How to Protect Yourself in a Divorce

How to Protect Yourself in a Divorce Divorce Attorney in FresnoWhile it’s possible to have an amicable divorce, the truth is that it doesn’t take much for things to become adversarial. So it’s important to know how to protect yourself in a divorce, as well as take steps to safeguard you and your children.

Consider Staying in the Family Home If You Have Kids

If you move out of the family home, it could impact child custody later. Although staying in the family home may cause additional tension between you and your spouse, you should try to minimize friction. Avoid fighting in front of your children and do not resort to domestic violence or abuse.

Don’t Allow Your Spouse to Leave With the Children

You have just as much of a right to custody of the children as your spouse does. Let your spouse know that they are free to leave, but the children should stay in the family home. You may also consider a “time sharing” situation in the family home until custody and other divorce issues are determined.

Make Copies of Important Documents and Safeguard Personal Papers

During a divorce, you will need to produce an array of legal and financial documents. You will also need many personal documents to manage life after divorce. Gather all of your personal and financial records in one place so that they are safe. You should make two copies of everything and give one to your spouse.

Those documents may include:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Diplomas
  • Bank statements
  • Real estate records
  • Titles
  • Deeds
  • Tax returns
  • W2 statements

Cancel Jointly-Owned Credit Cards

Let your spouse know that you’re cancelling jointly-owned credit cards. If your spouse goes on a shopping spree and you are not yet separated or divorced, you could be jointly responsible for the credit card debt they rack up.

Take Precautions With Joint Bank Accounts

It’s common for an angry spouse to wipe out a joint bank account. Before that happens, take half of your joint balance and open a new individual account in your own name. Notify your spouse that you’ve taken your portion and make arrangements to pay shared bills.

Make a Record of Marital Property

The court will want a list of all marital property that is to be divided between you and your spouse. You should inventory your entire home and its contents. This can be done via video. Make sure you give a copy to your spouse and store the recording in a safe location. This allows it to be referenced in case things “go missing” from the family home.

Don’t Sign Anything

You should never sign anything without the presence of your lawyer when a divorce is pending. Some people will seek preliminary agreements, which are later referenced in property fights or child custody battles. These should be avoided until the court can make official orders.

Call the Police If Domestic Violence Occurs

Some divorces become volatile. If your spouse threatens or commits domestic violence against you or your children, call the police. You need to have an official record of the situation for later use in court.

Hire a Fresno Divorce Attorney Early

When it comes to knowing how to protect yourself in a divorce, probably the most important thing to remember is how crucial it is to hire an attorney early in the process. Your attorney can guide you through a difficult divorce as well as help you navigate any roadblocks. Call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks to learn more.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: What’s the Difference?

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce Fresno Divorce LawyerEvery divorce deals with difficult issues, and has some level of disagreement. But what is the difference between contested vs. uncontested divorce?

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses generally agree on issues related to the separation and don’t have to go to court. It is typically the easiest and most cost effective type of divorce.

Relationships that work well for uncontested divorces include those:

  • With few assets and no children.
  • Where couples agree on division of assets, child custody, and support issues.

While an uncontested divorce may seem pretty straightforward, it’s still important to have the help of an experienced divorce attorney who can help you review and file all of the paperwork involved. Your attorney will also make sure that your rights are protected in the process.

Relationships that do not work well for uncontested divorces include those:

  • Involved physical or emotional abuse
  • Where child abuse is or was present
  • Where a spouse is suspected of hiding assets or income
  • When one or both spouses are attempting to alienate affections of the children

When these types of issues are present in a marriage, one spouse may try to manipulate the other. A fair agreement is unlikely to come from such a situation.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce is one where spouses do not agree on one or more issues in the separation. Heavily contested divorces are the most difficult and can be both time-consuming and costly.

Your attorney can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to seek a fair outcome for everyone involved. But you’re having a difficult time agreeing on the details, you may need outside intervention to resolve things. You will need an experienced divorce lawyer to present your case before the court.

Although some people choose to go through a divorce without an attorney, this is not recommended for contested divorces. You may opt to use an attorney who offers limited scope representation, where they will help with specific areas instead of an entire divorce proceeding.

What to Issues Are at Stake in Divorce?

Regardless of whether you are moving forward with a contested vs. uncontested divorce, you will have to consider the following issues:

  • Child Custody: California courts favor joint physical and legal custody. Although you may be able to make an agreement with your spouse regarding child custody, if the court handles the situation, it will be split evenly if that is in the best interests of the child.
  • Child Support: The court will determine how much child support will be paid by which parent. Generally, child support payments are based on amount of time spent with a child, earnings, number of children, tax filings, health insurance expenses, day care costs, and special needs of children.
  • Asset Division: California is a community property state, so all assets earned during the marriage are divided equally.
  • Debt Division: Debts are considered community property. Thus, they are also divided equally.

Call a Fresno CA Divorce Lawyer Today

If you have questions about your divorce or how to navigate a contested vs. uncontested divorce, call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks. We can help you minimize the stress involved in the process.

