What Does It Mean to Establish Parentage and When Is It Necessary?

If you are having a baby, you may be wondering what you can do to protect your baby’s rights. You want your child to have all the support he or she needs from the father. Establishing parentage can be an important step for you to take if you are not married to the baby’s father. This article will walk you through some of the basics of establishing paternity and help explain why parentage is important.

  1. What is parentage? What is paternity?

When a child is born to parents who are married (or to parents in a domestic partnership after 2005), then the law presumes that the couple are the child’s parents.  If the parents are not married, then the father only has legal rights and responsibilities if parentage is established.  However, in some cases parentage will be presumed, such as “parentage by estoppel,” where the parent welcomed the child into his home and treated it as his own.

  1. Why is establishing parentage important?

If you want custody, visitation or child support orders from the court, parentage will have to be established. This can also be important in a same-sex parenting situations if the parents were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born.  There are other advantages: having health and life insurance coverage from either parent, the right to inherit from either parent, the right to receive social security and veteran’s benefits, just to name a few.

  1. What if the father does not admit that he is the parent?

A court may order the alleged father, mother and child to be genetic tested in order to establish parentage.

  1. What are the consequences and rights of the parent after parentage is established?

A parent has generally the right to get custody or visitation rights related to the child, although this right may be impacted in some cases by criminal history. A parent also has a legal obligation to financially support the child, but the amount of financial support will vary depending on various factors including income, custody arrangements, etc.

  1. What are the ways to establish parentage when the child’s parents aren’t married or in a domestic partnership?
  • Signing and filing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity – this is a form that both parents voluntarily sign, which established them as the legal parents of the child. The advantage of the voluntary Declaration is that neither parent has to go to court. After the form is signed, it needs to be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services.
  • You local child support agency can bring an action to establish parentage of a child. This often happens as a matter of course when welfare is requested for the child.
  • You can bring your own court case to establish parentage, which will involve several court forms and possibly a trial. You may want to utilize the help of an attorney or an agency to navigate this process.


How Do We Divide Our Assets and Debts in Divorce?

Your attorney can help you with a plan for dividing property and debt, but here are three important steps to help you on the path to a successful division of assets and debts:

  1. Write down all property and all debts.

Making a list is the first step of dividing everything fairly. Here’s a list to get you started thinking through your own finances:

  • Real property – your home, land, investment properties
  • Other property – Furniture, jewelry, cash, technology, automobiles, recreational vehicles
  • Wage earnings
  • Investments – stocks in an individual account, Roth IRA, 401K
  • Health Saving Accounts
  • Pensions
  • Mortgage
  • Student Loans
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Automobile Loan
  • Loans from family members
  1. Label each as community property or separate property
  • Community property – assets, income, or debts earned or acquired during the marriage.
  • Separate property – property owned before the marriage, property inherited or gifted to one part during the marriage, money from the rent or sale of a separate property, money earned while legally or physically separated from the spouse, and items given from one spouse to the other with the intention of designating it as separate property.
  • Common question: What do we do with an asset that can’t be divided physically? For example, do we have to sell the house in order to divide the money?  The answer is that each spouse has to get assets equivalent in value, so in lieu of selling the house, one spouse may keep the house and the other would get the value of half of that asset.
  1. Place a value on each asset and debt.

In preparing for a divorce, it may be helpful to see if you and your spouse have the same estimation of the value of assets and debts or if there is a large disparity. For your list, make an estimate of the value of each item.

  • Be aware that some items may have more value than you realize. For example, a pension plan can be very valuable and special rules apply to pension plans. In this situation, consulting with an attorney on the value and division of the pension plan can be important.

5 Questions Almost Everyone Asks About Divorce

Divorces range from simple to complex, but almost everyone who is considering a divorce will ask some basic questions.  This article will walk you through five common questions, and provide the answers you need to start thinking about the best way to approach your divorce.

