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  • Community property in California is defined as any asset acquired or income earned by a married person while living with a spouse. Separate property is defined as anything acquired by a spouse before the marriage, during the marriage by gift, devise, or bequest, and after the parties separate.

    So….I read the definition, What is community property in California?

    In layman’s terms, it is anything you bought or earned during the time you and your spouse were married and living as spouses. Ooooh, one more thing. Community Property in California is community property unless it is separate property.

    So…What is separate property?

    Separate property is property you bought or earned before you and your spouse were married or after you stopped living together. It is also property you got while married that was a gift or that you received as a beneficiary of a last will and testament. There are a few one off items, as well, that make it into this category, like a majority of student loan debt.

    What happens if a piece of property is determined to be community property in California?

    In California, community property must be divided 50/50. Of course if you opt to mediate your dissolution, you can construct any division of property and offset of debt scenario that makes sense in your situation. In a courtroom, outside of an agreement of some sort, you will not have this sort of freedom. Although the division is not in-kind….they don’t divide every asset down the middle….it is certainly not going to be the division you and your soon to be ex-spouse can create through mediation.

    When does community property in California end my spouses right to my income.

    That is the central argument in many a courtroom, “what is our separation date?” Your question is also the answer to why it is so hotly contested, whatever date you agree upon as  your separation date, is the date that community property is determined. Beyond your separation date, your earnings are your own. They are no longer half your spouses, as they were when you were living together. Unless, of course, you remain living together. Or, you have community property obligations..every situation is different and this is a great example of one, small, piece of what most people look at as minutia. It is a BIG deal in court. If you choose to litigate, arguing over when your community property rights end can be protracted.

    I built our family business myself, without any help from my wife. Why do I have to give her half?

    The reason is plain and simple: Community Property in California. Usually an accountant or analyst is brought in to value the business, assessing good will, as well as inherent value. If you choose to mediate through Pacific Coast Mediation, we offer the assistance of a Certified Financial Planner to help guide you to an agreed upon number or to an outside valuation expert. Bottom line is that you can construct how the business will be divided, or one spouse bought out. You have that power.

    I have a pension through my work, can we just mediate it as part of the settlement?

    Pensions and other retirement plans usually require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or Q.D.R.O. (pronounced Quad-Ro), even after the court has ruled, or you have agreed upon a mediated settlement. A Q.D.R.O. makes your retirement plan a party to the divorce and makes it possible for the plan to divide the pension pursuant to the terms of the court order. Whether you go to court or mediate, this will be an additional expense. If you are lucky enough to mediate through Pacific Coast Mediation, we can direct you to a professional who will prepare your needed Q.D.R.O. at a reasonable rate.

    What is Quasi Community Property in California? Is it treated different than community property?

    Quasi community Property is property that you acquired in any form while living outside of California. If you had been living in California when you bought the property, it would have been community property. Quasi community property is treated as if it were community property in California.

    I sold my house when we got married and used the equity as a down payment for our marital home. Can property be both community and separate property?

    It sure can, and this is were the waters get very muddy. This principle is called commingling and it is a common occurrence in real property issues as well as pension issues when a spouse started their job prior to marriage.

    Community Property in California can be simple and straightforward or can be fodder for endless, protracted litigation. The court time spent arguing about a separation date or trying to unwind commingled property is likely to be intense and costly. The good news is that through mediation, even the most complex cases are successfully divided without the tumult involved in litigation.


  • In Southern California, specifically around San Diego, we come in contact with a vast diversity of cultures and practices amid our “normal” experience (whatever that is?). The courts have to process a large volume of claimants through an ever tightening system. When you ask is mediation culturally sensitive, you need to first examine the other option.

     Is Mediation Culturally Sensitive? The Alternative:

    The alternative to mediation is the court system. Many times I have watched the system, unwittingly, trample over litigants rights in the name of efficiency or lack of understanding. They often don’t have the time to investigate patterns of behavior they deem odd. They relegate behaviors, legitimate and desirous in your culture, to the land of manipulation and fairly tales. The courts have to cater to the center of the bell curve.