How to Establish Paternity in California

How to Establish Paternity in California Fresno Paternity LawyerPaternity must be legally established in order to determine who should be providing financial child support or who should have child custody and visitation rights. Read below to find out more about how to establish paternity in California.

Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?

Advantages to establishing paternity include:

  • Identification of both parents through legal documentation
  • Putting the name of both parents on the birth certificate
  • Providing access to family medical records and history
  • Health and life insurance coverage from both parents
  • Inheritance rights from either parent
  • Rights to social security or veteran’s benefits
  • Ability of the father to sign releases and permission forms for the child

When a Couple Is Married

The court will assume that the husband of the mother is the father of a child unless parentage is contested within the first two years of a child’s life. If another man impregnates a married woman, he has rights to establish paternity within those first two years. In some cases, a court may favor a stable marriage over a father’s biological ties to the child. A man who has a child with a married woman risks not being part of the child’s life. The husband of a woman who has given birth can also ask for a paternity test regardless of the child’s age.

When a Couple Is Not Married

If a man has been living with a child in a family-like situation, and has shown commitment to that child, he may be assumed to be the father. If there is no family-type relationship established, a paternity test is necessary for the court to issue child support, custody, and visitation orders.

When the Man and Woman Agree on Parentage

If both parties agree on parentage, they can establish paternity by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) form. To be valid, it must be signed by both parents. It may be signed at the hospital or at a later date. If a birth certificate has already been issued, a new one may be created with the father’s name on it. Once the VDP is signed, a father has visitation, legal and physical custody rights, and financial responsibilities.

Establishing Paternity Through the Court

Parentage may be established through the court at the request of either parent. However, this process can be more complex and time-consuming than a voluntary acceptance of paternity. In California, the following people have legal standing to obtain a paternity order:

  • Child’s mother (or the mother of an unborn child)
  • Man who believes he is the father
  • Adoption agency
  • Child support agency
  • Child who is 12 or older

If a man refuses to cooperate with a paternity process, the court may assume his non-cooperation is evidence of paternity.

The court process will involve the submission of a petition, which legally establishes the facts for the paternity action. A pre-trial hearing will evaluate the situation and determine if a trial is necessary. Genetic testing may be done in order to determine if the man is biologically linked to the child. In the end, a trial may be held so that both sides can present whether or not they feel a man should be considered the father of a child. A court will issue an order regarding paternity as well as the rights and obligations of the father.

Contact a Fresno Paternity Lawyer Today

If you have questions about how to establish paternity in California, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks.

What Are Child Visitation Rights for Fathers?

Child Visitation Rights for Fathers Fresno CA Visitation LawyerWhen children are involved in a divorce, understanding your rights as a parent can be difficult and confusing. This is especially true if you are a father, and primary custody has been given to the mother of your children. What are child visitation rights for fathers in California, and what can you expect when it comes to seeing your kids?

What You Are Entitled to as a Father

Child visitation rights are usually outlined in a divorce decree or other parenting plan. As a father, you are entitled to:

  • See your children during specified hours and days
  • Develop activities during the visitation time that is established
  • Have the police intervene if your visitation rights are violated (the police report can later be used as evidence)
  • Obtain an injunction if the mother tries to take the children out of state
  • Prevent the mother from threatening to deprive you of visitation time
  • Modify the divorce decree or parenting plan establishing the details of visitation

If the mother tries to keep you from seeing your children, tries to move out of state with the children, or otherwise violates your divorce decree or parenting plan, you can seek court intervention. You can also seek a modification of those orders to obtain a better child visitation plan or custody situation for your children.

Don’t Forget Your Obligations

As important as it is to understand your rights, it’s equally important that you are aware of your obligations. Even if the mother of your children is not complying with court orders and violating your visitation rights, you cannot:

  • Stop paying child support
  • Verbally or otherwise abuse the children’s mother

Be careful that you don’t retaliate if your ex is trying to control the situation and manipulate the kids. Your actions will be scrutinized, and you want to remain on good legal terms with the court.

Child Visitation Rights for Fathers Is Not Automatic

You will not obtain child visitation rights automatically as a child’s biological father. First, you will have to establish paternity, or parentage. That means, you must prove that you are the child’s parent. In some situations, the law will assume the identity of the child’s father. For example:

  • If a child is born into a marriage, then the mother’s husband is assumed to be the father.
  • If a child is born and a male has been living with the mother in a family-like manner, he demonstrates commitment to the child, then he is considered the child’s father even if there is no biological connection.

A man may also sign a voluntary declaration of paternity (VDP), which is common for women who are unmarried. When a VDP is signed at a hospital, the man’s name is typically added to the birth certificate.

What Are the Best Interests of the Child?

The court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining visitation. They may consider your relationship with the child up to this point, your background, and your mental and physical well-being.

Domestic violence can affect the outcome of a visitation decision. Your visitation rights may be restricted or denied altogether for a conviction. You may also be put under supervised visitation, where someone must observe you during visitation with your children. If you have a significant criminal record, your visitation may also be restricted.

Learn More About Enforcing Child Visitation Rights for Fathers

If you you need help enforcing or modifying a visitation order, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.