  1. What are the options for ending a marriage in California?

Divorce, legal separation and annulment are the options for changing a marriage or domestic partnership relationship.

  1. Does the person who gets to the courthouse first have an advantage in a divorce?

Know that the officer will write down everything you say, so don’t admit to wrongful conduct if it’s not true.  At the same time, you do not want to get into a heated debate with the officer.  Express yourself politely.  For example, if an officer asks you if you know you were speeding, you could respond with “No, I did not know that,” or you could say, “Thank you for letting me know why you pulled me over, but I did not believe I was speeding.”  You have a right to remain silent, and it is often the best course of action to avoid talking as much as possible.

  1. Does the other person have to agree to a divorce? Do I have to prove they did something wrong?

California is a “no fault” divorce state, so you do not have to prove that the other person did something wrong. The spouse or partner does not have to agree to the divorce. If that person refuses to participate, you can still get a default judgment which will allow the divorce to be final.

  1. Will a divorce affect my immigration status?

The answer to whether a divorce will affect your immigration status is very case specific.  The short answer is that it may or it may not, so it would be wise to consult with an attorney on the specifics of your situation.

  1. What types of issues typically arise in a divorce?

Each case is different, but these are the issues that often arise in a divorce situation, so you’ll want to discuss these topics with your attorney:

  • Division of your money, real property, investment accounts, etc.
  • Responsibility for paying debts
  • Spousal or partner support
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support





5 Secrets to Dealing with Cops

Many people find interactions with the police to be very frustrating and risky.  This article will share five secrets from turning a negative encounter into a safer experience that will lay the foundation for your defense in the future.

  1. Keep calm and be confident but not argumentative.

The police officer will be assessing your attitude and demeanor from the moment he interacts with you, so you need to watch what you say and do and what your body language communicates. You want to exude a positive and calm presence, without anger or frustration.  This will send a message that you are not dangerous.

  1. Don’t debate with the officer, but avoid admitting to allegations.

Know that the officer will write down everything you say, so don’t admit to wrongful conduct if it’s not true.  At the same time, you do not want to get into a heated debate with the officer.  Express yourself politely.  For example, if an officer asks you if you know you were speeding, you could respond with “No, I did not know that,” or you could say, “Thank you for letting me know why you pulled me over, but I did not believe I was speeding.”  You have a right to remain silent, and it is often the best course of action to avoid talking as much as possible.

  1. Never run or fight.

Never run from a police officer. This will only get you into more trouble. Never lay hands on an officer or resist arrest.  These actions escalate the situation, so for your own safety you should comply with officer’s orders.

  1. Ask questions.

Often a very polite question can lay the foundation for your case later on.  A simple question to the officer can help you later:

  • When you feel detained:
    • “I don’t want any trouble, but I just wanted to clarify whether I’m free to go now.”
  • When they want to search you or your vehicle:
    • “Officer, are you asking for my consent to search? If so, I’m sorry but I can’t consent.”
  • When they are requesting to search your home.
    • “Officer, do you mind showing me a warrant? I’m sorry, but I can’t consent to a search of my home without one.”
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for an attorney.

You have a right to an attorney, and don’t be afraid to exercise that right. Your request may not change the officer’s actions, but the very fact that you requested and attorney may help your attorney fight your case.


Typical Legal Procedure for a DUI Case

                  If you have a loved one who is facing DUI charges, or if you yourself are concerned, this article will provide a general overview of the legal procedure for a DUI case from start to finish.