    Is Mediation Culturally Sensitive? The Nature of Mediation:

    Mediation, by its very nature is set up to allow the parties bringing a dispute to the mediation table to construct the mediation as they wish. Mediation is your time to explain nuances of behavior and reasoning behind things that may seem inexplicable in a bureaucracy. Mediation is your time to get ALL your needs upon the table. The mediators at Pacific Coast Mediation are trained in divorce mediation. They are knowledgeable about the variety of cultures in San Diego and are always eager to understand another person’s viewpoint and lifeways.

    Is Mediation Culturally Sensitive? Take Out the Middle Man

    That is the funny part of the law, often the pieces of the  puzzle that are a strong part of a person’s cultural milieu, get negotiated at the end of the day  in a settlement agreement of some sort. It would be difficult for a justice to order a practice he or she has little expertise in. An example I often think of is a Get. In Orthodox Jewish communities a husband must give his wife a religious divorce, called a Get, above and beyond the divorce they receive from the courts if she is to remarry in the Jewish community. That a husband grants his wife a Get is, very often, the fodder for a negotiated settlement.

    You are going to run into trouble on every side litigating your case that requires cultural sensitivity. When all is said and done, the places that require that sensitivity are very likely to be mediated and negotiated in some fashion. Save the contention. Save the time. Save the money…..cut out the middle man and start with mediation. You will be happy you did.

  • You and your spouse have made the decision you are getting a divorce. It is difficult, I know. As a divorce mediator there is a saying that “criminal courts see bad people at their best and family courts see good people at their worst.” The reason for this is the emotion. Divorce is difficult and inserting an adversarial, and often contentious piece, like the court system, into this mix just makes things worse. That is why more and more people are opting to take their case out of the hands of the judicial system and retain control of their lives in a way that is impossible without mediation. The next logical question is, “how do we choose a divorce mediator?” Don’t fret, I’ll tell you!

    Top Tips for Choosing A Divorce Mediator

    1. Go To A Free Consultation: Any mediation service should provide you with a half hour of their time to let you know what you are getting into. Your divorce mediator, or mediators….as is found at Pacific Coast Mediation, need to let you know how their system works and why mediation is a good choice for you. You will get a feel for the people and the setting. If a company refuses to sit down with you, run!
    2. Check Out Your Divorce Mediator: We, at Pacific Coast Mediation post information on our website about all our mediators. They ought to have mediated a fair share of cases and know a great deal about California family law. Further, I would encourage you to consider the skill set for managing courtrooms versus the skill set used for getting people to come to their own agreements, as they are very different ones.
    3. Seek Out A Promising Mediation System: When choosing a divorce mediator, it is not just their track record or their former profession you must consider. You really need to investigate their system of mediation. For example, part of the system at Pacific Coast Mediation is to use both a female and a male divorce mediator at each and every mediation. We don’t conduct marathon mediation sessions unless absolutely necessary. We have a system that is effective and will leave both of you empowered.
    4. Ask About Their Extended Team: Does your divorce mediator have other resources? Do they employ a Marriage and Family Therapist or a Financial Planner, when needed? Does their firm have a case coordinator so you will  have a person, outside of the neutral divorce mediator, to talk to about your mediation? At Pacific Coast Mediation, we do by using a team approach!
    5. Cost, Cost, Cost!: We know that many of you wind up at a divorce mediator for cost reasons, alone. Bottom line, no matter what divorce mediator you go to, you are going to save money over going through the court system. However, the question raised is not just how much you will have to pay, but what exactly, is included in the price. In most instances, you will still have to pay for your paperwork and Marital Settlement Agreement to be drawn up, on top of the cost of mediation. You want a place that is the best value. That means that what you get at the end is worth your payment. Pacific Coast Mediation is an all inclusive firm. We do everything from paperwork, to notary service, to filing.

