up with this list that must be checked before any man decides to get married.
In summation; Stan absolutely stated he had many flaws and was never blameless for all bad things in this marriage. However, borderline woman Suzette denied ever causing any problems in the relationship.  In fact, she relentlessly blamed all of the things she was doing to Stan, as things HE was doing to HER!
To this day, Stan readily says that Suzette gave him the greatest days of his life.  But he understands the price he paid in emotional abuse was nightmarishly heavy.  In a metaphorical sense, Stan got a shining five-thousand dollar gold bar from Suzette. Unfortunately it cost him TEN thousand dollars in platinum (pain) to get it.

The New Alimony Law and You

You have probably heard the rumor that under the new Tax Law, spousal support (alimony) will no longer be counted as income to the payee, and will no longer count be a deduction to the payor. For decades, this has been the status quo.

The silver lining is that this new rule does not come into effect until January 1, 2019. If your divorce is entered before then, you’re in the clear. And it looks like the law will not affect divorce Judgments entered prior to January 1, 2019.alimony

What does this mean for you if you are thinking about divorce, or in the middle of an open divorce case? According to the American Bar Association, there is a prediction that divorce rates will skyrocket in 2018 as couples try to take advantage of the tax law before it’s gone.

One thing for certain is that it will affect negotiations in family law disputes. Gone are the days when the paying spouse can agree to pay spousal support “after taxes,” i.e., pay the payee’s tax burden on top of the regular spousal support. This will now be status quo. That is bad news for the payee because they now have one less bargaining chip to up the amount of money they see in their spousal support awards.

But the payee spouse is not the only one who could be negatively affected by this. The paying spouse also takes a hit because they will have to pay income taxes on their entire wages, taxes that may otherwise be offset by the deduction for spousal support. A CPA can best advise on the dollar-for-dollar impact the law will make on high-earning payors.

If you are thinking of divorcing, then seriously consider taking advantage of the tax law in 2018 before it expires. Talk to your CPA or financial advisor as soon as possible to figure out the tax consequences to you. Remember that even though 2018 seems like it just started, the year is almost up to try and finish your divorce. With California’s six-month mandatory waiting period, even if you file in February, your earliest divorce date is in August, and in actuality most divorces take a lot longer.

The attorneys at Sperling Diarian & McAllister is here to help! Contact Mitchell Sperling at (818) 205-9090 Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Friday 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.