  1. The Driver Comes in Contact with Police. A DUI case begins when you come in contact with the police.  This typically happens because of a traffic- related incident, such as a traffic violation (speeding or weaving) or a traffic accident.
  1. The Police Notice Indications or Alcohol or Drugs. The police officer may notice a scent of alcohol in your breath or physical symptoms such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc.
  1. Tests Are Performed by Police. The next step is where the police officer builds the case against you by collecting data through field sobriety tests or chemical tests, such as a breath test or blood draw.
  1. Booked in Jail/Car Impounded. You will typically be booked in jail and your car will be impounded.
  1. Prosecutor Reviews. The Prosecutor reviews the evidence and decides whether to charge you with an offense or decline to file charges.  If you are charged with DUI, it is likely in your best interest to engage and attorney as soon as possible.
  1. Driver’s Licenses Suspension. After the arrest, your licenses is suspended for 30 days. The DMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license after the 30 days unless you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest. 
  1. Arraignment. This is your first hearing where you have an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no context. Entering a not guilty plea is very common at this stage, and you should not feel forced to enter a guilty plea even if you believe you are guilty.
  1. Hearings/Plea Negotiations/Motions. You may likely come back to court several times during the course of your case to negotiate with prosecutor or present a motion. A typical motion is a Motion to Suppress, where you or your attorney argue that certain information cannot be considered as evidence in your case because it was obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights.
  1. Trial/Plea. Eventually the case will either go to trial, where you will be convicted or acquitted, or you will enter a plea, or the prosecutor may in rare instances at some point choose to dismiss the case.
  1. Sentencing. The sentencing phase is where the judge determines the appropriate consequence for your actions.  Often sentencing will involve meeting with a counselor, who will ask questions and prepare a report about you for the judge. The counselor may make recommendations to the judge regarding appropriate education or therapy. At sentencing, the judge may impose jail time, community service, and fines.



Should You Trust an Attorney with Honors and Awards?

This article will give you a helpful map of the honors and awards that you should be looking for as you consider an attorney’s resume and whether he or she is the right person for you.  This will tell you what to look for and the red flags to avoid in analyzing an attorney’s success and history.

  1. Look for Past Successes. An excellent experienced attorney will have a long history of past successes. This is likely the type of success that you want to give the most weight when comparing attorneys because success in your particular type of case is likely to be the most relevant.  Look for a “Result” tab or “Successes” tab on the attorney’s website.  This will give you an indication of the types of cases the attorney has handled.  You will also get a feel for what a successful outcome in those cases looks like to him or her.
  • A disclaimer on past successes is a good thing. Typically, an attorney will have a disclaimer that states something to the effect that a success in one case does not guarantee a success in your case.  The disclaimer itself is in indication that the attorney is honest and ethical.  An attorney who promises you a particular result should be viewed with skepticism because no two cases are ever identical.
  1. Look for Relevant Experience in Other Roles. Look for experience that is relevant to the type of case you will engaging the attorney to handle.  For example, in criminal law, an attorney who has been on both sides of the case can have a unique perspective that can be helpful to you.  For example, a defense attorney who also worked as either a prosecutor or as a police officer may know the system from the inside out.  Similarly, a family law attorney who has experience as a guardian ad litem, victim advocate, or some other role in the court may be able to draw on that broad exposure to assist you more effectively.
  • Red flag. Experience in other roles can be very effective in building an attorney’s skills, but be cautious of someone who has very recently switched to the area of law you are interested in.  An attorney whose recent experience is relevant to your case is likely more ready to represent you than one who just barely switched to your area of law.
  1. Clerkships can be prestigious and also give an attorney insight into the court system or the political system that the attorney wouldn’t otherwise gain from just practicing law alone.  Look for clerkships on an attorney’s resume, and you may give more credence to clerkships that are with judges in California or your county.
  1. Law School Awards and Honors. Awards from law school may be in the far past, but they give you an idea of the personality type of the attorney.  Look for participation in law school extra-curricular activities, such as Moot Court or Law Review or clerkships completed during law school.
  1. Law-Related Memberships, Community Awards, and Community Service. You will likely want an attorney who is well-respected in the legal profession and the community.  Look for memberships in legal organizations, because these show an interest and connection to those legal specialties or groups.  Look for community awards because these indicate that your attorney has accomplished goals that are above and beyond the norm.  Consider community service that has been done by your attorney because those may indicate a personality that is committed to helping others.