    Don’t go in unprepared. I know some of you don’t have the first clue about mediation while others are quite familiar with the process. Even if you know a lot about mediation, choosing a divorce mediator requires some up front knowledge about what to look for in the firm, the system, the divorce mediator(s), and the larger team. Come armed with that knowledge. Knowledge is power!

  • Divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances. It becomes even more difficult when you add children to the equation. You are both doing the best you can under at the most stressful of times. Trying to take care of yourself during this time is hard enough. Yet, you have these sweet children to look out for and they are suffering too. Every alternative you look at reminds you of Solomon splitting the baby. One option that I have seen work and that you may not have even heard of is called nesting.

    So, what is nesting anyhow?

    Nesting is a post divorce living arrangement where the parents both retain their own residence outside the family home. The children do not move. They stay stable in their home and at their school. The parents are the ones who move in and out of the family home.

    When does nesting work best?

    Obviously, to choose this option, parents must rise above their own conflict and decide upon a plan that is best for their children. In a contentious courtroom situation this may be difficult because of the divisive, antagonistic nature of litigation. However, if parents can  come to the table and choose to mediate their divorce, options like nesting become real possibilities. Personally, I have seen nesting work when children have been in a family home and at a school for a long time. The thoughts of uprooting the children are upsetting to parents.

    Why would parents choose nesting?

    Obviously, retaining some semblance of stability during this time of turbulence is a vital necessity. Nesting provides this, in abundance. However, above and beyond this, it teaches your children an important lesson about conflict resolution. This is not a solution you come to lightly. It is a mature decision brought about by parents who have decided to place the needs of their children, even above their own. If parents can make the decision to mediate their divorce, they are farther along this path than those that choose otherwise. It is here, within the forum of mediation, that nesting, and other options like it, come to the table.

    Remember, your children are watching you. It is within the family that they learn how to be in a relationship. It is right here and right now that you both are teaching them conflict resolution. You have the power to create something positive out of your divorce. Start with mediation. Through mediation, you might find that nesting is right for your family.

  • Many people don’t realize that at the end of a divorce (one using attorneys), everything that came out in the divorce becomes public record–financial statements, debts, accusations of cheating, molestation, addictions. Making matters worse, nothing is private. Anyone can read the sordid details. This is not the case when couples use mediation to divorce as you will read shortly.

    While the lack of privacy may not seem like an issue now, down the road it could be.For example, anyone who has romantic interest in you will be able to go down to the Court and request your records.

    if there are issues with co-parenting and baseless calls are made to child protective services, your divorce file is surely to be a document that will be reviewed by CPS! Or your future mate may be interested to learn about whom he or she is dating and realize she can grab your divorce file to learn about your behavior with your previous mate. We all know that divorce is a stressful time and a time when you are not on your best behavior, so to keep your private life private – avoid litigation!

    At the end of the divorce mediation process, the only document made public is your Marital Settlement Agreement. This document sets forth the final agreements made within mediation–how much support will be paid, co-parenting arrangements, visitation schedules, who gets the pet, and so on. Though still personal, it is minor compared to what is revealed at the conclusion of a litigated divorce. The courts guarantee confidentiality for those using mediation. The goal is to encourage people to agree on their own without clogging the courts with their fighting.

    For more information about Divorce-Mediation

  • Did you know that about 80% of health insurance companies no longer allow a spouse to stay on a health insurance policy once they discover the couple is legally separated?

    Not many people, or even attorneys have heard of a “Suspended Divorce” but with all the changes in healthcare, people need to be informed. The type of “separation” arrangement you choose can make a big difference in your health. Click through to read the chart that spells out the differences between a Suspended Divorce and Legal Separation.

    This is an alternative to doing a legal separation. Basically, if there is some reason that you need to remain “married,” yet want to complete the divorce process, this is a good choice for you. The chart below explains the differences between the two.

    NOTE: If you are considering a legal separation, contact your insurance carrier to for coverage specific to you.

    Legal Separation

    Suspended Divorce

    Marital Status
    You are legally separated.
    Marital Status
    You are legally married.
    Marital Separation Agreement (MSA)
    You have filed a Marital Separation Agreement (MSA) with the court that defines the important decisions the two of you have made (how the two of you will separate finances/debt, whether spousal support will be paid and coordinate parenting plan.)
    Marital Separation Agreement (MSA)
    For all intensive purposes you are married. This includes all things legal. The difference is that you have filed a Marital Separation Agreement (MSA) with the court that defines the important decisions the two of you have made (how the two of you will separate finances/debt, whether spousal support will be paid and coordinate parenting plan.)

    Eventually you will be divorced but have chosen to either leave the date of the divorce empty (to be determined later) or suspend it to a date in the future that meets your needs. This could be the day you retire, the day all the kids graduate from high school, or any date.

    Once the divorce is final, you will file as single filing separately or head of household. As the divorce is still pending, you can file either married or married but filing separately.
    You will file as either married or married but filing separately.
    Cost to Legally Separate
    plus 2 Court filing fees of $435 each.
    Cost to do a Suspended Divorce
    plus 2 Court filing fees of $435 each.
    Cost if you Choose to Divorce Later
    If you choose to divorce later on, the Court will require you to open a new case file for “divorce” and to pay two additional filing fees of $435 each.
    Cost if you Choose to Divorce Later
    If you choose to divorce later on, the cost will be about $40 more for a filing fee.
    Marital Reconciliation
    Lower rate of marital reconciliation.
    Marital Reconciliation
    Higher rate of marital reconciliation.
    Health Insurance
    Most plans will not allow you to stay on your spouse’s health insurance.
    Health Insurance
    Will be allowed to stay on your spouse’s health insurance plan.
  • Considering leaving your spouse? You need a solid exit plan. Pre-divorce-planning involves carefully planning out often-overlooked aspects of your life before you announce you’re leaving. In 85 percent of divorces, it is the wife who initiates the divorce. Whether man or woman, if you are in this situation, starting a plan of action now is absolutely necessary. Just because your wife/husband wants everything, including the children, it does not necessarily mean that’s what has to happen. Learn how to get a fair settlement by playing smart and doing certain things that will help your situation tremendously.

    Divorce planning is needed for both men and women. With that said, if you’re a woman, preparing in advance is even more important. In fact, most women are in a worse place financially after it’s all said and done. With this said, you don’t have to become a statistic. You have the power to come out ahead if you have a good plan of action.

    Pre-divorce planning is not about taking your spouse for all you can. It’s about making smart choices with a clear mind. It involves carefully planning out all aspects of your life from where you are now to where you would like to be. It requires methodical preparation in the months leading up to informing your spouse you want a divorce. The more you plan, the better your position will be in your post-divorce life. Below are a few areas to start thinking about.

    1. Finances: If you’re expecting alimony and child support to take care of your finances after a divorce, you might be in for a big surprise. Most men will fight to keep as much money as they can. This battle can result in you having a shortage of money to make ends meet after your divorce.

    2. Career: The best way to avoid financial ruin is to make your career plans a top priority. If you’re already working but your income won’t be enough when you’re single, start re-planning your career. If that involves career counseling, re-training or going back to school, do it now while you can. Any money spent in this area will be considered joint money and not deducted from your settlement. The key, however, is doing it before you ask for a divorce.

    3. Children: If you’re a parent, you need to be prepared for how to tell-your-kids-about-the-divorce. In doing so, you also need to learn ways to help them cope and to understand how their lives will be impacted.

    4. Support System: News of a divorce can create different reactions in your friends and family. Some people will feel threatened and fear their marriages will be at risk if they interact with you. Others, the unconditional friends, will be there no matter what. Knowing who belongs in this category is important. Those will be the people to turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on.

    5. Future Goals: Divorce can be devastating. It’s the end of once-held goals that are now gone. Because of this, it’s very easy to get sucked into an emotional black hole of depression. The best remedy is to create new goals for your future. Take the time to consider your interests, desires and what you’d like to do with the rest of your life. Having something positive and productive to work toward will make a big difference in your emotional life.