How to Go After a Noncustodial Parent for Child Support

We’ve all heard of child support, which is the amount of money a court orders one or both parents to pay to support their children’s living expenses.  A common complaint is that one parent is not fulfilling his or her child support obligations.  This article will explain the procedure for enforcing child support and provide information on free resources to assist in the process.

  1. Get an Order. An Order is a written document by the Court that shows entitlement to child support.  A verbal promise from one spouse to another is not an Order.
  • If you and the other parent agree. If you do not have an Order, but you and the other parent can come to an agreement about the amount, then you memorialize that in writing and then the Judge will approve it if he or she feels it is in the best interest of the child.
  • If you and the other parent do not agree. If you do not have an Order, and you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement, then you will have to file an action for child support.
  1. Motion for Contempt. The next step, once you have the Order in hand, is to file a Motion for Contempt.  You have probably heard of being “in contempt” of court in a criminal matter.  In a civil matter, such as a divorce, a Motion for Contempt basically asserts to the Court that the other party has not obeyed the Court’s order.  If the Judge grants the Motion for Contempt, then the other parent can be ordered to pay fines or serve jail time.
  • Time limit. Timing is very important!  Be sure to file your Motion for Contempt within three years from the payment is due to avoid having the statute of limitations run.
  1. Driver’s License Penalties. If the payment is more than 30 days late on child support, the DMV may refuse to issue or renew a drivers’ license.  If the payment is more than 120 days late for child support, the State of California can revoke the non-paying parent’s license.
  1. Can interest be charged on missed support payments?  Yes, interest accrues at the rate of 10% per year.
  1. Available Resources.
  • If you are looking for other government resources relating to child support, visit childsup.ca.gov. This website is run by the California Department of Child Support Services and may have helpful resources to assist you.


3 Things You Need to File For Divorce with the Court in California

If you are ready for a divorce, you may wonder about the essentials needed to get the process rolling and the steps that must be taken to reach your goal.  This article will discuss three essentials for getting a divorce in California.

  1. Time. There is a mandatory waiting period in California that prevents any couple being divorced in less than 6 months. The divorce can take longer, but it can’t take shorter.  The starting point is the date the person officially notifies the spouse or domestic partner about the divorce.  You can get your paperwork in sooner and get the judgment approved, but the divorce will not be final until the waiting period has run.
  • Summary dissolution. You may be wondering if you can avoid the waiting period by obtaining a summary dissolution instead of a divorce.  The answer is no, a summary dissolution does not have a shorter waiting period than a divorce.  Y
  1. You will have to pay a fee to file the divorce papers with the court, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.  You can qualify for a fee waiver if 1) you are receiving public benefits, 2) if you household income before taxes is less than the minimum amounts designated by the court, or 3) if the court finds that you don’t have enough money to pay for your household’s basic needs and the court fees.
  1. Residency in California. A court has to have jurisdiction to hear your case, which is why residency is important.  It would not make sense if you and your spouse both resided in New York, and you asked a judge in California to have jurisdiction over a California divorce.  Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for the last 6 months and the county where you plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months.  If you and your spouse have lived in different counties for the last 3 months, then you can file in either county.  You can still file for a legal separation if you haven’t been in California for the last six months, and then you can file for divorce when the time has expired.

The essentials are fairly straightforward:  time, money and residency.  The details of the divorce can be more complex, so consult with an attorney on your specific facts.


3 Things Most People Do Wrong When Being Charged With a DUI

When you have been charged with a DUI, it is easy to focus on negative

1. What Most People Do Wrong:  Panic, Give Up, or Focus on Regret. What You Can Do Right:  Spend energy on affirmations.

    • You can’t change the past, so you need to put your energy into the future.  Here are some affirmations that will help you be confident in yourself and your future happiness.
      • Know that you may have defenses that you aren’t aware of yet.
      • Understand that everyone makes mistakes, and you can always recover.
      • Forgive yourself and focus on what you can learn from the experience to help you in the future.