    There are many aspects to consider when planning for a life without your spouse. Instead of hoping the best will happen, take control and make sure you’re protected. If you need help making sense of it all, The Divorce Help Clinic LLC is here for you.

  • July 19, 2012

    About a year ago, I started getting calls from parents seeking divorce information for their adult children. At first I didn’t think much about their inquiries. Then, I realized I was not interacting with a normal, concerned parent. Instead, I was witnessing a dreaded twosome — the boundary-less, overbearing helicopter parents and their notorious, coddled adult trophy children.

    Read more


    4 Ways to Navigate Divorce Using GPS
    April 6, 2012

    When it comes to divorce, the acronym GPS stands for General Perceived Standards. This is the way most people think they should go about getting a divorce — each spouse hires an attorney, the attorneys litigate about everything, and both people fight to win. Naturally, that means there is always a loser.

    Read more


    Don’t Divorce Your Kids
    February 2, 2012

    I share a waiting room with other businesses in the building. Because of this, periodically I see former divorce mediation clients sitting there. When I walked past today I saw Tony, a (really handsome) fireman waiting to see his therapist. He looked unusually sad so I asked him how things were going with his custody battle. Learn what this parent did and what you can do if you are concerned about the custody of your children.

    Read more


    Have Cheating on Your Mind?
    December 8, 2011

    Scarlett Johansson recently commented about her divorce to Ryan Reynolds, saying that she wasn’t prepared “to hunker down and do the work” necessary to keep her marriage together. Once a relationship moves past the butterfly stage (about two years) and into the less exciting and more routine stage, you and your partner need to be more deliberate about keeping your relationship on track.

    Read more


    Mediators are the Nurses of the Divorce World
    November 19, 2011

    A few years ago I found myself in a sort of professional Ménage à trois with Dick, a divorce attorney and his client, Deborah, a soon-to-be divorcée. I was her divorce planner as well as the one who referred her to Dick. The relationship was anything but sexy.

    Read more


    Halloween Can Forecast Divorce in the New Year
    October 25, 2011

    I like to refer to Halloween as the relationship fortune telling holiday. You don’t need a crystal ball to see how your relationship will fare in the new year. Instead, the foreboding signs that divorce is coming will play out in the details of the spooky holiday. You just have to know what to look for.

    Read more


    Cut the Marital Cord, Already!
    October 21, 2011

    Last week a clown walked into my office, decked out in a creepy clown costume, a painted smile and tearfully asked, “My wife and I are already divorced. Is there something I can do to get her the hell out of my life?” The problem was simple — his marital relationship continued because the marital cord had not been cut. The solution was also simple — stop behaving in the role of husband.

    Read more


    Wanna Watch a Marriage Unravel? Watch Discovery
    October 5, 2011

    Man, Woman, Wild is a nature survival series on the Discovery Channel. I started watching the show mid-season last year and got hooked. The show centers around a loving couple–Mykel Hawke, a former Special Forces survival expert and his wife Ruth, a TV journalist. Together they pool their skills to conquer the obstacles as they make their way to safety.

    Read more


    Sabotage The Divorce Fantasy
    October 1, 2011

    When people come to me for divorce advice, the first thing I ask is why they want out. Typically they tell me, “I can’t take her nagging any more.” “He’s a cheater; I’m done!” The explanations indicate a belief that once they leave the marriage, life will improve drastically. This type of thinking is not only unrealistic, it’s based in pure fantasy.

    Worksheet: Sabotage The Divorce Fantasy

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    Friends Till Divorce Do Us Part: 5 Ways to Predict Lasting Friendships
    September 26, 2011

    A marriage isn’t the only thing that gets torn apart in a divorce, so do friendships. When you officially declare that your marriage is over, some friends not only react out of character (not returning calls), but sometimes disappear from your life without as much as a goodbye.

    Unlike a divorce, the typical rule of dividing assets 50/50 does not apply to friendships. Instead, the point of demarcation operates from any number of factors, none of which are based on “fairness. Should divorce enter your life, use the following 5 predictors to know which friends will probably bid you adieu.

    Read more

  • A marriage isn’t the only thing that gets torn apart in a divorce, so do friendships. When you officially declare that your marriage is over, some friends not only react out of character (not returning calls), but sometimes disappear from your life without as much as a goodbye.

    Unlike a divorce, the typical rule of dividing assets 50/50 does not apply to friendships. Instead, the point of demarcation operates from any number of factors, none of which are based on “fairness. Should divorce enter your life, use the following 5 predictors to know which friends will probably bid you adieu.

    Predictor 1: Who Brought the Friend into the Marriage?

    To read more.

  • One of the most common reasons given for marriage failures is that the spouses “drifted apart.” The truth is drifting comes very naturally. As William Doherty describes in his book Take Back Your Marriage, marriage is like launching a canoe in the Mississippi River ; if you don’t paddle, it goes south. And if two people are in the canoe, you have to both paddle.

    As you’re floating along, chances are that one of you will become concerned about marital drift, he explains. One of you may comment on fewer long talks, less quality time together, or less sex. “For some couples, these complaints are a call to start paddling more vigorously. For other couples, the complaints lead to unpleasant arguments that lead to greater distance. But even when we are inspired to try harder, the extra work on our marriage tends to be short lived—sustained for days or weeks at best—and then we resume our slow drift south.”While this issue is not due to lack of love or good intentions, couples in this situation often lack a plan for taking back their marriage. Of the plethora of marriage books I have read and/or have on my shelves, Take Back Your Marriage is one of my top picks, because this situation is so very common. If this is your situation, realize this is normal, but solvable.

    To keep your marriage from drifting, make time for it, and give it sustained effort. Remember, if you’re not paddling, you’re going south. Ask yourself these questions:

    • Are you spending time together? Do you go to church together, have meals together, and talk together? Do you make time for regular dates (it could be a morning walk or lunch date, not just an evening out)? You don’t have to spend all your time together, as long as you are spending some dedicated time and activities you enjoy with one another.
    • Are you taking your partner for granted? Work is important. Kids are important. Chores have to be done. And on and on. But if you aren’t making time for your partner, they won’t feel appreciated.
    • Are you absorbed in TV, internet and/or your phone? Media, especially in the bedroom, can come between you. All the research confirms that TVs should be left out of the bedrooms. Take the ipad and computer out while you’re at it. (If you can’t do it, that proves my point.)
    • Are you focused on what you are getting out of your marriage? This consumer mentality can lead to problems.
    • Do the people you spend time around support your marriage and family? Outside influences can contribute to drifting. This includes people who are more focused on “your happiness” than on your marriage.
    • Are you focused on material things rather than relationships? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by focusing on things instead of people.
    • Are you making an effort to be kind to your spouse when he or she calls, or make/purchase a food or beverage they enjoy, or offer other gestures of kindness? Do you help make their life easier not because you expect them to return the favor, but because you want them to be happy?
    • Are you showing affection toward one another? Are you happy to see each other? Do you touch, kiss and enjoy sex together? These are important forms of connection.
    • Are you dedicating all of your time to your children? Parents need to determine how much time children need, keeping in mind those children also need the stability of the family and the marriage.
    • Are you sharing your true self with your partner—your hopes, dreams, desires, fears?

    Couples may have issues with some of these, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. The key is to build on your strengths and to soften the impact of your weaknesses, says Doherty, especially times of stress. When marriage counseling is needed, select a qualified therapist that will help you fight for the marriage. “A good therapist, a brave therapist, will be the last one in the room willing to give up on a marriage,” says Doherty. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a counselor to delve into why you’re unhappy or to even recommend a separation or divorce. Choose carefully.

    Do you need help finding a good therapist in San Diego? Send me an e-mail or call and I will give you a few therapists to try, Nancy@Dyvorce.com or (858) 863-3380.

    Although we are a divorce mediation firm, we also have a service to help couples stay married–Marriage Mediation.