2. What Most People Do Wrong:  Delay.  Procrastination is one of your most dangerous enemies if you have been charged with a DUI. Some people requesting a DMV hearing and miss the deadline, others delay seeking legal counsel immediately, others wait to begin changing harmful habits.   

What You Can Do Right:  Take immediate action!  

  • Request a DMV hearing to avoid the default, which is a suspended license.
  • Immediately start looking for an attorney who is experienced in criminal law, particularly DUI.
  • Change your habits starting now, so that you don’t end up in more hot water. Make sure you do not risk getting another DUI. If you struggle with substance abuse or alcoholism, work with your attorney to identify treatment programs or counseling that you may work into a plea deal if you decide not to go to trial.

3. What Most People Do Wrong:  Spend money as usual, and forget to set aside funds for DUI.  What You Can Do Right:  Start preparing financially.   If convicted, you will be facing costs of fines, counseling, and eventually increased insurance costs and an interlock device when you can drive again.  These costs add up, so now is the time to start preparing financially to handle those responsibilities.

      • If you qualify, a public defender can save you costs.  Some defendants prefer to hire a private attorney.
      • Start setting aside money from paychecks to allocate to DUI expenses.
      • Talk to family members about assisting you during this time, if they are able to contribute.

A DUI can be challenging, but you can hit it head on by being proactive.  Don’t give up or panic.  Find an attorney who may be able to assist you in beating the charge.  Take immediate action to defend yourself and your right to drive. Prepare financially to put yourself in the best position to succeed in making the most of a tough situation.


3 Things to Know About the Discovery Process for a Divorce Case

If you are going through a divorce, you may hear terms that you don’t understand.  One of the terms that is heard often is “discovery.”  This article will explain the basics of discovery – what is discovery, what types of methods, and what types of information are produced– so that you can understand the procedures and terms that will be used in your divorce.  

1. What is discovery?

  • In legal cases, both parties need information.
  • The process for obtaining this information is called “discovery.”  
  • One question clients often ask is whether you can hide information or lie about it or say that it’s too private to disclose?  
    • In general spouses are under obligation to make a full and accurate disclosure and failure to do so can result in a Motion to Compel and ultimately sanctions.  However, your attorney is in the best position to assists you in properly responding in the discovery process.

2. What are the different means of discovery?  Here is a sample of some of the most used methods of obtaining information in the discovery process for a divorce case:

  • Depositions – interviews with parties or non-parties.
  • Interrogatories – written questions to the other party.
  • Requests for Admission – similar to an interrogatory because it is in writing, but with these you are not asking for information, you are asking for it to be admitted (i.e. confirmed or ratified).
  • Inspection Demand – where a party wants an opportunity to review certain documents or things.
  • Request for an Income and Expense Declaration. If support has been ordered (child, family or spousal support), then one party can use this to obtain production of a current income and expense declaration and income tax returns.

3. What types of information are typically discoverable in a divorce case?  The range of information that can be gleaned from discovery is very large.  In general, it covers any unprivileged information that is relevant to the case. In layman’s terms, it’s relevant if it could be admitted as evidence in the case or if it could lead to relevant evidence in the case.  Here are a few examples of the types of information that could be requested in discovery:

    • Employee payroll information – since this is important to proper division of community property and to determine child support and spousal report, this information is typically part of the discovery process.
    • Business Records or tax returns — If one of the parties has a business, then the information about the value of the business and its assets will be important to determine.
    • Information about where the child is – If one parent does not know the whereabouts of one or all of the children, this information can be obtained in discovery.
    • Domestic violence convictions – This type of conviction impacts the safety of the child.  Often one parent is aware of the history of child abuse or domestic violence of the other parent, but if not, this information could be found out through discovery.